Talbert Leaves GH Development Post

    GRAND HAVEN — The pending departure of Grand Haven’s downtown development director comes at a critical time for the central business district, which after a trio of analyses is entering a long-term strategic planning process that will provide a guide for the future.

    Cherie Hall Talbert leaves March 1 as head of the city’s Central Business District Development Authority and the merchant association Downtown Grand Haven Inc. to join Commerce Realty and Management Co., a Grand Rapids commercial real estate firm that’s opening a Grand Haven office and plans to expand its presence in the lakeshore market.

    Her resignation last week follows the completion of three studies in 2003 that offered perspectives on the direction downtown needs to take in the future. The analyses provide the framework for formulating a long-term strategic plan for the central business district to remain competitive against growing retail competition locally and in other nearby markets, as well as to continue a transformation from a primarily retail shopping hub to a broader commercial district with a mixture of residential dwellings above storefronts, restaurants, professional offices and specialty retail outlets.

    Hall Talbert’s departure should not delay or disrupt the strategic-planning process, Downtown Grand Haven Inc. Board President Karen Benson said.

    “It’s full speed ahead,” Benson said. “We’re staying on track.”

    The new plan for downtown will identify specific projects, responsibilities and a timeline for achieving individual objectives. The two months between Hall Talbert’s announcement last week and her departure provides plenty of time to get the planning process moving and an interim period to recruit a new executive director, Benson said.

    Hall Talbert also has offered to provide any assistance needed once she leaves the position, Benson said.

    “The timing is what it is. We don’t see any part of it being negative,” Benson said. “We’ve still got the history and knowledge that Cherie possesses.”

    The association’s executive committee will meet this week to begin discussing the process to recruit a successor, she said.

    To Commerce Realty, Hall Talbert’s hiring provides the firm someone who’s familiar with the local market and has experience in recruiting new investment to town. In eight years as head of the city’s DDA and Downtown Grand Haven Inc., she handled marketing, promotion and recruitment for the business district.

    Her experience and market knowledge fit with what Commerce Realty was seeking in order to expand its presence on the lakeshore to serve clients considering investment in the Grand Haven area and bringing new business into the market.

    “The market knowledge she possess is very, very valuable to the success there,” said Ray Kisor, a principal in the Grand Rapids firm. “The growth in that market, it needs good knowledge and needs someone to drive it from a business side and sell the community there outside the community and bring someone in.”

    Kisor anticipates Commerce Realty, which has had a commercial real estate agent working the market for more than two years, having an office location selected and opened by March 1.           

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