Retailers welcome Westshore’s new ‘anchor’

Ottawa County

HOLLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Ryan Bowling runs Disc Traders, a store where gamers and video fans can buy and sell discs and equipment, on Holland Township’s Shops at Westshore, the former Westshore Mall.

He says business hasn’t been bad since they opened in 2016, but it could be better.

“Not really seeing any growth that last year after that,” Bowling said.

That may change when Grand Rapids Community College opens its door in the vacant JCPenney building in 2021.

Building with parking lot in front
An undated courtesy photo shows the former JCPenney store at the Shops at Westshore mall in Holland Township which Grand Rapids Community College plans to buy and transform into a consolidated lakeshore campus. (GRCC)

“Absolutely. It would be nice to get some college students around. That’s kind of our market,” Bowling said. “We need that traffic and they’ll hopefully bring it.”

On Monday, GRCC’s Board of Trustees voted to purchase the former JCPenney store at the Shops at Westshore for $2 million.

School leaders have been looking for a facility to consolidate lakeshore classes, now taught in four different locations in the Holland area. Currently, GRCC leases space at the four sites.

After the initial $2 million purchase price and the $10-$12 million in renovations, the school expects to save some money in operating costs.

“In this economy of 2019, we have to be as responsive as possible. And sometimes that responsiveness means that we find ourselves in some spaces and places that we aren’t commonly used to being,” said GRCC President Bill Pink.

Along with classrooms, labs and workspace, the facility will allow GRCC to expand skilled trade programs to the lakeshore and create discussions with the community on their educational needs.

“We are making sure that we’re offering the relevant and responsive programs to that community,” Pink said.

Mall developers reinvented the shopping center a few years back, including adding retail space on the mall’s perimeter. However, just a few stores remain in the main section of the mall.

The mall’s big anchors — Yonkers and JCPenney — have closed.

While it’s not what you would expect to find in a mall, GRCC is expected to provide a more stable tenant for the shopping center.

There is also hope that the school’s presence here will convince other retailers to come back to the mall.

“There has always been talk of other places coming in, and it always seems to fall apart,” Bowling said. “So, it’s kind of nice to see something sticking to it.”

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