Cascade Park Owners Unified

May 9, 2005
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CASCADE — When Foremost Insurance Group left CentennialOffice Park, tenants were left without a unifying owner. Now the Centennial Office Park Owners Association hopes to bring back that unity, while making the park a more marketable and valuable entity.

The owners association is a volunteer organization working to build unity and create a uniform look to the park, while gaining more tenants and increasing property value.

"The business owners have come together and formed an association that's very proactive and has raised funds — and is now reinvesting those funds that it has raised, making it a better place to do business," said Chris Beckering, a member of the association board and office specialist with Grubb and Ellis/Paramount.

The timing is right, Beckering said, with the completion of M-6 and the construction of the

36th Street
interchange. The park is located on
28th Street
between
Kraft Avenue
and
Lucerne Drive

"The park has always been well-positioned, but with both of those things happening, it's really an ideal location," he said. "We have great landlords that are doing some positive redeveloping and reinvesting."

Association President George Wanty said the organization, which was started in 2001, is aiming to increase occupancy and property values throughout the park, beginning with several projects.

"That's really our main goal of what we're doing and I think we're doing very successfully at it," he said. "It's just created a momentum out there that hasn't existed for the last 20 years."

The projects include conforming broker signs, signs with a CentennialPark logo, unified landscaping and various discounts for association members.

The conforming broker signs make the vacant offices less of an eyesore, Wanty said. "It doesn't give you that sense of vacancy and that the place is a disaster."

Kirt Ojala, the association's vice president and regional director of leasing and property management for Hinman Co., said the association makes it easier for owners to make decisions that benefit the whole park.

"When you've got one owner in the park, it's easier to make a decision about what color the bark is going to be," he said, using landscaping as an example.

Ojala said he believes that owners working together helps everyone financially, as well. If companies join together to get contracts for services and products such as janitorial service, lawn care, window cleaning and other day-to-day needs, they may be able to get lower prices.

"If we can work together and get some power behind us, maybe we can get some pricing based on large volume," he said. "We're working on it, but we might see 12 to 15 percent savings. Those things can add up to huge dollars."

Ojala said other benefits come from communication between the owners.

"I think one of the major benefits would be a collaboration of minds, of efforts, toward one cause out here in the park," he said. "We want to update the park and let everyone know it's a great place to do business."

With free parking, close proximity to the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, a multitude of nearby restaurants to choose from and a quick commute to downtown Grand Rapids, Ojala said the park has more benefits than meet the eye. Since Foremost Insurance left, Ojala said some people think the park has fallen off the radar screen — and he wants to show that isn't so.

"We are not that ghost town," he said. "We are a thriving park."

To keep the park thriving, the association is working with the Cascade Downtown Development Authority. Wanty said one of the goals the association is working toward with the DDA is building sidewalks and installing benches in the park.

"Our goal is really to have people recognize (that) as far as southwest Michigan is concerned, there's really no place like CentennialPark," he said.

Beckering agreed the park is unique. With Centennial Country Club, Crown Plaza Hotel, CharlevoixClubFitnessCenter, green space and adjacent residential areas, "You can live here, you can work here, you can play here," he said.

More and more people are catching on to that idea. Beckering said 45,500 square feet of office space has been sold during the last six months. With a total of 787,665 square feet of office space in the park, only 186,176 square feet is still available.

"We've just got great positive momentum," he said.

Wanty said gaining membership for the association was the most difficult challenge they've faced, but now 75 percent to 85 percent of the owners are members.

"We're trying to do as many things as we can for people who are association members and their tenants," he said.

Though the association is limited to the office park owners, Ojala said it does interact with nearby residential associations to keep updated on the issues in the area.

The association's Web site, www.centennialparkgr.com, has information on the park. The Web site is powered by Grubb and Ellis/Paramount, which handles most of the real estate on the property.    

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