Big Lots

Four of the 15 townships in Grand Traverse County have giant and/or expensive parcels of land that are ripe for commercial development. A changing economy has the townships hopeful that developers will revisit past plans to build housing, waterparks, and even an upscale, bayfront RV park.

Here’s a glance at what’s available for those with plenty of time on their hands and money in their pocket.

Acme Township
Parcel location: Hope Rd. and U.S. 31
Size: 109 acres
True cash value: $3.6 million

Tucked behind two chain hotels in Acme are 109 acres that, at press time, two developers are reportedly bidding on.

The parcel is core to the township and was purchased 40 years ago by Dr. Lanny Johnson. Township officials say that when it is fully developed, the property will connect directly to the new Meijer via a road that will parallel M-72, and indirectly to the Grand Traverse Resort via a tunnel under M-72.

The difficulties of developing commercial property in Acme have kept away would-be investors in the past, but that mindset is changing, said Jim Christians, the property’s listing agent.

“Acme Township has been anti-growth in the past, so developers have shied away,” said Christians, a realtor with Real Estate One. “Now a lot of people know the township is willing to talk, so there is renewed interest.”

Acme Township Supervisor Jay Zollinger said the bayview parcel is “central” to the township and its master plan.

“In our view, we don’t want sprawl,” he said. “We want to do things in a tasteful way.”

Blair Township
Location: East Silver Lake and Rennie School roads
Size: 50.53 acres
Assessed value: $92,600; true cash value is double


In 2005, a site review plan was approved for a now-defunct project called the Wild Buffalo Lodge. Sold four times since 1997, the property is currently owned by OTTC, LLC and is in the preliminary stages for an 85-unit site condo project.

“We currently need more affordable housing accommodations in the area,” said Amy Summers, the township’s zoning administrator. “This property is in a prime location for shopping, restaurants and overall convenience.”

East Bay Township
Location: U.S. 31 and Three Mile Rd.
Size: 4.75 acres
Assessed value: $3.9 million; true cash value is double

It once held a hotel, but now this stretch of land – with its 696 feet of water frontage – is barren of everything but “a priceless view,” said Leslie Courturier, zoning administrator for East Bay Township.

The relatively small parcel, owned by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, is highly valued by those who hope to enlarge the adjacent state park, as well as by those who hope to see a waterside restaurant, Courturier said.

“We would like to see any kind of good development; it would be nice if we could get our hands on it,” said Courturier, who said the township approached the tribe a few years ago, but “nothing came from that.”

Calls come in frequently about the parcel, ideas about which include a “glamping” (glamorous camping) park or a wedding reception location. So far, nothing is in the works, giving businesses across the street unobstructed bay views … for now.

“It’s the most valuable piece along our corridor,” said Courturier. “I really wish it would be developed or made into a state park. I’m not going to be greedy.”

Garfield Township
Location: NW corner of N U.S. 31 S. and Rennie School Rd.
Size: 196.5 acres
True cash value: $3.26 million

Along Garfield Township’s southernmost border is the largest single owner commercial parcel left in the county. The property has been in the Oleson family on and off since the late 1980s, transferring to Granite Acquisitions, LLC in 2002; in 2004, Canyon Holdings, LLC acquired a 30 percent interest. In 2011, the land reverted back to the Oleson Foundation for unknown reasons.

With the exception of the westernmost 500 feet of property, the parcel is zoned C-2 general business, which is the township’s most lenient commercial district with respect to permitted land use. The western 500 feet is currently zoned R-1M, or multiple family.

John Sych, the county’s zoning administrator, said the land has “enormous potential.”

“You don’t find too many of that size that are zoned commercial,” he said.

Rob Larrea, the township’s director of planning, said he has not seen any proposals for the property in the last five years.

“The township would like to see the property developed into a unique mixed-use development rather than traditional strip-type development,” he said. “However, we are also happy with the current agriculture use of the property, as agriculture is an important element to any community.”