Shortly after the United States’ economic market recession in 2009, Furniture Row decided to close three of their Southwest Michigan locations. One of them was on one of the busiest retail corners in Battle Creek.
Year after year, the building sat vacant and Battle Creek residents drove by the building wondering why nobody would buy it. To the community members, it was obvious that this property was in a prime location near the regional mall and had the bonus of being located on a corner with a traffic signal.
What the public didn’t realize was that the property lacked an appropriate number of parking spaces to compliment the square footage of the building, making the chances of a successful development grim. Not only is parking critical to a development, but convenience parking is just as important to most retailers. If there are not enough places for customers to park, they will take their business elsewhere and may not return a second time.
Some real estate developers, including Hinman, did show interest in the former Furniture Row building, but couldn’t figure out how to create more parking without knocking down part of the building, which was not a cost-effective solution.
In 2013, Hinman took a harder look at the property and also recognized the unlikeliness that they could find a tenant that could utilize the entire building as it sat. The length and depth of the building created an unconventional layout that wouldn’t work for most businesses.
Hinman got to work coming up with ideas to overcome these issues before taking a huge risk and putting an offer on the property. Using the knowledge of the entire team, from construction and design, to leasing, to property management, they came up with a unique solution to both concerns; turn the building into a multi-tenant retail center and expand the parking along the east side of the building. This parking lot change would involve removing some landscaped area adjacent to Riverside Drive, which would first need to be approved by the city.
Excited about their solutions, the Hinman team presented the plan to the City of Battle Creek. Having made some positive changes in Battle Creek with previous projects, they had developed a great rapport with city officials. These leaders were pleased with the Hinman team’s proposed ideas to redevelop the long-time vacant property, and promised to work with them to complete the project.
Next was the task of finding the first tenant for the retail center. Site selectors at Sleep Doctor, a mattress store, had been looking for a spot to open a store in Battle Creek for a while. They liked the prime location of the former Furniture Row property, but needed less space than it offered as a single-tenant building. So when Hinman approached them with a plan to break the space up into separate suites, Sleep Doctor was on board to lease around 4,000 square feet.
With the city’s support and the first tenant secured, Hinman closed on 5475 Beckley Road in May of 2013. Right away, the team began creating site plans and renderings, as well as bidding out the project to contractors. While plans were put into motion, the sales team began contacting additional prospective tenants.
Because the layout and look of the planned multi-tenant retail center was going to be so different than the Furniture Row building, the leasing agents used renderings and site plans to gain interest from potential tenants. Some companies, such as Sprint, were thrilled with the location and signed a lease well before the redevelopment project was finished. Others had a hard time envisioning the completed building. They saw the lack of parking and unconventional building size of the property before it had been redeveloped, and declined the opportunity without much consideration.
Despite the difficulty in communicating the goals to some prospective tenants, the Hinman team was confident in their ability to create a successful retail center.
There were many steps to completing this project. To create additional parking off of Riverside Drive, Hinman hired contractors to grade the land (to be level), create an expanded asphalt lot, and add a sidewalk along the edge of the property. With more parking added, the building’s depth was creatively utilized by constructing two suites with frontage along Riverside Drive. The remaining building frontage along Beckley was split into five more suites, bringing the total number of suites to seven.
Besides leaving the exterior walls on the west and north side of the building, almost everything else was new, including building mechanicals, the roof, lighting, restrooms, and walls. To add curb appeal, the exterior of the building was completely changed. Cultured stone and EIFS made up the façade, recessed doors and awnings were constructed for the store fronts, and sidewalks around the building were created. A large pylon sign was also installed on the west side of the site.
On January 14, 2014, the redeveloped retail center at 5475 Beckley Road was finished early and on budget. There were two tenants that opened within the center at the same time, Sleep Doctor and Sprint.
Today, there are five tenants and one remaining leasable space at what is now known as Minges Shoppes (named for the creek nearby). The retail center is always busy, but there is enough parking to support this large amount of traffic, and then some. Tenants are pleased with this new location, especially the Sleep Doctor team, because they have exceeded sales expectations.
A few months after the project was completed, a competitor of one of the Minges Shoppes’ tenants disclosed that he was regretful he had declined the opportunity to lease a space months before the center was completed. This compliment really made the team realize that they had achieved something great. They were able to transform the nearly unusable one-tenant building to a thriving multi-tenant strip center in a matter of months. Not only are the tenants happy, but Battle Creek residents are thrilled that they can once again shop at this retail location.
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