A Showcase Of A Deal

January 13, 2003
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(Editor’s note: One of 10 stories profiling the finalists for Thursday’s Business Journal Newsmaker of the Year Award.)
CASCADE TOWNSHIP — The project has all the ingredients to become one of the biggest commercial developments here in the last three years, at least since the RiverTown Crossings Mall opened for business.

It may also be the final showcase project that the city's super-retail corridor will ever see, as it's the largest remaining parcel on 28th Street waiting to be developed.

And the development, which is likely to cost more than $50 million to build, is moving forward despite the current economic conditions.

Those are all good reasons why the Business Journal has chosen Hund-Fink Acquisitions LLC as one of its ten nominees for the 2003 Newsmaker-of-the-Year Award.

The business story broke late last summer when Hund-Fink Acquisitions, comprised of Jeff Hundley, Ed Finkelstein and Mark Finkelstein, announced it intended to buy 120 acres of prime commercial property from National Amusements, a theater chain that owned the 10-screen Showcase Cinemas.

The official address of the property is 5100 28th St. SW. But, more importantly, it's a soft 9-iron from a busy east-west expressway and on the state's second busiest road. For the record, 52,000 vehicles travel past the site every day. More than 91,000 people with an average household income of nearly $65,000 live within five miles of the property.

It's a choice commercial site. The land alone has a value of $8 million, even though almost half of the property can't be developed.

"We have about 65 acres that is fully developable," said Hundley, a principal and director with commercial real estate firm Colburn Hundley Inc.

Hund-Fink learned that somewhat disappointing news in November from the national and state environmental agencies. They had hoped to build on a minimum of 75 acres. Still, losing those ten acres didn't deter the developers, as they sealed the deal with the theater chain on the second day of the new year.

"Now we can actually start to figure out what we're going to do," said Hundley. "We're going to try to make it unlike other centers — the standard big box deals. We're going to try to make it a little higher end.

"But it's all market driven. If we get the higher-end guys, great. If we can't, the market is what the market is," he added, realistically. "But our intention is to try to go after a higher end, which Home Expo is."

The Home Expo Design Center is a specialty of The Home Depot Inc., the world's largest home improvement chain and second largest retailer behind Wal-Mart. Expo is dedicated to interior design, claiming to have ten specialty stores under one roof. Only 52 are open nationwide. Three are located in the metro Detroit area.

The developers plan to build at least 500,000 square feet of retail space. The exact size and value of the development won't be known until the site plan is completed and tenants are lined up. But a fair estimate places the value somewhere between $50 million and $75 million, while the size of the project could stretch to 600,000 square feet.

Hundley said they also hope to attract a hotel to the site, where they have sketched out about ten acres for that purpose.

"Until we had the deal closed, it was hard to even call tenants and tell them what we were doing for sure," said Hundley. "But now we can."

Hund-Fink Acquisitions will be joined by nine other nominees at a special luncheon held in conjunction with the Rotary Club at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel on Thursday, when the 2003 Newsmaker-of-the-Year will be named.

Showcase Cinema closed a little over a week ago, and National Amusements has until the end of the month to remove its equipment from the building. The developers hope to begin demolition of the building next month.

"We'll probably submit some different concepts and different layouts, and then meet with Cascade Township for our site-plan approval process," said Hundley of their next move. "Hopefully we'll start building in the next six to nine months."

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