Real Deal In Real Estate

May 4, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — Eventually, everyone touches land.

That's the theory of McShane & Bowie senior partner David L. Smith, who has decades of experience in both commercial and residential real estate.

"Most everyone, sooner or later, owns a piece of real estate," said Smith.

With 21 lawyers — about half of whom are devoted to real estate law — Smith described McShane & Bowie as a firm with depth of experience in the area.

"We're a boutique firm with our real estate practice, with an emphasis in real estate development," Smith said. "Existing and new clients come to us because of that boutique experience."

Smith said commercial clients fall into two basic groups: those that own and occupy their real estate, and those who develop real estate for a profit. Either way, McShane & Bowie's list of services can smooth the legal pathway in numerous areas, from development, zoning and purchasing to sales, financing, titles, environmental law and other topics.

Douglas W. Poland, another lawyer for the firm, said services can vary greatly, depending on how experienced the client is in real estate.

"If they're a newer client, we work more closely with them. If they're a more experienced client in aspects of acquisition and development of real estate, the client will not need the same level of service," said Poland

Smith added, "We would need to assess their capabilities and strengths, and match them up with our capabilities and strengths."

Poland is involved with retail real estate through close association with the International Council of Shopping Centers, which he calls "a wonderful organization."

In fact, McShane & Bowie is hosting a reception at the ICSC's annual mega-conference in Las Vegas later this month with a guest list loaded with West Michigan retail names. "It's an opportunity for West Michigan real estate professionals," Poland said.

The conference, which draws 50,000 registrants, is "a very important event for developers and retailers alike," he said. "Of the transactions that get done nationally, a significant percentage have their origins at ICSC."

Poland said teamwork is crucial to a real estate deal, and he enjoys working with a top-notch lawyer on the other end.

"There's always a team involved when you have a real estate deal," he said. "Not every transaction has the same players, but there are lawyers, brokers, engineers, architects, bankers."

Smith said the firm also handles transactions involving out-of-town investors, such as real estate investment trusts or even wealthy individuals who see promise in West Michigan's demographics and economic profile.

"The principles of real estate are the same, but there are always new twists," Smith said. "So much of real estate is driven by location, location, location.

"We do see growth in incentives provided to stimulate development in certain locations. I think that's a trend that will continue. Some existing Renaissance Zones (which allow for property tax-free development) can and will be extended in time to continue to encourage development in those areas."

Smith also said that with the trading of Single Business Tax credits playing an important role in commercial real estate, those in the industry are carefully watching as state legislators figure out how to replace the tax, which expires on Dec. 31.

"Equity money will track the road of least resistance to find the highest return," Smith said. "Continued incentives for development will be important."

In addition, Smith credits nonprofits with making significant changes in the city's tapestry, such as the Van Andel Institute, the Salvation Army's KrocCenter, the downtown YMCA and the Grand RapidsArt Museum.

"All of these have a big effect on the landscape of downtown Grand Rapids," Smith said. He expects such projects, particularly the Medical Mile on

Michigan Street
, to spur enough ancillary economic activity to keep McShane & Bowie busy with commercial real estate business.    

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