GRAND RAPIDS, MI — A 10-story apartment building with 432 market-priced apartments, a food hall, brewery or distillery, and an additional retail building could arrive on Division Avenue just south of Wealthy Street.
The project, approved by the Grand Rapids Planning Commission on November 10, is led by Jon Morgan, co-founder and managing director of Chicago-based Interra Realty, and Michael Parks, managing partners of Spire Investment Properties, based in Chicago. Boston.
It would be located on the west side of Division, between Wealthy and McConnell streets, in an area that is now home to several aging industrial buildings. One of the buildings would be demolished to make way for the apartment building.
Speaking to the planning commission, Morgan and others pointed to the amenities, activity and influx of residents the project would bring to the southern outskirts of downtown and the Heartside neighborhood, where many of the city rescue missions.
“What we’ve found in a lot of our development that we’re doing in other markets is that activation is key to everything,” Morgan said. “So we think the mixed-use plan and development that we’ve put forward here, and some of the special uses that we’re looking at, are very important to this development plan ultimately being successful.”
The building would contain 324 studios, 90 one-bedroom units and 18 two-bedroom units. About 100 of the studios are said to be “micro” apartments, which are less than 450 square feet. Parks said estimated monthly rental rates are not available at this time.
The full cost of the project was also not available, he said.
“The city is really making a lot of investments to create an even better community, and replacing these very tired industrial buildings with vibrant restaurants, retail and housing, this is happening in many places in the city, and we hope do the same. “Parks said.
In addition to the apartment building and food hall, the project would include the construction of a commercial building near the southwest corner of Wealthy Street and Division Avenue. A tenant for the commercial building has not been chosen, Parks said.
The site of the proposed development currently houses two former industrial buildings owned by Spectrum Industries.
The project received letters of support from the Grand Rapids Chamber and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. They said it would help the city meet the demand for new housing, increase the number of residents living downtown, and connecting neighborhoods in the city’s southern division to downtown.
“I’m just happy that with this project we would have so many more housing units that we desperately need,” said Planning Commissioner Laurel Joseph.
A 2020 housing needs assessment estimated that Grand Rapids would need 5,340 new apartments by 2025 to meet demand. About 2,400 of those are to be market-priced homes, said Brooke Oosterman, director of policy and communications at Housing Next, a group working to build housing supply in Kent and Kent counties. ‘Ottawa.
While the project received unanimous support from the planning commission, one member raised concerns.
“What goes through my mind is that there’s a neighborhood full of black and brown people right here, and so when I see and hear this project, I just see and hear gentrification” said planning commissioner Lawrence Williams.
“I just feel like there’s a lot of black and brown people that are going to be kicked out of this neighborhood and will be kicked out of this neighborhood.”
The Heartside Business Association has not taken a position on the project.
In a letter to the city, the association said it met with a representative of the developer, but council members had concerns. Concerns include the lack of parking and that the food hall will be a “mirror image of the existing downtown market a few blocks away.”
“The community needs an accessible and affordable grocery store or food market, not another high-end market,” the association said.
Now that the building has been approved by the planning commission, Parks said the project will now move on to architecture and design, after which they will go through the permitting process. Construction could begin by this spring, he said.
“We anticipate construction to be an 18-24 month process,” he said.
During the planning committee meeting, a significant amount of time was spent discussing building height and parking.
The city’s zoning code states that buildings in this zone can have a maximum of five stories. However, the planning department was able to give the developer permission to go up to 10 floors using what is called “optional plan revision”.
This process is used to address “new development concepts, innovative design, special issues, public and private projects, and other unique proposals or circumstances without altering the existing area district”, according to the city.
Planning Director Kristin Turkelson said a lot of the planning work being done by the city calls for increased density, more housing and growth in the city’s population. The proposed apartment development, due to its size and height, aligns with these goals, she said.
“I thought this tool, this process, would give the planning commission all the tools you need to make an informed decision and if you think it’s an appropriate tool to use,” she told About using a different method to account for building height.
The commission also agreed to reduce the parking requirements of the proposed building.
Normally, the city would need 565 vehicle parking spaces and 243 bicycle parking spaces. However, the commission agreed to reduce this number to 100 vehicle parking spaces and 112 bicycle parking spaces.
Turkelson said the building’s proximity to the Silver Line bus route along Division helps reduce the need for parking. Others said residents could also park on the street and pointed out that downtown residential buildings had no parking requirements.
“The goal is to really move away from the individual car parks or parking structures that are built into the cost and space of every development and try to consolidate those demands, whether it’s through an urban system or a system of private parking,” Turkelson said.
Kevin Bassett, CEO of Spectrum Industries, said he was selling the site’s industrial buildings to Parks and Morgan, the building’s developers, because they are building housing there at market price. He said he would not have sold the properties to anyone building subsidized housing.
“I think market rate type development is going to continue to improve the whole neighborhood there and the surrounding areas,” he said.
“With the Heartside neighborhood and the homelessness that’s happening in that neighborhood, it’s very difficult to attract tenants south of Wealthy Street without having nice amenities, and that’s what’s on offer here.”