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Tuesday, 08 August 2017 10:51

Documents show significant changes for proposed downtown GR theater project

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These renderings of Jackson Entertainment’s proposed movie theater project south of Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids were included in the DDA’s agenda for its Wednesday, Aug. 9 meeting. These renderings of Jackson Entertainment’s proposed movie theater project south of Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids were included in the DDA’s agenda for its Wednesday, Aug. 9 meeting. COURTESY RENDERINGS

GRAND RAPIDS — After more than a year of behind-the-scenes work, the developers of the proposed $140 million mixed-use movie theater project south of Van Andel Arena plan to step back into the spotlight this week.

On Wednesday, Jackson Entertainment LLC will present its updated plans for the entertainment district to the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority. The proposal includes building a nine-screen Studio C movie theater concept from Celebration Cinema, apartments, retail, office space, a hotel, public space and parking deck spread over two surface lots in the Arena South district of downtown Grand Rapids, according to documents included in the DDA meeting agenda.

The documents outline significant changes to the number of apartment units and the ownership structure of the project’s parking component.

J.D. Loeks, principal with Jackson Entertainment, declined to comment for this report.

“(T)hanks for your interest. We’re holding our comments until Wednesday morning to make sure everybody gets the same accurate story,” Loeks wrote in a text message to MiBiz on Monday evening.
Jackson Entertainment has held an option on the land since April 2012, receiving two subsequent extensions in 2015.

Ultimately, should the DDA board and the city commission agree to the term sheet included in the agenda, Jackson Entertainment would have to build the movie theater, at least 98 residential units, office and commercial space, a public plaza, a street extension and a parking ramp with at least 750 spaces.

While many of the changes — such as the addition of offices to be developed by Franklin Partners LLC, as well as a hotel — were exclusively reported by MiBiz in April, the DDA documents offer a number of new details.

Three sources familiar with the project identified the “four-star” hotel brand as a Canopy by Hilton. The newer hotel brand currently only operates a location in Reykjavik, Iceland, according to its website, with other locations planned for places such as London, Toronto, Dallas and Washington, D.C.

While initial plans called for 616 Development LLC to develop 187 residential units as part of the project, the updated proposal now calls for the construction of an initial 98 housing units as well as a 10-year option for a second phase. Later development could include a 10-story tower with at least 154 units built atop the parking structure.

Additionally, it’s unclear whether 616 Development continues to be involved in the project. Founder and CEO Derek Coppess did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Early plans also called for the developers to build a 900-space parking deck and sell that back to the city of Grand Rapids. Jackson Entertainment will now construct between 750 and 900 spaces on the site, with plans to lease 300 back to the city for public use.

The proposed ownership structure would relieve the city of Grand Rapids from having to make a $28 million capital expenditure, according to the documents.

In the updated plans, the city and the DDA would reimburse the developers for an extension of Ottawa Avenue south of Oakes Street through a portion of the existing western surface lot not needed for the proposed development.

The DDA would then retain ownership of a portion of the lot, which it could later sell for future development.

While the city and DDA would pay back the developers for the cost of extending the street, the public entities would be reimbursed through nearly $4 million in expected brownfield and tax incremental financing (TIF) capture as overall tax revenue in the area grows, according to the agreement.

Those costs would be reimbursed over time, stretching out to as late as 2049, according to the DDA documents.

Additionally, the plans call for Jackson Entertainment and its partners to collaborate with the city and the DDA on various elements, including a publicly-owned, privately-managed public plaza and a retail incubator for women-owned and minority-owned businesses.

Under the terms of the proposal, the developers would purchase the land from the DDA for $6.87 million.

Jackson Entertainment must provide details on financing for the project no less than 15 days prior to closing, according to the development agreement. That closing date is expected to be no later than Feb. 1, 2018.

If the DDA board and the Grand Rapids City Commission agree to the terms, construction could begin as early as November of this year with completion of the first phase planned for two years later.

The developers plan to seek approval from the city of Grand Rapids Brownfield Authority for reimbursement of approximately $19.2 million in eligible costs, with $17.2 million for the parking ramp construction and $2 million for site preparation.

The project could qualify for enhanced brownfield incentives passed by the state earlier this summer that would allow developers of large-scale projects to capture additional taxes generated by the development. However, there’s no indication that Jackson Entertainment plans to pursue those based on the plans outlined in the documents.

The developer does plan to seek an $8.4 million Community Revitalization Program loan from the Michigan Economic Development Corp., according to the documents.

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