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West side of Grand Rapids keeps growing

August 04, 2014

(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Is the west side truly the best side?

It’s a question many in the city of Grand Rapids may be pondering. As the city continues to grow and develop, the area west of the Grand River has a number of developers eyeing it as a land of opportunity.

It’s certainly an area where there’s room for development, said Dave Levitt, partner at Third Coast Development, a Grand Rapids-based commercial real estate development firm headquartered at 168 Louis Campau Promenade NW.

“What is so great about the west side is the feel of the area. As a downtown neighborhood, there’s a strong connection to the urban core, but there’s also a comfortable scale to it,” he said. “The sidewalks, trees, yards and front porches all create a welcoming neighborhood. I think more people are opening their eyes to the potential here.”

In recent years, the west side has become home to a number of established development companies. About a year ago, Rockford Construction moved its offices to 601 First St. NW, and has gained a powerful momentum ever since, said CEO Mike VanGessel.

“Rockford has been in our new office for a year, and First Street Partners has opened next door. First Street Partners is a group of companies focused on innovation in the built environment — energy, sustainable products and services, and adaptable building systems,” VanGessel said.

“We currently have five companies collaborating with us and sharing space and resources in our office. We look to create an innovation zone of construction-related businesses that benefit from proximity to each other. Our move here has been nothing but positive and I’m optimistic about what the future holds.”

Rockford isn’t the only major company to make the jump across the river. Earlier this summer, Colliers International West Michigan, a Grand Rapids-focused real estate firm, announced that, after 19 years, it would be moving out of its 18,542-square-foot space at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW and into a new 17,598-square-foot home on the 12th floor of Bridgewater Place, 333 Bridge St. NW.

The new view from Colliers’ 12th floor office not only offers the spectacular sight of the city’s skyline from across the Grand River, but also gives everyone in the office a better sense of community, said Chantell LaForest, Colliers spokesperson.

The west-side area has a healthy mix of students, young professionals and community members, she said, adding that this might be because parking and transportation seem to be more manageable than in the core downtown.

“It’s really just a shoot over the bridge. It’s so walkable. I think it’s really a great place to build up a business,” she said. “What they’re doing is they’re taking a lot of vacant industrial spaces and they’re turning them into residential. So even though there’s not a lot of land to build on, there’s great redevelopment opportunity.”

The west side has become home to a number of growing small businesses in recent years, especially as an entertainment district.

The former Kopper Top Bar at the corner of Stocking Avenue and Fourth Street currently is being transformed into a new neighborhood watering hole called Blue Dog Tavern. That could be good business news for the west side’s reputation as a bar destination. The neighborhood already offers the Monarch Club across the street from the new Blue Dog Tavern, Salvatore’s Italian Restaurant, which is just up the road on Stocking Avenue, and the Holiday Bar, located one street away at 801 Fifth St. NW.

The west side also has a solid bar district on Bridge Street NW, which The Anchor Bar, O’Tooles Public House, Monte’s Lounge and Kale’s Korner Bar all call home. Harmony Brewing Co. has set its sights on expansion at the former Little Mexico restaurant.

“I think we’re definitely going to see so much more growth in the next five to 10 years,” LaForest said. “You’re going to see what’s happening in Eastown happening on the west side. There’s going to be business and entertainment.”

New residential developments also are being added on the west side. VanGessel said Rockford Construction has 18 market rate apartments opening at 600 Douglas St. NW this summer, which hopefully will bring contemporary living environments to the area. Rockford has some other west side projects on the drawing board that it is not ready to divulge but hopes to make an announcement later this fall, he said.

“We’re also excited to be a part of 616 Development’s plans for the Hyatt Building. I think Alabama Avenue is shaping up to be really exciting. Bridge Street seems to be doing well,” he said. “The bars and restaurants are thriving and there are some great new retail shops opening up. The city is looking to address speed of traffic and overall beautification. It’s a needed and an important part of how people will begin to feel about the Bridge Street experience.”

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