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Ground broken on Arena South in downtown GR

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Ground was broken Wednesday on the new 11-story Arena Place building in downtown Grand Rapids’ Arena District.

The building, which will be located just behind Van Andel Arena at 55 Ottawa Avenue SW, will house offices, more than 280 parking spots in a garage, a restaurant and retail space.

It will also contain 100 apartments ranging in size from small studios to two-bedroom, two-bath units. They’ll cost between $850 and $1,200 per month.

So far, law firm Miller-Johnson, a marketing firm and a hospitality group have signed on to lease space at the future Arena Place. It’s still unclear what restaurants or retailers may move in. All told, almost 500 people will come to work at Arena Place every day.

Supporters of the project say Arena Place is another step toward a big transformation and growth in the Arena South District.

When completed, Arena Place will account for about 10% of all downtown apartments. That’s 900 apartments, by some estimates.

So how many can the city accommodate and when do we reach a market saturation?

“We are very far away from saturation in that regard,” said Kristopher Larson, president of Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. “We have talked to developers that have waiting lists over 1,000 people long.”

He said the downtown population has grown by 188% in the last 20 years, while the population of the city as a whole has increased only 4%.

Most of the growth in the residential sector downtown has happened in existing buildings through renovations and rehabs. Arena Place is one of the first new buildings. Developer John Wheeler, the president of Orion Construction, said there would probably be more new buildings if there was more available land.

“That’s a big one. That’s why you are going to see more verticality,” Wheeler said. “When you did a hundred apartments in the old days, you needed three city blocks. Now, you need 20,000 square feet.”

Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. says a survey of Millennials — those born between 1980 and 2000 — shows that 77% want to live in an urban setting.

There is also another generation who wants to be downtown.

“You have retiring boomers who are looking to get out of their five- and six-bedroom mansions in the suburbs, moving downtown to be close to culture and culinary delights,” Larson said.

Wheeler wouldn’t say what he might have planned for the future, but said his company is always looking to fill demands.

Arena Place is scheduled to be finished during the winter of 2015.