The small city of Roosevelt Park in Muskegon County is experiencing a $5-million development spurt. Courtesy Roosevelt Park
For a city with a total taxable value of $99 million, more than $5 million in development is significant.
The 1-square-mile city of Roosevelt Park, nestled within the Mona Shores school district in Muskegon County, has less than 4,000 residents but is seeing a considerable amount of private investment for its size, according to Jared Olson, city manager.
Nearly half of the overall investment comes from CWC Textron, a manufacturer of cast iron engine components that has been in business since 1908 and in its Roosevelt Park plant since 1945.
The company was recently contracted by General Motors to make 500,000 units of a part, so $2.5 million went to an expansion and an equipment upgrade. The investment allowed for an additional 50 employees, bringing the total to 330, said Erik Jepsen, CWC’s director of operations.
One of the first things Olson did when he was hired as the city manager nearly a year ago was express the need to sell available properties. He began marketing by simply putting up signs, and then he worked to make connections with potential customers.
He made a “cold call” to Lake Michigan Credit Union, among others.
“Unknown to us, they were looking for a place in the Muskegon area, and the stars aligned,” he said.
The credit union is spending $1.5 million on a new branch, the first new building the city has had in several years. It should be finished by the end of the summer.
The area has a finite amount of space, so much of the development that happens in Roosevelt Park is actually redevelopment, Olson said. There are only two open lots available for commerce.
One of the recent redevelopments is the new Next Door cocktail lounge at 948 Norton Ave., which took the place of C.F. Prime steakhouse. At $250,000, the project was not as large as others, but Olson said the reception has been very positive because it has brought an ambiance unique to the area.
There is a Dickey’s BBQ Pit franchise going into the old Wendy’s, at 3045 Henry St. Dan McKinnon, who owns four other businesses along the lakeshore, and his son, Luke McKinnon, are opening the restaurant in late May. Between exterior improvements, building remodel and the franchise equipment package, the investment is $1 million.
Rockford is the only other area in West Michigan with a Dickey’s franchise.
“We see Grand Rapids as kind of our pillar of the region, and when businesses pick us over some of the more major players, that gets us excited,” Olson said.
There also have been several new businesses moving into the strip malls, he said.
The city’s Downtown Development Authority has been a notable factor in the development. The agency has been offering up to $15,000 in façade improvement grants for existing businesses, which has improved the look of the downtown Broadway district, Olson said.
Businesses down Henry Street are among those that have taken advantage of the offer, including the incoming Dickey’s franchise, said Allan Lowe III, Roosevelt Park mayor and DDA chairman.
“The DDA has been absolutely instrumental in maintaining our business districts,” Olson said.
Aside from development, Michigan Spring and Stamping, a manufacturer of engineered metal components, recently received a state grant through the Skilled Trades Training Fund in excess of $61,000 that is designed to assist in training, developing and retaining current and future employees.
Commerce is not the only sector that is doing well.
Olson said Roosevelt Park’s housing stock currently is some of the “hottest” in Muskegon County. Housing has reached 2006 pre-recession prices, with houses selling at 30-40 percent more than they were 10 years ago and may soon be the highest the city has ever seen, he said.
There are only about five housing lots open for development. The existing stock is strong, he said, because of strict ordinance enforcement.
The size of the city creates a neighborhood feeling, which allows services to happen quickly and promotes immediate communication.
“We like people to come in and talk to us,” said Lowe, who has lived in the area since 1973.
CWC leaders needed to move quickly once they learned they needed an expansion, and Jepsen said the city’s streamlined permit approval process allowed them to do so.
“The city of Roosevelt Park reacted very quickly,” Jepsen said.
There are three employees with the department of public works, four full-time police officers and four full-time city hall employees.
When a call goes out for a police officer, the response is “almost immediate” because of the city’s size, Olson said.
“I would certainly say our residents and property owners receive services unlike any around us,” he said. “It’s something that our residents have not only come to expect but have come to appreciate.”
The area has 33 miles total of sidewalks that align every road, and the city works to keep them fully accessible throughout the year. The city also offers brush-chipping services every Monday morning.
For the past four years, there has been upward of $5 million worth of road and other infrastructure upgrades, including a $4-million project that allowed the city to separate clean stormwater from the sanitary sewer and lower costs for residents. The project won awards, including one from the Michigan chapter of the American Public Works Association.
Olson said the area has benefitted from the Watch Muskegon campaign, a countywide, privately funded community improvement plan that has seen more than $1 billion in area development. A number of local businesses and individual Muskegon County residents launched the plan.
The camaraderie and teamwork between Roosevelt Park and surrounding areas are what Olson credits to the area’s success.
“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” he said.