Mall Group Pares Developer List

November 27, 2002
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MUSKEGON — The group behind the drive to redevelop the downtown Muskegon Mall property plans to bring the public into the process once a developer is on board and a plan is proposed.

Right now the Downtown Muskegon Development Corp. is working to narrow from five to one the field of unnamed developers interested in working on the project. The group will then have the developer draft a redevelopment proposal that would go out for public scrutiny for a project that will alter the character of the entire downtown business district.

Public input into what ultimately occurs at the 26-acre mall site, located in the heart of downtown Muskegon, will occur in a “systematic manner” that will help determine “what downtown Muskegon should be and will be,” said Roberta King, a public relations consultant to Downtown Muskegon Development.

“Obviously, at the right time, public input is important to this project. It’s critical and will drive a good deal of the direction,” King said. “The public input part will come after we get a little direction of our own.”

The Downtown Muskegon Development Corp. — a nonprofit group consisting of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County, the Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce and the Paul C. Johnson Foundation, as well as representation from the City of Muskegon — launched an effort to redevelop the defunct mall in August by buying the mortgage on the property. The organization purchased the Muskegon Mall site outright in September after working out a deal with the property’s former owner to avoid foreclosure proceedings.

After receiving the deed, Downtown Muskegon Development sent out 1,350 requests for qualifications to developers and received 22 responses. Directors of the organization then whittled the field to five developers, two of whom are based in Muskegon.

The goal is to work with the developer to finalize a plan for transforming the mall site into an “urban village” with a mixture of residential, professional office and commercial uses.

“We’re looking for a developer that builds communities,” said James Sheridan, chairman of the board for the Community Foundation for Muskegon County. “We don’t intend to push a developer in a particular direction, other than our vision of the mixed-use livable development.”

The Downtown Muskegon Development Corp. will select a developer for the project around the first of the year and then negotiate a development agreement and begin the public input and design phases.

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