Grand Haven Awaits proposals For New North End Neighborhood

April 12, 2002
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GRAND HAVEN — The money matters, of course.

But the overall value of proposals to redevelop acreage on Grand Haven’s north side will make the difference on whom the city ultimately chooses for the project.

The city has begun seeking requests for proposals for what’s known as the North End Redevelopment Project, which will turn a run-down former industrial area along the Grand River into what is envisioned as a new commercial and residential neighborhood. The project would include a mixture of dwellings that could include senior citizen housing, plus retail stores and professional offices. Earlier estimates pegged the required investment at $30 million.

While the financial aspects of what developers offer the city for the 19.9 acres is a definite consideration in weighing proposals, an advisory committee of local business executives assisting the city on the project will analyze bids based on how they fit with the city’s vision for the property and its long-term implications.

The project’s overall goal is to revitalize one of the community’s older neighborhoods, while creating an attractive northern entryway to Grand Haven. The city hopes to have a developer selected and see construction begin by the end of the year.

“We will recommend the most qualified developer with the best plan,” said Denny Cherette of Investment Property Associates, who chairs the advisory committee that has provided the city administration guidance on the project. “It has to be a plan that adds value to the community in the long run, and by value I mean the durability of it and the aesthetic of it.”

Cherette’s firm is a commercial real estate development and management company in Grand Haven that has recused itself from bidding on the North End project.

Bids from developers are due May 14 to the city, which earlier this month sent notices to more than 80 parties who have in the past have expressed an interest in the project during the planning stages of the last few years.

Cherette expects the bid process to generate significant interest, although the economy may keep some developers away. But low interest rates and the uniqueness and high visibility of the site, located along the Grand River’s South Channel and just west of heavily traveled U.S. 31, should outweigh negative aspects of the economy, he said.

“You’ll never know for sure what the reaction is from the marketplace,” Cherette said. “But I expect a strong response. What that shakes out ultimately is anyone’s guess, but I expect a strong response because it is a unique opportunity.”

If his company weren’t involved in helping the city, “I would have been all over this,” Cherette said.

The project represents the single largest redevelopment or development effort in Grand Haven in years, matching or surpassing the redevelopment of the city’s waterfront during the early 1980s. The advisory committee intends to narrow the bid list to three developers whose proposals will receive an in-depth analysis.

While the city has outline general ideas for the project, it has not set down specific guidelines or bid specifications other than to ask developers to offer plans that consist of mixed uses. That leaves developers free to become creative with their concepts, and the possibility for uses other than what have previously been identified.

The Chamber of Commerce of Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg — citing a need to increase the number of rooms in the local tourism market — is hopeful that a final development plan will include a hotel.

“It would be a good part of the mix,” said Karen Benson, The Chamber’s vice president for economic development.

Cherette agreed, saying, “absolutely there’s room for a hotel” in the project.

To attract developers, the city has designated the project site a brownfield district, making developers eligible for tax incentives and tax-increment financing to help with infrastructure costs.

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