Redevelopment of 25 Ottawa focuses on vibrancy, hospitality


The Twenty 5 Ottawa building will get an exterior facelift that includes removal of the giant awnings that currently block sunlight from entering at the street level. Courtesy Franklin Partners

When Franklin Partners announced recently its plan to redevelop the 25 Ottawa building, it pointed to the importance of making the building stand out and creating a hospitality-centered environment for future tenants.

Currently, 25 Ottawa is not a user-friendly building. Visitors walk through the door — if it can be found — and are immediately puzzled about where to go. The lobby is dark, thanks in part to giant awnings on the exterior that block the sunlight, and the building feels cut off from any street-level activity.

The $3.5 million redevelopment project, with an additional $2 million for tenant improvements, will focus on eliminating the building’s major downfalls and creating a tenant-centered space, according to Don Shoemaker, managing partner for Franklin Partners.

First, the entryway will undergo a major facelift, he said. Plans include relocating the entry and positioning it in line with the attached skywalk. The entryway will then be framed with a four-story glass façade, lit from below and creating a vibrant feel.

Additional updates planned for the six-story, 105,700-square-footbuilding are opening up the ceiling in the lobby to create a two-story atrium, reconfiguration and replacement of all first-floor windows along Ottawa Avenue and Weston Street to create a more visible storefront, new elevator finishes and miscellaneous tenant improvements.

“I think our new façade will be much more inviting to retail,” saidShoemaker.“The new exterior and being up-lit will be much more noticeable. I also think our entrance will draw a lot of attention to the property off of Fulton Street.”

Roger Heerema, principal at Wright Heerema Architects, said the updates to the main floor would support future retailers and a restaurant.

“I think retailers and restaurateurs are interested in being able to see into their space so it looks active and people feel that it’s inviting,” he said. “We are changing the storefront: The awnings are coming off and it’s going to be lighter and brighter, and easier to have visibility to the interior of the building. By redeveloping this first level, it’s going to be different and really focused on the transparency into those spaces.”

Shoemaker pointed out tenants need more from a building than simply a leased space, which is why plans for 25 Ottawa include more than just architectural changes to make the building more appealing.

A state-of-the-art gym with locker rooms and showers will be added, and tenants will have access to a shared conference space and a Wi-Fi enabled lounge area.

“Most of their waking hours are spent in our building,” Shoemaker explained. “We really like it to be a pleasant environment where they are greeted, where if there is something we can do to accommodate them, we really try to go out of our way to do it. That is the approach we take.”

Shoemaker pointed out many office buildings in Chicago — where Franklin Partners also has an office — offer such amenity packages.

“A lot of them put fitness centers in, conference centers, Wi-Fi lounges, but it’s really more how you treat your tenants,” he said. 

“We really feel our tenants are our best marketing piece, and if we have an approach with our tenants much like you would in a four-star hotel — when you ask for something and they say, ‘It’s our pleasure’ — that is how we try to deal with things.”

Shoemaker said the building would serve large-scale tenants that are looking to rent one or more floors. He noted Grand Rapids has a dearth of spaces for tenants in need of 30,000 square feet or more. He pointed to his company’s previous project, 99 Monroe, which is also focused on tenants in need of ample space, and said a deal is likely to be finalized soon that would leave the building with only one space left.

Construction firm Owen-Ames-Kimball and leasing agent Colliers International are also partners on the project.

Construction is scheduled to be completed by June 2015.

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