Wal Mart Spurs Area Re Investment

February 14, 2005
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ROOSEVELT PARK — The planned development of a new Wal-Mart store is seen as a catalyst for future redevelopment of commercial properties along the Henry Street retail corridor that forms Roosevelt Park’s eastern boundary with Norton Shores.

The Wal-Mart Supercenter, which will rise on the site of the former J.C. Penney store in Roosevelt Park, will join the Meijer Inc. store across Henry Street in Norton Shores as an anchor on the south end of the corridor.

The Home Depot, a mile to the north at Henry Street and Sherman Boulevard, anchors the northern end of the corridor

The addition of Wal-Mart to the corridor will generate additional traffic and is sure to lure other national retailers that like to locate nearby the retail giant, said Bill Bussey, a commercial real estate broker with Grubb & Ellis/Paramount Properties in Grand Rapids.

Bussey has been active in the Muskegon area market for years and brokered the development of The Home Depot four years ago.

He believes the added appeal that Wal-Mart brings to the retail area, when combined with the existing presence of Meijer and The Home Depot, will generate a new wave of redevelopment along Henry Street with “more substantial tenants” in the years ahead.

“I think you’ll see that whole area in between re-invented. It’s too valuable not to redevelop your building,” Bussey said. “It will start at each end and meet in the middle, just because people want to be closer to the big guys.”

Among the new investors is a developer for whom Bussey is brokering the development of a 25,000-square-foot retail center adjacent to the new Wal-Mart building — Roosevelt Park Towne Center — featuring eight or nine storefronts.

Bussey already has commitments for about half of the retail center’s available space, he said. Construction of the center is well underway, with steel in place and masons now constructing the concrete block walls.

Since Wal-Mart’s plans were announced late last year, Bussey also has seen increased interest in outlots that he’s marketing around The Home Depot, he said.

Serving as one boundary between the cities of Roosevelt Park and Norton Shores, Henry Street is an older retail corridor situated within the population center of the Muskegon area and consisting largely of small retailers, restaurants and the large anchor stores on either end.

When J.C. Penney closed its 30-year-old Henry Street location and moved to a new store at The Lakes Mall, it left a large void within the retail corridor’s south end. That void became larger with the subsequent closing of a nearby Kmart last year, said Richard Maher, community development director for the City of Norton Shores.

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, will fill that void, Maher said.

“There is the undeniable fact that it brings a lot of activity and a lot of vehicles into that corridor,” he said.

“There will be a lot of people using that corridor and that will have some benefits. There will be some spillover there.”

The redevelopment of the 20-acre J.C. Penney site by owner Realty Asset Group of Long Island began last month when crews began demolishing the former store, which closed four years ago after the retailer relocated to The Lakes Mall.

In granting the Wal-Mart project zoning approval in December, the Roosevelt Park City Council hoped to generate spin-off investment and reinvigorate the retail corridor, City Manager Keith Riesberg said.

“Anytime there is a significant investment in a commercial area, it tends to attract other investments to the area as well,” Riesberg said. “We’re hoping it occurs at this location.”

That activity has already occurred at the Park Row Mall, which neighbors the Wal-Mart site.

Mike Bowen, chief executive officer of The Westwood Group in Muskegon that owns and manages Park Row Mall, has signed two new leases since December with tenants that want to locate near Wal-Mart.

He said the new tenants are signing at rental rates higher than what he previously charged. Inquiries in the property also are on the upswing, Bowen said.

With Wal-Mart coming, Bowen is now weighing upgrades to the 56,000-square-foot Park Row Mall that consists of 36,000 square feet of retail space and a four-story, 20,000-square-foot office building.

Park Row Mall’s proximity to Wal-Mart should help to eventually restore the center to full occupancy, he said.

“It just opens up a new opportunity for us and motivates us to improve our property,” Bowen said. “It solidifies what was a troubled part of that corridor.”

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