Most research firms project the commercial real estate market in West Michigan will maintain slow but steady growth in 2016.
As such, developers say they’re going forward with key projects across the region, all while keeping an eye out for other opportunities.
Whether they have plans for any new breakout projects in 2016 remains to be seen as several major developments wrap up, particularly in the Grand Rapids region. But there are still several sites around the area that hold some interesting potential for the right developer, industry sources said.
Here’s a look at several development projects to watch yet this year.
Sappi Paper Plant Redevelopment, Muskegon
The city of Muskegon has wanted to add more mixed-use development to its waterfront for a long time, and officials there are hoping the sale of a key former industrial site will soon move forward.
Officials say they’re hopeful a sale of the 120-acre former Sappi Paper Plant could happen by the end of April, according to Cathy Brubaker-Clarke, Muskegon’s economic development director.
The facility closed in 2009 and has since been mired in legal matters concerning zoning and cleanup.
Further details, however, remain unclear, said Brubaker-Clarke, who declined to name the potential buyers, citing that a deal is still pending.
The city hopes for and anticipates mixed-use development on the site that fronts Muskegon Lake. However, Brubaker-Clarke said it’s not yet clear what the site’s redevelopment might entail, or how many developers might be involved in a project there, given the size of the site.
The city wants to encourage a variety of uses along the waterfront, including housing — both rental and ownership-based — as well as office, retail, and possible senior housing, Brubaker-Clarke said.
“We definitely want something that’s not industrial,” she said. “We’re looking for higher-end residential because that’s what we need in Muskegon.”
Given the Sappi site’s location southwest of Muskegon’s downtown, the city might need to consider new transportation options to better connect the areas, Brubaker-Clarke said, noting that water taxis were one option.
“It’s important to make that linkage and tie downtown to the rest of (Muskegon’s) lakeshore,” she said.
The Corner @ Drake, Kalamazoo
Developers of a $70 million shopping center development in close proximity to Western Michigan University near U.S. 131 aim to bring new retail options to the Kalamazoo area.
And in many ways, they’ve already been successful.
At least two national retailers new to the Kalamazoo area have selected the Corner @ Drake, a 40-acre site near the intersection of Stadium Drive and Drake Road being redeveloped by Portage-based AVB Inc.
In 2014, Costco Wholesale Corp. opened a store at the site, and in early April, outdoor sporting goods retailer Field & Stream will open a 50,000-square-foot store, its first in West Michigan and second in the state. Consumers Credit Union also plans to open a branch at the site.
Developers have said they want to bring other restaurants and retailers to the project, according to reports.
“Kalamazoo has a vibrant hunting and fishing community,” Chase McClain, Field & Stream brand activation manager, said in a statement. “This is a great area that allows us to serve the evolving needs of outdoor enthusiasts. We tailor each store to the local community, and we believe Kalamazoo will be thrilled not just with our extensive selection, but our unmatched services.”
Executives from AVB did not respond to requests for comment from MiBiz.
Location: Stadium Drive and Drake Road, Kalamazoo
Developer: AVB Inc.
Maplegrove Development project, 234 Market Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
Developers have started to move forward on a planned high-rise apartment building at the site of a former adult entertainment club southwest of downtown Grand Rapids.
However, the project they’ve proposed does not have as much height as some initially expected.
East Lansing-based Maplegrove Development LLC — a subsidiary of Maplegrove Property Management LLC — plans a five-story mixed-use project at 234 Market Ave. SW, on the site of the former Lady Godiva’s Showgirls, which closed in 2015.
Earlier plans had called for a building about nine stories tall, but Maplegrove partner David Emdin said the firm’s new design is for a five-story building, mostly to fit the project to the site.
The developer plans 234 market-rate apartments on four stories with 28,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor, as well as an on-site parking ramp with approximately 300 spaces.
Demolition of the former Lady Godiva’s structure is expected to begin this summer, Emdin said.
The planned development is located near the Grand River, an area many in the urban planning community identified as an underutilized asset they hope to activate.
“We’re going to be the anchor,” Emdin said of the site’s location near the river. “I think it’s going to be a ripple effect.”
Location: 234 Market Ave SW, Grand Rapids
Developer: Maplegrove Development LLC
Contractor: Rockford Construction Co. Inc.
Architect: Integrated Architecture
Walker View Industrial and Commercial Park, Walker
Rockford Construction Co. Inc. eyes the potential to draw large-scale industrial users to a new industrial park under development west of Grand Rapids.
Dubbed “Walker View” and situated at the northeast corner of I-96 and Walker Avenue, the 230-acre site offers an ideal location for a variety of users, according to executives at the Grand Rapids-based construction and development firm.
“The location of Walker View is attractive to industrial users who will benefit from the ease of major highway access, and with little vacancy along the Alpine corridor, it is a great option for companies in need of commercial frontage,” Rockford Construction Chairman and President of Development Kurt Hassberger wrote in an email to MiBiz.
The $15 million development will be delivered in two phases, with the first phase currently underway and expected to be completed later this year.
While Rockford Construction declined to name tenants at this time, multiple sources have said that the first building will be a distribution facility for FedEx Ground.
The second phase would be delivered approximately 12 months later.
Rockford Construction is working with the Grand Rapids office of commercial brokerage firm Colliers International to market the remaining available space.
While Walker View is primarily geared for heavy or light industrial use, other commercial users including hotels or restaurants could also take space in the park, the developer said.
“With vacancies at historic lows, the industrial market is in search of new product,” Hassberger said. “New construction is needed to meet the demand.”
Location: Walker Avenue and I-96, Walker
Developer: Rockford Construction Co. Inc.
Contractor: Rockford Construction Co. Inc.
Common Ground Church redevelopment, Grand Rapids
Developers in Grand Rapids continue to get creative as they seek to increase the city’s housing stock.
Pending city approvals, Chicago-based developer Peter Krupp plans to convert a Fulton Heights neighborhood church into seven apartments and a 90-seat, on-site casual restaurant and bar.
Along with a partner, Krupp owns Sandy Point Beach House, a West Olive restaurant and bar. He’s also a partner at Chicago law firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP.
Krupp said the plan is to leave the exterior of the Common Ground Church the same and renovate the interior. The design calls for 44 on-site parking spaces, and restaurant-goers would have optional valet parking.
The developer hopes to gain final approvals by the summer and open the restaurant and apartments by the late fall.
The church sits kitty-corner on Fulton Street and Carlton Avenue from One Carlton Place, a residential and retail development from Orion Construction Inc.