Standale retail project defies odds

August 24, 2009
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While retail vacancy in the metro area hangs around 20 percent, construction on a new retail center in Standale is nearing completion and is all but filled with tenants.

Work on the Standale Retail Center, 4482 Lake Michigan Drive NW, will be finished in September or early October, and the tenants will be in and open for business then — a pretty amazing feat considering that construction financing is hard to get and a lack of consumer spending is forcing some retailers to close.

The center is at the intersection of Lake Michigan Drive and Wilson Avenue, property that Meijer Inc. bought for its new Standale store. Jeffrey Hundley, of commercial real estate firm Colburn Hundley and managing partner of the center’s development company HVKV Standale LLC, said the construction, approval and leasing processes went fairly quickly.

Hundley said he had the approvals for the site plan late last year, closed on the property deal with Meijer in January and started construction in March. Chow Hound, the center’s largest tenant with 7,615 square feet, was to have begun stocking its shelves last week.

“I think we will be fully done in September. Everybody should be open by Oct. 1, at the latest,” said Hundley.

Other tenants in the 13,252-square-foot retail center include RX Optical and Jet’s Pizza. Hundley said he has a lease in place for the fourth and last suite, along with a back-up agreement for the space, just in case. One is an ice cream shop and the other is a national sandwich chain.

While some might be surprised that in this economy a new retail center would be full before work on it is done, Hundley said he was confident all along that it would be fully occupied before opening.

“I actually told the guys I thought we’d be full by the time we’re done with construction,” he said.

And he listed the reasons he felt that way.

“It’s a great location. It’s a growing market. It’s in front of Meijer, which is like being in front of a mall.”

Hundley said nearly 27,000 people live within three miles of the site, while more than 93,000 live within a five-mile radius. An average of 24,200 vehicles go through the intersection daily. And Chow Hound fills the pet-food shopping void from the county’s northwest corner to the lakeshore. Hundley said he had two tenants locked in before they bought the parcel.

But not everything went as smoothly as the construction and leasing.

“It was difficult to get financing. We started construction without financing. The land we financed with Huntington Bank and we started construction in March. But we didn’t close on our loan with Huntington until June. We went through a lot of cash,” he said.

Rockford Construction is managing the project. True North Architecture Construction and Investment designed the Standale Retail Center.

The center is a different type of development than normally is built on land belonging to Meijer. Hundley said the retailer usually likes to have banks and restaurants situated near its superstores. But the markets for those are down, so he was able to work out a deal with Meijer for the center. So far, he said everything has gone well.

“I think we’ll be a good neighbor and an asset to them,” said Hundley.

The center features a heated walkway along the storefronts and a water fountain with a landscaped seating area at the southwest corner. “Those are little things, but those two things are $100,000.”

Hundley feels customers will appreciate the fountain during the warm months and the snowmelt system during the winter, especially shoppers who need to lug heavy bags of dog food from the Chow Hound to their cars in January.

“People will remember the melted sidewalks,” said Hundley. “Our goal is to make the tenant successful. We have to do whatever we can as landlords to allow those tenants to succeed. We have to do as much as we can, and I think the heated sidewalk is just another one of those things that makes it easier for their customers. People don’t forget that.”

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