Wyoming Laments Loss Of Rogers

April 15, 2005
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WYOMING John Crawford, president and CEO of the Wyoming-Kentwood Area Chamber of Commerce, said Rogers’ demise is a real loss and a setback to Wyoming’s “family” of businesses, but that everyone is grateful for what Rogers did for the community.

“Mr. (Hy) Berkowitz actually was one of the founding fathers of this chamber of commerce back in 1980,” he recalled. “He did a tremendous amount of good for the community. Everything we ever needed those guys to do, they always did it. Our Wyoming public library is there largely because Dan Hurwitz and the whole Rogers Department Store team got behind it. They provided some real leadership in the community and we’re going to really, really miss that.”

Crawford said the Wyoming Chamber, the Downtown Development Authority, city officials and planning staff, and many area business owners are working closely together “to get something positive going” for Wyoming’s 28th Street business district.

“We feel like we’re all on the same page and are looking for the same kinds of solutions. There are communities everywhere that would kill to have a business district like

28th Street
,” Crawford remarked. “The Rogers lot has the real estate and depth that we think will be attractive to a number of different kinds of retailers. There will be something that goes in there, maybe a combination of things.”

As Crawford pointed out, between Rogers Department Store, RogersPlaza and the Wyoming Village Mall, there’s more than 1 million square feet of retail space, which rivals a WoodlandShopping Center or a RiverTown Crossings Mall. Adding Studio 28raises it to about 1.3 million square feet, he said.

“The general master plan theme is kind of an entertainment and shopping theme for that area, so we’re looking for entertainment venues and dining experiences that complement the movie theater,” Crawford said

Also on the plus side, Wyoming has some new zoning that allows for more dense construction, less required parking, and a more pedestrian-friendly type of environment, he explained. The city has zoned for five additional liquor licenses, and more than $1 million was recently invested in district streetscaping. The DDA has undertaken a promotional campaign.

In addition, the owners of RogersPlaza invested more than $14 million in interior and exterior renovations of the shopping center in 2003-04.

“There has been a truly concentrated effort on

28th Street
to help make this area stronger and we’ve seen some benefit from it,” said WyomingCity Manager Curtis Holt. “The work done on RogersPlaza has been a tremendous asset.”

He pointed to the new bank building and new restaurant activity in the area.

“I don’t want to leave anybody out, because I think Family Fare across the street and others have done a tremendous job of keeping people coming to this business district.”

Holt said everybody knew that RiverTown Crossings had hurt Rogers, but noted that shopping habits are changing all over. For years, he said, Rogers was a big draw for the business district and attracted people from all over the region.

“This impacts us the most because of the spin-off of the job loss and the customers lost that shopped there regularly and probably used restaurants and other shops in the area,” Holt said. “I don’t know if we can measure how much it hurts today, but I’m sure we’re going to find out soon enough.”

Holt recalled growing up in Spring Lake and traveling to Wyoming to buy clothes at Rogers’ Big & Tall Department.

“I was from a big and tall family. That was where we went; that was the place to be,” he said.

Wyoming’s DDA is “working extremely hard” on 28th Street to create new business opportunities and a new environment for business, Holt said. The task has been made more difficult because the 28th Street bridge over U.S. 131 is under construction and people are avoiding the area due to traffic conditions.

“But I’m confident that the DDA and the hardworking merchants and people serving on the DDA are going to double their efforts now and, hopefully, see some new draws in the area that really have an impact.”    

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