More Construction In Allendale

May 9, 2003
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ALLENDALE – A growing population and the vision of turning a section of Allendale Township into an urban neighborhood are helping to drive plans for a major expansion that would more than double the size of an existing retail plaza.

Gillespie Development, in addition to the new retail/commercial expansion, also plans to develop 63 upscale loft apartments on the upper floors of the Allendale Heritage Towne Center on Lake Michigan Drive.

Plans for the $9 million project stem from an existing retail void in the community brought on by strong population gains, said Tom Pohlman.

Pohlman is a principal in the commercial real estate firm Encore Properties in Grand Rapids that represents Gillespie Development. He said the need for retail has resulted in part from the large presence of Grand Valley State University in the community.

“It’s well needed in that market. That market is very under-retailed,” he said of the Allendale Heritage Towne Center expansion. “There is definitely a hole there in Allendale and hopefully this will fill it.”

The Lansing-based Gillespie Development and Encore Properties will gear the retail development toward catering to university students, as well as local residents. Also creating the retail need is a larger volume of commuters passing through Allendale along Lake Michigan Drive on their way to Grand Rapids or the lakeshore.

Allendale Township is situated in the geographic center of the Kent-Ottawa-Muskegon county region. That location makes the area a convenient place to live, and its high population growth in recent decades shows no signs of ebbing anytime soon.

The township’s population reached 13,042 as of the 2000 Census — up 62.5 percent from 1990’s 8,022 and more than twice the population of 1980.

Allendale Township government commissioned a retail void analysis last year as part of a process to update its master plan.

The study concluded that the community could support up to 195,800 square feet of new retail space, with 110,000 of it coming in the general merchandise category.

Part of the future retail development, the study concluded, will go to serve the 15,000 or so university students who live on or near the campus or who drive to Allendale every day for classes.

Pohlman said the Allendale Heritage Towne Center project also will blend well with the Township government’s vision to create, through zoning, a cohesive neighborhood across Lake Michigan Drive. He said the neighborhood features a mixture of housing styles and complementing commercial and recreational uses.

The three-story buildings planned for the shopping center’s expansion will follow a “1930s downtown” architectural scheme that creates a “town center” type feel, Pohlman said.

He said the design theme represents a growing market trend today in commercial real estate development, as does the practice of mixing professional office and residential uses with retail.

Adding residential uses to the mix generates an immediate customer base that can help in the recruiting of retail tenants, Pohlman said.

“It’s a substantial input of people that come through daily. When you have people living on site, it helps the retailers generate an income,” he said.

The shopping plaza now consists of 40,000 square feet of retail space, including a Family Fare Supermarket and smaller retail businesses.

Plans are to add 60,000 square feet of retail and professional office space on the site.

Encore Properties reports that “several deals” for space are pending, including a national retailer interested in leasing 8,000 square feet, Pohlman said.

Gillespie Development, pending zoning approval from the township, wants to begin construction by early summer and have the 20,000-square-foot first phase of the retail space ready for occupancy by the fall, Pohlman said.

Earlier this year, Gillespie Development retained Encore Properties, whose principals include Pohlman and his partner, Jay Barnes, for the Allendale Heritage Towne Center.

The two firms have worked together previously on several projects.

Among them is Edison Landing in Muskegon, where Gillespie plans to develop a $7 million to $8 million project within the city’s downtown high-tech business park on Muskegon Lake. The project includes two three-story buildings with 42 luxury loft apartments on the upper floors and “boutique style” retail shops and professional office space on the first floors.

“They a wonderful team to work with,” developer Patrick Gillespie said of Encore Properties.

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