True North Heads West

February 7, 2008
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A tribute to green-building technology could become part of Muskegon’s Edison Landing project, said the Belmont developer who took over the downtown area in late 2007.

Hoping to play off the location of the energy theme connected to the area, True North owner Dan Henrickson said he plans to devote two of his 12 lots to a demonstration project for green design and architecture. He said he’ll work with the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center, located in the same area, to develop the project he expects to attract businesses from across the country that want to learn more about environmentally friendly business applications. 

“We’ll build the building inside out, so as you go through the building, you’ll be able to see everything,” he said. “We’ll have green retail and a green hotel, and we hope to tie into that.”

Henrickson purchased 24 acres of the development’s original 34 from a group of attorneys who had let property taxes and assessments lapse. He negotiated with the city of Muskegon to pay a discounted $250,000 on $750,000 of outstanding assessments, plus paid five years ahead on assessments. He also promised to start construction on two projects within five years.

“I thought the timing on a purchase would be right as long as I had the opportunity to restructure the debt service,” he said. “The timing is about right in terms of value for your money, and I think the timing is right for development in Muskegon.”

Henrickson pointed to the redevelopment of the former site of the Muskegon Mall, as well as several other residential and office projects under way.

“A lot of people are excited about what they can do there, not just me,” he added. “Muskegon always had the natural assets. It’s got plenty of people with money, the population, the water features in Lake Michigan and Muskegon Lake.

“What was missing before was the right attitude. This attitude of change has been embraced by the Chamber of Commerce, which is very proactive, very pro-business. The city of Muskegon is easy to do business with. They’re attracting business and not repelling it like some communities do.”

Henrickson said he is planning two 30,000-square-foot buildings with retail and restaurants on the first floor and offices in two upper floors. True North also will locate a marketing office there. “We’ve been talking to a few restaurants, coffee houses and potential office users,” he said.

Plans also include a hotel, condominiums and loft-style apartments, Henrickson added. Four of the lots are waterfront, and Henrickson said he’s hoping to seek state approval for 60 boat slips.

“We want some affordable living in downtown Muskegon, and have some higher-end stuff, too,” he said. “We would like it to be the premier business address in Muskegon, also.

“It’s critically important that we get an opportunity to redefine a downtown with energy-efficient and energy-conscious design. Rarely do you get that opportunity.”

He said he expects to start two buildings this year, with the rest to be developed over eight to 10 years. The total investment is expected to be $350 million. Several already-developed sites are not part of the True North development.

Henrickson said that while True North has provided architectural services to projects of this size in the past, this is its largest venture as a developer.

“What we do have is a natural asset that you can’t duplicate: Muskegon Lake, the soul of the city. We anticipate this being a busy area, an area where people like to congregate. People would love to have a vibrant city that has energy.” CQX

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