3 firms to share vision for ex-‘Mystery Project’ site in GR

201 Market Avenue SW in Grand Rapids. (April 5, 2017)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Grand Rapids has whittled down their search for a developer of 201 Market Ave. SW from five candidates to three possibilities.

The 15.8 acre site south of the US-131 S-curve is currently home to Grand Rapids’ plows and salt piles.

201 Market Avenue SW
An undated image shows the area which city officials and real estate firm JLL are looking to develop, at 201 Market Ave. SW. (JLL/City of Grand Rapids)

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss previously told 24 Hour News 8 the city wants to see a creative mixed-use, mixed income development that builds on the natural asset of the site: the Grand River.

A committee representing the city, Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc., the Grand Rapids Urban League, the Hispanic Center of West Michigan and real estate firm JLL announced its shortlist Friday. The finalists include Flaherty & Collins Properties of Indianapolis, REDICO out of Southfield, and Grand Rapids-based Rockford Construction. The city said the three companies demonstrated the technical and financial ability to purchase and redevelop the property.

As part of the second stage of development, the teams must file their proposals for the site by Aug. 25.

This isn’t the first time the city has tried to revamp 201 Market Ave. SW.

In 2006, Atlanta developer Duane Faust pitched his plan for a multi-million dollar development, dubbed the “Mystery Project.” It earned the name mainly because no one at city hall was discussing details like the viability of the plan and taxpayer risk if the property sale was approved.

As time went on, the grandiose project that seemed too good to be true turned out to be just that. It all fell apart.

After the Mystery Project failed, Faust returned to Grand Rapids in 2010 with “River Grand,” which was a slightly smaller plan that included a metro subway, a hydrogen energy plant and a huge mixed-use complex on the same site.

This project was to be financed through a federal Build America program. However, city officials decided the numbers didn’t add up.

City leaders eventually admitted their mistakes with the Mystery Project when it came to transparency.

The city says the current process is to make sure companies have the means to be successful.

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201 Market Ave. SW call for development