Could a 400-room hotel built on what’s now part of DeVos Place provide downtown Grand Rapids with some much-needed hotel space?
A study ordered by the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority will answer that question.
The area under consideration is a remnant of the old Grand Center. It’s a six-foot concrete slab on the south end of DeVos Place, topped off by meeting rooms, a practice hall and other space.
“But not really well-used space because it’s really hard to get to and it’s not in an obvious place,” Convention/Arena Authority Chair Steve Heacock said. “This walkway, really from the theater all the way to the Reserve (restaurant) is just this brick wall.”
The idea being studied could solve two problems: the blank space and the need for a more downtown hotels.
“Not just hotel rooms, but a hotel that has at least 400 rooms,” Heacock said.
Concept drawings of what could be if the study indicates a hotel would be the right fit show a 20-story hotel rising on the site.
Commissioned last week by the Convention/Arena Authority, the study will also look at an earlier suggestion to put a hotel on land behind Van Andel Arena.
While new hotels are being built all over downtown Grand Rapids, they’re smaller. Most have fewer than 200 rooms. The people in charge of drawing convention business to Grand Rapids say downtown needs a bigger hotel to attract larger conventions.
“If we just said we have oh, 20 hotels, each of which have 100 rooms, they don’t commit,” Heacock said.
Heacock said one issue is the availability of land downtown.
“There’s not space, and nobody else has access to this space right above the convention center,” Heacock said.
The idea also raises another question: Should the Convention/Arena Authority, which is funded through by the county’s hotel/motel tax, be in the hotel building business?
The Authority would hire a private group to run a hotel, similar to the arrangement they have with SMG, the management group that runs both DeVos Place and Van Andel Arena, but the Authority would own the hotel. Convention/Arena Authority rules would prohibit any sale of the property to a private business.
While it’s far from a done deal, Heacock and others are convinced a larger hotel would be good for everyone’s business, including competing hotels.
“We’re pretty certain — at least in the early stage and we’ll know far, far more when the study comes back — that this would actually help the whole community, because it would bring in those larger conventions we can’t otherwise get,” Heacock said.