Newsmaker Downtown Muskegon

January 8, 2007
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MUSKEGON — Although the foundation was laid in the years before, 2006 was the year the shovels hit the ground for many of the larger developments in downtown Muskegon.

That’s why downtown Muskegon development is a finalist for the 2007 Business Journal Newsmaker of the Year Award.

As construction takes place on Terrace Lots properties and VidaNova condos at Edison Landing, renovations are underway on Western Avenue Properties, plans are being laid for more developments in the future, and cars can drive from Third Street to Terrace Street down Western Avenue for the first time in decades.

Despite the months and years of planning that have gone into this development, excitement is currently at a new level because of the construction that is now taking place, said developer Gary Post.

“People don’t see things happen until the building starts coming out of the ground,” said Post, who went through his own changes this year, retiring from the position of president at Muskegon Construction Co. to focus on his developments: the three buildings of Western Avenue Properties and the recently announced Heritage Square Townhomes, which will add a work/live element to the former Muskegon Mall site.

The former mall site, owned by Downtown Muskegon Development Corp., is steadily gaining developers and tenants, such as Post and his partner, Russ Strong; the Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce, which has partnered with Capstone; and Sidock Group, which is planning to build an office on the site.

Just north of the site, Terrace Lots is busy with its own construction. The nine-acre parcel will be the new home of the city of Muskegon’s new Public Service/Central Fire Station, as well as the new location for Hot Rod Harley Davidson and a Hyundai dealership.

Along the lake at Edison Landing, the ground was moved for the first phase of condominium development VidaNova. The new condos are adjacent to the Parmenter O’Toole law firm, which finished construction this year. On the other side of the finished firm, the ground is being readied for Viridian Place, a mixed-used office, retail and residential development that is meant to add to the variety in the downtown area.

Between the three main plots of development, there are also tenants to be signed, bringing more business and entertainment to downtown Muskegon.

Another aspect of the area construction is the investment by people from outside of Muskegon, Post said. Many of the residential projects are owned by people from out of the city and even out of state. The more recent projects are also being developed by people who are not from Muskegon. Developer Doug Harjer of VidaNova is from Grand Haven, True North of Viridian Place is out of Grand Rapids, and the new tenant of Western Avenue Properties’ Century Club is Hegg’s Furniture, which is expanding out of Hart.

“I see that as a very positive thing,” Post said. “It’s a change from what we’ve seen in the last few years.”

Muskegon Mayor Steve Warmington agreed, saying the outside investment gives Muskegon residents a sense of pride.

“I think it’s a real sense of excitement to see it happening,” he said of all the construction and development. “Those are the types of things that bring jobs.”

Jim Edmonson, president of Muskegon Area First, said the recent growth and development was 10 years in the making, following the site clean-up of Edison Landing and the construction of Shoreline Drive.

“The other factor is the rest of the region — the Midwest and Michigan itself — realizing it’s a good opportunity in terms of market potential,” he said of Muskegon and the “inexpensive lakefront property for sale.”

In the next 10 years, Warmington said, he sees more development along Muskegon Lake.

“We want to take advantage of our waterfront,” he said.    

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