County to hold onto riverfront land


The check will be in the mail soon.

Kent County will be returning a $50,000 check that accompanied an offer from SIBSCO LLC for 1.28 acres of riverfront property the county has owned since 2004 on Monroe Avenue NW between Michigan and Trowbridge streets. 

A county subcommittee declined to accept a purchase offer from the real estate development company owned by the Peter Secchia family for the property along the east bank of the Grand River and a county-owned parking lot across the street.

SIBSCO LLC offered the county $2.5 million for the three parcels that make up the riverfront land and the parking lot. The company’s offer included a check for $50,000 for a three-year option on the land and the lot.

The firm wanted time to perform due diligence on the property and see what may be happening in the immediate area before signing on the dotted line. 

“They identified some contingencies and unknowns and they wanted to look into those,” said Mary Swanson, assistant county administrator.

But commissioners Jim Talen, Shana Shroll and Harold Voorhees agreed to pass on the offer because SIBSCO could look into the property while the county retains possession and come back with another offer when the firm was ready to do that.

The response from SIBSCO was the only one the county received from the request for offers it made May 5. 

“I was surprised there was only one,” said Voorhees.

“We were, too,” said Swanson.

In its response, SIBSCO indicated the land would be good for a “significant mixed-use project” that would serve medical professionals with retail, housing and off-street parking. 

Michigan State University recently bought the property that was owned by the Grand Rapids Press, including its massive building at Michigan and Monroe NW and three parking lots along Monroe Avenue near the county’s property. 

More recently, MSU trustees indicated they were interested in expanding the school’s medical research division downtown. The university’s medical school is on Michigan Street a few blocks east of the county’s land.

Peter Secchia has been a major financial supporter of MSU, his alma mater.

The county bought the riverfront land for $2.4 million from an East Lansing firm about nine years ago, and members of the subcommittee mentioned they might hire a broker to market the property on the county’s behalf. 

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