For the past 15 years, Scott Wierda has had a vision for Breton Village, and now the plan is coming to life.
Last week, CWD Real Estate Investment announced the “de-malling” of the main Breton Village retail building, which is a continuation of the recently built southern buildings of the shopping center, said Wierda, CWD managing partner and co-owner of Breton Village. CWD is the leasing and property manager for the shopping center at the Breton Road and Burton Street intersection.
Wierda said the buildings on the south part of the property that house a variety of national retailers new to the area was the first step in the plan.
“The south side that we already built as an open air fashion district will stay the same,” Wierda said. “That really was stepping out and testing it out.”
Free People took the final vacancy in the additional building.
Construction begins this week, as Triangle Associates is set to begin designing a new 14,000-square-foot building along Breton Road, which will be the new home of Talbots and Rx Optical, along with several other spaces meant for additional retailers and restaurants.
The new building is scheduled to finish March 2017, and once Talbots makes the transition to the new space, the former Talbots location will be razed to make room for new parking, Wierda said. The mall’s enclosed walkways and the second story also will be removed, creating an open air shopping center, as the interior shops will be renovated to have exterior storefronts.
The entire “de-malling” process should be finished late 2017, Wierda said. Indianapolis-based Rowland Design is the project’s architects, as CWD has worked with the firm on Breton Village projects for more than a decade.
“Our work with national retailers and retail developers has given us a sensitivity to high-quality spaces where people want to be,” said Eric Rowland, principal of Rowland Design. “We believe the next phase for Breton Village will place it among the best centers of its size in the country.”
CWD also announced Rite Aid would move from its location in Breton Village to a new building on the “hard corner” of Breton Road and Burton Street adjacent to the shopping center. The move makes more sense for a “neighborhood convenience store and pharmacy” and creates additional space for retail tenants in the shopping center that fit the overall vision, Wierda said.
“What we’re creating is not new square footage,” he said. “We’ll have roughly 30,000 square feet of space to lease, but this wasn’t done with specific tenants in mind — just paying attention to the success we’ve had.”
As Wierda fielded questions about why the interior of the building wasn’t fully leased, he realized the tenants he wants to attract to the area — and has with the new buildings on the south side of the property — want open-air storefronts.
Wierda said he wants the shopping center to have a different feel than the super regional malls in Grand Rapids, and many other cities across the country, that all have the same stores and feel.
“The type of fashion and specialty tenants we’re going after and attracting, they’re not interested in enclosed malls,” he said. “We can do a little more diversity in tenants, more market-unique tenants. Many of the tenants we’ve brought in are the one store the company has in the region.”
Wierda said CWD will continue to seek new fashion and specialty retailers, both local and national, but the next phase of the project will have a focus on dining, and he said the firm has had interest from a variety of interesting concepts. He expects future restaurants at the shopping center will be a mix of local and national concepts.
The spaces in the opened mall won’t detract from the development across Burton Street, where Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market and Sur La Table opened, Wierda said.
“They fit in really well, and we view that area collectively, together,” Wierda said. “Those developments are done with a similar vision of how to enhance the entire shopping district.”
The “de-malling” isn’t following a trend, Wierda said, as super regional malls still have a place in American culture. However, he said Breton Village never was able to compete with those malls, as it was too small to have the energy and scale of a center, such as RiverTown Crossings in Grandville.
He doesn’t expect a need to build a roof for Breton Village in a decade.
“You always stay nimble and ready to change,” Wierda said of open air shopping centers. “But it’s a shift in patterns and habits, and I don’t really seeing it changing.”
Other pieces of the project include the demolition of several buildings on the southeast corner of Burton Street and Breton Road and 2455 Burton St. The space likely will be used for new buildings for retail and restaurant tenants.
The spaces between storefronts will be refreshed with new outdoor green space, seating areas and water features, as well as heated sidewalks for the winter.
“We want to keep this as a great gathering place for the region and neighborhood,” Wierda said. “We’re committed to being here for a long a time, and this is just a further example of our investment.”