Two long-forgotten downtown Grand Rapids bank lobbies have found new life as event spaces thanks to recent renovation projects.
Both the Ballroom at McKay Tower and the Ballroom at CityFlats Hotel blend the facilities’ historic charm with the capabilities of modern amenities.
While their interiors feature turn of the century embellishments like original marble finishes and intricate woodwork, each space is outfitted with all the necessary accoutrements today’s event-goers demand.
But adding high-end sounds systems and bringing original finishes back to life isn’t the difficult part of these projects, said Richard Craig, the owner of Craig Architects Inc. who designed the renovation for both projects.
One thing that downtown Grand Rapids has going for it: old buildings, many of them empty. Another thing: Demand from people who want to rent an apartment downtown — young people, in particular — has spilled onto waiting lists.
In response, developers are renovating downtown buildings as quickly as City Hall will allow, putting as few as four rental units in some buildings, 30-40 in others and more than 100 in a few.
Developer Sam Cummings, the principal and managing partner of CWD Real Estate Investment, is a believer in rental development in downtown Grand Rapids.
“There is room to run with apartments,” he said. “Rents are doing quite well and occupancy, for all intents, is 100 percent.”
When one of downtown Grand Rapids’ most prominent buildings changed hands in May 2012, the new owners decided it was time to bring the grand lady into the 21st century by honoring her architectural history.
McKay Tower, with frontage on Pearl St. NW, Monroe Avenue NW, and Monroe Center NW, one of the city’s busiest corners, started out in 1914 as a two-story structure. The building grew by two stories in the mid 1920s to make space for the Grand Rapids National Bank, and shortly thereafter, construction of the main tower brought McKay Tower to 17 stories.
On the second floor, a marble-clad former bank lobby with soaring ceilings is in the midst of a transformation into a majestic event space. On the 15th floor, three luxury apartments overlooking the city below will soon be completed and available for short- and long-term leases.
And now, owners Steadfast Property Holdings, LLC, are planning a small facelift that will preserve the striking terra cotta around the fourth floor for generations to come. Passersby will see scaffolding and covered entries to the main level retail shops in place soon.