Two towers are on tap downtown

With Warner Norcross & Judd slated as its anchor tenant, a new two-tower development is planned to change the skyline of downtown Grand Rapids.

Orion Real Estate Solutions announced the project last week, in partnership with Midtown Properties, Lansing-based DTN Management and Concept Design.

The project will sit on the northeast corner of Ottawa Avenue NW and Lyon Street NW.

The mixed-use development, which will include retail, office and residential space, is set to change the real estate market downtown, said Mary Anne Wisinski-Rosely, partner at NAI Wisinski of West Michigan. She said retail real estate is limited downtown, as is residential. Available office space is mostly in old, dated buildings, she said, and there isn’t the option to rent a new, modern space.

“Any new development downtown really spurs excitement,” Wisinski-Rosely said. “This is great, especially for that end of town. It’s all office right now. This helps spread out the residential downtown and gives people more options looking at real estate.”

The site is currently an Ellis Parking surface lot, but by 2018, the plan is to have two 14- to 17-story towers sitting atop a five-level parking deck. The site currently houses approximately 120 parking spaces in an L-shape, which will provide frontage on four streets — Ottawa and Ionia avenues and Lyon and Pearl streets.

The new project would include approximately 500 parking spots, said Orion Real Estate Solutions President John Wheeler.

The development comes following a 14-month process during which Warner Norcross searched for its next home, as its lease in the Fifth Third Bank building, 111 Lyon St. NW, is up in 2019. Wheeler said the law firm expressed interest and worked with several developers before settling on this project with Orion Real Estate Solutions.

Warner Norcross was insistent on maintaining a presence in downtown, managing partner Douglas Wagner said in a statement announcing the move.

“Since our law firm was founded more than 80 years ago, Warner Norcross has always had offices in downtown Grand Rapids,” Wagner said. “We are extremely excited to be part of this development, which will allow us to design space that can be customized to better suit the changing needs of our clients, attorneys and staff.”

Designs are currently in the works for the project, Wheeler said, and more details and renderings will be available in January 2016. Project details such as square footage and cost will not be finalized until that time.

Wheeler said both towers will be individually designed. One will be all office space and look like an “upscale urban Class-A” building such as one would find in Chicago. The second tower will be residential and will look the part, with plenty of windows and balconies.

The project should break ground by early 2017, Wheeler said, with residents moving in by 2018. In 2019, office tenants would likely begin moving in, led by Warner Norcross.

The two towers will have main-floor retail and separate lobbies, but will be connected by the parking ramp.

The four-street exposure will allow for “spectacular” design, and the project will change the shape and feel of the Central Business District, Wheeler said.

“The development team has been thoughtful in its initial design of the project, taking care to ensure it will provide a tremendous mix of office, retail and residential with ample new parking in a facility that complements the current cityscape,” Mayor George Heartwell said in the release.

“We appreciate the continued investment in making the Central Business District an excellent place to live, work and shop.”

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