30-unit apartment development near Medical Mile approved over neighborhood concerns COURTESY PHOTO

30-unit apartment development near Medical Mile approved over neighborhood concerns

BY Thursday, April 01, 2021 03:18pm

GRAND RAPIDS — Two years after it rejected a similar plan, the Grand Rapids Planning Commission has approved a developer’s 30-unit apartment complex over objections from some nearby residents.

Commissioners voted 5-2 on March 25 to approve Michigan Street Apartment Homes LLC’s special land use request needed for the development at 1542 Michigan St. NE, less than two miles east of the city’s Medical Mile in the Fulton Heights neighborhood. The entity is registered to Gary Hensch, president and co-owner of Redstone Homes LLC in Grand Rapids Township.

The property is zoned as low-density residential, but the special land use permit allows for 45 dwelling units. A 12-unit apartment building currently exists on the property, adding to 42 total units expected at the site. Grand Rapids-based Nederveld Inc. is the project manager.

The Planning Commission two years ago rejected on a 6-2 vote a similar 30-unit proposal from the same developer. That plan was met with an outpouring of concerned neighbors worried about losing green space and parking, as well as increased traffic. Many residents who live around the proposed development expressed similar concerns with the new plan during the March 25 meeting.

There has been a “high level of neighborhood interest” for the proposed development this time around as well, said Grand Rapids Senior Planner Elizabeth Zeller. 

Since 2019, the city has seen a growing need for housing stock. The new plan also includes a retaining wall along the property line and, unlike the last version, splits up the 30 units into three separate buildings.

City planners noted that the project is located within the city’s Michigan Street Corridor Plan, which “encourages higher-density projects along Michigan Street to ‘capitalize on transit investments, provide additional housing units, and add vitality to business areas,’” according to planning documents.

“I want to acknowledge the investment of time and energy around the neighborhood’s concerns, but I am inclined given our consistent approach to add housing in our community to support the applicant,” said Commissioner Stacie Behler.

Commissioners Susan Shannon and Rick Treur were the two “no” votes against the special land use permit. Treur said he was still concerned with the plan for a few reasons, including because it is not “typical” for a multi-family building to be in the middle of a low-density neighborhood.

The 30 new units will be constructed in three different two-story buildings and will comprise 18 studio apartments, four one-bedroom units, and eight two-bedroom units. The buildings are planned to be located 14 feet from the east property line of the site, which will also have a retaining wall.

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