Five possible developers named in 201 Market project

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.-- Plans are moving forward for some riverfront property in Grand Rapids.

On Wednesday, the city announced the final five developers in the running to take the lead on the project. No decision has been made about what will be built on the almost 16 acres at 201 Market Ave. SW, but they say this is a big step in the process.

In the 2000s, there were plans for this site that didn't pan out because of a lack of funding from the developer and a less than booming downtown. On Wednesday, managing director Kara Wood said it's a pretty big deal to not only have five developers interested in the project, but four of them aren't local, which means Grand Rapids is getting some national exposure. Wood says the time for development is now.

"The city has received five responses to the request for qualifications that was issued and we're excited about the opportunities that this presents," said Kara Wood, managing director of economic development services. "We're going to be evaluating those proposals for technical capability and financial capacity to do the project."

Those five responses came from West Michigan company Rockford Construction as well as Flaherty and Collins Properties, REDICO, The Velmeir Companies and Zimmer Development. As part of the city's request for qualifications, they'll now be looking at which group is best for the job.

"It means we're looking at their technical capabilities and their financial capacity at this time," said Wood. "We'll be looking at the projects that they've constructed in the past and developed on their own to a similar size and scale of what we're looking at here at 201 Market."

In the 2000s, plans were in the works for a more than $1 billion project at 201 Market by developer Duane Faust, but those plans failed. The failure was blamed on a lack of funds from Faust and a less than booming downtown at the time. Since then, that part of the city has changed.

"It was a different market condition and a different project was requested," said Wood. "This is a new opportunity to seek disposition of the site this time."

It's still up in the air as to what the actual development will be, but Wood says it'll likely be some sort of housing, retail and open space mix. Wood says they'll be doing some private interview with the teams, looking at their ideas and moving forward from there.

"The city is going to be very prescriptive in some of the elements we want to see because this is one of the last city-owned properties that we have," said Wood. "We want to be able to control its destiny by helping us fulfill some of the goals with those plans."

No timeline is set for when construction would start, but Wood says with Grand Rapids growing, now is the time to move forward.

"I think it's really great news that we have five proposals," said Wood. "That's really saying a lot about Grand Rapids and the market conditions here. The fact that not all of the teams are being led by groups from Grand Rapids, they're being led from out of the city, out of the state and part of the Midwest basically means Grand Rapids is on the map."

Wood says a decision on the developer will likely be reached by the end of May or early June. Wood says they'll be holding public meetings to review the proposals to get some input from the community, but no date is set for those.

To follow along with the 201 Market project, visit their website.

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