Where the Cranes Are

May 1, 2007
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A considerable amount of news is apparent is this issue of Commercial Quarterly. The Louis Campau Promenade is being given a facelift by the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority in preparation for the opening of the new JW Marriott and Grand Rapids Art Museum. Plans for the old Metro Health campus call for demolition of the old hospital and construction of senior apartments. Michigan Street hill building expansions for medical, research and life sciences businesses have attracted a Chicago developer with plans for affordable condominiums. And a restoration project of three buildings in Battle Creek is receiving national attention as part of a vignette series airing on the Home & Garden Television network this month.

The Building Owners and Managers Association of West Michigan reported last month that 20 new buildings and 400,000 additional square feet are included in the 2007 annual occupancy survey. Even with the additions, the local BOMA reported occupancy rates have increased since the 2006 survey to 85 percent.

In a story published in the April 2 issue of Grand Rapids Business Journal, former Building Owners and Managers Association President Charlie Hoats noted, “When you’re adding space to the market and gaining some ground with occupancy, that spells ‘positive absorption,’ which is really the key thing that everybody wants.”

The report also underscores the growth of the medical sector in the region. The Northeast sector (portions of Michigan Street and East Beltline Avenue) showed the greatest gains, with a 6 percent occupancy increase. That same sector included four new buildings, increasing square footage to more than 1 million, now the fourth largest of BOMA’s 14 sectors.

The Business Journal also reported in the April 2 issue on the growth of medical businesses, for which available building space is recorded at an even lower vacancy rate. Continued growth and new building is anticipated especially along the M-6 corridor where Metro Health will open its new LEED-certified hospital and medical campus this fall. Combined with the ongoing metamorphosis of Michigan Street hill, John Mundell, senior vice president at CB Richard Ellis|Grand Rapids, noted, “I know from the state of Michigan standpoint, we stand alone with this level and type of development.”

A new analysis by IRN Inc., Global Supply Chain Evolution Analysis, also provides welcome signposts. The research included the office furniture, automotive and fabricated metals industries and sought to determine which supply chains will leave this region, which will stay and how those might evolve. The report, funded by the Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development grant, shows that some of the manufacturing resources necessary to remain competitive already exist or are under development. The office furniture industry last month also reported continued gains (even if not as Herculean as previous quarters).

Grand Rapids — it’s closer than Dallas, and one of the seven great wonders of the world is the fresh water supply aplenty off West Michigan’s West Coast.

— Carole Valade

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