What’s next for Monroe Center?
After decades of high vacancy along the historical retail hub of Grand Rapids, occupancy is peaking in buildings that were largely forgotten in the 1970s and ’80s.
Downtown and city officials speak highly of the economic health of Monroe Center, a main street that has been grappling with declining shopping dollars for much of the past half-century.
Aside from the closing of Van Hoecks Shoes this fall after 70 years as a downtown mainstay, officials see the street as rebounding economically. Today, Monroe Center boasts a stronger commercial picture, which is expected to continue to improve as several redevelopment projects bloom in 2013 and the coming years.
“The fact that we have so many of the upper floors occupied that were vacant for decades is really important because now you’re starting to build in a density of residents and office tenants that can help support that retail on the ground floor,” said Suzanne Schulz, planning director for the city of Grand Rapids.
Chaundra Derks has had the keys to McKay Tower for several months, but she’s still discovering hidden nooks and crannies.
The building, which has more than a dozen bank vaults stashed here and there, is in the midst of an upgrade project being undertaken by it’s new owners, Steadfast Property Holdings Inc., of which Derks is director of operations.
“I love the history behind this building,” she said. “I love walking through here and finding things like safes and boarded-up elevator shafts in the closet.”
Steadfast, owned by Jonathan Borisch, founder of Borisch Manufacturing of Kentwood (now Amphenol Borisch Technologies), has been busy resealing windows, fixing the façade and making other internal upgrades to the grand dame of Grand Rapids skyscrapers since purchasing the building for $10.5 million in May.
McKay Tower’s former 2nd floor bank to be state-of-the-art banquet space
The City of Grand Rapids Planning Commission today approved a Special Land Use permit for the owners of McKay Tower to renovate the building’s second floor into a public banquet space called “The Ballroom at McKay”.
The proposed space, which is the former banking lobby on the second floor of McKay Tower, is intended to be used for special events such as wedding receptions, business meetings, holiday parties and banquets. The space, which intends to offer alcohol service, will accommodate approximately 200 guests.
Owners of the building intend to begin renovations immediately and hope to have the space open for business by spring 2013. The project will cost approximately $800,000.
Craig Architects of Grand Rapids is the project architect. A general contractor has not yet been selected.
Building owners intend to retain the stately beaux-arts interior with a minimum of technical interference. New toilets for men and women will be constructed, as will a commercial kitchen for catering.
“McKay Tower is a centerpiece of downtown Grand Rapids, so it’s only fitting that there be a public space for everyone to enjoy,” said Chaunda Derks, Director of Operations for Steadfast Property Holdings, the company that owns the building. “We hope that this project is viewed as a welcome addition to the City in that a vacant grand space will be returned to use for the enjoyment of the public.”
Individuals and organizations interested in learning more about renting the space can contact Derks at (616) 419-5442. A website for the banquet space is in development.
This investment by Steadfast is one of several renovations to the historic building. Façade improvements are currently undergoing, and changes to the building’s upper level residential areas are being considered. More information on the building will be made public in 2013.