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Inside Track: World traveler invests in city’s urban neighborhoods
Shayne Malone chose residential real estate as the logical opportunity when he started his own business, Malone Development.
He is multi-lingual and has traveled much of the world and gained cultural insights from places like Brazil, India and the European continent. He also has taken part in real estate developments in lush portions of Costa Rica and Panama that draw tourists and business investors from all over the globe.
But at the same time, Shayne Malone knows his roots are deeply planted in the urban streets that comprise the East Hills neighborhood of Grand Rapids, where he lives and where he is getting ready to restore a pair of buildings that will become homes to others who share his love for the city.
Malone established Malone Development LLC more than nine years ago at age 27. Since then, he has quietly invested in local developments. Just a few months ago, he stepped into the spotlight with Cherry Street Apartments LLC to announce his plans to redevelop two vacant structures into 18 market-rate apartments.
One building is on Cherry Street; the other is on Eastern Avenue. One is a two-story built in 1958; the other is a three-story built in 1915. Malone is investing $860,000 into their restorations, with that investment split nearly equally between the two.
“I’ve been investing in Grand Rapids and primarily in the urban neighborhoods near this project for about the last 10 years. It’s actually where I started. I was always interested in the historic nature of the neighborhood, the urban nature of the neighborhood, and that was something I was drawn to,” he said.
“The reason I’ve gotten into this project is it fits our company’s strategy of investing in urban neighborhoods. They’re walkable and are connected to the community. The East Hills neighborhood, because we live there, is especially important. I want to see projects that … enhance the historic nature of the neighborhood and kind of move the neighborhood forward.”
Malone said he is wrapping up the final restoration plans for the buildings. “No major work has begun yet,” he said.
Malone couldn’t point to one big break that directed his real estate career down the right path. Instead, he said it was a bunch of little things along the way that led him to where he is now. He got his start by spending years researching the industry and studying urbanism before deciding to invest in the field.
“As I went along this road, every successful project has led to a larger and more dynamic project. Getting started in the business is never easy, and you never know what direction it’s going to go and, fortunately, I have had some successful ventures along the way,” he said.
Malone began his real estate career in 2002 as a loan officer at Grand Bank who approved and closed residential mortgages. Then, a year later, he became an investment and asset manager for MMC Real Estate, where he managed office, retail and multi-family residential projects, and became a project manager for offices that were LEED certified.
He also spent 15 months, through July 2012, at Colliers International of West Michigan in the firm’s investment section, where he focused on retail and multi-family developments. But despite his experience in the office and retail markets, he chose residential as his focus.
“That was a natural fit for me. What I found in Grand Rapids, in particular when I started in the business, was residential was the most logical way for me to invest in the urban core of the city. At the time, there wasn’t a huge opportunity in retail or office, especially in the neighborhoods. That is changing now, but residential was the logical opportunity then,” he said.
“Also, I was younger at the time, and I understood what young people might be looking for in a place to live and transition, and get married and have kids, and to move on with their lives. I kind of fit that bill of those people, so I knew what they were looking for as far as being close to bars, restaurants, cafes and so on.”
In between his time at Grand Bank and Colliers, Malone developed a facility in Pavones, Costa Rica, in 2008, that catered to Europeans who invest internationally. He still owns property there. He also managed real estate for Salzburg Development in 2009 in the Casco Viejo sector of Panama City. It, too, was an area for international investors.
But the international component wasn’t solely what lured Malone.
“I had the opportunity to work with a development group that was based in Panama City, and the reason I was drawn to that opportunity is it was in a historic neighborhood called Casco Viejo. It was built in the 1700s by French colonials next to the Panama Canal,” he said.
“The company I was affiliated with was acquiring these buildings, completely rehabbing them back to their historic and original intent by having the second, third and fourth levels as apartments and the first floor as commercial space.
“It was a really great opportunity that filled my interest level and passion, and I managed the development for that company.”
Three years ago, Shayne married Larissa. Their relationship got its start in a most unusual location.
“We actually met in an elevator in Grand Rapids. She was here as part of a business exchange through Rotary International, and I was kind of touring through the state of Michigan, and Grand Rapids was my first stop,” he said.
“At the time, I was working in Central America and she was wearing a pin that had a map of Brazil on it, and it drew my attention. I started speaking to her in Portuguese, which kind of started a conversation, and it went from there.”
Malone said he met with Larissa a few more times while she was in Michigan and then visited her after she returned to her native Brazil. When he finished his work in Panama, they came back here permanently and married two years after they met. Larissa works in the public relations department at Amway Corp.
In his spare time, Malone practices yoga with Larissa and together they enjoy hanging out with friends at coffee shops and walking the neighborhood.
And this will not come as a surprise: He also likes to travel.
“I speak Spanish and Portuguese and I just really enjoy exploring new cultures. I think it’s important to keep an open mind because you never know that you might get a great idea by getting out in the world and seeing what’s happening,” he said.
Malone doesn’t have any far-off trips on his horizon any time soon. He plans to spend his immediate future close to home so he can work on his East Hills development.
“I think, right now, this project is my primary focus to complete and kind of revitalize that urban block in the neighborhood,” he said.
“Once that kind of gets wrapped up, we’ll look into other projects that fit into a similar strategy and focus, then we’ll kind of see where that leads.”