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Freddy C

What the difference?

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Freddy C    0

Hi everyone. I am new to this forum and very delighted that a forum such as this exists. I live in Minneapolis, but I was reared in Michigan (Detroit & GR).

What I would like to know is the reason why a metropolitan area like GR, for example, which is 3 times less populated than the Twin Cities metro (Minneapolis-St. Paul), does not even have a third of the CBD office space? Intuitively the answer would seem to be that GR

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Allan    0

Welcome to the forum!

It is important to remember that GR's downtown was struggling for many years. Only recently (say within the past five years or so) has a new wave of loft construction swept through downtown. Residential construction in the core is booming and is attracting many young professionals to the area. Downtown GR is full of very old buildings, and old buildings do not lend themselves well to use as offices today. This is part of the reason why residential is booming, while office construction has remained stagnant.

The office market is another story, however. The office market since 2000 has been very weak, and what new office space was constructed was constructed in the suburbs. Developers can't construct office towers on speculation like they could in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Another very important factor is that GR saw itself as a small city until relatively recently, so people haven't gotten accustomed to the fact that GR is now a good sized city, and that highrises will be constructed in the core. Lyon at Ottawa Tower was proposed, but they couldn't find a tenant to anchor the tower. Once the office market picks up, the proposal may be resurrected. I can see some major towers on the horizon for GR within the next five years. Major retail is not far off either, because of the influx of young professionals moving downtown.

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I'm not sure office space is a valid qualifier of much anyway.

Naturally Minneapolis will have more as it is the administrative center of the regional agricultural economy. The economy of Grand Rapids is based on decentralized industrial and distribution operations, and its business composition reflects that naturally.

I'm not a member of the De Vos generation by any means, and their politics frankly offend me, but to criticize their contributions to the economic development is a fool's errand. Their projects- a medical research institute, a convention facility, and expanded educational capability - are crucial components of the community's economic and social capital in the post-manufacturing economy. You'll notice I didn't mention the sports arena.

But more importantly the city itself is actually doing exactly what it should do to acquire and attract young, creative residents. It is supporting affordable housing, it is aggressively promoting brownfield redevelopment, the mayor - then head of the transit authority - initiated a study on new modalities of public transit which has recently made its recommendations to the metropolitan council. Amazingly, the crux of the city's development projects has not been De Vos or Van Andel or even Peter Wege - based, but instead small local business has taken the lead role. The Heartside area south of downtown is one example. The southeast side is another. If you're interested I can supply some names of firms who have been involved in the creative process of redevelopment in the area.

All good things take time, but the initial progressive goals of Grand Rapids are already becoming reality. It's really an old-fashioned and imprecise point of view to gauge economic development on office space expansion when the trajectory of the region's economy is moving in the direction of research and the creative sector.

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boo    0

not that nashville is a behometh, but i was started to find out recently that grand rapids and nashville metros are about the same size (1.15 vs. 1.05 million). i always thought grand rapids was much tinier than that. i used to live in nashville and i guess having country music industry there really helps to make the city seem bigger than it really is.

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Freddy C    0

I'm not sure office space is a valid qualifier of much anyway.

Naturally Minneapolis will have more as it is the administrative center of the regional agricultural economy. The economy of Grand Rapids is based on decentralized industrial and distribution operations, and its business composition reflects that naturally.

I'm not a member of the De Vos generation by any means, and their politics frankly offend me, but to criticize their contributions to the economic development is a fool's errand. Their projects-  a medical research institute, a convention facility, and expanded educational capability - are crucial components of the community's economic and social capital in the post-manufacturing economy. You'll notice I didn't mention the sports arena.

But more importantly the city itself is actually doing exactly what it should do to acquire and attract young, creative residents. It is supporting affordable housing, it is aggressively promoting brownfield redevelopment, the mayor - then head of the transit authority - initiated a study on new modalities of public transit which has recently made its recommendations to the metropolitan council. Amazingly, the crux of the city's development projects has not been De Vos or Van Andel or even Peter Wege - based, but instead small local business has taken the lead role. The Heartside area south of downtown is one example. The southeast side is another. If you're interested I can supply some names of firms who have been involved in the creative process of redevelopment in the area.

All good things take time, but the initial progressive goals of Grand Rapids are already becoming reality. It's really an old-fashioned and imprecise point of view to gauge economic development on office space expansion when the trajectory of the region's economy is moving in the direction of research and the creative sector.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I am very ignorant on this subject matter and I appreciate all the input. My parents and a couple of siblings still live there and I like to entertain the idea of moving back to the area, but cannot rationalize doing so for any factor other than family. I have a Bachelors of Science degree and I am currently employed as a systems analyst.

