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Summer resident-turned-developer has $10 million plans for downtown Spring Lake

In recent years, the West Michigan village of Spring Lake found its downtown looking like those of many small villages around the state. Buildings sat empty and in disrepair, but with a small population of 2,323, it was hard to interest developers in taking on major and expensive projects. Until recently, a state program to help fund development in central business districts was generally unavailable to cities or towns with fewer than 15,000 residents.

That is about to change dramatically for the village. Kimberly Van Kampen, a summer resident who breeds and trains horses, has committed at least $10 million to several development projects, with demolition on three buildings starting later this month. The largest project is called The Epicurean, a 32,000-square-foot, three-story mixed-use development that will have retail shops and a restaurant on the first floor and 12 apartments on the top two floors.

Spring Lake’s history goes back to 1849, when it was spun out as a separate municipality from Norton Township. The discovery of what was billed as a spring of “magnetic water” in 1870 led to the village becoming a magnet for tourists seeking what were thought to be its healing waters.

A large hotel was soon erected and mansions sprung up as the rich from Chicago or Detroit moved there or built summer homes. The mineral waters were hardly the only draw. Abutting the village to the north is the lake the village takes its name from; to the south is the Grand River, wider there near its mouth than the lake. And Lake Michigan and its beaches are just a mile to the west.

Van Kampen grew up in the area and has continued to spend her summers there even after moving to Wellington, Fla., where she runs a horse breeding and training business, Hampton Green Farm, which also has an operation near Spring Lake in Fruitport. She trained two horses that competed for Spanish riders in the sport of dressage at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.”My father’s family has had a home in Spring Lake since the 1950s, and my mom and dad first dated on a boat on Spring Lake,” she said.

Over the years, she bought and rehabbed three old houses in Spring Lake — an early 20th century cottage, a 1920s estate home and, in 2004, her current home, a large house known as Littlefield that was built around 1900 by Philip Klingman, the founder of Klingman’s Furniture store in Grand Rapids.

Having known Spring Lake since she was a little girl, she said that as she drove through downtown in recent years, “I said to myself, ‘Why doesn’t anyone do anything?’ Downtown has been neglected for 25 years. I’d drive along and I’d say, ‘There’s so much opportunity here. Why doesn’t somebody do anything?'”

She can’t ask that any more. She’s doing something. She stresses she is not a developer by trade, but she is a developer, now. She said one of her sons, Michael Molinari, is a real estate developer and will give her advice and review contracts. “He’s always reminding me, ‘Mom, I have a day job,'” she joked.

Van Kampen said that while she loves the area, love alone wasn’t enough to get her to take this plunge. The traffic volume was. Unlike most small villages in Michigan, which don’t see a lot of traffic, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation, Spring Lake sees 7.5 million cars a year drive past on M-104, the main street through town, either heading toward Grand Rapids to the east or to Grand Haven, Norton Shores and Lake Michigan to the west.

Van Kampen has bought six buildings for her downtown projects.

A Citgo gas station that had sat empty for years is being rehabbed and will open this fall as a franchise of a family owned business in Muskegon, Brooklyn’s Beans, Bombers and Bagels — bombers being the name of a sandwich. She also bought a Victorian mansion that had sat empty and deteriorating for years, which was built around 1880 by Francis Lilley, a native of England who moved to Spring Lake in 1867 and grew wealthy in the lumber business. Van Kampen plans to move the house to a nearby park and rehab it as a bed and breakfast, hoping to open it in the summer of 2020.

She said she hopes to have The Epicurean in operation next summer, too. She said she has about half the retail space leased out to three businesses — a bistro and bakery, an ice cream shop and a women’s clothing boutique — and is in negotiations with several restaurateurs for a large restaurant on the ground floor.

“This would be a big deal for any size community,” said Christine Burns, the village’s manager. “But it’s a particularly big deal for a village of our size. It’s huge. The properties she bought had been vacant a considerable length of time and all had their own set of challenges. Kim has been a pleasure to work with, and she’s got a passion for historic preservation.”

Burns said Van Kampen’s projects have spurred interest from other developers. “Since they found out about her projects, I’m getting a lot of inquiries from other developers. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s fun stuff.”

 

Posted By: Crain’s Detroit Business on May 11, 2019.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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