Monroe North Hospitality Businesses Anticipate Impetus From Spectrum Health Development

GRAND RAPIDS — Business owners in the Monroe North neighborhood near downtown are anticipating an influx of business as about 1,200 employees are expected to work from Spectrum Health‘s planned an eight-storey office development.

Spectrum Health’s $60-80 million Center for Transformation and Innovation (CTI) development is planned on a 4.8-acre site along North Monroe Avenue and the Ottawa Avenue, just east of the Grand River. The project is expected to be completed in the summer of 2023.

Monroe North business owners and neighborhood advocates widely see the development as a positive opportunity that could spur new developments in the area. Restaurant and bar owners, in particular, are hoping for increased staffing and sales following the economic hit they have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are still trying to get out of COVID,” said SpeakEZ Lounge Owner Eric Albertson. “Our sales are back to a pre-COVID level, but I’m at about 60% of my staffing capacity. On Mondays, everything here is closed.

The development of Spectrum, which will bring hundreds of employees to the center, would especially help the SpeakEZ lunch crowd and open up opportunities for more events like live music, Albertson said.

“The Spectrum thing is quite frankly a few years away on my mind, because there are so many other challenges right now, but it’s still exciting,” Albertson said. “When I started here, I felt like my business was a bit of an island. I would rather see growth than stagnation.

When Jan Lehman moved into a Monroe North condo with her husband in 2001, Monroe Avenue was just a two-lane street, she said. Lehman, who is also vice president of the North Monroe Business Association, remembers the abandoned furniture factories and other neglected buildings that lined the neighborhood’s streets.

The area has seen “steady progress” with development over the past 20 years, which Lehman expects to continue with the Spectrum project.

“We’re looking forward to having a lot of people in our neighborhood,” Lehman said. “Not everyone will agree with me on this, but it’s what my husband and I love. And it will be wonderful for the restaurant and service industries in our region.”

The president of the Monroe North Business Association, Diedre Deering, also hopes that the Spectrum project will stimulate the development of additional housing such as condos or apartments.

“We have a number of restaurants and bars, and it would be nice to see some new retail businesses coming in as well, if they could bolster incoming staff,” Deering said. “It’s the biggest development we’ve seen in at least the last 10 years. The neighborhood has experienced tremendous growth. »

Garage Bar & Grill Owner Kevin Farhat expects the new office campus to drive sales during construction and after the project.

“It’s a great exhibit,” Farhat said. “The more options there are for people to come to the Monroe North business district, the more walkable it is and the better. The additional 800 to 1,200 jobs will blow up the daytime population with busier lunches, happy hours and dinners.

Sweetwaters Monroe North Coffee and Tea opened in July 2019 and has managed to keep a loyal staff and hire more people throughout the labor shortage, owner Michael Herblet said.

In the short term, Herblet pointed out that the “missing piece” for the service industry right now is the return of office workers to downtown.

“Key West Michigan businesses are investing in downtown,” Herblet said. “I see that as a positive thing. When we chose our location, we knew it would take some time for all the plans to be developed around us, but that’s why we chose this location.

Next steps

Preliminary site work is underway at the Center for Transformation and Innovation, including the demolition of the former Gill Industries Inc. facility to make way for the eight-story office tower.

Foundation work for two parking decks and the CTI building will begin once demolition is complete. The parking decks will contain 420 spaces each, and surface parking of 100 to 150 spaces on Bond Avenue is also planned.

Spectrum Health is currently working with the City of Grand Rapids to secure brownfield redevelopment incentives for the project, said Grand Rapids Director of Economic Development Jeremiah Gracia.

Details on the scope of the project and eligible costs that could be reduced by brownfield incentives will be included in the company’s application, which will likely be presented to city officials in the coming months.

Spectrum Health has acquired several properties in the Monroe North business district for its CTI development over the past several years. More recently, Spectrum purchased Eastern Kille Distilleryfor $3.75 million, more than 10 times the amount of the distillery’s initial real estate investment of $370,000 in November 2014.

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