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Thursday, 08 November 2012 11:12

ULI Forum: Developers embrace challenges with urban investments

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Sam Cummings, CWD Real Estate Investment Sam Cummings, CWD Real Estate Investment

GRAND RAPIDS — The urban development process that helped shape Grand Rapids and other core cities in West Michigan is not for the faint-hearted.

That message of perseverance and determination was shared by the developers and real estate professionals who came together for the start of the 26th annual University of Michigan and Urban Land Institute Real Estate Forum at the Amway Grand Plaza yesterday.

“We all know this business takes patience,” said Sam Cummings, principal at CWD Real Estate Investment. “But when shit hits the fan, you don’t hide under your desk.”

Through the recession, while many businesses were hurting and developments got shot down, Cummings said everyone knew failure is just a part of the real estate game. Leaders can’t be afraid of the inevitable mistakes and unfortunate situations, he said.

But the culture of business in West Michigan has been slow to embrace failure, he said. When CWD was struggling with the redevelopment of Brass Works building after losing a chunk of its tenants related to the recession, the company found a way work with the lenders and bounce back and bring the building to life again.

That’s just the nature of the business, he said.

Cummings participated in a session featuring John Logie, former mayor of Grand Rapids and retired partner at the law firm Warner, Norcross & Judd LLP, and leadership development consultant Bill Johnson that discussed Grand Rapids’ development history and stewardship in the real estate industry.

The group spoke on acting as leaders and decision-makers as well as major transformational events, including the development of the Van Andel Institute and Van Andel Arena, which served as catalyst that sparked the city’s rejuvenation through its transition years, they said.

Logie said the city’s reinvention stemmed from the adoption of the brownfield redevelopment statute and the practice of making government a good business partner in finding strategies to successful projects.

Conversation on the first day of the two-day event focused on local business leaders shedding light on the history of development in Grand Rapids’ area.

Guy Bazzani, developer and owner of Bazzani Associates Inc. provided a walk through of his 20-plus years of work in the Eastown and East Hills neighborhoods. His talk focused on the idea of rebuilding neighborhoods and what it takes to get people to commit to reinvesting in an area that had fallen into neglect over the years.

With the help of some early investments from Grand Rapids’ philanthropic community and several state and local development tools, Bazzani said interest in space and property values have seen a steady rise over the years. The trend appears to continue today, with a handful of new restaurants and small business that keeping popping up around the neighborhood.

The session then shifted to the topic of what’s next for real estate in the new economy with a talk by Maureen McAvery, a ULI Senior Resident Fellow. Globalization, increased competition on all levels, expanding innovation, leapfrogging technology along with new demographics are all driving change in real estate markets, she said.

Across the nation, McAvery explained that there is a pent-up demand for roughly 4.6 million new apartments and that the percentage of adult homeownership is on the decline.

The biggest driver for real estate in the next economy is focused on “eds and meds,” McAvery said. Jobs are clustering around growth in institutional and medical development in urban cores, she said.

Going forward, Real Estate Investments Trusts (REITs) are also going to be a big player again, McAvery said.

The forum continued with a presentation from Derek Coppess, developer and owner of 616 Development LLC, on the importance of urban centers. The ULI forum also featured the group’s Real Estate Excellence Awards, where Parkland Properties President Jon Rooks received the ULI-University of Michigan top honor for his longtime success as an area developer.

Rooks announced that his company is nearly 95 percent debt-free and ready to grow again with three major projects in the works and plans to add 50 to 60 homes to the lakeshore and downtown Muskegon in the next 18 months.

Other presentations included sessions on placemaking, design and build challenges, the Restoring the Rapids project and other panel discussions.

Read 9467 times Last modified on Thursday, 08 November 2012 15:58

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