2020 Newsmaker of the Year: Wheeler develops successful strategy in townhome market

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John Wheeler Courtesy Wheeler Development Group

CATEGORY: Real Estate and Development

WINNER: John Wheeler

COMPANY: Wheeler Development Group

In spite of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s mid-2020 halt on residential construction to stop the spread of COVID-19, Wheeler Development Group sprinted out of the gate once restrictions were lifted.

The developer’s plans for a $55 million, 24-story, mixed-use building in downtown Grand Rapids were halted by the pandemic, but WDG touted success in the townhome market, as it closed out 2020 with $50 million worth of townhome projects in Grand Rapids, Caledonia and Spring Lake, equaling 197 new units.

While it’s true the government shutdown cost WDG its momentum during the peak construction season, CEO John Wheeler credited the diligence of the company’s subcontractors to quickly return to work once the shutdown on construction was lifted in May.

“We own everything we build, so it’s the long-term vision of taking these projects and not cutting corners,” he said. “These are long-term investment holds, even with the blip of COVID and short-term inflation with lumber.”

Wheeler also attributed the company’s success during the pandemic to the continuous demand for housing that is affordable by market standards, or for a median household income of $65,000.

“It’s a very cool market,” Wheeler said. “They are inexpensive to build versus an apartment, and the interest rates are very favorable. If we’re borrowing money at 4% versus 7%, we can pass that savings on to the customer.”

WDG now is underway with planning its next townhome project in Grand Rapids and also is marching through the planning phase of a project in Ada Township.

Click here to read about the other winners of the 2020 Newsmakers of the Year.

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