MUSKEGON — From a leveled industrial site to an area flush with construction activity, the Edison Landing SmartZone is gaining momentum.
“I think it’s exactly what we envisioned when we started,” said Chris Kelly, an attorney at Parmenter O’Toole and spokesman for Lakefront Development LLC. “If we get two more buttoned up this year, that would be great, but we’re really pleased with where we are today.”
Five of the 16 lots have been purchased, with new developers True North having an option on an additional unit, as well.
The two newest projects, VidaNova and Viridian Place, add the missing residential and mixed-use aspects to the site. VidaNova Condominiums will have 40 units on Muskegon Lake with available boat slips. The project is planned to be LEED certified and have green rooftops. The units are planned to be in place by Nov. 1.
Douglas Harjer, developer of VidaNova, said the $15 million investment is off to a good start, with water and sewer services going in soon and a foundation in place.
“There’ve been a lot of inquiries,” he said. “We’ve got a handful of reservations.”
Harjer said he heard about Edison Landing through Stephen Wilson with Commerce Realty, the real estate agent for the site.
“Once I saw it, it was love at first sight. Can’t beat the water,” Harjer said.
Harjer said with the expanding development at the site and in the downtown area, many local people have shown interest in his development.
“It seems to me that a lot of Muskegon people have been waiting for a condominium of this caliber to be available on the water,” he said. “There’s really nothing like it that’s going to be that close to downtown.”
Harjer said one of the more interesting features of his development will be the green roofs on the condos — roofs that help cool and insulate as well as facilitate drainage by using a soil, drainage and vegetation layer. The roofs are planned to be in place by Nov. 1.
“It’s going to be a nice thing for people to see and experience,” he said.
With construction on the Viridian Place office building just a few feet away, Harjer said he is excited about the other development in the area.
“I really like his work and what he’s proposing is really going to be cool,” he said of the mixed-use residential and office building. “It just gives people a better comfort level.”
Cathy Brubaker-Clarke, director of planning and economic development for the city of Muskegon, said she thinks the Edison Landing project has opened up a “hidden jewel” on the lakefront and created more opportunity for Muskegon. With the new VidaNova, Brubaker-Clarke said, people will have the option of living both on the water and in an environmentally friendly building.
“I really see the potential for growth with that development,” she said.
Viridian Place, which was announced shortly after VidaNova, is a $10 million investment in two buildings that will offer office space, commercial or restaurant space, and leased residential opportunities. Phase 1 of the project, the first building, is underway, while Phase 2 will be started after the successful completion of Phase 1, estimated to be spring 2007.
In 1999 — before the development of the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center, the new Parmenter O’Toole building or the new construction — Kelly said the 34-acre property was purchased by members of the Parmenter O’Toole law firm as Lakefront Development LLC. Though the land was more than they needed, they wanted the firm’s new office building to be on the lake and could not buy a smaller piece of the property.
From 1999 to 2004, construction took place on extending Shoreline Drive from Terrace Street to Seaway Drive. In July 2004 the road was opened.
The factory that previously had been on the land was razed in the 1970s or early 1980s, Kelly said.
“The last 15 years it’s just been this big, vacant piece of property with this beautiful waterfront,” he said.
There are 11 Michigan Economic Development Corp. SmartZones throughout the state, all with themes. The theme for the Muskegon SmartZone is energy, which is fitting with the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center being the site’s first building in 2003.
In the center are business incubators that allow the private and university sectors to work together, using the universities’ research to develop products to take to the market.
“The private sector will step in and take whatever research is done. and they will take it to the market and sell,” Kelly said. “It’s just a healthy partnership.”
Kelly said the SmartZone gained much support from the Muskegon community during the statewide competition to be designated as a SmartZone.
“There were 50 or 60 applications; just about every city in the state applied for these things,” he said.
One of the benefits of being in a SmartZone includes being a part of a Local Development Finance Authority, which means that all income generated by property taxes at the site will be re-invested in the site.
Kelly said he is proud of the progress that has been made.
“I would be very happy if we were done in the next two years,” he said. “I think that’s reasonable.”
With the announcements of the Viridian Place and VidaNova projects, Kelly said he believes more people now will become interested in Edison Landing.
“There’s just land here on the water, which is a very scarce commodity that people are going to want to build on,” he said. “With two done and three under construction, we’re well over the hump and well on our way to completing the development on a timely basis.”
Brubaker-Clarke agreed, saying she believes more development will be coming.
“We had a lot of people just waiting to see that take off,” she said of the recent developments. “We’ve had other people say ‘Now we’re ready.’ They didn’t want to be the first one; others are now falling into line after them.”