Just minutes north of downtown Grand Rapids, the Creston neighborhood along the Plainfield Avenue corridor is preparing for a ramp-up in development.
Three developers have projects for the neighborhood that could help bring an influx of new residents, MiBiz has learned.
Grand Rapids-based 616 Development LLC acquired the former Break Room pool hall at 1359 Plainfield Avenue NE and plans to invest $6 million and construct 40 market-rate apartments with 3,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, 616 Development’s Director of Development Monica Steimle confirmed to MiBiz.
The building has been vacant since the former tenant closed in September 2012. Apartments at the site will be a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units, Steimle said. Tenants have not been confirmed for the retail space, she said.
“I think (Creston) is one of the last near-neighborhoods of downtown Grand Rapids that has infrastructure for great development and businesses to come in,” Steimle said. “It just hasn’t had the opportunity to flourish at this point. It’s great to be able to come in and add to that.”
Demolition of the existing building is set to begin in the next couple of months with completion of the project expected within 12 months.
The developer has not yet selected a contractor to work on the project, which was designed by Lott 3 Metz Architecture LLC, a Grand Rapids architecture firm.
Sources familiar with the situation said that 616 Development has multiple projects in the works for the Creston neighborhood. Steimle declined to comment on whether the company plans other developments in the area.
“We hope to,” she said.
616 Development also has an option to buy a vacant lot currently owned by the Kent County Land Bank Authority at 220 Quimby NE, just north of the Break Room project, said David Allen, executive director of the Land Bank. A deal for that parcel has not yet been finalized, Allen said.
Steimle confirmed that 616 Development did have an “interest” in the property, but she declined to comment further about the company’s plans.
One of the more active residential developers around Grand Rapids in recent years, 616 Development is currently building a project at Michigan Street and Eastern Avenue and expects to begin construction on at least three others over the next few months.
Steimle said the company hopes to have approximately 600 apartment units in its portfolio over the next 12 months to 24 months.
Coinciding with the 616 Development announcement, The Gilmore Collection said it planned to add a rooftop patio to the Red Ball Jet Cafe, a neighborhood restaurant.
Additionally, the owners of the Creston Market at 1403 Plainfield are planning a large-scale expansion of the store, in part to serve tenants of the new residential development. The site is owned by a business entity formed by Tom Cronkright and Lawrence Duthler, the principals of Grand Rapids-based Sun Title Agency of Michigan LLC, which has its headquarters nearby at 1410 Plainfield Avenue. The two are also longtime stakeholders in the neighborhood and currently own several other nearby parcels, according to property records.
The 1,300-square-foot Creston Market, located at the corner of Plainfield and Caledonia, will expand in size to 2,500 square feet and will have expanded beer and wine offerings, food selections and a coffee bar, according to a spokesperson for Sun Title.
Cronkright and Duthler also own the building at 1365 Plainfield Avenue, next door to the Creston Market, and have plans to rehabilitate that facility with a new facade and storefront, according to sources.
In an interview with MiBiz, Cronkright said he and Duthler see significant long-term potential for the neighborhood, and these recent developments are just the tipping point.
“(Creston) has been kind of a best-kept secret for us as we’ve expanded and acquired property because it is so close (to downtown), but nobody has really been looking in our direction,” Cronkright said. “It’s been a great location for us to build and expand, especially for the last five years.”
Although his work is focused on the core downtown district, Kris Larson, president and CEO of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., said the announcements in the Creston area could work to attract people who want to work downtown and yet still live in a neighborhood.
“I think (Creston) is one of those areas of least resistance,” said Larson, who lives in the neighborhood. “To be able to serve as that neighborhood that is immediately adjacent to downtown, it can (also) be that neighborhood that serves downtown and that’s one of the reasons I live here. I’ve got a five-minute commute (to work).”