Grand Rapids Community Foundation Plans to Purchase Historic Downtown Building

After awarding grants to support capital projects throughout Kent County for 85 years, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation is completing plans to purchase a building that will be a permanent home to the philanthropic organization. The building, known as the “Icehouse” is located at 72 Grandville Avenue SW in downtown Grand Rapids. The historic building has 17,000+ square feet of office space. The Community Foundation expects to conduct a low profile fundraising campaign in the community, raising $4.5 million to cover the cost of the property, completion of the building, move-in expenses and furnishings.

Building Selection Process

“As the Grand Rapids Community Foundation began to evaluate its continued growth, community leadership and future direction, the benefits of building ownership became a topic of discussion,” said Diana Sieger, Community Foundation president. “Finding a potential building in the heart of the city was important to us. We reviewed 60 properties, did a driving tour of 20 and visited seven. The Icehouse stood out among the seven as the best possible option for the Foundation,” she said. “We believe that investing in the core city is good for all of Kent County.” The pending purchase of the 1904 building reaffirms the Foundation’s commitment to downtown, to smart land use and to the environment. The Foundation intends to pursue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for the building.

Lead Gift from Tom and Mickie Fox

Long time community philanthropists Tom and Mickie Fox approached the Foundation nearly four years ago with the offer of a $1 million lead gift for the building. “Since I’ve been involved with the Grand Rapids Community Foundation it has been a dream of mine to see it in a place with higher visibility, they deserves to be seen by everyone in the community. The workof the Foundation is important and increased public prominence with a building would help people know and maybe better understand the role of the Community Foundation in Grand Rapids. I know from being in business, that part of any business’ success is visibility and I believe a building will be a tremendous advantage,” said Fox, the former owner of Fox Jewelers.

Project Management and New Market Tax Credits

The Foundation has engaged Dennis Sturtevant, CEO of Dwelling Place, Inc. as development consultant. “We’ve observed Denny’s work for many years and respect his skills and connections in managing complicated renovation projects for the community good,” said Sieger.

The Community Foundation has applied for new market tax credits to reduce its out-of-pocket costs for the building. Financing and new market tax credit commitments have come from National City Community Development Corporation. The tax credits are available because the building is located in an area deemed by the federal government to be low income.

“We believe the time has come for the Foundation to move from tenant to owner. An investment in real estate in downtown Grand Rapids is a wise and logical investment in the future of the community. Cost analyses point to savings in year-to-year operations of an estimated $100,000 a year after the first two years. Real estate is an important asset in any portfolio—owning property will contribute to the Foundation’s overall financial health and its ability to meet the needs of the community, now and long into the future, said Marilyn Lankfer, chair of the Community Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

A Place for Convening

There is power in bringing people together to explore important community issues: to learn, share knowledge, find common ground and identify solutions. The Grand Rapids Community Foundation has established itself as a leader in convening people.

“We have learned that sometimes groups are separately working on key issues of collective concern. Bringing groups together to learn from each other invariably results in new efficiencies, effectiveness, and partnerships that improve service delivery. Also, tough issues may not move beyond the ‘networking’ stage to the ‘transformational change’ stage without consistent and strong convening leadership,” said Sieger.

The Foundation’s Permanency Captured through a Permanent Structure

Like other community foundations, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s impact in the community far exceeds its public visibility. Among the primary reasons for the building is to increase public presence. “While you can’t always see the impact of a grant, residents of our community will be able to see our building and be reminded of our work and who we are. In turn, we expect this increased presence will result in greater support from established and new donors,” said Sieger.

Along with the day to day work of the Community Foundation, the new building would give tribute to Grand Rapids’ legacy and tradition of powerful philanthropy and community giving. The Foundation also plans a collection of books, images, research and stories about philanthropists. The Community Foundation will provide students and the public a place to learn about the impact that philanthropy and philanthropic families have had on the community.