Showcase real estate office opens downtown
Large residential brokerage makes unusual move to set up shop in CBD.
In an uncommon move, a residential brokerage firm recently opened an office in downtown Grand Rapids.
Usually only commercial real estate companies set up shop in the Central Business District, but Traverse City-based Coldwell Banker AJS-Schmidt made its debut last week in the Ledyard Building at 125 Ottawa Ave. NW.
AJS-Schmidt is the largest realtor of its kind in Michigan and the third-largest Coldwell Banker franchise in the nation. It has six offices in the metro area, but this is its first in downtown. The new office is what AJS-Schmidt calls an urban showcase. It’s primarily geared for residential real estate but also has a commercial component.
“At our level, there are none,” said Peter Albertini, office director and associate broker for AJS-Schmidt, of other residential brokerages downtown.
“This is something that we’ve been looking at for at least six or seven years. The market didn’t respond well for a number of years but we now feel the timing is definitely right. We’re also bringing what we feel is a brand new concept in real estate to the downtown area and we’re not going to be a traditional real estate office,” said David Mapes, general manager of the downtown office.
Mapes explained they consider the office a showcase, and a groundbreaking one at that, because it is loaded with high-tech tools visitors can use to explore the real estate market on their own. “We’ll be there to counsel them and assist them. But it’s something that has not been seen in the metro area before and we’re very excited about that,” said Mapes.
The office is stocked with Apple goodies and features flat-screen panels throughout, including an 80-inch model. Macintosh mini-computers drive the screens, and the office is connected to Apple TV, which allows individuals with iPhones and iPads to display what they have on a screen.
Mapes said the showcase has the capability to teleconference with people around the country and the globe, an especially useful tool for those looking for a second home or a business location.
“This just opens up a tremendous venue for us,” he said.
Mapes said he and Albertini have always felt the downtown market was viable for the services they offer, but the time was right to open now because more people are living in the sector than in recent years.
“We’re not only focusing on them, but we are also looking to service people who work in the downtown area and love to do their business downtown while they’re there. We believe we’re just on the cusp of a major growth spurt for downtown,” said Mapes.
“Downtown living and the options for shopping and entertainment will only continue to grow, and we’re anxious to be a part of that,” he added.
Albertini has been a longtime member and has served as president of the Grand Rapids Rotary Club, which has met in downtown for many years. He said a lot of his fellow Rotarians work downtown and some are clients of his. The new office gives him a better opportunity to stay in contact with them, which is a key part of what he does professionally.
“High-tech still serves expediency, but sometimes in face-to-face conversations you get to express those things that are deeply connected with real estate, which are personal emotions. I always say buying or selling a house is a personal experience, and we just find the numbers to match it so we can actually make purchases and make sales,” said Albertini, who also has developed residential real estate in his career.
“But I don’t know anybody anymore who doesn’t have a technological communication device of some kind that they can hook with us to answer a lot of their questions, resolve issues and find solutions. We have a seating area that is convenient and comfortable, and someone can talk with a realtor or use their device to look at what we’re posting as current real-estate information,” he added.
The information Albertini referred to goes beyond standard listings and includes financial and market trends that can affect a selling or buying decision.
“Downtown is becoming an intersection of globalization. The ability to have an information center, a business center as such, is going to be a viable tool in the growth of the downtown market,” he said.
The downtown AJS-Schmidt showcase office is staffed from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. “But you can call me 24/7. My cell phone is velcroed to my arm,” joked Albertini.