BY KATHY GIBBONS
TRAVERSE CITY — Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors is getting ready to launch a major renovation on its flagship offices at 402 E. Front St.
President Mike Schmidt said the project, expected to cost between $700,000 and $1 million, will increase square footage from about 8,000 to 10,000 and give the building an updated facade.
"There's a small two-story addition that's going to occur heading to the east, and we're just upgrading the exterior," he said, adding the plan also includes other interior renovations. "Really, we're looking to modernize it. It needs updating."
Schmidt said the company has wanted to renovate the building at the corner of Front and Boardman for five to 10 years. The recent economic downturn stalled plans, but Schmidt said business is improving, as is hiring.
"Now that the economy has really stabilized, it's allowed us to reinvest in buildings and people and technology," he said. "It's just very fun."
The company added about 100 real estate agents in the past year along with staff to support them, Schmidt said. Sales in 2012 were up $380 million over 2011.
About 70 people work out of 402 E. Front. The company has another office downtown at 522 E. Front, with a total of 38 offices in west and northern Michigan.
"Business is better. It's healthier," Schmidt said. "We're not back to where it was in 2005, but its actually shifted faster than we expected in the last 12 months — faster than anybody expected."
No one sector has been substantially stronger than another.
"It's really, for the most part, across the board," he said. "Interest rates are very low. Inventories are down. There's an influx of buyers and there's not as many new homes ... so it's increasing demand and supply is down and that's driving prices up."
Work should begin in earnest in March, with completion expected in May. Peninsula Construction is handling the project.
"We were looking for a more timeless, classic design," Schmidt said. "People have done a really nice job downtown and we're just trying to keep up with everybody."