West Michigan’s construction and development industry looks back  on a year full of highs, and the uncertainties ahead. West Michigan’s construction and development industry looks back on a year full of highs, and the uncertainties ahead. Courtesy Renderings/Photos, Illustration by Rachel Harper

Projects to watch: Developments take shape across West Michigan

BY Sunday, November 27, 2016 04:18pm

WEST MICHIGAN — 2016 has featured a flurry of commercial real estate news, in a year that’s been defined by dwindling vacancies for developers and rising costs for end users. 

Amid the endless stream of announcements, MiBiz periodically checks in on the status of proposed developments. This report highlights several projects from around West Michigan and examines where they currently sit in the development pipeline. 


As plans to enhance the Grand River through downtown Grand Rapids continue to take shape, so too do multiple mixed-use projects on its banks, where West Michigan and out-of-state developers have proposed facilities that combine housing, retail and other uses. 

The announced projects from Grand Rapids-based Orion Construction Co. Inc. and Westerville, Ohio-based The Woda Group LLC could bring a combined 100 housing units to the near-downtown market.

While Orion Constuction’s Rivers Edge project will add 32 high-end, market-rate apartments at 1001 Monroe Ave. NW on the east side of the Grand River, the Woda Group plans 68 affordable units at the former Ryder Truck site on the west side of the river north of the 6th Street bridge. 

A completion date for The Woda Group’s project wasn’t immediately available, but Orion Construction says its project should be ready for tenants in the next 12 to 15 months.

Creating more active uses for the Grand River and along its banks through Grand Rapids was a key tenet of the GR Forward master plan that was finalized earlier this year. To that end, the Kent County Road Commission announced in September that it had purchased land in Walker and was considering the possibility of vacating its riverfront facility at 1500 Scribner Ave. NW. 

“In light of GR Forward and the project’s extensive public engagement process, we acknowledge that the Scribner property has the potential to be more valuable to the community if used in a different capacity,” KCRC Managing Director Steve Warren said in a statement. “By purchasing the Walker View property, we are better positioned to consider future development opportunities.”


Driving along I-196, The Grand Castle apartment development is impossible to miss, as the 15-story project dwarfs everything around it.

The project is being developed by The Grand Castle LLC, an affiliate of Wyoming-based development and property management firm Land & Co. The 23-acre site in Grandville will offer 400 market-rate apartments in a structure designed to resemble a Bavarian castle.

“The name ‘The Grand Castle’ is in no way a misnomer as this will in fact be an authentic castle, from design to construction,” Land & Co. partner Roger Lucas said in a statement. “Our family has a longstanding love of the European landscape, particularly castles themselves.”

Planned for completion next spring, the site will also offer about 64,000 square feet of commercial space, as well as a parking garage and onsite swimming pool, according to the developers. 


Work to expand Grand Valley State University’s Health Campus is now underway in the Belknap neighborhood of Grand Rapids.

The 84,000-square-foot, $37.5 million project has been named the Raleigh J. Finkelstein Hall, after the founder of MC Sporting Goods who donated the lead gift for the university’s capital campaign. 

The new facility is expected to ease the burden on the university’s 13-year-old Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences, which officials at GVSU say has been overcapacity for about four years. 

Upon completion in May 2018, the facility will include classrooms, laboratory space and faculty and staff offices. The site will also include a $9 million parking deck. 

Located just north of much of the region’s burgeoning medical and life sciences corridor, the Belknap neighborhood has become somewhat of a magnet for public and private investment. 

Immediately to the west of the new GVSU site, Grand Rapids-based Orion Construction is nearing completion of its Gateway at Belknap mixed-use development. Other developers have also announced a variety of smaller residential projects in the traditionally working-class neighborhood. 

As MiBiz reported in September 2015, the proposed GVSU development created some tension among neighbors who expressed concern that the university wasn’t being transparent about its long-term plans for development in the area. Ultimately, the parties settled their differences and the neighborhood eventually gave its support to the project, according to reports. 


Construction is well underway on a nearly $10.5 million office and commercial development on the eastern edge of downtown Kalamazoo. 

As first reported by MiBiz this past June, The Foundry will offer about 52,000 square feet of space with construction management firm CSM Group Inc. and the project’s developers, Treystar Inc., as lead tenants. Fritz Brown, Treystar development and leasing manager, said the company also has an undisclosed, full-service restaurant user in place to take 6,000 square feet of space.

Brown said the firm is “going a million miles an hour” on the construction process in the hopes of having the building open by July 2017. In addition to the building, the project includes a new city road and a new traffic light installed at the corner of East Michigan Avenue and Harrison Street. 

About 30,000 square feet of space remains available for lease, Brown said, adding that the building is designed with modern, open spaces well suited for companies in the advertising and technology sectors. 

The project is being financed by a combination of bank debt and incentive packages from the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) and the Department of Environmental Quality, as MiBiz previously reported. 


With limited inventory and high demand for space from growing manufacturers in the region, Robert Grooters Development Co. hopes to capitalize on the heightened need for industrial buildings. 

To that end, the Grand Rapids-based property development firm has started construction on two buildings, one in Norton Shores and one in Grand Rapids, totalling more than half a million square feet of industrial space. 

“There appears to be not much inventory for new, contiguous space,” said Natalie Amrhein, a leasing and sales agent at Grooters. “We’re seeing companies that are growing and looking like they’ll be needing more space. They want the flexibility to consolidate. Consolidation leads to operational efficiencies.” 

Kyle Grooters, a spokesperson for the company, said that Muskegon-based outdoor equipment manufacturer KL Industries Inc. has signed on to take 70,000 square feet of the Norton Shores facility. 

Both buildings are expected to be fully operational by the summer of 2017. 

According to the most recent market report from the Grand Rapids office of commercial brokerage Colliers International Inc., the vacancy rate for industrial space in the Grand Rapids metropolitan area stands at 5.6 percent. The report noted that new construction is expected to continue ramping up around the region. 

That finding aligns with the sentiments of executives at Grooters. 

“Especially if a company wants 50,000 square feet or more, we see the need for new buildings,” Amrhein said. 


A partnership consisting of eight different entities has announced its intention to bring development to the Roosevelt Park neighborhood on Grand Rapids’ southwest side. 

The 5.5-acre, two-block site could soon be home to new housing, health care and education facilities, as well as public space. 

The partners involved in the proposed Plaza Roosevelt project include Habitat for Humanity of Kent County, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Dwelling Place, Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities, Ferris State University, the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan and the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association

“Dwelling Place is honored to participate as a partner in this most extraordinary neighborhood collaborative,” Dennis Sturtevant, CEO of nonprofit housing developer Dwelling Place, said in a statement. “Connecting educational, health care and housing initiatives on behalf of residents who are fully engaged will truly transform the Roosevelt Park neighborhood.”

The site, east of Grandville Avenue between Graham Avenue to the north and Franklin Avenue on the south, had been home to ArtPrize installation SiTE:Lab for the past two years. 

A total investment estimate and anticipated completion date were unavailable as this report went to press. 

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