Acquired: Norton Shores, Michigan by Jennifer Jurek

April 6, 2015

Versa recently acquired a 10,500 square foot multi-tenant retail center located on a 1.26 acre outparcel to the 469,759 square foot Lakeshore Marketplace retail center anchored by Target, Hobby Lobby, Dunham's, Gordmans and TJ Maxx located on the west side of Harvey Street near East Sternberg Road, less than one mile east of US-31 and approximately one mile west of I-96, across from a 207,000 square foot Meijer store in Norton Shores, Michigan, just south of Muskegon, Michigan. 

New awnings, windows planned for Kercheval Place by Jennifer Jurek


Published March 27, 2015

By K. Michelle Moran

CITY — The flurry of activity, renovation and new development continues in the Village.

Kercheval Place, located at 17000 Kercheval Ave., is undergoing new improvements, and the Grosse Pointe City Council unanimously approved an amended site plan for the building during a meeting March 16.

City Planner John Jackson, of McKenna Associates, said the last time officials considered an overall site plan for this structure was in 2006-07, when a site plan and signs were approved.

Southfield-based Versa Development, which owns the building, isn’t seeking any changes in usage, but it has proposed additional architectural features to further spruce up the building and make it easier for patrons to find businesses on the first and second floors. The only change along Kercheval is the addition of a rigid canopy that projects from the building about 3 feet, which Jackson said is a “relatively minor modification.” He said the canopy, which will be over the office portion of the building, is intended to draw attention to those tenants and the entryway to their offices.

“We feel it’s consistent with the charm of the building,” Jackson said. At more than 8 feet above the sidewalk, it meets with City ordinances, he added.

A second rigid canopy, which Jackson said would be a curved awning on Notre Dame that projects out from the building by about 5 feet, is proposed. Both awnings will be bronze-colored aluminum.

Another new feature is a decorative paved area along Notre Dame that will be used to link the City sidewalk with the building entrance.

“It’s good urban design to connect the sidewalk to the building,” Jackson explained.

Also adding interest will be the addition of four new windows on the second floor on the St. Clair side of the building, he said.

Gregory Erne, a principal with Versa Development, said renovations on Kercheval Place “started a long time ago,” but things have picked up in recent months. He said the new awnings will help to market the building to office tenants. Pet Supplies Plus, a first-floor retail tenant with its own signs, is already under construction, and Erne said most of the remaining first-floor spaces are leased. The awning on Kercheval is a way to show visitors where the entrance to these offices is, so they don’t accidentally enter through Pet Supplies Plus in an effort to find another tenant.

Erne said they’re trying to create enhanced lobbies and a better professional atmosphere, especially for the second floor, which is already about 60 percent full.

“The good news is, we’re already seeing a lot of leasing traction,” he said.

“It looks good,” City Councilman Christopher Walsh said of the revised elements.

Mayor Dale Scrace recused himself from the discussion and vote, so Mayor Pro Tem Jean Weipert took over running the meeting for this item.

“I’m recusing myself from this … because I have an active relationship with the applicant,” Scrace said.

Jackson said the applicant would probably be back at the council’s April meeting to seek approval for a revised master sign plan for the building.

“We’re still working with the applicant (on that),” Jackson said.

Progress being made on pair of Royal Oak developments by Jennifer Jurek

Nathan Mueller, nmueller@gannett.com1:28 p.m. EDT March 20, 2015 - an excerpt from Hometown Life

ROYAL OAK – State support for the proposed mixed-use development at 400 N. Main has helped the project take a “big step” toward moving forward.

Greg Erne, with Versa Development representing developers Trailhead RO, told the Downtown Development Authority on Wednesday they have passed the first phase of approval from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation for Michigan Community Revitalization Program funds and are now in the process of negotiating the terms of the deal.

“Right now we are on track to have the gap to having this project filled and everything looks positive,” he said. “The hope is we can get through, in the next 90 to 120 days, all the agreements necessary and begin the project in 2015.”

Local participation in terms of financial assistance also was part of the MEDC’s approval, and last spring the DDA approved an agreement that would provide up to $3 million in tax reimbursements over the next 10 years.

The project, which has undergone a variety of changes since first proposed, is anchored by a six-story Hyatt Place hotel and also includes a six-story mixed-use building on Main and Pingree and a three-level parking structure.

Tim Thwing, Royal Oak director of planning, said the DDA will eventually get a formal reimbursement agreement, but he is waiting to see what the MEDC “kicks back.” | 586-826-7209 | Twitter: @SOKEccentric

Metro Detroit developer taps Centerpointe team for 'de-malling' Holland's Westshore mall by Josh Cykiert

By Shandra Martinez, MLIVE

HOLLAND TOWNSHIP, MI — A Metro Detroit developer is tapping the architect behind Centerpointe Mall’s successful "de-malling" to design a similar transformation for the struggling Westshore Mall.

