County to accept bids on riverfront site


Kent County Assistant Administrator Mary Swanson said the county will request proposals soon on a piece of riverfront property it owns just north of the Monroe Avenue and Michigan Street intersection, a key downtown location.

County Administrator and Controller Daryl Delabbio said the county isn’t in a rush to sell the parcel, a position he first voiced in October. “We’re not dying to sell the property,” he said last week.

The county has owned three prime and adjacent parcels on the west bank of the Grand River along Monroe Avenue for eight years. The county bought the 1.28-acre site for $2.4 million in 2004 from Frank Freund of American Physical Capital Inc. of East Lansing as an insurance parcel in case it had to move its administrative headquarters from Calder Plaza.

At the time the county purchased the property, Gallium Group was trying to convince the city of Grand Rapids to sell Calder Plaza. Gallium wanted the site for a hotel and office building, but city officials nixed the proposed deal after the county made the purchase.

“We were pushed into buying the property by the city, and it turned out to be a good thing,” said Dan Koorndyk, commission vice chairman.

Koorndyk also emphasized the county isn’t desperate to sell the property just because it is issuing an RFP on it. “We’re just trying to value that property,” he said. “How much is it worth? We don’t have a clue.”

The property equals 55,757 square feet. At a price tag of $2.4 million, the county paid roughly $43 a square foot for the site eight years ago. Koorndyk said last month the county wasn’t interested in losing money on a potential deal. Property values, though, have fallen throughout the county the past four years.

Delabbio told the Business Journal the reason an RFP is being issued is because a real estate agent recently inquired if the property was for sale. He said when that happens, the county’s policy is to call for bids.

Delabbio didn’t identify the agent or who the interested party was. But he did confirm that it wasn’t Michigan State University or the real estate arm of Amway Corp., two organizations that own properties near the county’s land.

When MSU bought the former Grand Rapids Press building, it also purchased three parking lots the newspaper owned on Monroe Avenue. Two are on the riverfront and one is next to the county’s parcel. The third is on the east side of Monroe Avenue next to a parking lot the county owns.

OMH LLC, a division of RDV Corp., owns the former Olds Manor at 201 Michigan St. NW, about a block south of the county site. OHM bought the eight-story building that once was a retirement residence and nursing home in January 2003 from SIBSCO, the Peter Secchia family’s real estate business. SIBSCO purchased it in October 2001 for $2.75 million, according to county records.

Olds Manor, which sits across Michigan Street from DeVos Place convention center, has been vacant since 2001. Its state equalized value this year is $1.08 million.

County Purchasing Director Jon Denhof wrote the RFP the county will be issuing. Delabbio said the document will note that the county isn’t under any financial pressure, or in a hurry, to sell the property. “There will be a disclaimer in it,” he said.

The RFP is expected to be issued by the end of this month.

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