‘There is a demand’ 20 story residential tower planned for B.O.B. expansion

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — People looking to live downtown in Grand Rapids could soon have a new option right next door to an iconic nightlife destination.

Site plan of proposed "Venue" expansion project for the B.O.B.

Site plan of proposed “Venue” expansion project for the B.O.B.

Orion Real Estate and the Gilmore Collection announced a joint venture agreement Tuesday that includes plans to construct a 20 story residential tower alongside a 20,000 square foot expansion of the B.O.B. in a space adjacent to the current building on Monroe Ave.

agreement Tuesday that includes plans to construct a 20 story residential tower alongside a 20,000 square foot expansion of the B.O.B. in a space adjacent to the current building on Monroe Ave.

The planned expansion of the B.O.B.—which has been in the works for years—has been delayed numerous times, most recently after two deaths from falls in a stairwell at the complex last year.

The development, being dubbed The Venue and The Venue Towers, will sit on the northwest corner of Monroe Avenue and West Fulton Street.

John Wheeler with Orion and Greg Gilmore of the Gilmore Collection are aiming to get construction underway by June 2015. The two presented concept plans Tuesday approved unanimously by the Grand Rapids city commission.

Final plans for the project are due by February.

“It’s a big deal, it’s great,” said Walt Gutowski, first ward commissioner. “You’ve got two people involved here, Mr. Wheeler and Mr. Gilmore, who have proven they know how to do it and they know how to do it really well.”

The 20 story residential tower will include 104 “market rate” units, including about 16 single family condominiums reserved for the top four floors of the building. The tower would also include a skywalk to the nearby city owned parking ramp on Ottowa.

Wheeler argues the condos will be key in helping to promote bringing back the idea of home ownership in the downtown area.

“The city has zero condominiums for sale on this scale, so there’ll be a portion of the top floor which gives the views and gives little more of the creative energy,” Wheeler said.

“There is a demand, we’re trying to feed a need not create a want and there is a need for condominiums in downtown Grand Rapids, there’s no question.”

According to a recent market study conducted for the Michigan Corridor, there’s enough demand to support about 1,200 new apartments a year for the next five years downtown.

While condominiums are in high demand, Wheeler said the bulk of the project will still be apartments because finding financing for condo projects remains difficult in the wake of the recession.

When asked about partnering up with Gilmore on a project that’s seen years of delays, Wheeler said the two fit together “perfectly.”

The entertainment venue portion of the project is slated to include a space for up to 2,400 guests for either concerts, trade shows or even small conventions. Gilmore told commissioners they’d like to see at least 110 shows there per year.

Gilmore did not take questions from reporters following the presentation Tuesday but did say in a release later he was excited to partner with Orion to deliver market-rate housing downtown.

“We are grateful for the city’s insight and cooperation to date and we are looking forward to moving ahead with what we feel is a viable and impactful project,” Gilmore said in the release.

Tuesday marked the fifth time the development agreement has been amended. Mayor Heartwell remarked during the meeting the plans, however, have improved with each amendment.

It’s a sentiment shared by Commissioner Gutowski.

“The market changes a lot and we as a city, and around this table, we need to work with those folks that are putting big money at risk to make this city better,” he said.

According to the timetable laid out by developers, the project should be completed by the end of 2016.

Keep up with FOX 17’s Josh Sidorowicz by emailing him at jsidorowicz@fox17online.com or following him on Twitter.

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