Local leaders weigh in on the growing U.S.-31 entertainment corridor

HOLLAND TWP. – In a half-mile corridor along US-31, there is a form of entertainment for everyone.

Shop windows once empty have started to fill up. Between Felch Street and James Street, residents and tourists can find a lot of indoor and outdoor attractions.

Local foods such as The Lost City, a quarter-century arcade and laser tag center, and Nelis ’Dutch Village, an educational theme park, have teamed up with companies such as X-Golf and Urban Air Adventure Park in the old Westshore Mall.

This fall, The Rink on James Street will reopen with a new name (RollXscape) after a complete remodel. Across the street, Zero Latency, the first free-to-move virtual reality center in Michigan, will open in October.

Once businesses are open, families and tourists will be able to access golf simulators, a race car simulator, a trampoline park, several galleries, mini golf, laser tag, mini bowling, a roller coaster, virtual reality free movement, warrior courses and recently restored carousel, all in one day.

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This is a big change from two years ago, when the US-31 had more than 25 empty shop windows. At the time, residents were concerned about the emergence of urbanizations, which remained empty, rather than rebuilding existing spaces.

The business community responds to these concerns.

“It’s exciting to see the growth of family entertainment centers in our community,” said Jane Clark, president of the West Coast Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

“These companies are smart to take advantage of our local market as well as our strong visitor population. The location along US-31 is attractively located, close to the city, but also along a great travel corridor.

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“These types of businesses stand out for attracting people of all ages at affordable prices. They are a great way for families and friends to get together and share fun together at social gatherings after the pandemic.

“They will make great places for private celebrations, such as birthday parties and corporate events. In addition, they will add to our reputation as an ideal place to live and visit.”

This enthusiasm was echoed by Linda Hart, executive director of the Netherlands Area Visitors Bureau.

“I think it’s brilliant, to be honest,” he said. “More activity, especially activities that residents and visitors can do, only complements what we have as a community. We talk a lot about the city center, but we have those other community assets.

“It seems like a natural adjustment and a progression of activities that residents and visitors can participate in. I also think it’s so important that our community change what we can, rather than tear it down and rebuild it. How the more we can do this, the better. “

In the coming months, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Grand Rapids Community College’s Lakeshore campus will join the intersection. The campus was a major success for The Shops at Westshore, which has worked diligently to reuse the mall’s old space after its deconstruction half a decade ago.

“When the Westshore Mall was there, in the past, these roads and parking lots were developed for a lot of traffic,” said town supervisor Terry Nienhuis. “We are not concerned about the increase in traffic flow. These roads can withstand it.

“It’s exciting to see a new redevelopment take place in the days after COVID. We already have the infrastructure there, so from the municipality’s point of view it’s a win-win situation.”

There are nine hotels in the two-mile area surrounding the leisure corridor. In the last two years, three hotels have been completed: Home2 Suites by Hilton, StayBridge Suites by IHG and SpringHill Suites by Marriott.

“These hotels have performed particularly well,” Hart said. “They have access to the north area and offer visitors the option to dine in their hotel room if they still don’t feel comfortable eating in a restaurant.”

Joe Nelis, owner of Nelis’ Dutch Village, is not surprised by the transformation.

“It must have been in 1990 when we participated in the city’s debates on long-term development,” he said. “And I remember meeting them and saying,‘ Your entertainment aisle is on the road. ’And I feel like that’s good for everyone.

“The more dense you are, even if you compete at a certain level, you contribute to the idea that,‘ If we’re having fun, we’ll go to this area. ’ eat and buy “.

The Dutch Village has been around for over 60 years. For much of that time, the park was known for educational demonstrations and history lessons. Ten years ago, Nelis and his team decided it was time to change the focus.

“We’ve made this transition from being a historic educational attraction to a family-centered theme park,” Nelis said.

“Right now, you can see how wooden shoes are made on YouTube. But when you have young kids, you realize that the amount of interactions you have with them is limited. We’re now a place to remember.”

This change was highlighted with new signage along U.S.-31 and updated attractions, including a battle of pirate balloons and a pet farm, in addition to the park’s traditional demonstrations.

“Everything we do, we try to make it an experience,” Nelis said.

“It happens when you park the car and you start walking towards our entrance and it lasts until you stop at the gift shop and grab something that reminds you of the good day you had.”

– Contact journalist Cassandra Lybrink at [email protected] Follow her on Instagram @BizHolland.

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