LEGAL NEWS PHOTOS BY CYNTHIA PRICE
by Cynthia Price
The Pike House is now offering single-attorney offices designed to optimize
collegiality in a space with an amazing history... and lots of free parking.
But according to Todd Almassian of Keller and Almassian, the law firm which occupies the main floor of the Pike House on Fulton right next to the Women’s City Club, Pike House management is going to be very particular about which solo practitioners can rent there.
“We’re trying to create an ecosystem of solo practitioners, and we want to avoid lawyers with duplicate practice areas,” he says. “We want this to be almost a firm-like atmosphere in terms of referrals and networking, so those with complimentary focus areas can benefit each other.”
Keller is the chair of the Grand Rapids Bar Solo and Small Firm Practice Section, and says he has observed a need for that type of support over the years.
Though the offices are in the basement, there is nothing claustrophobic about them: they have windows and are arrayed along a “great-room”-like hallway. There are two conference rooms on that floor and eight additional conference rooms throughout the building which can be used for depositions or mediation. There is also a large copy center which will be available to all who take advantage of the one-year leases.
Equally exciting is the long and fascinating history of the Pike House, as reported in the Grand Rapids Legal News in October 2014.
The pillars in front of the beautiful white building were shipped in 1844 from a failed hotel in Ottawa County, which at the time meant oxen dragging them through the woods. Other wood in the house being built by Abram W. Pike also came from the hotel, which was part of a gamble Philadelphia investors made in what they thought would be the stellar future of the Port Sheldon area along Lake Michigan.
The most impressive part of the home’s history comes later, however. The building housed the Grand Rapids Art Gallery, later the Grand Rapids Art Museum, from 1922 until 1978. The firm Design Plus did a lot of careful restoration work while occupying the building in 2007 to 2013.
Then as Keller and Almassian was renovating the building to house its law offices, the granddaughter of painter Mathias Alten told them that she knew her grandfather had created the Grand Rapids Art Gallery sign in his youth. She thought it was now obscured by easy-to-remove boards on the front of the house.
Workers immediately set to work uncovering the sign, which was found to be carved and layered with gilt, bits of which remained.
Though Mathias Alten is less well-known to those outside the art world, he is famed internationally as a well-respected impressionist, sometimes called the “Dean of Michigan painters.”
His granddaughter, Anita Gilleo, continues to be in touch with the firm and with Almassian. She recently brought him a magazine illustration of the house as it looked in 1872, which Almassian hung in a conference room, shown next to him in the photo at right.
The new offices are crisply painted in neutral tones and white, and the flooring reflects some of the historic look of the original, while incorporating such items as Petoskey stones Almassian’s children had collected over the years. The doors close and lock, promoting client confidentiality.
In addition to side parking, there is a fairly large lot behind the building which will hold a number of cars. And the lush landscaping, installed and lovingly maintained by volunteer members of the Almassian extended family, adds to the opulent feel of the space.
Four of the nine available offices are either rented or reserved. People interested in leasing the others should visit www.PikeHouseGR.com or call 616-364-2100.
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