Starbucks opens for business in Bay County by Josh Cykiert


October 26, 2015

By: Heather Jordan, Mlive

BANGOR TOWNSHIP, MI — Starbucks in Bay County is open and baristas are serving those famous pumpkin spice lattes and salted caramel mochas. 

The new Starbucks, which is located near the Bay City Mall at the former Lone Star Steakhouse site, 4107 E. Wilder Road in Bangor Township, along with a new Panda Express, opened for business at 6 a.m. Monday, Oct. 26. 

Brenda Hine, a big-time Starbucks fan, said it's about time. 

"Getting a Starbucks, to me, in Bay City is a big deal. I think it's long overdue," said the 48-year-old Bangor Township woman, who ordered a salted caramel Frappuccino.

"They should have put one in a long time ago," added her 21-year-old daughter, Heidi Orr, holding a mocha Frappuccino.

This was her first time buying a drink from the Seattle-based coffee franchise.

"They're really good," Orr said.

There now are Starbucks locations in Bay, Midland and Saginaw counties.

Starbucks offers coffee and espresso drinks, smoothies, Frappuccino blended beverages, pastries, sandwiches and coffee accessories. 

A company spokesperson said, "Starbucks is always looking for great locations to better meet the needs of our customers."

The new store is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. It employs 14 people, and management still is hiring, according to the company spokesperson. Job seekers can apply at

A grand-opening event takes place from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 5, during which time the store is accepting donations to benefit the Humane Society of Bay County, according to the spokesperson. 

Bob Zimmerman ordered a caramel macchiato during his first visit to the new location. 

"I've been a Starbucks fan for 20 years," the 65-year-old Banger Township man said. "It's not cheap, but it's good coffee." 

Zimmerman said he's glad when anything new opens in the Bay City area, noting TargetSearsTexan Family Restaurant and other businesses have left in the past year. He hopes Starbucks can make it in Bay County.

Opening next door to the new Starbucks is a new Panda Express. The fast casual Chinese restaurant is slated to open Tuesday, Oct. 27.

Versa Development, a Southfield-based firm, is the developer of the two buildings. The company has brought a number of retail brands to Michigan communities, including Starbucks, Qdoba, Sports Clips and Pancheros.

Zimmerman said he's a fan of Panda Express, too. 

"It's good food," he said. "I think that will fly here because I think it's reasonable. You can get a big meal for seven or eight bucks as opposed to $40."

On Monday morning, Tim and Jean Hogan, of Au Gres, made the trip south to the new Starbucks.

"It was the closest one to us, we are excited that it opened here," said Jean Hogan. "When we realized it had opened, we were in town and had to make a stop."

Hotel, apartments planned for downtown Royal Oak get $4.5 million state loan by Josh Cykiert

July 28, 2015

KIRK PINHO, Crain's Detroit

A $48 million mixed-use development planned for a key location in downtown Royal Oak has received $4.5 million in Michigan Community Revitalization Program funding from the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

The project at 400 N. Main St., proposed by Southfield-based Versa Development LLC and Royal Oak-based CG Emerson Real Estate Group through an entity called Trailhead RO LLC in Southfield, is planned to consist of a 120-room Hyatt Place hotel, a mixed-use building with 56 apartments, and retail and office space.

Planned for 3.56 acres north of 11 Mile Road and west of North Troy Street, the project would also include a 325-space parking deck.

According to an MEDC memo, the site houses a former car dealership that has been closed since 2008. The site has three buildings totaling more than 40,500 square feet that will be demolished. They housed showroom, administrative, maintenance and body shop operations.

The developers plan to start demolition this fall, and construction is likely to take 18-24 months to complete, said Tim Thwing, the city’s director of planning.

Other financing for the project is expected to include a $34.75 million loan from Fifth Third Bank, $6.5 million in equity from Develop Michigan, $480,000 from Hyatt Corp., the hotel’s franchiser, and $4.1 million from the ownership team, according to the memo. Tax increment financing from the city amounts to up to $3 million in reimbursements. 

Previous proposals for the site included an $18 million Kroger Co. store development that was widely opposed by some residents and local competitors.

The site was purchased from Ally Bank out of foreclosure in 2012 and the city has approved rezoning and final site plans for the site, the memo says.

The MEDC board approved the MCRP performance-based loan Tuesday morning.

The developers still need to apply for building permits.

Source: Crain's Detroit

Acquired: Iconic Southfield Office Tower by Josh Cykiert

July 7, 2015

Versa is excited to announce that it has acquired an iconic office building in Southfield, MI. Architecturally, it's mid-century modern style stands out from the crowd of surrounding buildings.  The 146,000 square foot, 6 story building, is situation on west side of Telegraph Road, just north of 12 Mile Road. Comerica Bank occupies a first floor suite. A multitude of medical office and business service tenants occupy the remaining suites. Versa plans to upgrade the existing facilities in the near future.

Holland mall's $25M makeover will bring in 2 new restaurants by Josh Cykiert

June 13, 2015

HOLLAND TOWNSHIP, MI -- When Westshore Mall's de-malling is completed in 2016, there will be two new restaurants.

On The Border, a national chain of Tex Mex restaurants, and Anna's House, a popular Grand Rapids chain, have signed on to open locations at the Holland Township shopping center.

This will be the fourth West Michigan location for Anna's House, which announced in March plans to for a Grandville restaurant across from RiverTown Crossings Mall. The restaurant, which serves breakfast and lunch, is known for its organic options.

On the Border, a casual sit down restaurant with a liquor license, serves lunch and dinner. The chain has West Michigan locations near Woodland Mall in Kentwood and RiverTown Crossings in Grandville.

The new tenants were announced at a groundbreaking this week for the $25 million project that will convert the shopping center into a power center, which is basically a mall without the interior space. The result will be rebranded The Shops at Westshore.

The mall's 410,480 square feet will shrink to 367,000 square feet of leasable space and would include four new out-lot sites. On the Border will located in free standing restaurant on the southside in a new building.

Anna's House will take over the former Red Lobster building.

More retailers will be announced in the coming months, said Jean Ramirez, the mall's general manager.

"The demalling process is quite complex," said Ramirez. "We have been spending a lot of energy getting the property ready to de-mall."

The process has included emptying out the nearly vacant mall by letting leases run out. Just five stores have signed on to stay and will remain during the year-long construction process. Anchors Younkers, JCPenney and Dunham's Sports are staying put while The Buckle is and GNC are relocating outside the construction zone.

Metro Detroit developer Greg Erne has tapped the design team behind Centerpointe Mall's successful 'de-malling' of the shopping center he and investors acquired in 2012 for $5.5 million.

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.

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

By Shandra Martinez | 

Acquired: Bay City Mall Outlot by Josh Cykiert

April 20, 2015

Versa Development recently acquired an outlot of the Bay City Mall at the northeast corner of Wilder Road and State Street Road in Bangor Township, MI. There is a vacant restaurant on the site that Versa plans to demolish. The site will be redeveloped with two free-standing single tenant buildings. Panda Express will be building a drive-thru restaurant on the west side of the site. Versa plans to create two new access drives to the site--one off Wilder Road and one off State Street Road to provide better access for customers. Construction will begin in May.