The renovation and repurposing of “classic” old buildings in Grand Rapids represents our structural engineering expertise in the transformation and repurposing of many historic buildings. As many iconic, long-vacant former furniture factories and warehouses are being reborn for apartments, hotels, offices and retail, Classic Engineering is engaged in “shoring up” century-old structures during renovation.


The now 120-year-old former HE Shaw Furniture building at 410 Ionia SW, later known as the Kingman Furniture Warehouse now bustles with 83 loft-style apartments. Moosejaw, an outdoor adventure apparel retailer, occupies 4,000 square feet of ground level space. The 410 Ionia SW building, located across the street from the Downtown Market, was originally built on peat bogs and river bottom. Shoring up the flooring (it looked like a funhouse) provided the structural integrity to transform the building to its new purpose. In addition, Classic Engineering mechanical design services developed the VRF, Variable Refrigerant Frequency system for the building.

The former Hotel Rowe at 201 Michigan Street NW opened in 1923 and in the 1960s was known as the Old Manor retirement apartment building. Long vacant, ambitious plans transformed the building into an 11-story, 140,000 square foot, 77-unit upscale downtown living facility. Classic Engineering solved significant structural engineering challenges during the renovation by assisting the demolition contractor with shoring design for removal of major columns. A load bearing central column needed to be removed to make way for access to the basement to construct underground parking and a new column was installed to support the two upper floors added to the building.

The pending retirement of the longtime plumber at The Trust Building forced a redesign of the original steam heating system and the engagement of Classic Engineering. As the story goes, the plumber was the only person who knew how to manually operate the system which sent heated steam throughout the building. The Trust Building, at the corner of Ottawa Avenue and Pearl Street NW, was constructed in 1892 as the first Grand Rapids building dedicated to offices. It was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Classic Engineering mechanical engineers designed a hot water heating system, installed in phases while the building’s offices were occupied. As part of a refresh to update the building lobby entrance to attract new tenants, Classic Engineering provided structural engineering services to support the new entryway.


In Grand Rapids, the Homewood Suites Hotel and the AC Hotel by Marriott have emerged from former furniture showrooms and manufacturing buildings. Homewood Suites, in the Waters Building at 160 Ottawa Avenue NW, is now a 107-room-hotel, topped by 42 apartment units. Constructed in 1898, the seven-story Waters Building once housed the largest furniture showroom in the world. The renovation work removed the upper floor lobbies to allow exterior light to shine into the interior of the south-facing hotel space and to the north-facing apartment units. Classic Engineering provided mechanical and plumbing design for Homewood Suites, a particular challenge in rerouting plumbing while office tenants were still working in the building.

Hidden beneath 1980’s era reflective cladding, charcoal panels and chrome strips, 50 Monroe Avenue NW and the adjoining 37 Commerce Street were revealed as historic brick buildings once the glass was removed. The two 100-year-old structures, formerly Grand Rapids Furniture Company and Grand Rapids Refrigeration shared a central atrium for years until it was removed in the renovation. Classic Engineering provided the structural engineering design to support the buildings during the interior demolition. The project separated the two buildings to renovate 37 Commerce as an office building and 50 Monroe Avenue NW as the European design-inspired 130-room “AC Hotel by Marriot” managed by the Amway Hotel Group.

From the fourth floor of his east-facing office at 100 Grandville Ave SW, Doug Huyser can look out the window and see Classic Engineering design work right in front of him and literally right beneath him. The Classic Engineering office, situated in the former Michigan Hardware warehouse, is one of the first structural design projects Doug Huyser conducted when he formed Classic Engineering in 1998. Repurposing the former warehouse facility into offices required structural design for new elevator shafts and staircases. Other design work was involved in construction of “bicycle-friendly” facilities including shower and locker rooms used by Classic Engineering staff and other tenants.

The Western Michigan University Grand Rapids campus at 200 Ionia SW now houses 1,500 students after Classic Engineering structural design for elevators and stairways helped repurpose the 5-story historic structure.

Cooley Law School at 38 Commerce Avenue, completed in 2006, included structural design work to update and connect the former HH. Cutler Building and the Durfee Building.

During a 2013 renovation, Classic Engineering provided mechanical engineering design as the historic McKay Tower added 46 apartment units and a classy hotel-style ballroom. The 16-story building at the corner of Monroe Center NW and Pearl Street, was the site of the first house built in Grand Rapids in 1833. In 1915 a four-story bank opened on the ground floor. Over several years 12 stories were added, making it the first skyscraper in the city.

MoJo’s Restaurant and bar, at 180 Monroe NW engaged Classic Engineering for structural design for construction of its new façade.

New Hotel Mertens reopened in 2018, 100 years after it was originally founded at 35 Oakes Street SW in Grand Rapids. Until the closing of the downtown Union Train Station in the 1960’s the building was one of the prominent hotels in the city. For years it stood vacant, until serving as the Hearthside Manor housing facility. Classic Engineering was engaged in structural and mechanical engineering design as the New Hotel Mertens has opened a popular street level brasserie and a rooftop bar and lounge named, “The Haute at New Hotel Mertens.”

A nearly $2 million renovation of the Landmark Lofts building at 801 Monroe Ave NW in 2001 signaled the rebirth of redevelopment north of downtown Grand Rapids. Building owner Ed DeVries envisioned development of loft-style apartments and offices when he took Classic Engineering and contractors on the Chicago River architecture cruise. Classic Engineering provided structural engineering design to support a new entry, vertical access for stairs and elevators to the six-story building.