News & Press

Law Firm’s move could signal changes for downtown office lineup

MUSKEGON – The Warner Norcross & Judd law firm in Muskegon is on the move, transferring its offices from the Terrace Plaza office building to the former SPX office building on Muskegon Lake.

The move could be the first of a wave of changes in downtown Muskegon, according to local officials who say they see renewed interest in locating downtown.  Other downtown office tenants are looking at new locations and businesses are considering existing or new buildings in downtown Muskegon, those familiar with downtown development say.

The law office with a 23-person staff is moving into what is now the Terrace Point office building, joining the Raymond James investment firm which is on the fourth floor of the bronze-colored, pyramid-shaped building.

Downtown presence
The move to the third floor of the Terrace Point building will be made in the next six months.  The Terrace Point development includes the reinvigorated Shoreline Inn and Suites, Terrace Point Marina and the new Lake House restaurant and Shoreline Banquet Center – all under the new ownership of Grand Rapids developer, Jon Rooks.

“Warner Norcross is committed to maintaining a strong downtown presence in Muskegon,” said Brian Lang, a local attorney and executive partner in the Warner Norcross Muskegon office.  “We are excited about being part of the redevelopment of the downtown’s waterfront and pleased to have secured space at one of the top office addresses in the community.”

The Hinman development company of Kalamazoo owns both the Terrace Plaza and Terrace Point office buildings in Muskegon.  Terrace Point is the former SPX Corp. headquarters that had been vacant for 10 years until Hinman began leasing it out as a multitenant office building last year.

Terrace Plaza is on Morris Avenue overlooking Muskegon Lake and is in the process of changing its tenant mix, Hinman officials said.

“I am very excited with what is happening at Terrace Plaza,” said Kirk Driesenga, Hinman’s leasing agent in Muskegon.  “Looking at the big picture, the puzzle pieces are being put together.  I am very optimistic.”

Two major governmental offices are looking at relocating to downtown Muskegon, while other private-sector office groups also are exploring downtown options, according to those in the commercial real estate sector.

“We’ve had a lot of calls coming in from people interested in space in downtown Muskegon,” said Andrew Haan, director of Downtown Muskegon Now – the downtown development and promotion agency.  “If even a fraction of them became reality, it would make a big difference downtown.  Whether you’re working or living, everyone we get downtown is a positive step.”

Downtown Muskegon has been going through a historic transformation since the closing of the former Muskegon Mall in 2001.

untitled-1_copyCommunity leaders came forward through the Community Education for MuskegonCounty, the Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce and the city of Muskegon to purchase the 23-acre mall property and removed the old shopping center.

The nonprofit Downtown Muskegon Development Corp. took the property and began selling parcels for a makeover of the central business district.  The city reconstructed the historic street grid along West Western Avenue that had been removed in the early 1970’s with the covered, indoor Muskegon Mall.

An new day
By the start of the recession in 2008, the new downtown Muskegon was jump-started with the Baker College of Muskegon Culinary Institute of Michigan, the Hines Building and the Sidock Building.  A traffic circle and public art sculpture at Third Street and West Western Avenue marked a new day in the downtown.

However, with the recession striking at the heart of the residential and commercial real estate markets, downtown development momentum was lost in 2008.

Until now, little if anything has been happening in the downtown since the start of the historic economic collapse.

“In the last three months, we have had a lot of showings,” Hinman’s Driesenga said of Terrace Plaza and Terrace Point.  “We are showing those buildings to a lot of people who want to be in downtown Muskegon.”

Warner Norcross is a major Grand Rapids-based corporate law firm with 220 attorneys practicing in six offices, including Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Holland, Lansing, Southfield and Sterling Heights.

Warner Norcross has 13 attorneys practicing various aspects of business-oriented law in Muskegon.

“Terrace Point will be a great location for our clients as well as our attorneys and staff,” Lang said.  “We look forward to designing space that will meet the needs of our team.”

Story written by By Dave Alexander – The Muskegon Chronicle

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