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Sunday, 11 February 2018 15:00

Sources: Lighthouse Insurance plans to move nearly 150 employees to downtown GR

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An affiliate of Beene Garter wants to buy and demolish a building at 213 Oakes St. and convert it into additional parking spaces. The parking spots are needed to finalize a lease for a tenant at Beene Garter’s building at 56 Grandville Ave. Sources have confirmed the tenant is Lighthouse Insurance. An affiliate of Beene Garter wants to buy and demolish a building at 213 Oakes St. and convert it into additional parking spaces. The parking spots are needed to finalize a lease for a tenant at Beene Garter’s building at 56 Grandville Ave. Sources have confirmed the tenant is Lighthouse Insurance.

GRAND RAPIDS — Lighthouse Insurance Group Inc. plans to move between 130 and 150 employees to an office in downtown Grand Rapids, MiBiz has learned.

According to sources familiar with the plans, the Grand Rapids-based insurance agency plans to take space on the third and fourth floors at 56 Grandville Ave. SW, the headquarters of accounting firm Beene Garter LLP.

An entity affiliated with Beene Garter that owns the headquarters property outlined the “potential tenant” in an application to the city Planning Commission seeking permission to demolish a building at 213 Oakes St. SW and build a surface parking lot to accommodate the additional workers.

In the application, Beene Garter Managing Partner Tom Rosenbach wrote that his firm worked with the city and private parking operators to secure about 110 spaces for the new tenant, but the lease was contingent on securing another 40 spaces for the remainder of the employees.

Rosenbach said the company wants to buy and tear down the Oakes Street building and construct surface and underground parking at the site. The parking spaces would be incorporated into an adjacent surface lot managed by Ellis Parking and would be available to the public in the evenings and on weekends, according to the filings.

The company is eying the site for future development, but believes the best immediate use is for parking. Renovations the existing Oakes Street building would prove “cost prohibitive,” Rosenbach said in the application.

The proposed lot would be located around the corner from Beene Garter’s headquarters, where the accounting firm occupies the building’s lower two floors, according to the Planning Commission documents.

In an interview with MiBiz, Rosenbach declined to comment on the status of Lighthouse Insurance as the proposed tenant, but did say that he believes that removing the underutilized building nearby creates future development opportunities for that part of downtown.

“We are committed to a vibrant downtown for business. More than parking, we’re looking to purchase the property for future development,” Rosenbach said. “The parking issues downtown have been well documented, but it’s mostly for future growth.”

Rosenbach called the Planning Commission’s decision a “very important” part of securing the tenant.  

Tom Helmstetter, group president and CEO of Lighthouse Insurance, which has offices around the state and in Wisconsin, acknowledged a request to comment for this report, but was unavailable to speak with MiBiz at the time of publication.

While the terms of the Lighthouse Insurance lease remain unclear, sources familiar with the negotiations said the rates would be “very competitive” and that tenants are increasingly focused on the amenities associated with being downtown rather than the price per square foot of any given lease.

Sources in the real estate industry say the idea to redevelop 213 Oakes first came about when previous tenant Advantage Solutions announced they’d be leaving the Beene Garter building in favor of space in Wyoming, as MiBiz first reported last year. The company cited parking costs in announcing the move.

The Advantage Label departure and the limited availability of downtown parking helped put the parking issue in the spotlight in the last year.

According to an annual survey of members of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, business owners cited parking concerns behind only workforce development and talent as the biggest barriers to business growth for 2018. Nearly a third of respondents said partking was a top concern in the survey released last month.

Currently, occupancy in city-owned parking facilities stands at about 95 percent, according to data from MobileGR, the department that oversees the city’s parking supply.

The pipeline for additional parking spaces continues to grow as part of a string of new development projects, as MiBiz has previously reported. The city also opened a surface parking lot across from the Downtown Market in mid-December. 

Read 32750 times Last modified on Sunday, 11 February 2018 09:52

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