Construction, Economic Development, and Real Estate

A growing Grand Rapids

October 31, 2018
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Chip Bowling, a principal and senior advisor at the Grand Rapids office of Bradley Company, contributed to this post.

It is no secret that Grand Rapids is currently a boomtown. The skyline is dotted with massive cranes, and there are construction workers walking along scaffolding and “coming soon” signs are plastered on the sides of new buildings.

In addition to new builds, many older buildings in Grand Rapids are being restored or renovated to create new spaces for people to live, work and play.

By working in commercial real estate, our team has seen first-hand the true growth that is occurring downtown. There has been a significant increase in the value of commercial real estate properties in downtown Grand Rapids during the past five years, as more and more people are looking for spaces to start new businesses, set up downtown offices or expand their existing locations. Grand Rapids is growing and fast.

Downtown investment

Much of the growth in the value of commercial real estate properties can be attributed to the nearly three-quarters-of-a-billion dollars invested in the downtown area over the last few years.

Private investment has been a key factor, and the City of Grand Rapids supports this by offering several incentive programs, including those that provide property tax benefits for investment in vacant, underutilized, contaminated or obsolete property. The city’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, which works with private companies to redevelop blighted properties, also has supported more than 135 projects since 1998.

Continued growth

New builds and new projects also mean new jobs. And while it seems there has been a large spike in new developments in just the past year or so, there were 19,750 jobs that were created in Grand Rapids between 2003 and 2017 that stemmed from projects approved by the City Commission. The new developments also led to significant population growth in the city. In the last decade, Grand Rapids’ population grew 4.5 percent, which compares to a 4.9-percent loss in the 2000s.

The investments being made within the downtown core also are generating new housing and hospitality accommodations. Since 2014, more than 760 new apartment units have been constructed downtown, representing 41 percent of the total new units delivered in the market during the same period.

Live, work and play

In addition to new developments, commercial real estate developers have focused a significant amount of time and money on adaptive-reuse projects. Buildings that once were considered 100-percent office properties have been converted into multi-use properties with a live-work-play component.

The Waters Center downtown, which we represent, is a great example of this trend. Five years ago, the property was approximately 60-percent vacant. Today, it is 97-percent occupied and includes a hotel, office, bank, hair salon, rooftop bar, coffee house, restaurant and residential space. Boardwalk on Monroe, an iconic building in Grand Rapids, which we represent, also has benefited from investment in reuse projects. The building has 257 condos that are all sold out, 160,000 square feet of office space, multiple rooftop decks, a gym, restaurants and more.

Investments in the downtown core over the last few years have attracted new companies, business owners and residents from around the country and even the world. Grand Rapids has made a name for itself, and people have taken notice. We are excited about the future growth for our city and predict that the cranes and “coming soon” signs won’t be going away any time in the near future.