Knapp’s development ‘ahead of schedule,’ new stores set for spring

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Seemingly stalled out for years, development at one of the busiest intersections in Metro Grand Rapids appears to be moving forward, and ahead of schedule, according to the developer.

The Metro Detroit-based developer behind the Village at Knapp's Crossing said eight retailers are signed on to lease out spaces in newly built storefronts situated at the front of the sprawling property along East Beltline Ave NE at Knapp Street.

PNC Bank, Potbelly Sandwiches, Rx Optical, Menchie's Frozen Yogurt, Piology Pizza, ArtVan Pure Sleep Mattress Store, Lady Jane's and GNC will occupy the smaller storefronts as part of Phase I of the project, said Chris Brochert, of Lormax Stern Development.

Brochert said two of the buildings are complete while a third remains under construction. All will be completed and open for business by spring, he said.

It's good and welcome news for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. Given the years of delays and setbacks after the site's former owner filed bankruptcy in 2013, Chamber President and CEO Rick Baker said it's evidence timing really can mean everything.

"Development was getting started right around the time we had our last downturn... now I think this is a sign of where we are in our economy and the growth we’re experiencing," Baker told FOX 17. "The development out there is positive for the neighborhood around it."

Baker said retail and residential development usually go hand in hand, adding that the most recent census data forecasts an additional 10,000 people moving into the Grand Rapids metro area every year in the next decade.

“When you see retail development, it’s a sign of the growth that you’re having in your population," he said.

Rendering of Phase II of the Village at Knapps Crossing.

Rendering of Phase II of the Village at Knapps Crossing.

Construction is also moving forward on Phase II of the project which includes four additional buildings, and the potential for 13-15 additional storefronts, positioned on the north end of the property away from the main road.

Site plans show the storefronts in those buildings range in size from 2,000 to as much as 36,000 square feet. Proposals for those sites aim to target stores like Bath and Bodyworks, Ulta or even Crate and Barrel.

Brochert would not comment on which specific retailers were being pursued but said they were actively working to secure finalized agreements before committing to construction, saying they did not want to rush it.

The total site, which includes D&W Fresh Market, P.F. Changes, and newly-opened Bagger Dave's and Bravo Italiana, is roughly 248,000 square feet, according to site plans.

“It is a significant piece of land, not just because it’s a major intersection but it's very visible," Baker said, adding he believes continued development of the site will have ripple effects beyond economic benefits.

"If you think about it from an overall psyche of a neighborhood, there’s a different, less measurable impact on the community from that perspective. Now you’re seeing the growth and provides encouragement in other businesses wanting to make an investment."

This latest progress caps off more than a decade of setbacks after the land was originally purchased by Steve Benner in 2004.  Benner filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2013. The only business operating on the development at the time was P.F. Chang’s. The D&W grocery store at the same corner is owned by Spartan Stores and was not part of the filing.

Site plan for the Village at Knapps Crossing

Site plan for the Village at Knapps Crossing


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  • Andrew

    Oh joy, another ArtVan mattress store! And another GNC. And three semi-annually rotating “filler” food chains. Baker is right about one thing, this is most definitely a sign of where our economy is! Drive around Kent County and look at all the mattress stores, most of which are affiliated either directly or indirectly with Art Van. Do you not see that there are more of them than the area needs? Five of them within a mile of each other on Alpine alone! Can you not read between the lines here and see that what is happening is that all these retail developments are being filled with “dummy” placeholder businesses belonging to the investors to artificially prop up the economy by making it appear as though business is growing? They build these new retail developments, and rather than have them sit empty while trying to lure in the big outside companies they fill up the developments with their own little shops to make it appear as if space is in demand. Then when the big places come in, it is easy to close and sell the space these scam shops occupy. Next time you drive by these mattress places, or GNC, notice how many cars are in the lot. Look in the windows and see all the people that aren’t shopping there because there is simply not enough demand to support that many of them. Yes, this is quite an accurate sign of where the Grand Rapids economy is, that is for sure. The sign says “Caution: House of Cards Ahead”.

    Oh BTW, don’t get too used to having Bagger Dave’s there either. The company that owns them and BWW is not going to last another year. They have already shut down about a third of their company, and I doubt that is going to instill confidence in their shareholders.

    Look, Benner had a decent track record coming into this project, he just took a bigger bite than he should have at a horrible time. If it was workable, he had the ability to make it work. He couldn’t. That leads me to believe that it simply isn’t workable, and that GR is stuck with a white elephant there on the corner of Knapp until the economy actually improves. Playing this game of “Force It”, or “Dress-Up”, as it is more rightly called, isn’t going to cut it. Big businesses that have survived these hard economic times have done so because they are smarter than that. What is more, they all know what setting up shop inside GR city limits means…higher taxes and playing ball with the city’s good old boys. Do you really think that national retailers are going to allow local cronies to call the shots for them? Yeah, I bet Bliss and Sundstrom actually do believe that.

    • Sheila

      I hadn’t thought about it, but now that you mention it I have noticed a lot of mattress stores popping up everywhere in the last couple years.

  • TeeJay

    It’s not your money so why the rant? Did you take Econ in college? The marketplace will handle which retailers survive or thrive, so let the investors throw their money wherever they want. I’m glad to see the construction companies busy on that corner. And btw how do some of those mattress stores stay in business for years if they have no cars in the parking lot?