MUSKEGON — National City’s plans for a $4.5 million regional headquarters represents a renewed commitment to downtown Muskegon and what many see as a vibrant future for the business district, the bank’s local president says.
By late next year, the bank hopes to have its main office and a branch now housed in the Muskegon Mall, along with a mortgage office on Sheffield Street and a drive-through location, consolidated into the first floor of a new two-story office building planned for a site along a new section of Shoreline Drive downtown, across the street from the Terrace Plaza office building.
The site, which is adjacent to the planned location of the Muskegon Lakefront SmartZone high-tech business park, is a highly visible, strategic spot that will enable National City to become “a major catalyst” for economic growth in the area, said Douglas Morgenstern, community bank president of the Muskegon/Grand Haven region.
“It’s more than an investment and a reinvestment. It’s a commitment to downtown Muskegon,” Morgenstern said. “We think, and National City thinks, the best place to locate and have a headquarters in this area is downtown.”
In seeking a new office to replace its present quarters at the Muskegon Mall, National City focused solely on finding a location within downtown and “never looked elsewhere,” Morgenstern said.
The bank has been housed in its present location since 1962, well before the surrounding Muskegon Mall was developed in 1974, when it was known as First of America. National City, which acquired First of America in 1996, has worked for years to find a location for a new regional headquarters.
Plans for the new facility come as the Muskegon Mall continues to deteriorate, with few retail stores remaining.
“Obviously we’ve outlived our stay here,” Morgenstern said. “This is no longer conducive to the business environment.”
National City’s Muskegon/Grand Haven region consists of 10 banking offices with a deposit base of $240 million and a workforce of 108 employees. The new regional headquarters will include a full-service retail banking office, mortgage, small-business and corporate banking operations, and offices for brokerage arms NatCity Investments and Private Investment Advisors.
The Westwood Group of Muskegon will construct, own and manage the new office building and lease the first floor to National City. Westwood is seeking tenants for the second floor professional offices, Chairman and CEO Mike Bowen said.
Bowen called the National City project “the strongest corporate statement that the downtown area has seen in years.” It also represents Westwood’s further involvement in downtown Muskegon’s continued revitalization, he said.
Westwood owns about 12 acres of land that includes the site of National City’s new regional headquarters. The site will eventually become a mixed-use development with professional offices and a “minor retail component” that will serve the office uses, Bowen said.
Construction on the National City project will begin in the spring, with occupancy targeted for late 2002.