Greg Erne, a partner in Southfield-based Versa Development, the mall's parent company, also has hired the Grand Rapids mall's current leasing agents to fill Holland’s biggest shopping center with retailers.

The plan, which will take about a year to complete, received the go-ahead from the Holland Township Planning Commission on Tuesday night.

Erne says the mall's current tenants are very interested in his plan for the shopping center, which will get a new name: The Shops at Westshore, along with a slimmed-down new look.

“They want to know what we are showing them can be built,” said Erne, principal at Versa.

The unanimous approval was an important first step of the major makeover that will strip out most of mall’s spacious interior corridors, and will give stores’ exterior entrances that can be easily accessed by shoppers from the parking lot.

The mall’s 410,480 square feet will shrink by 25 percent, or nearly 100,000 square feet. Westshore’s new 367,000 square feet of leasable space would include 35,000 square feet in four new out lot sites along U.S. 31.

"I applaud what you are doing here," Planning Commissioner Dennis Gebben told Erne.

The Nov. 11 meeting provided Erne an opportunity to publicly unveil the turnaround plan for 26-year-old mall that has been in a downward spiral for more than a decade.

Versa, along with out-of-state investors, bought the 40-acre property that sits between James and Felch streets, east of U.S. 31 for $5.5 million in 2012. The property includes the strip mall between the Hobby Lobby and the Kohl’s stores to the north of the mall, two empty restaurants along U.S. 31, but not the Mattress Firm store or the PNC Bank branch to the south along James.

Erne has spent the past 18 months developing a plan, and gaining the support of current tenants including anchors Younkers, JCPenney and Dunham’s Sports. Overall, about dozen retailers remain at Westshore today: Victoria’s Secret, The Buckle, Claire’s, GNC, Bath & Body Works and Chuck E. Cheese.

At its peak in the 1990s, the one-story mall had four anchors and more than 50 tenants.

“We have spent a lot of time and effort to figure out what this mall needs,” Erne said.

While the mall currently has the feel of a ghost town with much of its retail space shuttered, the Colliers International team hired to fill the revamped space is not worried.

“We still think there are number of retailers that are not in the Holland market that are out there circling waiting for this plan to finalized to be able to come to the table,” said Mark Ansara, a retail adviser with the firm’s West Michigan office. He attended the planning commission meeting with Earl Clements, principal at Colliers International, which now handles leasing for Centerpointe.

The out lot buildings, which include the potential for drive-thru lanes, will be especially attractive.

Despite its location along Holland's main highway where about 35,000 cars pass daily, Westshore's traffic count is about half that of Centerpointe on East Beltline Avenue in Grand Rapids. That is one reason why the Holland mall's lease rate will probably be in the mid-$20 range per square foot in the out lot buildings, which is about one-third less than what Centerpointe charges, Ansara said.

Like Centerpointe, the Holland mall will stay open during the construction.

Architect Mark Drane, of the Bingham Farms-based Rogvoy Architects, said Westshore’s transformation will be easier to accommodate for both retailers and customers because construction work will be primarily on the west side of the mall that faces U.S. 31.

“It won’t be as complicated because many of the retailers are gone,” Drane said after the meeting.

While Drane says his retail work has involved shrinking developments, Centerpointe was his first major de-malling project. He has also worked with Erne on three other projects.

Erne said the results of the two’s latest collaboration will be more aesthetically pleasing than Centerpointe because the layout can accommodate more landscaping elements, outdoor walking paths and possibly an indoor and outdoor children’s play area.

“There’s a little more walkability,” in the plan, Erne said.

Erne described himself as a good friend of Chris Brochert, of Lormax Sterns Development Co., the West Bloomfield firm behind the Centerpointe Mall turnaround.

After the $50 million-plus investment, Lormax Stern sold the Grand Rapids shopping center for $68 million to a New York investment firm and is now working onresurrecting the failed Village at Knapp’s Crossing in Grand Rapids.

Rochester Hills developers continue to repurpose sites for retail projects by Jennifer Jurek

By Paul Kampe, The Oakland Press

Across the street from a Rochester Hills retail development expected to feature big-name national retailers and restaurants sits another building poised for business.

Rochester Square, developed by Southfield-based Versa Real Estate, is located along the perimeter of the Meijer parking lot at the southeast corner of the intersection of Rochester and Auburn roads.

“(That corner) is a hot spot,” city planning director Ed Anzek said.

The more than 15,000-square-foot building is expected to feature a Panda Express, Dibella’s Old Fashioned Submarines, Eyeglass World, Verizon and SuperCuts.

The businesses are expected to open by Oct. 1, according to Ryan Schultz, vice president of development for Versa.

The building was constructed on an outlot in the Meijer parking lot, a role Versa has filled for the retail giant at its locations around the state, including a nearby Shelby Township store.

“Instead of creating urban sprawl, (these projects) densify existing retail corridors and outlets,” Schultz said. “It’s a much more successful way to spread.”

