GRAND RAPIDS — Developers plan to demolish two aging structures to make way for a four-story mixed-use apartment building in the Creston neighborhood of Grand Rapids, where business owners have been clamoring for projects for years but have often seen developers fail.
The two buildings located at 1329 and 1359 Plainfield Ave. NE were built in 1964 and 1958 respectively, while a parking lot would be located immediately west at 1367 Grove Place NE.
The Lofts on Grove project led by First Companies Inc. calls for combining the three plots into one in the heart of the Creston business district.
Soba LLC, which is registered with First Companies CEO Jeff Baker, acquired 1329 Plainfield in February 2015 for $660,000, property records show. The old Break Room bar was located at 1359 Plainfield.
First Companies, based in Kentwood, previously worked with several developers who pursued affordable housing projects with a similar number of units on the property but ultimately failed, said Craig Schroeder, director of construction management at First. Companies.
616 Development LLC — whose parent company, 616 Lofts LLC, filed for bankruptcy in late 2018 — had proposed a mixed-use project on the property that never materialized.
First Companies’ plan calls for all units at market price with a mix of bachelor, one- and two-bedroom apartments, Schroeder said.
“The need for housing in Grand Rapids continues to push in all directions,” Schroeder said. “This site is on a main artery, you have visibility of the city center and you are close to public transport. We see a lot of great opportunities in Creston.
The company is seeking brownfield incentives from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to help offset some of the cleanup costs associated with the site, Schroeder said. He declined to disclose the total investment for the development.
About 3,500 square feet of the ground floor would be retail space, while the rest of the building — including some ground floor space — would be apartments.
“We’re capitalizing on the city’s recent change to allow first-floor residences, which work in this area because it’s surrounded by neighborhoods, so we’re designing the building to accommodate that,” Schroder said.
First Companies hopes to begin construction this fall and complete the project by the first quarter of 2024, Schroeder said. Lott3Metz Architecture Sàrl serves as the architect of the project.
Gregg Hampshire, executive director of the Creston Neighborhood Association, said the city of Grand Rapids has an “urgent need” for more housing.
“I’m very passionate about business development in the Creston neighborhood and wanting people to live and work here, and it’s an area that needs something,” Hampshire said. “We are excited about any development and hope they seriously consider continuing to work with the Creston Neighborhood Association to support the neighborhood and we appreciate that they are building sustainably.”
Schroeder said the development team is taking advantage of pre-made materials.
“One thing that we’re very excited about is that this building is a completely pre-engineered building, with all floors and walls pre-engineered from concrete panels,” Schroeder said. “We know that privacy is a huge benefit in these developments, and it will help with the separation of noise and sound.”
Precast concrete is made by pouring concrete into reusable molds which are then transported to a construction site. First Companies has completed several industrial and manufacturing buildings using the prefabricated construction method.
“The entire ground floor of this project has real brick embedded in the prefab,” said Greg Metz, director of Lott3Metz Architecture. “I think a lot of people will be surprised that it’s prefab. The neighborhood wants the highest quality project possible, and prefab allows us to deliver that for a better budget and in part because you can erect the prefab quickly. We can do a lot of this in the winter, which is easier than conventional construction. It is also very durable, flame retardant and soundproof.
The development team chose precast materials for the Creston project in part because of the currently volatile prices of steel and wood relative to concrete, Schroeder said. The prefabrication process is also done offsite, which is becoming increasingly popular in the construction industry amid labor and material cost challenges, Schroeder added.
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