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Sunday, 04 August 2013 21:35

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek projects that matter

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Arcadia Brewing Co. — Set to open along the Kalamazoo River this December, brewery founder Tim Suprise is expanding his Battle Creek-based beer operation with a new $6.2 million facility in Kalamazoo. The ceiling on the craft beer market in Michigan doesn’t appear to have reached its limit when it comes to the large-batch producers, as many breweries report that demand continues to outpace production. Such is the case for Arcadia, which expects to produce 30,000 barrels annually with the expansion, though potential capacity is double that amount. The new digs include a 4,500-square-foot brewpub and should support 30 to 40 new jobs for the entire operation.

Why it Matters: The city sat on the brownfield site at 701 East Michigan Avenue, waiting for the right user. With the property’s location along the Kalamazoo River, city officials knew that any development there needed to highlight and activate the surroundings. To that end, the new watering hole will have canoe, kayak and bike access, allowing paddlers and velophiles to safely and securely stop off for a cold one. Those involved at both the city and the company hope the project spurs complementary projects in the ongoing build out and revitalization of the city’s east end.

Western Michigan University expansion and renovations — The university is turning the corner on a new chapter in the institution’s history. With plans for a brand new medical school coming together, WMU continues to pour money back into its current facilities and add new ones. While some plans such the East Campus rehabilitation fell through, the university decided to focus its efforts strictly on East Hall, the central building where WMU originated. East Hall is set for redevelopment and will serve as the university’s new Alumni Center. On top of that, WMU also completed the Zhang Legacy Collections Center, which houses regional archives and historic collections, near the intersection of Oakland Drive and Howard Street.

Why it Matters: These are just a few examples of big changes happening at WMU. As the university grows its regional and even national presence, the surrounding community is benefiting from the influx of new talent and residents, giving rise to opportunities in follow-on development in the residential and retail sectors.

Corporation Hall renovation — The former historic fire station at 145 South Kalamazoo Mall was transformed earlier this year and tenants followed shortly thereafter in Catalyst Development Co.’s mixed-use renovation. The 27,000-square-foot LEED Gold-certified building has five loft apartments and two street-level retail spaces, one of which is occupied by the OptiMed Pharmacy.

Why it Matters: Since Walgreens left town in the 1990s, residents of the city’s urban core were left with few options for convenience store amenities. Now that residential rental demand in the core is on the rise, city advocates insist there is room for more basic amenity type stores to support new residents. Corporation Hall fulfills both needs and similar future in-fill developments are expected.

Newell Rubbermaid plants roots in Western Michigan University’s BTR Park — Earlier this year, Gov. Rick Snyder announced that Newell Rubbermaid would bring 100 jobs to Michigan at a new product design center. With the help of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Southwest Michigan First, the company is getting a new $4 million, 40,000-square-foot facility at the Business Technology & Research Park. The R&D center will be built on the last currently available parcel at the BTR Park, which will be expanding to the north to make way for more companies.

Why it Matters: More jobs for Southwest Michigan are always a good thing. High-tech design and manufacturing jobs are even better. The jobs are reported to pay about $60,000 per year. The company has also agreed to focus on hiring within the region and targeting WMU graduates, as well as providing internships. The facility is planned as the center of Newell Rubbermaid’s future product research, evaluation and prototyping.


616 Development buys Heritage Tower — When MiBiz last sat down with the leadership at 616 Development, the developer was looking at possibly expanding its presence in West Michigan with a project in the 269 area code, specifically in Battle Creek. Those plans were finally made public recently when the firm announced it was purchasing the long-vacant Heritage Tower and an adjacent building at 17 West Michigan Avenue with plans to redevelop the property into residences.

Why it Matters: Historical renovations and rehabilitations are the company’s bread and butter. However, the 19-story partially condemned structure is considerably larger than anything 616 has tackled before. It’s reported that the building has severe water damage and is in need of exterior repairs. If the project is successful, it would be a big win for Battle Creek and the local economic development group, Battle Creek Unlimited, which wrapped up an $85 million downtown transformation project last year. Battle Creek Unlimited President and CEO Karl Dehn previously told MiBiz that the organization’s main effort is getting a number of vacant buildings and storefronts in the downtown filled with new tenants. A new major residential complex could help the effort.

