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Sunday, 23 June 2013 22:00

Arena Place details plans for $28M development

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The mixed-use $28 million Arena Place project will offer street-level retail space, plus offices and market-rate residential units. The project, the early renderings of which are being shown exclusively to MiBiz, is being proposed for a city-owned parcel to the southwest of Van Andel Arena. The mixed-use $28 million Arena Place project will offer street-level retail space, plus offices and market-rate residential units. The project, the early renderings of which are being shown exclusively to MiBiz, is being proposed for a city-owned parcel to the southwest of Van Andel Arena. COURTESY RENDERING

The preponderance of subsidized low-income residential developments in downtown Grand Rapids has left many to believe the city has a dearth of available market-rate apartments.

Enter Arena Place Development LLC.

The company’s $28 million mixed-use project is the first new construction on its way to approval after the adoption of the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority’s Arena South Visioning Plan. The project calls for a mix of market-rate apartments, ground-floor retail and offices in the area just southwest of Van Andel Arena in downtown Grand Rapids.

The 200,000-square-foot project is planned for what’s known as Area 1, a $2.25 million DDA-owned parcel along Ottawa Avenue between Oakes and Weston streets. Construction is expected to start in December and finish in April 2015, said John Wheeler, principal of Arena Place Development and vice president of business development for Orion Construction.

“We’re focusing on a first-class urban core development. We wanted to do something new, and we need a new project here in the downtown,” Wheeler said. “This is going to be a great mixed-use project in perfect alignment with the (Arena South Visioning Study).”

Wheeler said he already has a signed commitment from one “major” tenant for two-thirds of the 45,000-square-foot office space, but said he was unable to release the name of the local company just yet.

For the other third of the office space at Arena Place, Grand Rapids-based restaurant operator Meritage Hospitality Group Inc. is evaluating the opportunity to combine an office and restaurant facility, according to a statement from Robert Shermer, CEO and president of Meritage. The decision is still subject to the company receiving financing and final approval from its board.

Orion and Meritage have worked together in the past, most recently on a $24.0 million development in Port Huron that includes a Hilton Hotel, Freighters Restaurant, a convention center and the Michigan Culinary Institute.

Arena Place Development’s plans for a DDA-owned parcel just southwest of Van Andel Arena include 84 one- or two-bedroom apartments over street-level retail space, as shown in these early renderings, which are not finalized. The market-rate space will be competitive with other apartments in downtown Grand Rapids, developer John Wheeler said. COURTESY RENDERING

If the decision to move to Arena Place is approved, Wheeler expects Meritage to launch another restaurant similar to its Twisted Rooster and Crooked Goose concepts on the street-level space below the offices.

Arena Place Development and Orion are working with Grand Rapids-based architecture firm Concept Design on the project.

“We’ve been doing a lot of study on successful urban projects around the country, and we’re trying to take the best of the best that works here,” Wheeler said.

While the project is still progressing through design development and space planning, current plans include 82 below-ground parking spaces and 42 surface spaces to support 8,000 square feet of retail space beneath 84 apartments.

The residential spaces will range in size from 600-square-foot studios and 780-square-foot one-bedroom, one-bath apartments to 940-square-foot two-bedroom, two-bath apartments — some of which will likely be sold as condos on the building’s upper floors, Wheeler said.

All apartments will have market-rate rents and will be competitive with 38 Commerce and The Gallery on Fulton, which go for roughly $2 per square foot, Wheeler said.

Every unit is expected to have nine-foot ceilings, high-end finishes and a balcony. A 1500-square-foot gym for residents is also included in the plans. Other amenities include a full-time doorman, resident lounge and a holding kitchen for grocery deliveries.

Current plans also feature a curved, high-tech glass curtain that encases the office space at the south end of the project.

Wheeler said he hopes to start soon in marketing the retail spaces. He’d like to attract a dry cleaner, deli and coffee shop, among other service providers.

In total, 150 new jobs are expected to be created once the Arena Place project is finished and running.

Wheeler and his team will head back to the DDA for a final development agreement meeting sometime this summer, said Kris Larson, executive director for the DDA.

“We’re trying to move forward with Orion as quickly as possible,” Larson said. “This project should have a great impact on not only Arena South, but the future of our downtown.”

Larson said the project hits two major requirements for the DDA, including that it combines a number of uses and utilizes underground parking, which hasn’t been seen in the downtown.

“(The project) can generate more activity than a traditional office or standalone use,” he said. “It’s great development planning, from our standpoint.”

Financing support for the $28 million project includes a four-layer mix of private capital, a bank loan, DDA tax increment financing capture and support from the Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s Community Revitalization Program.

“This (project) is really going to set the standard for future development in the Arena District,” Wheeler said.

Read 13523 times Last modified on Friday, 19 July 2013 12:01

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