Roadwork over, development developing and ten years in business
By BETH ALTENA
Belding Road is up and running with all lanes finished and roadway construction completed. There is no more need to detour alternative routes from Belding at Myers Lake Road, the intersection where the Ric’s Food Center store is located, all the way clear to Northland Drive.
The 38 acre property surrounding Ric’s, known as the Town Square development, is finally seeing activity, with condos and single family homes going up right now. The property, owned by Pendulum Development Group, had been abandoned for the last decade after the original developer went bankrupt. That developer had spent $150,000 in changes to Belding Road and $110,000 on Myers Lake Road in anticipation of the construction of a robust little village community. The Ric’s store opened for business on February 1, 2008 in anticipation of serving that village, in addition to outlying customers.
Finally, the Michigan owned grocery store (and more) will celebrate ten years of service to the community early next year on the anniversary of their grand opening February 1, 2008. David Brickner, who has been the store manager since the beginning, is excited about the milestone and the other good news around the food center.
“The houses are up and that’s exciting,” he said. Currently several homes are under construction as are condominiums. The original Planned Unit Development from back in 2004 when it was first created, called for 85 lots, 109 single family homes and 41 townhomes. That plan, largely unaltered, was reapproved by the township in March of this year.
Brickner said the realty team selling the properties is working hard, not just on the homes, but on the rebeautification of the entire site. He said landscaping that went in recently gives a hint at how beautiful the development will be, including a greenspace park and plenty of amenities.
The original developer envisioned a cozy, friendly, walkable community with all sorts of services offered close by. Originally the homes and the development were designed to be attractive to millenials and baby boomers who are “right sizing” their living arrangements. Brickner said that is likely to still be the case. With price points starting at $200,000, the location will be attractive to many people.
“A lot of people want to be in this area, but don’t want to maintain property on a lake,” he said. He and his family, who live in Rockford, enjoy the close proximity to all the cultural opportunities of Grand Rapids, just fifteen minutes away. It is the reason owner Andy Woodrick chose the site for the Ric’s store ten years ago. He saw so much potential appeal for residential growth in the area.
Other developments are also likely to begin on Belding Road, including a large property closer to Northland Drive. Sales of the Town Square development seem to be going well, by the number of properties under construction. “I think they are doing all they hoped and more,” Brickner said.
Brickner said the store has done well in the ten years in Cannon Township. He credits staff at the store for the success. “A lot of the original managers we started with are still here,” he said. He said many of these long serving people had a long history in the industry. “A lot of it is luck.”
Among recent developments at the store is this past summer joining the nation’s larges cooperative. Because of this, the store has been able to offer both lower prices and a variety of items that aren’t common around here. The store also prizes customer service, uses real cashiers rather than self checkouts, has a customer service desk, bottle return room, and will carry groceries out to your car. There is an amazing variety of wine and weekend wine tasting as well.
Ric’s also strives to be very involved with the community, working with different organization for good causes and being a good neighborhood citizen. When the development went to bank ownership a decade ago, Ric’s took on some of the “housekeeping” of the land, and plowing in the winter. The township welcomed the store when it was proposed, and has tried to encourage the development of Town Square after the 2008 recession caused home sales to drop and killing the development.
“The township has been amazing, as always, in encouraging the developer,” Brickner said of the recent activity at Town Square.
Steve Grimm, Cannon Township Supervisor, said he and the township are happy the development is finally progressing. He said the company likely realized what a boon it was to have so much of the infrastructure already in place. “It saves a fortune,” he said.
He credited the Ric’s Food Center for sticking it out these ten years when the village was supposed to be their mainstay customers. “Ric’s went in ten years ago and to their credit they stayed with it.”
Brickner, too, said the original plan of the store was as part of a vibrant, pleasant community within walking distance with commercial and services along Belding Road, a center park for recreation and a combination of homes and townhomes throughout. All together 109 units are slated to be built and Grimm said the commercial development will come along as the market allows.
Driving up to the store in the past few weeks, Brickner said he was moved by seeing cars parked out at the home construction sites. Although the vehicles are the worker’s, not the future homeowners, he had a pleasant anticipation of how the area will soon look. “I saw those cars and thought, it’s a neighborhood.”