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Chums Corner Next Hot Spot for Traverse City Development ?

Chums Corner Next Hot Spot?

November 19, 2015
Chums Corner Next Hot Spot?

Could Chums Corner be Traverse City’s next development hot spot?

Several area developers and real estate agents believe the US-31 corridor is on the precipice of major new growth, with skyrocketing property prices and limited vacant land in the city limits pushing investment outward. “All the (potential retail tenants) we’re working with are destination-type stores that need five acres to build,” says Kevin Endres of real estate firm Three West, LLC. “You can’t just find five acres in Traverse City. You have to look at the townships…where there’s easy access, the right zoning and cheap, available land.”

Two major projects in the works could help kick-start a new phase of activity on US-31. Last Friday, the Grand Traverse County Land Bank Authority approved a $1.8 million option agreement with developer Jeff Schmitz of Hotel Indigo to redevelop an 80-acre vacant parcel on Rennie School Road. Schmitz has 16 months to complete due diligence before finalizing the sale; should the project proceed as planned, the site could eventually host 200 apartment units and 25 acres of new retail and commercial space on US-31.

“We’ve already received a half-dozen calls from very strong, interested (parties) who want to have a piece of that property, on both the retail and the multi-family residential side,” says Endres, who represents the listing.

Just down the road on US-31, Brad Oleson of the Oleson Foundation has 199 vacant acres to work with – and he’s hoping to put it to good use. Oleson plans to begin working with Garfield Township this winter on zoning and permitting approvals for a multi-phase redevelopment plan for the property to include retail frontage on US-31, commercial space and new housing development.

“A lot of the real estate out there (in Chums Corner) has been rented in the last year or two,” says Oleson. “There are people interested in moving here, but they’re finding the commercial space is taken up. So they’re starting to look at empty land to build their own.”

Several recent business moves exemplify that trend. Building and remodeling company Preston Feather has purchased 10 acres in the Chums Village commerce park – adjacent to Wuerfel Park – for the construction of new headquarters. (General Manager Troy Bamberg says the company plans to unveil more details about the project at the start of 2016.) Stone House Bread owner Tonie Spearing also now calls Chums Corner home, relocating earlier this month from her location on Switch Drive to a new expanded production facility at 4200 US-31.

For those and other businesses, Endres notes Chums Corner’s geographic layout – as both a gateway to Traverse City and a connector to several neighboring communities and transportation corridors – makes the area particularly convenient for shipping, as well as customer and employee access.

“It’s easy to go north, south, east and west from Chums Corner without having to go through downtown Traverse City,” Endres says.

Leslye Wuerfel, CFO of Wuerfel Park and the Traverse City Beach Bums, says she is excited about the possibility of “controlled, planned growth” in the US-31 corridor. “It shows we’re recovering (economically) if people are thinking of commercial development and answering the need for that here,” she says. “It’d be wonderful for people driving into Traverse City right now if there were other opportunities out here for them to live and work.”

Endres also believes projects like Schmitz’s and Oleson’s could eventually create a domino effect of growth in the corridor, with new commercial development attracting new housing development, which would further support more commercial activity, and so forth in a positive cycle.

“They both drive each other,” explains Endres. “Those new companies need employees, and people want to live by where they work. I think in that area there’s going to be more affordable, multi-family housing that supports new retail, such as convenience stores. When people see other people make a commitment to an area, it drives confidence for others to want to be part of that momentum.”

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