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From Earth Fare to Hilton Homewood Suites, development brisk on Westnedge corridor

Willow creek portage hinman retail michigan

As the retail economy in Portage continues to expand retailers are looking for ways to enter the market. “Currently, there are more retailers looking to enter our market than there are  good options available,” says Cole Rathbun, Marketing and Leasing Associate for Hinman Co.

One of the places they are finding options is on the Westnedge Avenue retail corridor from Kilgore Road to I-94. The Hinman Co. reports that In the past few months, there has been an increase in new development activity in that half-mile stretch of Westnedge and three developments are occurring on Hinman-owned properties.

Increased retail demand also reflects the completion of the I-94/Westnedge interchange. That work took more than a year to finish and during that time it was difficult for retail customers to navigate that stretch of the Westnedge corridor. Retailers waited to enter the market till the project was done.

“The completion of the interchange project greatly improved the navigability of the main retail corridor and created a strong link between the retail trade areas to the north and south of I-94,” says Rathbun.

Willow Creek Shopping Center, at 5132-5228 S. Westnedge Avenue, is one of the developments that has been changing in recent months. The development has two buildings–one that is about 19,440 square feet and another about 25,000 square feet–that went up in the mid- to late-1950s and have been revamped a number of times over the years.

The retail center now has 13 tenants including Biggby Coffee, Jersey Giant Subs and H&R Block. Dollar Tree became the most recent retailer in the Willow Creek Shopping Center. Next will be Dental Dreams, a family dentist office. Suite construction for the dentist’s office is underway in anticipation of a November opening. A new Hometown Urgent Care, the Midwest’s largest fully equipped urgent care and occupational health center, is also under construction.

“The combination of a more accessible trade area, and new investment in the site, building, and signage at Willow Creek helped attract some of those retailers who had put Portage on hold, or were seeking a second location within the market,” says Rathbun. Construction at Willow Creek has been handled primarily by the Hinman Co.

Next door to Willow Creek, people are keeping a close eye on progress of Hinman’s newest retail development, Westnedge @ Kilgore, where the supermarket of natural and organic food Earth Fare is the anchor tenant. Earth Fare will occupy 23,800 square feet of the new center and a 3,200-square-foot suite is being built for lease there.

“A specialty/organic grocery store has always been identified as one of the highest and best uses for this site,” Rathbun says. “We have been presented with other opportunities over the years that we felt didn’t quite fit within the overall vision. We are very committed to delivering a high quality and successful development at this at this location, and we are excited to  bring Earth Fare to the Portage community.”

The shopping center’s proximity to surrounding neighborhoods with strong income and education demographics and to Westnedge Avenue made it attractive to Earth Fare when it was looking for a location for its first store in Michigan.

Activity also has been brisk at The Trade Centre at I-94 and Westnedge Avenue where the Hilton Homewood Suites is under construction. This all-suites hotel is expected to open in the summer of 2015 and will be located directly next to the Courtyard by Marriott hotel that opened last year. The Trade Centre is owned by local real estate developers Roger Hinman of Hinman Co. and Joe Gesmundo of AVB Construction.

“The Courtyard by Marriott far exceeded its occupancy  projections at Trade Centre–a key factor in the decision to construct the Hilton Homewood Suites,” says Rathbun. “The Trade Centre location at Westnedge and I-94 offers both brands great recognition along I-94, and is easily accessible from all parts or the market, including downtown, the airport, and campus.”


Story written by Kathy Jennings – Southwest Michigan’s SecondWave Media

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