I think that the question for any city or area is how to compete and attract people. First and foremost an area should want to attract jobs to an area. I do believe that the future is medicine and technology, in regards to growth industries and it appears that GR is laying the foundation for this. However, GR still needs to be able to attract and or keep the talented people. Simply building the structure or foundation of bricks and mortar does not mean they will come. Why would a person pick GR over Austin Texas, Raleigh Durham, Charlotte, Nashville, and Orlando?

I think that GR needs to compensate for what is lacks in weather, by making up for it in amenities and uniqueness. For Example, here in Minneapolis the park system is just outstanding, with walking and biking paths surrounding lakes and parks. For the life of me, I cannot understand why Reeds Lake, in East GR, has never been augmented to be pedestrian friendly, with paved walking paths completely circling the lake. I attribute this, maybe incorrectly, to the snobbery and conservatism of EGR residents. They just want to keep that high potential area all to themselves mostly. They do not want the traffic and the nearby inner city residents from the South East side spilling into their little vacuum any more than they already do. That whole

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Freddy C    0

not that nashville is a behometh, but i was started to find out recently that grand rapids and nashville metros are about the same size (1.15 vs. 1.05 million). i always thought grand rapids was much tinier than that. i used to live in nashville and i guess having country music industry there really helps to make the city seem bigger than it really is.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

One thing that is true of most Southern metropolises is that they usually have much lower population density per square mile. Thus, they cover a larger area to house the same number of people of a similar populated Northern Metropolis. It is this larger area that creates the impression of a "bigger city". This begs the question of whether "bigness" refers to land area or number of residents or a combination there of. Atlanta and Houston looks and feels bigger than Metro Detroit...but Metro Detroit is actually larger than both of those in population...but that will change in the next census count...I am sure.

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Freddy C    0

I think GR nees to also rapidly expand and promote its international airport to have more direct flights to more cities. Also, GR needs strong research Universities. Attracting the MSU medical college is a good Sign. Grand Valley is also quickly becoming one the largest colleges in the state.

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superNOVA    0

There is also another issue with the Grand Rapids metro that no one else hit on...

It is actually a tri (quad) metro area. Grand Rapids is indeed the heart and soul of the metro, but there is some fragmentation which if anything give it the smaller than normal feel. Yes, it qualifies in every sense as a single metro, but there are distinct 'regions'.

Grand Rapids - 550,000 - 700,000 (depends on how much of Ottawa you add)

Holland - 100,000

Grand Haven - 50,000

Muskegon - 250,000

As you can see, three of these can hold their own as cities. The problem is that the people of Grand Rapids really think of Grand Rapids metro as Grand Rapids. The others may relate their towns to Grand Rapids, but most people in GR do not commonly associate GR with Muskegon.

It is this, mixed with the strong manufacturing base that lead to the relatively small downtown. In addition, GR has a very high proportion of small businesses and start ups - this has always been the case. These types of businesses do not lend themselves to large buildings and expensive locations.

Now, think of downtown GR if you included the square footage of Muskegon, Holland, and Grand Haven. Granted, on their own, they are not much at all, but combined, GR would be totally different and much more in league with where it should be. Not much can be done about this, as there will always be at least three commerical cores. GR will always be favored for development, but the other two will always be significant draws due to lower costs and general location.

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joeDowntown    664

An interesting thread. I too would love to see more high-rise residential, but one thing that is pretty unique to Grand Rapids is that of the top 10 employers, 9 of them are in completely different industries. These different industries have drastically different needs.

Downtown Grand Rapids just started booming in the last ten years. Unlike many other cities, Grand Rapids WILL NOT go through another Urban Renewal like they did in the sixties, knocking down many treasured old buildings. So basically, the last ten years has been "backfilling" old buildings; loft developments, etc. You are now starting to see plans for highrises and such (there are 3 or 4 on the drawing boards).

Grand Rapids is a fiscally and morally conservative area. While this is changing due to the influx of people, I think we as a city are a little more conservative in growth (building for necessity not speculation). There are a lot of initiatives aimed at making GR a "cooler" place to live for the tech savvy worker, and I think it is shedding some of its manufacturing roots (however, it is a very highly respected design center).

All in all I am very happy with the way Grand Rapids is developing. Our 1500 acre Urban park is going to be a great asset for generations, our medical research cooridor is taking off, downtown is a fun and safe place to be and our natural resources are second to none. Smart design is always better than frantic development in my opinion. :)

Joe

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superNOVA    0

I If the I96 corridor between Holland and GR build up in population, the distinctions would be more blurred. However, with the opening of the South Beltline, I think development and growth with shift around that area and away from Ottawa County, although OC will still be the fastest growth area in the region, but not as fast as before.

