Sun Is Still On Holland Horizon

December 10, 2004
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HOLLAND — The owner of the Horizon Outlet Center hopes to lure new activity with the conversion of retail storefronts into professional office space.

Horizon Group Properties Inc. began work last month on a $600,000 project to convert a 35,000-square-foot building into office suites and improve access, signs and landscaping around the outlet center.

The firm will convert 25,000 square feet into office space, leaving 10,000 square feet for existing retailers. It also will create a new entrance and courtyard facing the large parking lot in the middle of the site.

Horizon Groups Properties' goal is to revitalize the 16-year-old outlet center by creating a mixed-use complex for retailers and other businesses.

"It will stimulate the energy for the property, which will be that much better for everybody involved," said Tom Rumptz, senior vice president of asset and property management for Horizon Group Properties.

Horizon Group Properties has two leases signed for the new office space that's planned and is working on two other large potential tenants.

In seeking to reposition the 200,000-square-foot outlet center, which includes 70 acres of land, to a mixture of retail and office uses, the firm is also responding to what it sees as a demand in the Holland market for high-quality office space that's more affordable than the high-rent downtown business district.

A potential lure for office tenants is the Holland Outlet Center's location adjoining the heavily traveled retail crossroads at U.S. 31 and James Street.

Drivers have easy access to the area via main and many secondary arteries. The proximity of the office space will give its clients easy access to shopping and dining and the aesthetically attractive setting of the adjoining Dutch Village theme park.

If conversion of the one retail building into office space succeeds, Rumptz says Horizon Group Properties will look at additional conversions or at developing new space on the site.

The property is large enough to develop an additional 50,000 square feet, he said.

"We would anticipate doing additional development at the property," Rumptz said. "A lot of it is going to depend on market demand and how things are proceeding as we go forward."

A unique shopping venue when it opened in the summer of 1988 — at about the same time as Westshore Mall opened just across James Street — the Holland Outlet Center has since been bypassed by the retail boom rolling to the north along both sides of U.S. 31.

That development — forming a growing retail corridor north of James Street — has attracted numerous large, national retailers to town over the years, which in turn has led to the emergence of big-box retailers during the 1990s.

The corridor's popularity with consumers has long eroded the novelty of the outlet center's early days.

The outlet center — which features 50 storefronts — presently has an occupancy rate of about 70 percent. Despite the changes in the corridor and consumer shopping habits, some retailers in the center, such as The Gap and Eddie Bauer outlet stores, remain "very successful," Rumptz said.    

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