Local developers share upbeat tone

December 23, 2009
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ANN ARBOR — There was stark contrast in outlooks between east and west Michigan real estate developers last week during the 23rd annual University of Michigan Urban Land Institute Real Estate Forum, which is taking place in Ann Arbor after being held in Grand Rapids a year ago.

In a panel discussion featuring this year’s real estate award winners from both sides of the state, Stanley Wisinski III, chairman of the Wisinski Group in Grand Rapids, told an audience of 300 developers statewide the trend he sees in West Michigan is a recovery from the commercial-industrial real estate recession by the end of this year.

Although property values are dropping, Wisinski pointed to “partnerships and creativity as the benefits in West Michigan.”

Duke Suwyn, president of Grubb & Ellis|Paramount Commerce in Grand Rapids, emphasized that “creativity is bringing prosperity to the Grand Rapids market.” He used as an example the firm’s brokering along with The Wisinski Group of the transaction that had the Roskam Baking Co. purchase the former Steelcase Inc. plant at 5353 Broadmoor Ave. SE.

“We used to say Grand Rapids, now we say West Michigan, including Kalamazoo is included in that (real estate) recovery,” Suwyn said.

Robert Grooters, of Bridgewater Condos LLC and the Robert Grooters Development Co., noted the recent deal that lured a wood-working facility from Germany to Grand Rapids as “another example of creative use of existing buildings and the highly skilled labor force in West Michigan.”

Two West Michigan building projects and one commercial real estate transaction were honored in the awards presented by Grand Rapids Business Journal and Crain’s Detroit Business.

The judges awarded Grooters the forum’s top west side prize: the Real Estate Excellence Award. The project was the River House condominium building — a $90 million, 34-story luxury residential tower at 335 Bridge St. NW next door to Bridgewater Place, the office tower Grooters built and opened in 1993. The project was nominated in the Development of the Year category. However, the judges saw fit to elevate the honor to the Excellence status.

Brookstone Capital, headed by President Karl Chew, won the west side’s Development of the Year Award for its $6 million renovation of 101 S. Division Ave. The 124-year-old, four-story structure at Division and Oakes sat vacant for much of a decade before Chew turned the building’s 40,000 square feet into upper-level apartments, ground-floor commercial space and covered parking in the basement. He also made it LEED certified.

Grubb & Ellis|Paramount Commerce and The Wisinski Group were presented the west side’s commercial real estate Sale of the Year Award for brokering the transaction that had the Roskam Baking Co. buy the former Steelcase Inc. plant at 5353 Broadmoor Ave. in Kentwood from Franklin Partners. The sale involved a team effort and the result of the transaction is expected to create up to 1,000 jobs in the coming years.

Company president Suwyn and vice presidents John Kuiper and Derek Hunderman represented Franklin Partners in the sale of the 685,890-square-foot building. The Wisinski Group headed by Stanley Wisinski represented Roskam in the deal.

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