This is starting to occur more rapidly now, especially considering Ottawa's 30%+ growth rates. The center of the metro is also filling thanks to a booming Allendale and GVSU area. I swear, every time I drive through that way, there is a real change.

I believe that the area has hit what some would call a critical mass. The metro is filling in, the region is more used to being a region, and cooperation is fairly high. Sure, there will always be three or four distinct cities, but they will eventually meld into one mass.

Downtown, this critical mass can also be seen. In the CBD there are literally fewer than three surface lots left. This means that sooner or later developers will have to start looking up for their solutions. I suspect that within the next ten years thing will begin to change rapidly downtown. Unless of course the economy crumbles again and we lose another 500' tower...

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joeDowntown    664

I agree that having a community of conservative people who do not speculate is a problem, I do think Grand Rapids does get a bad rap for being "overly conservative". Believe me, I have always said "just build the damn building" not caring if the first developer goes bankrupt. Unfortunately the developers don't agree with that view :) I think the great thing about Grand Rapids is that there are basically 4 buildings I can think of downtown that could be rehabbed. Only two of these are vacant (other than heartside which I would consider "near" downtown and not part of the traditional financial/business district). Olds Manor is one (across from the new Convention Center, I can guarantee that this will not be vacant for long). The other is the Keeler Building on Division which suffers from a lack of close parking, but that will change.

Once these buildings are rehabbed, the core is completely full. That means everything else goes up. I think it's the natural maturization of a city and one that GR has struggled with since they almost ruined downtown in the sixties.

With all the projects that have been done in the past 7 years, and with the projects in process or on the drawing board, I would invite anyone to come and browse downtown (especially at night). It truly is a great city. Downtown housing growth is skyrocketing and retail is sure to follow.

In 5 years I think a lot of other cities will say "where in the hell did this Grand Rapids come from?".

Joe

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Freddy C    0

I agree that having a community of conservative people who do not speculate is a problem, I do think Grand Rapids does get a bad rap for being "overly conservative". Believe me, I have always said "just build the damn building" not caring if the first developer goes bankrupt. Unfortunately the developers don't agree with that view :) I think the great thing about Grand Rapids is that there are basically 4 buildings I can think of downtown that could be rehabbed. Only two of these are vacant (other than heartside which I would consider "near" downtown and not part of the traditional financial/business district). Olds Manor is one (across from the new Convention Center, I can guarantee that this will not be vacant for long). The other is the Keeler Building on Division which suffers from a lack of close parking, but that will change.

Once these buildings are rehabbed, the core is completely full. That means everything else goes up. I think it's the natural maturization of a city and one that GR has struggled with since they almost ruined downtown in the sixties.

With all the projects that have been done in the past 7 years, and with the projects in process or on the drawing board, I would invite anyone to come and browse downtown (especially at night). It truly is a great city. Downtown housing growth is skyrocketing and retail is sure to follow.

In 5 years I think a lot of other cities will say "where in the hell did this Grand Rapids come from?".

Joe

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

You guys are very enlightening on this subject. I get excited just hearing your optimism. What do you all think about development on the West side of the Grand River...near wear Big Boy Resteraunts? I think that there is plenty space for development over there. Is that the future direction of downtown growth?

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superNOVA    0

In 5 years I think a lot of other cities will say "where in the hell did this Grand Rapids come from?".

It is beginning.

In the next five years we will see...

Alticor Hotel

Spectrum Cancer Center

Spectrum Childrens Hsopital

St Mary's Neuroscience Center

Art Museum

Development of the City Center Ramp lot

We will probably see...

Bridgewater II

Towers redevelopment - for MSU med school

Olds Manor redevelopment

BOB Expansion (with 100 - 200 room hotel)

Plans for a performing arts center

Park Place Condos

VAI Phase II

GVSU housing

I am sure that I missed something. The fact is, in the 90s there was over $1 billion spent downtown. Not a small sum. This decade is working out to be near the $2 billion mark. Whatever the case, things are happening, and momentum is building. By 2010 downtown could be totally different.

Personally I am looking forward to seeing multiple cranes all over downtown dy 2006.

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joeDowntown    664

Freddy,

I have thought hard about your question about the West Side. I think it has a bunch of positives and a bunch of negatives that make it a 50/50 for success. Grand Valley will definitely continue to grow, add more housing and hopefully clean up sections of fulton or Bridge as the need for services and "stuff to do" hits that sector. There will also be spinoff development including the "Bicycle Factory Lofts" that are currently in some phase of development immediately south of the two housing facilities Grand Valley has built. On the North end of the West Side, we have the old Union High School being converted to condos, American Seating Park and the redevelopment of the Widdicomb buildings (plus the extension of Seward Ave. as another North-South connector). On the West we have Millenium park which is beautiful and should be amazing when all 1500 acres are complete. Substantial positives.

