Having ranked among the best places to live, start a business, visit, eat, drink beer, be a hipster, raise a family and make your mark, it’s no wonder new development is booming in downtown Grand Rapids.
The second largest city in Michigan, this growing riverside community sits 30 minutes from Lake Michigan on the West side of the state.
Like many American cities, Grand Rapids experienced an early to mid-century suburban boom. But urban renewal projects launched in the late ‘60s began to shift focus back to the downtown.
Major investments in downtown hotels, a convention and performing arts center and 12,000-seat sports and entertainment arena in the ‘80s and ‘90s – along with consistently strong population and job growth – spurred developers, business leaders, entrepreneurs, healthcare and biomedical research institutions, and universities to invest billions in the city’s core over the next 25 years.
Today, cranes continue to dot the skyline of Grand Rapids as investors build new or renovate historic structures to accommodate the skyrocketing demand for downtown residential space, craft breweries and distilleries, restaurants, entertainment venues and Class A office space.
The recently restored Rowe, a former landmark hotel built in 1923, is a prime example. After falling into disrepair, the building sat vacant for 15 years before CWD Real Estate Development gave it a $28 million makeover.
Now the 11-story structure – situated on the north end of downtown at the intersection of the city’s entertainment district, medical and research corridor, and burgeoning West Side neighborhood – offers 77 luxury market-rate apartments, nine high-end penthouse condos, a fitness center, parking, a rooftop deck and street-level retail, including Atwater Brewery. The 6,000-square-foot tap house, winery, distillery and biergarten is the first West Michigan location for the Detroit-based craft brewery and features wood, marble, doors and other materials reclaimed from old Detroit and Grand Rapids buildings.
The Rowe sits across Monroe Avenue from the Michigan State University Grand Rapids Research Center, slated to open in late 2017. The $88.1 million biomedical research center will support 44 research teams comprised of MSU scientists, clinical-based faculty physicians from the MSU College of Human Medicine and other researchers from MSU’s partnering institutions.
According to MSU, core research will include Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, pediatric neurology, autism, inflammation, transplantation, genetics, women’s health and reproduction, and skin cancer – with the vision of helping people live longer and better, and improving the health of the Grand Rapids community and beyond.
Construction of the research facility, alone, is expected to generate $55 million in wages and an economic impact of $95.6 million to the area.
A few blocks to the south, the Gilmore Collection and Orion are building a $32 million residential and entertainment complex. The Venue, due to open in 2017, will feature a 5,000-square-foot outdoor beer garden and a 2,256-seat flex space that will host over 120 ticketed events each year. The new entertainment complex is designed to complement the Van Andel Arena, which is located just across Fulton Street and attracts over 1 million visitors a year.
The adjoining 11-story residential Venue Tower will boast 88 apartments, including 24 micro-lofts designed for active urbanites who value quality and accessibility to everything a thriving downtown offers.
With a 42-story hotel and residential tower proposed one block over from The Venue, a host of new restaurants, brewpubs, breweries and distilleries opening their doors downtown and in adjoining neighborhoods, a rebirth of Calder Plaza – the heart of Grand Rapids’ business and government district – underway, and Grand Rapids’ recent ranking as one of the best economies in the country, there are no signs this growth is slowing anytime soon.