Project Update: 111 Lyon Retail

An early look at the newest retail spaces in Grand Rapids

September 15, 2020

Last Fall, CWD Real Estate Investment announced plans to develop four retail spaces in Grand Rapids along Lyon St. These storefronts will help to activate this portion of the city, energizing this section of Downtown Grand Rapids in new ways.

111 Lyon’s central location and strong presence within the city makes it ideal for businesses looking to connect closely with the community. The Vandenberg Center (111 Lyon and 200 Monroe) site’s construction and operation since the 1960s have been dedicated to working with and for the community.

Today the 200 Monroe building is under development to be RDV Corp’s new Downtown Headquarters. In addition, the office tower at 111 Lyon overlooks much of the city’s Central Business District, making it one of the most prominent office spaces in Grand Rapids.

While these buildings are key pieces to our city’s history, it’s also important that these cultural figures are able to adapt to the needs of modern times. As a result, CWD Real Estate felt it was time to revise some of the design at 111 Lyon site while helping it retain relevance within the context of Downtown Grand Rapids today.

Announcements so far

For most of its existence, 111 Lyon has only provided office space in Grand Rapids as well as Fifth Third Bank branch. This project utilizes some of the existing structure to create a new retail corridor along Lyon St.

Rendering of 111 Lyon Retail DevelopmentRendered image of the 111 Lyon Retail site showing the new staircase and Fifth Third Bank entry.

Part of the new retail corridor renovation involves moving Fifth Third to a new location located toward the corner of Lyon and Ottawa.

Fundamentally, the Vandenberg Center site has a lot to offer to prospective businesses. Its proximity to the city’s best restaurants, hotels, and government buildings makes it a valuable site to connect the surrounding downtown businesses.

Rather than build something completely new, CWD has committed to using existing structures and finding ways to pay tribute to the historic and cultural significance of these buildings. 

The history of Vandenberg Center

Despite the importance of the site’s presence, pieces of its overall design haven't held up over time. From the aesthetics to accessibility, CWD Real Estate’s focus on re-developing this site is centered around re-engaging this portion of Downtown Grand Rapids and elevating the surrounding businesses and attractions.

In the 1960s, the city’s urban renewal initiatives led by Grand Action had helped to establish a location for the city’s municipal buildings. This area was cleared and built on throughout the decade, and with it came Calder Plaza and the Vandenberg Center.

111 Lyon and 200 Monroe were built by the Michigan Consolidated Gas Company in 1967. Fifth Third Bank had previously owned the building, but officially sold the buildings to CWD in 2016, trusting the group to help revitalize the surrounding area.


Revising the design

The pair of buildings were designed very much inline with the Brutalist architectural styles of the times, characterized by its use of concrete, emphasis on geometry, and simplicity. Along with these architectural elements, the center itself was designed around vehicle access.

Today, these open, stone-clad structures feel somewhat cold and uninviting. These buildings were designed with a different city in mind. Grand Rapids in 2020 has different expectations for its infrastructure and goals as a community.

Developing new retail spaces in Grand Rapids

Another rendering of 111 Lyon Retail DevelopmentAnother rendered image of the 111 Lyon Retail site.

The redevelopment strips away some of the stone features, including the cobblestone wall that runs between Ottawa and Monroe. In its place, four storefronts will be constructed using bits of the existing structure.

Overall, the presence of storefronts along Lyon will create a brighter, more energetic atmosphere. Until now, this area of downtown has lacked some of the same excitement that other parts of the city have.

Along with these changes, there are plans to update common areas and lobbies to better suit the refreshed look and feel of the center. This project will also make the plaza and street level areas more accessible, adding staircases and ramps to physically be more inviting to visitors.

How things look so far

The cobblestone wall at the corner of Ottawa and Lyon has come down, making way for a modern brickwork with a less invasive presence than the stone wall. The removal of the cobblestone also creates a “cleaner” look, offering a better view of the site and the various planters that can be found throughout the site.

Work has also begun on some of the storefronts. The Fifth Third Bank branch has moved to the corner of the property where they’ll enjoy plenty of natural light. This increased visibility helps them showcase their new space, and invite passersby to check out their fresh take on the banking experience.

Creating new retail spaces in Grand Rapids is an important part of the project, but it would be for nothing if the area wasn’t accessible. The redeveloped site addresses common complaints about the area while also ensuring its equipped to handle Grand Rapids in 2020 -- weather and all.


Creating accessibility

Until now, the plaza level hasn’t been accessible from Lyon St. As a result, visitors were forced to either enter or exit from Ottawa or from the parking deck on the north side of the building.

This ease of access will make 111 Lyon easier to navigate as a whole, and as a result, more inviting for visitors. This revised access to the site also helps to connect the parking lot located to the North of the building to the retail spaces along Lyon.

Image of the new staircase at the 111 Lyon Retail DevelopmentPhoto of the new staircase at the 111 Lyon site.

As a result, visitors and tenants will enjoy easier access to the retail storefronts, their office spaces on the plaza, and the attached parking ramp.

In addition to this staircase, snow melt systems will also be installed on and around the site to ensure its accessible throughout the winter months.

While CWD’s Maintenance Team is already available 24/7 for tenants, these snow melt systems will simplify the process and keep the center accessible to everyone year-round.

A more inviting atmosphere

Currently, the staircase along Lyon St has been completed and snowmelt installation is progressing. These changes ensure all visitors are able to access the office spaces, retail spaces, and the parking spaces in any weather condition.

This ease of access will hopefully be more inviting to those visiting the area to explore and experience Downtown Grand Rapids. Whether visitors are here for a convention, a concert, or for work, 111 Lyon will help to support the various events that happen downtown.


Supporting the community

In the last few years, Downtown Grand Rapids has seen some significant growth. The city’s restaurants, hotels, and entertainment venues have helped to bring energy, and have helped establish Grand Rapids as both a tourist destination and a home for businesses.

This development helps to elevate the progress and activity. CWD hopes to re-activate a new section of the city with these retail spaces in Grand Rapids. 

Bring activity to Vandenberg Center

Previously, foot traffic seemed to decrease as you moved North passed Lyon St. Bringing some of this activity further north will help connect different businesses scattered throughout the city, and create a strong amenity for existing businesses.

With its close proximity to key destinations like the convention center, various major hotels, and the variety of Grand Rapids’ best restaurants, this project strengthens the city’s value proposition for visitors and new businesses alike.

Rather than placing a new build on the outskirts of the city, using the existing 111 Lyon site felt right from an environmental and cultural standpoint. 

Creating a more vibrant city

The development at 111 Lyon aims to use existing structures to bring a new experience to Grand Rapids. In addition to these changes, CWD has partnered with Trellis to design the furniture for the common area lobbies. 

With the help of its business partners and tenants, CWD hopes to create more activity around this new retail corridor. The 111 Lyon site is such an important figure in Downtown Grand Rapids, and we are excited to contribute to its legacy.

With these exciting projects unfolding at such a central location, the city will have plenty of new, strong amenities to offer to prospective businesses in the surrounding office spaces in Grand Rapids.

For more updates on the 111 Lyon Project and more, follow CWD Real Estate on your favorite social media platforms!


CWD Real Estate Investment is a leading, local real estate investment and property management firm in Grand Rapids. Formed in 2008 by partners Sam Cummings, Scott Wierda, and Dan DeVos, CWD commits to strengthening the urban center and community of Grand Rapids by making strategic investments that provide high-quality places to work, eat, shop, live, and be entertained.