Developers eye U.S. 131 commerce center

Group is asking city of Wayland to annex parcels near Gun Lake Casino.
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The area in question is along U.S. 131 near where the Gun Lake Tribe is investing in an off-ramp extension next to Gun Lake Casino. Courtesy Brian Silvernail

A group of property owners in Hopkins Township are attempting to have approximately 500 acres of land along U.S. 131 annexed to the city of Wayland to allow development for a new West Michigan Commerce Center.

Brian Silvernail, realtor associate at Show Grand Rapids Real Estate, said he is representing 13 property owners who signed a petition to have their property annexed from Hopkins Township to allow for necessary sewer and water infrastructure, as well as for 12th Street, an existing service drive along U.S. 131, to be repaved.

“Many just want the road to be improved and so they are willing to pay more taxes to the city to get a paved road between Wayland 135th and 129th at Bradley,” Silvernail said.

Silvernail said he and the property owners have been turned down by Hopkins Township on getting pieces of the property rezoned since 2002. In January 2020, Silvernail instead submitted an application to the state to annex the properties to the city of Wayland, which he said would be more receptive to rezoning.

According to the annexation request, the Gun Lake Tribe acquired approximately 1,000 acres of land in the immediate area over the decades, mostly in Wayland Township to the south of the city of Wayland but also to the west into Hopkins Township south of 129th. This leaves no room for the city to grow to the south.

The city also is down to only one freeway frontage parcel on its side of U.S. 131 and needs additional freeway frontage and accessible parcels that are most marketable for commercial, manufacturing, and distribution jobs in the future, Silvernail argued.

Slivernail said the application with the state was determined legally sufficient in June of the same year, and he hopes to hold a public hearing about the development plans with the city of Wayland in May or June of this year.

“What our annexation does is make that opportunity available, because there isn’t that much land or that small a piece with visibility on the freeway,” Silvernail said. “Especially for Allegan County, the West Michigan Commerce Center will literally be at the median point of the population of West Michigan. You’re right in the middle of Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Holland Lansing — everything that’s within a two-hour drive … There’s a lot of cool potential things going on there we’d like to let people know about.”

Such potential includes the possibility of a 325,000-square-foot Blain’s Farm and Fleet, or some other type of big-box retailer, as well as smaller units for retail, office and flex space, according to tentative plans.

Another feature that makes the property an ideal location for the commerce center is the Gun Lake Tribe’s decision to invest in a $25-million offramp extension next to Gun Lake Casino, which is currently under construction.

“All of a sudden you have zoning a part of the city and utilities and an offramp, with 45 million people a year showing up at that casino,” Silvernail said. “There’s a demand for that type of property. There just isn’t that type of property on the market right now.”

Silvernail and the property owners estimated the area could turn into an additional $75 million worth of market value real estate land and buildings in the next 20-30 years

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