Versa was drawn to the area by a high traffic count and strength of other retailers in the area, Schultz said, adding the project has been in the works for about a year.

“It was a dynamic site,” he said.

Across the street, Rochester Auburn Associates plans to house 12 tenantsin more than 30,000-square-feet of space, including McDonald’s and relocated Qdoba Mexican Grill and Starbucks stores.

The group is redeveloping a lot which used to be occupied by a gas station and car dealership.

At the nearby intersection of John R and Avon roads is the redevelopment of a once-popular Avon Country Market, being developed by the owners of several nearby businesses, Anzek said.

“They were tired of looking at the eyesore,” he said.

The group purchased the building and leveled it last fall, Anzek said. They’re now trying to attract a convenience store and beauty shop to fill the space.

Meanwhile, across town, the owner of a shopping center located on Walton Blvd. near Adams road is working with multiple possible new tenants for the space recently vacated by Peet’s Coffee and Tea.

The California-based company is reportedly closing its other Oakland County locations in Royal Oak, Novi and Commerce Township, as well.

Loretta Adams of Adams Commercial Real Estate Group said the nearly 2,500-square-foot space will remain open while the company vets potential new suitors.

“We could put someone in right away,” she said. “But we don’t want to rush. We want a good tenant mix.”

An insurance agency will fill a nearby vacancy soon, Adams said.

Anzek said the city will be working with developers in the future to encourage more redevelopment.

“The city would rather see redevelopment than new zoning,” he said.

Anzek noted retail vacancy rates in the city have rebounded nicely from the economic recession and are currently at about 7 percent.

Versa is also developing a Starbucks location on Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak scheduled to open in the early fall.

Snyder reappoints Moser to State Transportation Commission by Kelsey Courtley

Sault Ste. Marie Evening News

Gov. Rick Snyder announced the reappointments of Chuck Moser, of Drummond Island, and Todd Wyett, of Charlevoix, to the State Transportation Commission.

The six-member commission is the policy-making body for all state transportation programs. No more than three members may be from the same political party.

“Chuck and Todd have been tremendous commissioners and I look forward to their continued service on this important commission,” Snyder said Friday.

Moser is the executive director of the Eastern Upper Peninsula Transportation Authority. Previously he was a heavy equipment operator for Osborne Materials, Inc. and an office manager/administrative aide to then-State Senator Walter North. He is a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Area Maritime Security Committee, Passenger Vessel Association, Michigan Transit Pool Executive Committee, and the Michigan Public Transit Association. He is a Republican.

Wyett is the founder and CEO of Versa Development LLC/Touchstone Corp. He previously served as vice president, general counsel, and secretary for Arbor Drugs, Inc. and an associate attorney in corporate development for Weil, Gotshal & Manges. He serves on the City of Charlevoix DDA, Michigan Secretary of State Business Roundtable, and Detroit Public TV board of trustees. Wyett holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Swarthmore College and a JD from Georgetown University Law Center. He is an Independent.

Members serve three-year terms expiring Dec. 21, 2016, and their appointments are subject to the advice and consent of the Senate.

Royal Oak Hotel Developers Win Financial Aid by Kelsey Courtley

Observer and Eccentric Newspapers and Hometown Weeklies
By Nathan Mueller

ROYAL OAK — It took multiple meetings, various proposals and an assurance letter, but the
Royal Oak Downtown Development Authority has finally approved its financial assistance plan for the 400 N. Main property.

The developers of the site, made up of Southfield-based Versa Development, Royal Oak-based
CG Emerson, T.H. Marsh and Krieger Klatt Architects and Hotel Investment Services in
Plymouth, have been working with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to secure
funding through the Community Revitalization Program.

In order for the MEDC to consider the project, they need to see support from the local community as well. In this case, the DDA’s support is via a tax increment financing plan that would allow the developer to capture the incremental ad valorem real estate taxes for up to 10 years, with the amount of the capture being capped at $3 million, plus interest. It’s a change from the 12 years and $4 million with interest cap that was proposed at previous meetings. DDA member Bill Harrison said he wants to make it very clear that this is a reimbursement program and not a donation.

“It’s a refund,” he said. “We are not giving them the money we have, we are giving them the
money we have only if they build the facility.”

The DDA will still retain 20 percent of new tax increment revenue generated by the development
and will continue to receive 100 percent of the revenue it receives today off the property.
Planning Director Tim Thwing said that, while the developers will receive $3 million without
interest, the DDA could receive $2 millionm and other taxing jurisdictions (Detroit Zoo, DIA, Royal Oak Schools, education entities) could receive approximately $6.35 million during that time span.

City Manager Don Johnson hammered Harrison’s point home, saying there is no out-of-pocket
money being used for the project.

“This is reimbursing part of the additional tax money that won’t exist if the project isn’t built to
begin with,” he said. “Nothing is coming out of the DDA’s future budget or the city budget. It is
giving back the developer some of the extra taxes they will be paying.”