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Developers plan a four-story, 110-unit mixed-use development in Grand Rapids’ Creston Neighborhood. Developers plan a four-story, 110-unit mixed-use development in Grand Rapids’ Creston Neighborhood. COURTESY OF LOTT3METZ ARCHITECTURE LLC

Developers plan 4-story, mixed-use project in GR’s Creston Neighborhood

BY Wednesday, June 29, 2022 09:33am

GRAND RAPIDS — Developers plan to demolish two aging structures to make way for a four-story, mixed-use apartment building in Grand Rapids’ Creston Neighborhood, where business owners for years have clamored for projects but have often seen developers fail. 

The two buildings 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 parcels into one in the heart of the Creston business district. 

Soba LLC, which is registered to First Companies CEO Jeff Baker, acquired 1329 Plainfield in February of 2015 for $660,000, according to property records. The former Break Room bar was located at 1359 Plainfield.

Kentwood-based First Companies previously worked with multiple developers who pursued affordable housing projects with a similar unit count on the property but who were ultimately unsuccessful, said Craig Schroeder, First Companies director of construction management. 

616 Development LLC — whose parent company, 616 Lofts LLC, filed for bankruptcy at the end of 2018 — had proposed a mixed-use project on the property that never came to fruition. 

First Companies’ plan calls for all market-rate units with a mix of studios, 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 thoroughfare, you’ve got visibility to downtown and are near public transportation. We’re seeing a lot of great opportunities up in Creston.”

The company is pursuing state 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 are capitalizing on the city’s recent change to allow first-floor residential, which works in this area because it is surrounded by neighborhoods, so we are designing the building to accommodate that,” Schroder said. 

First Companies hopes to start construction this fall and complete the project by the first quarter of 2024, Schroeder said. Lott3Metz Architecture LLC serves as the project architect. 

Gregg Hampshire, executive director of the Creston Neighborhood Association, said the city of Grand Rapids is in “dire need” of more housing.

“I’m very passionate about business development in the Creston Neighborhood and I want people to live here and work here, and that’s an area that is in need of something,” Hampshire said. “We’re excited for any development and hope they seriously consider continuing to work with the Creston Neighborhood Association to support the neighborhood and we appreciate them building sustainably.”

Schroeder said the development team is taking advantage of prefabricated materials.

“One thing we’re pretty excited about is this building is a full precast building, with all precast concrete paneled floors and walls,” Schroeder said. “We know privacy is a huge benefit in these developments, and this will help with noise and sound separation.”

Precast concrete is made by casting concrete in reusable molds that are then transported to a construction site. First Companies has completed multiple industrial and manufacturing buildings with the precast building method. 

“The entire main floor of this project has real brick embedded in the precast,” said Greg Metz, principal at Lott3Metz Architecture. “I think a lot of people will be surprised that it’s precast. The neighborhood wants as high quality of a project as possible, and precast allows us to deliver that for a better budget and part of that is because you can erect precast quickly. We can do a lot of that in the winter, which is easier than conventional construction. It’s also very durable, fireproof and soundproof.”

The development team chose the precast materials for the Creston project partly because of currently volatile steel and wood prices compared to concrete, Schroeder said. The precast process also is done offsite, which is becoming more popular in the construction industry amid labor and material cost challenges, Schroeder added.

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