National travel magazine names GH Top 5 place to retire

Marie Havenga • Mar 23, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Little old Grand Haven is once again a media darling.

A Conde Nast Traveler magazine editor announced the “Top 5 places to retire” in the nation Tuesday morning on NBC-TV’s “Today” show, and Grand Haven is among them — to which show co-host Kathie Lee Gifford said, “Love Michigan, it's unbelievably beautiful.”

Traveler editor Mark Ellwood went on to describe our town as “a real hidden secret” and “a beach with a twist.”

“You've got this lovely old school, All-American town, two-and-a-half-mile boardwalk,” he said.

He also gave a prop to average home prices.

“And if you bought a new house there, $191,000, which is significantly below the median national average,” Ellwood said.

Although the Conde Nast editor saved Grand Haven for last on his list — after mentioning attributes of Durham, North Carolina; Iowa City, Iowa; Spokane, Washington; and Greenville, South Carolina — there is no official ranking, according to Victor De Vita, Conde Nast Traveler associate director of brand communications who works at the magazine's World Trade Center offices.

“The content Mark Ellwood talked about (Tuesday) started off with last year's list of best places to retire in the world where Grand Haven is mentioned,” De Vita explained of the “2016 Top 10 places to retire in the world” story. “It's not new content. There were a lot more factors that we had to take into account. So, no proper ranking is available.”

But being recognized as a Top 5 retirement locale in the nation on the “Today” show is more great news for Grand Haven. Coastal Living magazine recently named Grand Haven the “Happiest Seaside Town in America.”

“I think it's fantastic,” said Jessie Riley, wellness director for Four Pointes Center for Successful Aging, this area's hub for all things senior. “The support we see from the community toward resources for older adults really supports the whole person.”

Riley said she definitely agrees that Grand Haven is a top spot to retire.

“Grand Haven is very desirable,” she said. “We certainly see people passionate about staying in their community and not wanting to leave. We really see people wanting to stay in the area and live out their retirement time in Grand Haven.”

Membership at Four Pointes is at a four-year high, according to Riley — 1,350 members. She suspects that number could increase with the recent national exposure.

“I can’t say, 'Oh my gosh, we have droves of people coming through the front door right now' — but I definitely think (national) exposure like that encourages people to come check out Grand Haven,” she said. “It's not just a little speck on the map, it's really a thriving community that people want to go to that really supports their citizens who are 50-plus. We believe you can do anything you want, regardless of age.”

Michelle Teitsma, a real estate agent with the Teitsma Team at Coldwell Banker of Grand Haven, said she's heard positive feedback from retirees.

“We have had some clients who have searched areas they want to retire and they do specifically pick this area after doing their research,” she said. “They didn't really have anywhere they needed to be for family, so they did some research and decided this is the place they wanted to be.”

Teitsma said her team is definitely experiencing an uptick in home sales.

“I don't know if it's due to all the awards or if it's the market in general with interest rates where they're at,” she said. “It's just a really strong market.”

Teitsma said she wholeheartedly agrees  with the travel magazine's opinion that Grand Haven is a great place to retire, citing the many beaches, parks, nature trails and bike paths as obvious draws.

“There's a lot to do in the area,” she said. “Yes, you have to deal with snow in the winter, but there's just so much to do. A lot of our area is very walkable. You’re able to walk downtown, get a bit to eat and do a little shopping. We offer a lot of good amenities here and we have a wide variety of health care options, especially with the new (Spectrum Health) complex going in by Meijer. There's no shortage of health care, and if someone needs specialized care, Grand Rapids is not that far.”

Marci Cisneros, executive director of the Grand Haven Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, said she's thrilled with the designation.

“We are a small town, but we have big value when it comes to quality of life — health, education, well-being, natural resources, safety, leisure activities and economic stability,” she said. “Many current residents started out as visitors before choosing to live here, so we anticipate a bump in visitorship because of this recognition. This, combined with the recent 'Happiest Seaside Town in America' award from Coastal Living, means we should see a noticeable increase in economic impact for 2017.”

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