Herkner Heads For East Beltline

July 7, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP — Herkner Jewelers, a fixture in downtown Grand Rapids since the 19th century, is moving to the suburbs.

Owner Randall Dice said the jewelry store, which has been at 114 Monroe Center NW for 141 years, will move this summer to 2,700 leased square feet at 1600 E. Beltline Ave. NE, in Grand Rapids Township next to O’Charley’s restaurant. The location is across the road and south of 10 acres Dice has owned for five years.

Dice said delays in developing the land at 2301 E. Beltline Ave. NE — the back section of a 20-acre parcel that drew motorists’ eyes with a house precariously perched at the edge of a cliff during excavation — pushed aside his long-standing plans to relocate to his own retail and restaurant development dubbed Herkner Village.

“We had development delays with the whole thing,” Dice said. “We believe this has been providentially delayed to allow this opportunity to surface. It does meet more of our immediate needs.”

He said he still intends to develop the land. Grand Rapids Township Supervisor Michael DeVries said the township recently renewed approval for Dice’s plan, which includes 10 buildings around a small pond. DeVries said Dice must coordinate installation of roads and utilities with the owner and developer of the front half of the parcel to make the project economically feasible.

“We still have a piece of property we intend on developing that was where we initially saw ourselves,” Dice added. “Development delays and the economy have slowed that process down.”

Dice, who lives in Grand Rapids Township and grew up nearby, said Herkner Jewelers’ move is a response to shifting retail patterns. The East Beltline-Knapp Street area is home to the Knapp’s Corner Meijer store, Celebration Village, some smaller retail and office developments. Two upscale shopping areas are planned as well.

“With everything going on downtown, for arts and entertainment, culture and restaurants, retail has really been in decline for the last 25 years,” Dice said. “With the growth of the suburbs, that’s just where the shoppers are.”

Jay Fowler, executive director of the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority, said while he’s sad to see Herkner move, he thinks retail in downtown is “on the upswing.”

“It’s interesting, they hung in here through some really bad times,” Fowler said. “Our view is things are on the upswing. There’s new housing being built, new development happening and new investment all the time. We believe that downtown retail will naturally follow.”

He’s hopeful the Herkner space will host a new tenant.

“I think this is certainly a prime site, where Herkner’s is. It’s a good opportunity for somebody else to try their hand,” Fowler said.

The new Herkner location, the first retail operation in a two-story building topped by offices, is expected to be open by September. It will feature venerable details that have lent the downtown store character: the trolley, which ferries paperwork overhead across the store; antique mahogany showcases; antique French chandeliers; and an 1825 grandfather clock.

Grand Rapids commercial real estate firm Grubb & Ellis|Paramount Commerce handled the lease negotiations.

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