Construction begins on 52-unit affordable apartment project at Belknap Lookout

GRAND RAPIDS – Construction has begun on a $12.2 million housing project in the Belknap Lookout neighborhood of Grand Rapids, which aims to make housing affordable in a rapidly growing area of ​​the city.

The 52-unit Union Suites on Coit project will feature a three-story, 46,000-square-foot apartment building with a mix of one-, two-, and three-bedroom units. Apartment prices will vary in terms of affordability, but limited to households earning 30-80% of the region’s median income. The project will offer income-limited rates for renters after receiving $1.1 million in Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

Eight of the units in the development will also be reserved for tenants who have housing vouchers through the Wyoming Housing Commission.

The development team includes a non-profit housing organization Dwelling place as well as engineers-turned-developers Tom Ralston and Nick Lovelace, who previously said MiBiz that their team is “trying to stop gentrification in an area that’s going through redevelopment right now.”

KMG Prestige Inc. will manage the property once construction is complete, which is expected in August 2023. Based in Grand Rapids Lott3Metz Architecture Sàrl designs the project and is based in Grand Rapids Orion build is the general contractor.

Members of the development team and local officials met at the project site at 608-626 Coit Ave. NE Tuesday for a groundbreaking ceremony.

“This project is important for a number of reasons,” Grand Rapids Second Ward Commissioner Milinda Ysasi said. MiBiz. “It allows people to make the decision to live in Grand Rapids because we know it’s become more and more expensive and we don’t want to evict people because of their income levels or the wealth they have. may or may not have.”

The project is close to a number of amenities including a bus route, Coit Park, a school, Medical Mile and the campus of Grand Rapids Community College. Additionally, the development is designed to integrate the development’s tenants into the surrounding neighborhood, Ysasi said.

“For us, it was important to ensure the permanence and quality of this project,” said Lott3Metz director Greg Metz. “We did this by adding brick to the ground floor so that when people look at it they realize it’s a quality project. To make it integrated with the neighborhood, almost all ground floor units have exterior porches so people are outside and have that connection to the neighborhood and they’re going to be outside and talking to their neighbors .

Parking will be under the building, Metz added.

Getting funding for an affordable housing project and getting it to that point “really takes an entire village,” Ralston said. In addition to LIHTC funding, the developers also received $400,000 from the City of Grand Rapids Brownfields Revolving Fund to demolish five homes formerly on the project site, Ralston said.

Doing business as Union Suites LLC, Lovelace purchased five properties – including three north of the planned project – on January 12, 2021 for $1.85 million from Artesian Group LLC. The site was once planned for a high-end residential project that never materialized.

Chris Bennett, director of housing and community development at Dwelling Place, said making the project took multiple partners.

“These things are so complicated, it takes so much work from so many different people to make it work from concept to reality. We need everyone’s support. Please carry on, make the need for this known, raise your voice as we carry on. The housing crisis we are going through requires constant attention,” Bennett told the crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony. “It has become so much more complicated than a few years ago.”

Union Suites LLC has worked with the Michigan State Housing Authority to identify projects in the City of Grand Rapids in areas that are experiencing rising rents. Ralston and Lovelace are also working with Dwelling Place to develop a 150-unit apartment project at 3566 Michael Ave. in Wyoming. Construction is expected to begin in December this year, Ralston said.

Lovelace was also part of the development team that converted a vacant church in the city’s Heritage Hill neighborhood into 22 affordable units at 200 Madison Ave. SE. The project was completed last year and fully let in November.

Amid an ongoing need for housing at varying price points in Grand Rapids, 658 residential units were added to the city’s housing stock in 2021. Nearly 290 of these units meet the needs of low-income households, have city ​​officials reported earlier this year.

A 2020 housing study found that Grand Rapids will need at least 5,340 additional rental units and 3,548 owner-occupied units to meet housing demand and affordability by 2025.

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