Double JJ Resort Harbor Shores and ICCFs Bradford named best

October 30, 2010
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A popular resort rescued from financial difficulties, an expansive lakeshore development in an economically challenged community and a long-time nonprofit housing advocate will be honored this month at the 24th annual University of Michigan Urban Land Institute Real Estate Forum, which takes place this year in Flint.

The independent judges for the 2010 Real Estate Excellence Awards were Tom Wackerman, director of brownfield redevelopment for ASTI Environmental; Don Taylor, director of development at the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning at the University of Michigan; Rick Chapla, vice president of urban redevelopment for The Right Place Inc.; Dusty Duistermars, project manager in business development and attraction with the Michigan Economic Development Corp., and Bill Watch, chairman of the Detroit District Council of the Urban Land Institute.

The awards, presented by Grand Rapids Business Journal and Crain’s Detroit Business, honor both the greater Grand Rapids and greater Detroit areas’ most prestigious real estate professionals — those who have the vision and leadership to attain significant achievements in the industry and reshape their respective communities. The east Michigan winners will be announced at a later date.

The judges awarded Jonathon Bradford, CEO of the Inner City Christian Federation in Grand Rapids, the forum’s top west side prize: the Real Estate Excellence Award.

ICCF’s acquisition and redevelopment of the former D.A. Blodgett Home for Children at 920 Cherry St. SE in Grand Rapids for use as its headquarters was nominated in the Development of the Year category. However, the judges saw fit to elevate the honor to the Excellence status in recognition of Bradford’s ongoing work since 1981 as executive director and then CEO of the organization that marked its 35th anniversary in 2009 with the completion of its 500th home. ICCF staff provided foreclosure intervention to 768 families in 2009.

The West Michigan Development of the Year recognition was awarded to Harbor Shores Community Redevelopment Inc. Located along the Lake Michigan shoreline in the Twin Cities of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor, the Harbor Shores Project is a 530-acre mixed-use real estate development that includes a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course. The project is a cooperative effort between The Alliance for World-Class Communities, Cornerstone Alliance, Whirlpool Foundation, the cities of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, Benton Charter Township, Berrien County, the state of Michigan and others.

The project’s amenities will eventually include a marina village and riverwalk, restaurants and shops, deep-water marinas, a boutique hotel and spa, miles of recreation trails and rivers, and acres of parks and green space. Harbor Shores is planned to have 750 residences, including cottages, custom homes, town homes and condominiums.

To date, more than $80 million has been spent on land acquisition, pre-development costs, environmental remediation, golf course construction, infrastructure upgrades and professional service fees. With its nonprofit organizational structure, the goal of Harbor Shores is to be the catalyst to continue positive change in the Benton Harbor community.

O’Keefe & Associates of Grand Rapids won the west side’s commercial real estate Sale/Lease of the Year Award for the turnaround sale of the Double JJ Resort, a more than 1,200-acre resort approximately 70 miles northwest of Grand Rapids. The resort’s sale closed June 30, 2009, for $10.5 million.

In 2006 and 2007, the resort’s previous owners had made major investments in an indoor water park and a 49-unit condominium building. The resort lost approximately $20 million in value during the economic downturn, jeopardizing the construction loans. Avoiding a long-term collapse of the facility, a series of complex financial actions were eventually implemented to secure new investors, and the sale was approved.

The resort’s operations include lodging, restaurants, conference center, golf course, indoor water park, horse-riding trails and a rodeo arena. Significantly, in 2008, the resort hosted the inaugural Rothbury Music Festival, which brought approximately 30,000 people to the resort during the July 4 weekend to hear 50 bands, including Dave Matthews and John Mayer.

The Real Estate Excellence award winners, who were nominated in submissions sent to the Business Journal, will take the spotlight and receive their awards in Flint Nov. 10, the first day of the two-day UM/ULI Real Estate Forum. More information on the event can be found at umuliforum.com.

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