Miller Johnson makes a move, helps downtown Grand Rapids prosper


 By Cynthia Price

Legal News
The development where the law firm of Miller Johnson will make its new home in 2016 is touted as a great advance for downtown Grand Rapids.

Not only will Arena Place be an exciting mixed-use building, but it also puts to good use a formerly-empty site right in the heart of downtown’s Arena District.

In fact, the advertising campaign promoting the project claims, “The New Grand Rapids Starts Here.”  Sidewalk stencils similar to those used to mark ArtPrize routes pointed toward the site as crowds gathered for a ceremonial ground-breaking last Wednesday.

Orion Construction and Orion Real Estate Solutions have been working on bringing the project to fruition since June 2012. Inspired by the Arena South Visioning Plan and the City’s Master Plan, the group sought to fill the need for market-rate housing, and to benefit downtown businesses and visitors as well.

Kris Larsen of DGRI (Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.) was new at the time Orion Real Estate Solutions’ John Wheeler and team approached him to see what could be made available. At the ceremony, Larsen thanked Kayem Dunn and others for helping him envision a way such a development could become reality.

A financial package came together including funding or loans from the MEDC (Michigan Economic Development Corporation), DGRI (through TIF financing), private investors, and Mercantile Bank.

The 373,347 square-foot, 11-story building will offer retail stores and a restaurant on the ground floor, 100 market-rate apartments, and Class-A office space, on a one-acre site at 55 Ottawa Avenue.

The contribution of Miller Johnson’s decision to take the top four floors cannot be underestimated. Their space, which will add up to over 54,000 square feet, will include a patio on the 11th floor overlooking the City of Grand Rapids. The commitment, as some of Wednesday’s speakers noted, facilitated the project moving forward.

“Miller Johnson is eager to call Arena Place home,” said Craig Mutch, the firm’s Managing Member. “Our law firm is excited to partner with the local companies, restaurants, and retailers in the development as well as this growing and vibrant area of downtown Grand Rapids. We see the benefits of our investment as an extension of our firm’s ‘Dare to be Different’ attitude that distinguishes us in the community.” 

Additional tenants already committed are DOMOREGOOD / hanon mckendry, a marketing firm, and Meritage Hospitality Group, which owns 124 restaurants throughout the country.

The deep support of the Grand Rapids community has been evident, and a large cross-section, which included dozens of Miller Johnson attorneys and employees in yellow hard hats, attended last Wednesday’s ceremony.

So it is no surprise that everyone seemed to be in a very good mood. Jokes abounded, and John Wheeler, who served as master of ceremonies, had the participants laughing several times, including over several aspects of his wardrobe.
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