Epicurean Village project aims to transform downtown Spring Lake
SPRING LAKE — The village of Spring Lake, located just east of Grand Haven in northwest Ottawa County, needs a proper downtown.
So says Kim Van Kampen, a Florida resident and daughter of the late Robert Van Kampen, a Chicago financier.
For years, Van Kampen spent her summers on the Lake Michigan coast in and around Spring Lake. Now she has acquired three buildings along Savidge Street — officially known as state highway M-104 — and assembled a development team to spur walkable, urban-style growth.
Numbers from the Michigan Department of Transportation show more than 20,000 cars pass through Spring Lake every day, which Van Kampen calls the village’s “greatest asset and greatest liability.”
“It brings year-round business and year-round attention, but at the same time it brings a traffic flow that makes it very difficult for creating a walking space,” Van Kampen told MiBiz. “I think over time … the old part of Spring Lake, the business areas, started to decay. Spring Lake became known as a pass-through town, but it’s anything but a pass-through town.”
Van Kampen, who’s developing the properties under multiple LLCs, declined to provide an estimated project cost, but she has reportedly invested around $2 million thus far. If the village council approves her plans later this month, Van Kampen will move forward with the demolition of three buildings to clear the way for the proposed “Epicurean Village” redevelopment, which is targeted for completion in 2020.
Van Kampen believes the Epicurean Village project will attract a mix of new specialty restaurant and retail users, as well as add about 10 residential condominium units.
“At this point, I’m looking at bringing experiences rather than ordinary retail,” Van Kampen said. “I know a lot about the millennial generation, and I know that they shop online for the most part. But what they will spend their money on is good food, specialty products and lifestyle experiences.”
That’s why the project is eyeing fitness and wellness centers, music and specialty bakeries, she added.
By focusing on vacant buildings in a two-block area, Van Kampen hopes the project will serve as a catalyst and bring other developers to the village.
While Van Kampen acknowledges her background is in history rather than development, her two sons who are helping with the Epicurean Village project work in real estate and finance.
Grand Rapids-based Progressive AE Inc. is designing the project, and Holland-based GDK Construction Co. is serving as the construction manager.
The Sandi Gentry Team from Re/Max Lakeshore is handling leasing for the planned commercial space, Van Kampen said.
With the planned Epicurean Village, Spring Lake joins a growing list of small towns and villages around West Michigan now on the radar for redevelopment with a focus on attracting younger residents and new businesses. That includes places like Hudsonville, Sparta, Standale, Cedar Springs and Ada.
While Van Kampen has a long, personal connection to Spring Lake, not all towns have that luxury, experts say, which means that a full-on marketing campaign often is necessary to attract investment.
“We’re really seeing communities on a large scale being way more proactive than ever before,” Joe Borgstrom, principal with Place & Main Advisors LLC, an East Lansing-based consulting firm focused on community redevelopment and economic development, told MiBiz for a report earlier this year.
“For a long time, communities took the approach that, ‘We’re here, (developers) will find us,’” he said. “They’re starting to understand that they need to market themselves proactively in the redevelopment game.”
For Van Kampen, the Epicurean Village projects serves as a mechanism to provide Spring Lake residents with new options for shopping, dining and living, while also drawing new people to the village who might otherwise simply pass through on their way to the beach a few miles to the west.
“(Epicurean Village) is for the residents here,” Van Kampen said. “We’re going to build something that will attract the current community we have here, which is active and a great community. Will it attract people driving through, going back and forth? I think it will.”