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Thursday, 19 November 2015 08:17

REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK: Desired retail remains elusive for downtown Grand Rapids

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As the urban core of Grand Rapids and its near neighborhoods adds new residents, many people expect the area will see a rush of new retail options.

However, those new stores offering basic staple items may not come as fast as many people would hope.

That was the message delivered by Mike Morris, a principal at Baltimore, Md.-based Cana Development Inc., who spoke earlier this month at the Urban Land Institute of Michigan’s Real Estate Forum in Detroit. Morris gave a presentation titled “Making Downtown Retail Work.”

For those constantly asking when a full-line grocery store or pharmacy convenience store like a Walgreens will open in downtown Grand Rapids, Morris cautioned that retailers are scared to be the first into a new market.

“Downtown retail is about long-term growth, not short-term return-on-investment,” Morris said. “The number one retail attraction tool is other retailers being successful.”

Urban planning sources cite a threshold of 10,000 to 12,000 permanent residents in the city core as “critical mass,” or the number needed to begin attracting a grocery store or convenience retailer. According to the 2014 annual report from Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., the downtown area included 3,392 total residential units, although more have been added to the development pipeline since the end of last year.

Simply put: Grand Rapids likely has a ways to go before retailers will express any real interest in the downtown. The city is even further away from attracting the kind of specialty retailers like Nike, which are now entering Detroit’s central business district.

On the bright side, sources in the downtown development community say that some large-scale projects still in conceptual phases are being designed with those retail concepts in mind.

The other consideration: Often retailers will require a financial incentive to take the risk of being the first store into a market, according to Morris.

“You buy the first one to get it in,” he said.

Read 3953 times Last modified on Sunday, 22 November 2015 18:49

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