DDA invests $1.1 million into a trio of downtown projects


The Blue Bridge linking GVSU's Eberhard Center with Campau Square Avenue will close June 1 for restoration, but should be open again for ArtPrize in September. Photo by Chris Pastotnik

The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority extended its contract with O’Boyle, Cowell, Blalock and Associates last week for the renovation of Monument Park at Fulton Street and Division Avenue, a block east of Monroe Center.

The board also approved a contract with the architectural landscaping and planning firm to manage the park’s pre-construction work, an agreement that isn’t to exceed $69,500. Actual construction on the park is expected to get started in the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1.

The DDA estimated it needs an additional $575,000 to cover the projected $864,000 in construction costs. Those additional dollars will come from the board’s FY2014 budget.

DDA Executive Director Kristopher Larson said the board is working as cooperatively as possible with 616 Development on its restoration of the Kendall Building at 16 Monroe Center, which is just a sidewalk north of the park.

“The last thing we want to do is, after they invest $500,000 of their own money, we tear up their front door,” said Larson.

616 Development has excavated the building’s exterior and has installed a new electrical vault in the Kendall. Steel support beams have been put up in the first-floor ceiling and firewalls have gone in for the residences on the third through fifth floors. A new sidewalk also has been poured.

The installation of new windows, insulation, interior framing and drywall has begun. 616 Development plans to have construction completed in September.

The DDA also plans to renovate Veterans Park at Fulton Street and Sheldon Avenue. But the board decided last week to also push that construction cost into next year’s budget. Larson said the DDA will be on the line for roughly $800,000 and will use brownfield tax-increment revenue from The Fitzgerald Building, a recently renovated condo structure at the east end of the park on Library Street, to cover that cost.

“It will take about seven or eight years for the entire amount to be realized,” said Larson. “Some of it is ‘guesstimization’ at this point.”

In addition, the board authorized $325,000 for streetscape improvements that will be made this summer to Ionia Avenue from Buckley to Wealthy streets, to Logan Street from US-131 to Division Avenue, and to McConnell Street from Ionia to Division avenues. These streets border the Downtown Market at 425 Ionia Ave. SW.

The entire project will cost $1.2 million, with $400,000 of that total coming from bonds the city’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority issued. Another $500,000 will come from a federal grant.

The DDA also allocated $716,952 last week to the restoration of the Blue Bridge that links the Grand Valley State University Eberhard Center with Campau Square Avenue. The project involves a repainting of the bridge, adding decorative lighting and rebuilding portions of the walking deck. The work will cost about $1.3 million, with $606,000 in federal transportation funds picking up the difference.

“Don’t plan to use the Blue Bridge after June 1,” said Larson. “We’re going to have to close it for a few months.” That work is expected to end before ArtPrize begins.

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