Muskegon Seeks Development Ideas

February 7, 2003
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MUSKEGON — Just because they weren't chosen to draft plans for redeveloping the Muskegon Mall property doesn't mean the developers who were interested in that project don't have good ideas.

So Muskegon Mayor Steve Warmington has invited the development groups that late last year unsuccessfully pitched ideas for the mall to share their concepts at a public forum this week. He's interested in seeing if the developers can pursue their ideas elsewhere downtown.

The forum, scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at Muskegon High School, will "provide an opportunity for citizens to hear ideas for the downtown area. It is also an opportunity to begin a dialogue between citizens, property owners and developers," Warmington said.

"The city is extremely pleased with the development interest in our downtown. It is a logical next step for us to further explore that interest and the ideas of the developers who have expressed such an interest," he said.

Organizations invited to present their ideas are The Muskegon Construction Co., Group One Production/The Archimedes Group LLC, Stepping Stone Properties Ltd. and Charter Development LLC.

The Downtown Muskegon Development Corp. acquired the defunct mall last fall and later chose Southfield-based Charter Development to formulate plans for redeveloping the 26-acre site in the heart of downtown, a project that will create a new character for the central business district that in recent years has begun to experience a rebirth.

The downtown group envisions transforming the mall site into an "urban village" with a mixture of residential, professional office and commercial uses.

Downtown Muskegon Development Corp. consists of the Paul C. Johnson Foundation, the Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce and the Community Foundation for Muskegon County. The City of Muskegon has representation on the corporation's board, although it is not an equity partner.

The Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce estimates that new investments in downtown — through recently completed projects, those that are now underway or planned — total more than $100 million.

And that doesn't include the future redevelopment of the Muskegon Mall site.

Doug Brock, vice president and general manager of Charter Development, can't even speculate how much it will cost to redevelop the mall property. Charter Development, which specializes in urban redevelopment and was given six months to formulate a conceptual development plan, sought out the project in part because of the new investment flowing into the business district and the public-sector support behind it.

"A lot of things are happening downtown," Brock said. "It's a community that's rediscovering itself."

The mayor's initiative resonates well with Pat Strum, past president and a board member for the Muskegon Arts & Entertainment Inc., a group working to improve the overall aesthetic of the downtown area and promote cultural activities.

Looking at whether the ideas other developers had for the mall site are viable elsewhere in downtown makes "perfect sense," Strum said.

"There's other opportunities and there's other land available," she said.       

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