Sam Cummings will be the first to acknowledge that he’s got a lot of office and retail space to fill in downtown Grand Rapids next year, with redevelopment work underway at 50 Monroe Ave. NW and unspecified plans in the coming years for the downtown Fifth Third Bank campus, which has been dubbed Vandenberg Center. Cummings says CWD plans to work diligently over the next year to attract large corporate users, bring more activity to ground-floor spaces and focus on the fundamentals of real estate development.
“We are laser-focused on ground floor activation for all of Vandenberg Center. How do we activate the ground floor, how do we improve pedestrian activity? (Downtown retail spaces) are a challenge. A good retailer recognizes that in a great location, the difference between $10 per square foot and $20 per square foot relative to the percentage rent is of their gross sales is not a lot. … Typically, a sophisticated retailer will have a good idea of what percentage occupancy cost is of their gross sales, and it’s formulaic. It’s Taubman’s ‘Rule of Rooftops.’ You need people, you need volume. And with co-tenancy, critical mass, you get that. … We are extremely deliberate in our underwriting. We focus on fundamentals. We recognize that the economy can change and we’re not in a hurry. This is our home — we’re not merchant developers. We’re focused on the long term. If we have to delay swinging hammers to get the right product, we’ll do that. I’ve been through two recessions already and they don’t frighten me. It’s just different. We’re very strategic. The key to not being afraid is just being prepared. But I’ll say that things don’t always go up and you can’t take growth for granted. … You just have to be very careful about chasing ‘big shinies.’ You have to make sure stuff is sustainable. Sometimes the most shiny objects are not sustainable.”