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Commercial Real Estate Attorney

Melissa is a partner and leads the Real Estate Practice Team. She focuses her practice on corporate and real estate matters, with an emphasis on commercial sales, acquisitions, leasing, and redevelopment, as well as construction law. She has extensive experience in structuring primary and replacement real estate financing with banks, private investors, and joint ventures, including mezzanine and other uniquely structured secured loan facilities.

Melissa offers her clients significant experience in negotiating commercial and industrial design and construction contracts, and counsels her clients throughout the construction process. In addition, she has developed a strong background in numerous aspects of residential and mixed use condominium projects, as well as environmental transactions, ranging from conservation easements and charitable donations, to sustainable forest management and carbon offset credits.

For more information, please contact Melissa Papke at 616/336-6425 or



Coordinated consolidated master lease of 300,000 square feet of commercial and industrial space in the Chicago metro area, that was formerly leased in multiple locations, with non-coordinated terms and durations.

Negotiated fast-track large-scale industrial build-to-suit lease, with multiple-phased construction and buildings, economic incentives, and various future expansion, redevelopment, and acquisition options.

Handled acquisition and financing of $100+ million multifamily communities in the Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Lansing metro and suburban areas, including structured loans and securitization.

Orchestrated and negotiated construction and design agreements for a $70 million expansion project for tourist attraction and conservation project.

Provided real estate, labor, corporate and regulatory counsel for first-in-its industry national client’s service business and entrance into the Michigan market, which included rapid growth and acquisition of multiple sites, assets and work forces.


Honors & Recognitions

Best Lawyers in America®, Commercial Finance Law, since 2019

Best Lawyers in America®, Real Estate Law, since 2016

Best Lawyers in America®, Women in the Law Spring Business Edition, Real Estate Law, 2017

Crain’s Detroit Business, Notable Women Lawyers in Michigan, 2017

Grand Rapids Magazine's Top Lawyers, Real Estate Law, 2019 and 2020

InMotion Commitment to Justice Award for pro bono representation of domestic violence victims and low income women, 2001

Professional Affiliations

American College of Mortgage Attorneys: Board of Regents, 2015 - present; Michigan State Chair, 2011 - 2019; Co-Chair of Membership Development and Engagement Committee and Chair of Mentorship Subcommittee, 2017 - present; Fellow, 2009

American College of Real Estate Lawyers: Fellow, 2017

Grand Rapids Bar Association: Real Estate Section, President, 2014 - 2015; Vice President, 2012 - 2014; Secretary and Treasurer, 2010 - 2012; member, 2004 - present

International Council of Shopping Centers: member, 2018

State Bar of Michigan: Real Property Law Section, Council member, 2011 - 2017; Environmental and Energy Law Committee, co-chair, 2007 - present; member, 2004 - present

Community Involvement

Habitat for Humanity: Family Services Committee for Home Ownership Program, Board member, 2010 - 2014

Varnum’s Diversity Committee and liaison to Hispanic law student groups

West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce: Board of Directors; Membership Committee chair, 2011 - 2014

News & Publications


Panel speaker, International Council of Shopping Centers, "Clicks and Bricks, Stronger Retail Together," Novi, Michigan (2018)

Panel speaker, Real Property Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan Conference, "That Lease Suits Me Fine: The Dynamics of Negotiating a Build-to-Suit Lease," Scottsdale, Arizona (2016)                       

Speaker, Grand Rapids Bar Association Real Estate Section Meeting, "Riding the Magic Bullet of Title Insurance without Falling Off," Grand Rapids, Michigan (2015)

Speaker, American College of Mortgage Attorneys Conference, "Don't Be the Defendant: Understanding the Complexities of Seemingly Simple Ethical Situations," Bretton Woods, New Hampshire (2014)

Discussion leader, Real Property Law Section of State Bar of Michigan Roundtable re "Legal Opinion Letters: The Importance of Being Earnest,"  Crystal Mountain, Michigan (2013)

Co-chair, Real Property Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan Conference, "Redevelopment after the Great Recession, Lessons from the Sunshine and Great Lakes States," Orlando, Florida (2012)

Co-chair, Real Property Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan Conference, "The ABCs of Regulatory Reform: A Big Change," Washington, DC (2011)

Speaker, Real Property Law Section of State Bar of Michigan Conference, "Turning REDD Credits into Green Carbon," Phoenix, Arizona (2010)

Speaker, Real Property Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan Conference,  "What Goes Down Must Come Up; Advising Clients about Real Estate in Michigan: After the Purchase Agreement, Issues that Arise on the Way to Closing," Traverse City, Michigan (2008)

Speaker, Lorman Seminar: Plats and Subdivision Law - Condominium Development, Grand Rapids, Michigan (2008)



University of Michigan Law School
Ann Arbor, Michigan
J.D., 1998

Dartmouth College
Hanover, New Hampshire
B.A., Japanese, 1995

Bar Admissions

  • Michigan
  • New York

Court Admissions

  • All Michigan state courts
  • Supreme Court of the State of New York, Second Judicial Department
  • United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
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