Post Foods shells out $30 million for expansion — Post is closing its Modesto, Calif. facility and consolidating production to Battle Creek. The company said it’s also bringing 92 jobs and relocating key leadership to the city. Most of the investment is for new equipment, which is getting installed this summer.

Why it Matters: With the investment, Post is raising its profile as one the city’s major employers and doubling down on the place the company was founded. The Cereal City moniker that Battle Creek earned long ago looks like it should continue to remain relevant through the foreseeable future, especially after a majority of the operations of Kashi, a Kellogg Co.-owned brand, were also relocated to the company’s headquarters from La Jolla, Calif. The move of new talent to the area is also what city leaders and groups like Battle Creek Unlimited are yearning for.

FireKeepers Casino expansion — Near the end of last year, FireKeepers announced it was purchasing the adjacent Quality Inn and moving on plans for a 242-room hotel of its own. The newly completed structure has all the amenities, including a full-service restaurant, multi-level pool area, fitness center and a multipurpose event center and ballroom, as well as expanded gaming areas.

Why it Matters: When the tribe conceived of the casino some 12 years ago, the leadership had always wanted to market it as a destination. Adding the hotel to the 34-acre site was a key part of the tribe’s development plan. While the tribe’s representatives declined to discuss any further plans, the hotel project is only phase one of a larger development plan that aims to raise the profile of the gaming facility, as MiBiz previously reported.
Despite its position between Chicago and Detroit and directly off of I-94, FireKeepers had been missing out on serving those overnight and weekend guests, a tribe spokesman told MiBiz. Many other casinos in the state have hotels. Outside of Four Winds Casino Resort in New Buffalo, FireKeepers will be the only other four-star hotel and gaming facility in Southwest Michigan.

Cosma Castings Michigan buys vacant plant — Cosma Castings, a subsidiary of global auto-supplier Magna International Inc., purchased a vacant facility at 10 North Clark Road in the Fort Custer Industrial Park and plans to bring 572 new jobs to area with an investment of $162 million over the next two to three years. The facility had been for sale for $5.6 million, but the purchase price was not disclosed.

Why it Matters: Although the company had backorders and a shortage of capacity when it built the plant in 2008 to accommodate solar panel manufacturing, Energy Conversion Devices Inc. would never move into the 268,000-square-foot facility, which came online just as the global economy started to crater. ECD received about $120 million worth of incentives from the federal, state and county governments and promised about 350 high-tech, renewable energy sector jobs. With Cosma’s purchase of the facility, Battle Creek gains a new company backed by a globally recognized operator. It’s a development that plays to the region’s strength in the automotive industry, a sector that has its share of ups and downs, but that has more of a track record than the nascent alternative energy industry.

Janesville Acoustics buys facility — One of the big announcements out of Battle Creek last year was that automotive acoustical products supplier Janesville Acoustics made a $10 million investment in a vacant facility in the Fort Custer Industrial Park that would create 225 jobs. On July 17, Janesville held a grand opening ceremony for the new plant. It was reported that the company has hired 150 workers so far and plans to hire 75 by the end of the year. The company also said several new products are expected to launch in the near future. Janesville received property tax breaks from the city and was awarded a $1.5 million grant from the state’s Business Development Program.

Why it Matters: Janesville is just one example of a handful of manufacturers in Battle Creek that have announced investments or expansions in the city as of late. The Fort Custer Industrial Park has been abuzz with expansions and new tenants, and the city is banking on adding to its advanced manufacturing cluster. Other companies including TRMI and Bleistahl North America announced forthcoming manufacturing plants in Battle Creek. Japanese-owned Denso Manufacturing Michigan Inc. is also in the midst of a major expansion at its Fort Custer facility.

Read 5964 times Last modified on Sunday, 04 August 2013 13:55

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