The Negatives - The West side has always been a working class neighborhood and I haven't seen any of these neighborhoods start to rebound from the money being put into the area. The housing was never extraordinary, so I do not think you will see widespread revitalization like what happened in the hill. I think there would also have to be a fundamental shift in mentality as it is not exactly a creative class part of town (not trying to be rude). I think the main problem is that instead of several developers being able to revitalize the entire area (ala Cherry Street Landing), you have 1000's of private owners, many of them absentee landlords who would have to start caring about their neighborhood. Possible, but probably a 20 year project and not anything immediate.

Overall I think the area will remain spotty- great development in certain areas, status quo in others. I think that downtown is stretching North, South (and with the medical cooridor, East) but I think most of the Western development will run alongside 131.

Although I hope I am wrong. :)

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joeDowntown    664

Supernova,

Some more to consider:

- a 1500-2000 seat theatre in Cherry Hill (in addition to a new performing arts center talked about by Grand Action.

- An Additional Cooley Law School Building

- Development along the West side of Ionia (Retail/Housing/Office) and all of the other redevelopment in Cherry Hill

- I think you will see the resurrection of the Lyon-Ottawa Project, or something similar as Office Space is filling in nicely. Especially now that we know Bridgewater II is slated for condominiums

Me Speculating:

- More High-Rise Housing (where is the Joseph Moch project?!? :( )

- The County Building will move to the riverfront

- The Post office will move opening up more riverfront development

- Grandville Avenue will continue to see redevelopment

- An office building across from San Chez in that pie shaped parking lot (I actually have an inside tip on this one, but that was a couple years ago before the economy tanked).

- North Monroe will become a hotbed for development and its manufacturing base will be replaced by commercial and residential.

- Front Street will be better utilized.

Joe

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woz    0

Here is the story of the Lyon/Ottawa project as reported in Grand Rapids Magazine about a year ago. I don't think its worth hyping as much as people on this site are hyping it. It's a substantial building, but it's very poorly designed in my opinion. Neoclassical at street level, Postmodern hodge-podge everywhere else ... ick! What's wrong with a nice, modern office tower?

The Skyline That Never Was

Grand Rapids Magazine, Dec. 2003

People who work in creative fields often keep what are called kill files: drawers or folders in desks or on hard drives that contain ideas, which for one reason or another were passed on by clients or bosses.

Architect Stephen C. Fry

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superNOVA    0

The West side has always been a working class neighborhood and I haven't seen any of these neighborhoods start to rebound from the money being put into the area.

Actually property values on the lower Wesr side are the fastest growing in the city, especially near John Ball. I have a duplex down there are there are signs. Many of the two family homes are being converted back to singles while others are no longer being rented to working class families - they are increasingly being rented to college students. This is quickly changing the dynamic of the area.

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joeDowntown    664

Woz,

Welcome to the forum!

While I agree that a nice modern building always looks great, personally, I liked its nod to architecture of the past. I'm a sucker for a spire I guess. :) I wish I still had a picture of it so the rest of the forum could see it.

I'm sure if the project ever gets resurrected, the design would change anyway.

Joe

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joeDowntown    664

Actually property values on the lower Wesr side are the fastest growing in the city, especially near John Ball.  I have a duplex down there are there are signs.  Many of the two family homes are being converted back to singles while others are no longer being rented to working class families - they are increasingly being rented to college students.  This is quickly changing the dynamic of the area.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Supernova,

That is one thing I did leave out of my assessment. The John Ball Park area is a very stable neighborhood. However, I think there is a large are between that neighborhood and Grand Valley seems very iffy for revitilization.

I drove downtown last night and the new YMCA building is looking great. It's going to be a very nice addition to that side of town.

Joe

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Freddy C    0

Woz,

Welcome to the forum!

While I agree that a nice modern building always looks great, personally, I liked its nod to architecture of the past. I'm a sucker for a spire I guess. :) I wish I still had a picture of it so the rest of the forum could see it.

I'm sure if the project ever gets resurrected, the design would change anyway.

Joe

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Joe,

Here is a drawing of that buiding from another website

Lyon @ ottawa building drawing

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Allan    0

I thought it was a bit fatter than that as well. I have a rendering of the tower at home. I will have to see if my brother can find it and email it to me so I can post it here. It sure would be nice if they could resurrect that project!

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joeDowntown    664

That drawing is good, but it definitely does not capture the true bulk of the building.  From what I recall it was definitely a bit fatter.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Yeah, it encompassed a pretty big block. The rendering does it much more justice. Hopefully Allan can find the image. I lost mine when moving computers a year or so ago.

Joe

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