The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Board of Directors today approved several development incentives that will leverage more than $94 million of private investment to construct new high rise buildings, rehabilitate historic buildings, and expand residential, retail, and commercial office options in the city’s urban core.

Taken together, the DDA-supported projects will add more than 100,000 square feet of retail and commercial office space and at least 284 new housing units in downtown Grand Rapids. Approximately 230 of the housing units will be market-rate, responding to the significant demand for market-rate housing in downtown. The 284 new housing units alone will boost the annual consumer spending potential in downtown by approximately $5.2 million. The Board also took another step toward launching the Downtown Safety Ambassador Program. Specifically, the Board took the following action:

Approved Development Incentives for Morton House

The Board approved three different incentives to support redevelopment of Morton House located at 72 Monroe Center. The project will add at least 100 market-rate residential apartments and some 25,000 square feet of retail and commercial space on the ground floor and mezzanine levels.

The estimated redevelopment cost is $21 million. To support the project, the DDA Board approved a $50,000 grant to help restore the building’s historic façade; a $35,000 grant to fill and vacate the areaway along Ionia Avenue; and a $35,000 grant for a new sidewalk and streetscape improvements. The Board also agreed to commit up to $1,538,000 in future tax revenues generated by the project to support barrier-free access and other improvements to the public right-of-way.

Approved Development Incentives for Trust Building

The Board approved three different incentives to support a $2.6 million renovation of the Trust Building: a $50,000 grant to help restore the building’s historic façade; a $35,000 grant for sidewalk replacement, areaway caps, and other streetscape improvements; and a commitment of up to $236,500 in future tax revenues generated by the project also to support streetscape improvements.

Approved Building Reuse Incentives to Support New Businesses

The Board approved grants to support improvements to two downtown buildings and the owners’ efforts to recruit new tenants. One $30,742 grant will help cover the cost of exterior painting, new ground floor windows, and restoration of the brick façade and domed turret at 333 Grandville. The building owner will renovate the upper floors for office space and currently is working to recruit a retailer or restaurant on the ground floor. Another grant for $25,000 was approved to help cover the costs of installing a modern fire suppression system and a new elevator at the two-story 141 Ionia building. The property owner has successfully tenanted the first floor space and is currently working to secure a second floor tenant.

Approved Development Support for Residential High-Rise

The Board agreed to provide up to $300,000 to reimburse the cost of the elevator in the 14-story mixed use building proposed at 20 East Fulton. The funds will be paid over a 10-year period from future tax revenues generated by the $37-$40 million project, which will add 108 new affordable- and market-rate housing units and 9,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space in downtown. The DDA Board in July 2013 approved a PILOT incentive to help finance the affordable housing component of the project. The development support incentive is possible via the taxes to be generated by the commercial and market-rate portions of the development project.

Approved Development Support for Arena Place

The Board agreed to provide up to $3.18 million to reimburse development costs at the proposed Arena Place project at 158 Weston Street (currently known as “Area One,” the development parcel sits immediately southwest of Van Andel Arena). The funds will be paid over a 15-year period from future tax revenues generated by the estimated $30 million development, which will add 76 market-rate apartments, 40,000 square feet of commercial office space, 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, and 80-90 underground parking spaces. Upon completion of the project financing plan, DDA staff and legal counsel will work with the developer to draft a development agreement for future DDA Board consideration.

Authorized DDA Staff to Award Safety Ambassador Program Contract

The Board authorized DDA Executive Director Kristopher Larson to negotiate the terms of a contract with Louisville-based Block by Block to manage and staff the new Downtown Safety Ambassador Program. Block by Block manages some 65 similar programs in cities across the United States. The firm emerged as the preferred service provider after the DDA issued a Request for Proposals and received three proposals from qualified firms.

The decision was based on, among other criteria, the quality and depth of Block by Block’s hiring and training program, the firm’s demonstrated understanding of the hospitality-based approach, and the number of accounts the firm manages for communities similar in size and geography to Grand Rapids. Block by Block will temporarily relocate program leadership from another community to train a locally-hired team to serve downtown Grand Rapids. The Board action also authorizes the DDA Board Chair to execute a not-to-exceed $300,000 year-long contract upon review by DDA legal counsel.