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History won't stop new hotel

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Thursday, February 17, 2005

By Chris Knape

The Grand Rapids Press

GRAND RAPIDS -- The former Israels Designs for Living building is not historically significant, city preservationists unanimously agreed Wednesday, a key step in turning the site into a Marriott hotel.

The advisory opinion clears the way for Alticor Inc. to brief the city's Planning Commission next week on its plan to redevelop the southwestern corner of Pearl Street and Campau Avenue NW, across from the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.

William Newton Herold Sr. was the only person to speak against the demolition. His grandfather founded the Herold-Bertsch Shoe Co., which may have built the building around 1886 or at least was among the early tenants.

"The Herold-Bertsch Shoe Co. has historic value to my family ... and so I would very much like to see the company's building saved," Herold, 67, told the Historic Preservation Commission.

But the hotel's lead designer, Michael Kaufman of Chicago, said he reviewed the building's history and found no significant architecture, events or associations with significant persons.

Kaufman said he considered incorporating the building into the design for the 24-story, 340-room hotel and ballroom, but it was not economically feasible. Alticor plans to demolish the building as soon as this summer.

The hotel could open by late 2007, providing a boost to the DeVos Place convention center, advocates say.

Israels sold the 118-year-old building and moved to the former John Widdicomb factory on the West Side.

Those hoping to get a last look may want to go soon: A final furniture sale ends this week.

Alticor representatives told Herold they would like to acknowledge the site's history in the hotel, perhaps by displaying a picture of the shoe firm.

The East Grand Rapids singer-songwriter said he was glad to speak against the demolition, though he is not sore about the decision.

"I had my chance to stand up there and speak for my father and grandfather," Herold said.

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Sweet surrender

Historic preservationists picked their downtown battle this winter

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Has anyone heard how the Park Place Project is going and when they might break ground? I like that they are pushing it up 4 stories. They need to go for 8 or 10 more... ;)

I am pretty happy they decided to save the old JA building. It's got a very retro late 40's-early 50's flair. Something that I don't think is appreciated now, but will be 10 years down the road. There isn't a lot of this type of architecture left downtown so it will seem somewhat unique.


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