Top floors of historic Grand Rapids buildings to finally get tenant

GRAND RAPIDS — After more than a half-century of being virtually empty, the upper floors of three historic buildings at the center of downtown are expected to be abuzz with activity.

Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge has signed a deal that will move the law firm into 25,000 square feet spread across the upper three floors of what is collectively called the Flat Iron Building, 100-114 Monroe Center.

The buildings, built between 1860 and 1870, house Groskopf’s Luggage & Gifts and Mexican restaurant Cinco de Mayo on their ground floors. A portion of the former Blake’s Turkey at Monroe Center and Ottawa remains available for lease to a retail tenant, with the western portion of the storefront being transformed into a lobby for the law firm.

The 103-employee office is downsizing from a 38,000-square-foot, two-floor space it has occupied inside the Calder Plaza Building, 250 Monroe Ave. NW, for about 30 years.

Lisa Young, marketing director for the firm, said smaller office space reflects changing trends in the legal industry, including standardized office sizes for all lawyers, elimination of a hard-copy law library, and the increasing trend of allowing lawyers to work from home when they don’t need to be in their office.

“The world has changed so much from when we moved into our current building 30 years ago,” said William Scarbrough, the firm’s chief operating officer.

At one time, the firm had one secretary for every lawyer, he said. Today the ratio is three lawyers per secretary.

Scarbrough said the finances of the deal made sense because of the relatively depressed real estate market and the competition for large tenants. He also said there was overwhelming support among the firm’s partners for being in a renovated historic building near the center of the city.


The firm wanted to stay a short distance from downtown courtrooms since most of its lawyers are litigators, he said.

“This is right in the middle of downtown, easy to find for clients,” Scarbrough said. “Financially, the edge also went to Flat Iron.”

The buildings are owned by Locus Development, which announced plans to spend at least $4.5 million to renovate them to earn a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification. The build-out plan for the law offices is being designed for a separate LEED designation.

The project already has qualified for $527,000 in brownfield rehabilitation tax credits and $225,000 in grants from the Downtown Development Authority. Construction is slated to begin in late fall with occupancy by July.

Locus, which occupies a portion of the second floor of one of the buildings, will relocate this fall to space in its recently completed building at 38 Commerce Ave. SW.

Locus’ John Green said Smith Haughey’s move reflects a shift of the center of downtown activity that has taken place over the past two decades.

“‘Central City’ has moved from Calder Plaza to Rosa Parks Circle,” said Green, who co-owns Locus with Andy Winkel.

The renovation is expected to include a rooftop deck, where the firm can entertain. Employees and visitors can park at five nearby ramps or at a Ellis Parking-owned surface lot adjacent to the buildings.

Green said the firm will have room to grow into the neighboring and connected Ledyard Building. Locus is a minority owner of that building.

Smith Haughey was founded in Grand Rapids in 1941. It has 52 lawyers in Grand Rapids, 29 in Traverse City and eight in Ann Arbor.

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New tenant for Grand Rapids’ Flat Iron building will take all three upper floors

Link to the story here.

The new tenant for the soon-to-be rehabilitated Flat Iron Building in downtown Grand Rapids will lease all available space above the main level, opting for all 25,000 square feet for its interior LEED renovation.

Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge announced this week that the firm will move into the building, whose new address will be 100 Monroe Center NE, next summer, following an extensive interior renovation.

In 2009, Locus Development purchased the historic four-story Flat Iron, Herkner and Groskopfs buildings that make up the property, and plan to connect the three buildings’ interiors on the second through fourth floors and restore the exteriors for LEED certification. The project will run about $4.5 million.

“We have been looking for space alternatives for a year and considered staying in the Calder Plaza Building where we’ve been for the past 25 years,” says Bill Scarbrough, Smith Haughey COO. “Our group coalesced around an adaptive reuse project in an older building and zeroed in on the Flat Iron as a major alternative to where we are.”

The interior renovation will preserve as much of the original brick and wood as possible, and will incorporate a mix of open floor plans and private offices. An extensive use of interior glass will allow daylight into the office spaces.

“This is a significant renovation and a great thing for Grand Rapids, and we’re happy to have Smith Haughey as our tenants,” says John Green, a partner with Andy Winkel in Locus Development. “The only remaining space is 2,400 square feet in the old Blake’s Turkey space. We have received a number of inquiries but we’re waiting for the right tenant. We would love to see a bank or a retail shop there.”

In July, the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority awarded Locus Development three $75,000 Building Reuse and Incentive Program grants to help with the renovation.

Design Plus will create the LEED interior design. Wolverine Construction Management will handle interior construction. Cornerstone Architects and Orion Construction will do the core and shell work.

Source: Bill Scarbrough, Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge; John Green, Locus Development