NORTON SHORES — City leaders hope the redevelopment of a one-time foundry dump into an urban village will spur further investments along the Seaway Drive corridor.
They believe the $41.3 million Eastowne of Norton Shores development will create a “gateway” to the city for travelers entering the Muskegon area on Seaway Drive. Seaway — also known as Business 31 — is a boulevard-style roadway bisecting the urban area bordered by scattered retail, industrial and marginal residential properties.
Eastowne can help create a critical mass along Seaway Drive and its adjoining Seminole Road and Henry Street corridors that may lead to further development, said Richard Maher, community development director for the city of Norton Shores.
“That’s really one of your first impressions of the city. By stabilizing it and raising up that site, it can only raise up everybody else on that corridor,” Maher said.
Excavation work on Eastowne of Norton Shores — at Seaway Drive and Seminole Road —began in early January on a 17.5-acre foundry sand landfill that most recently was home to Irwin Home Furnishings and, before that, to a Hill’s Department Store.
The project will consist of 100,000 square feet of medical and professional office space, an equal amount of retail space, and up to 96 dwellings consisting of condos, upper-floor lofts and apartments overlooking nearby Mona Lake.
Eastowne will follow a “new urbanism” design scheme that combines residential and commercial uses and creates a “live and work environment” that has proven popular in the marketplace, Bob Dykstra said.
“People want convenience, there’s no question about that,” Dykstra said. “People want to live and work close to where they do both.”
Dykstra, the president of Main Street Development in Holland — which is handling the project on behalf of a group of private investors — said the plan for the retail space is to create a neighborhood shopping district targeted toward small, locally-owned retailers who cannot afford the large retail hubs in the Muskegon area, such as the growing Harvey Street corridor anchored by the Lakes Mall.
“The big retailers are going over to the mall. This is great for local companies,” he said. “It’s a great in-fill development.”
The development will continue in phases over an expected build-out period of five years, he said. Retail and office space in the development will go for $10 to $12 per square foot and residential units will sell for $150,000 to $300,000, Dykstra said.
He also plans to offer office condominiums for medical professionals.
Expansion of another long-standing medical office center less than three blocks away is nearing completion.
Among the prospective tenants for Eastowne are a full-service restaurant, a sports medicine clinic and a home design center.
Muskegon Commerce Bank, immediately adjoining the Seaway-Seminole intersection, has committed to building a new headquarters within the development, according to Dykstra.
Eastowne’s urban village scheme blends residential and commercial uses to create an integrated neighborhood that will serve as an eastern gateway to the metro area along the Seaway Drive corridor, Norton Shores Mayor Nancy Crandall said.
“This is a piece of property that’s very important to our city,” Crandall said.
The project is a “perfect fit” for the site and the community and represents the type of in-fill development along Seaway Drive that the city has wanted to see and encourage, Crandall said.
“It’s kind of what we’ve envisioned as far as the kind of things we’d like to see happen here,” she said. “It’d be nice to see the Seaway corridor pick up.”
Dykstra referred to the site as a perfect location for the project. The site is situated along a well-traveled roadway that handles nearly 30,000 vehicles per day.
Helping the project along are $4.1 million in credits on the state’s Single Business Tax, plus Brownfield Redevelopment Act credits consisting of tax-increment financing to pay for infrastructure and site cleanup.
The state tax credits will allow Dykstra to price the commercial and residential space more competitively for the Muskegon area market.
“We can obviously market this project at a price Muskegon can afford,” Dykstra said. “We can redevelop at a more attractive price.”