Developers propose converting the former Faith Ministries Center Church at 200 Madison Ave. SE in Grand Rapids into 22 affordable apartments. Developers propose converting the former Faith Ministries Center Church at 200 Madison Ave. SE in Grand Rapids into 22 affordable apartments. PHOTO: SYDNEY SMITH

Developers plan affordable housing for former Heritage Hill church

BY Tuesday, March 19, 2019 03:50pm

GRAND RAPIDS — A vacant church in Grand Rapids’ Heritage Hill neighborhood could be transformed into affordable housing by next year.

Madison Lofts LDHA LLC, co-owned by Brad Gruizinga, Nick Lovelace and Tom Ralston, plan to convert the former Faith Ministries Center Church at 200 Madison Ave. SE into 22 affordable apartments. They expect to apply for low-income housing tax credits through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority in the April funding round.

The partners, who acquired the property in December via public auction, also signed a payment in lieu of taxes agreement with the city of Grand Rapids. The proposal heads for a site plan review with the city’s Planning Commission on March 28.

Lovelace said the impetus for redeveloping the church was maintaining the use of the building in the neighborhood. It had sat vacant for the last couple of years, he said.

“Unless another church buys it, they need to be reused, otherwise it just sits there vacant,” he said. “That’s not good for the community.”

The 22 apartments would be a mix of 14 two-bedroom units and eight one-bedroom units, as well as a community room. Some off-street parking is planned in a shared driveway with an adjacent multi-family home, as well as in the basement of the church building, pending site plan approval.

The 24,000-square-foot building was built in 1921, and an addition was added in 1952. The developers plan to keep the outside the same, aside from restoration, as it is in the Heritage Hill historic neighborhood.

Location was a big factor in deciding to restore the property, said Kara Harrison, real estate development incentive associate at Colliers International. Harrison is working as a consultant on the project.

“It’s a really good location,” she said. “It has a high walk score, close to the hospitals, grocery stores, education. There’s eight different bus lines within a quarter of a mile. It’s a really good spot for affordable housing.”

Gruizinga, who is serving as the project developer, said he enjoys rehabbing older buildings. He previously served as the developer for the conversion of a former school building on Broadway Avenue in Grand Rapids into the Union Square Condominiums project.

If the Madison Lofts project successfully secures LIHTC funding, the developers hope to break ground in October and wrap up construction about a year from then.

The property wouldn’t be the first former church in Grand Rapids to be converted into rental housing. Developer 616 Lofts LLC, which is currently going through Chapter 7 bankruptcy, redeveloped the former Bethlehem Lutheran Church at 253 Prospect Ave. NE into apartments in 2014. Earlier this year, MiBiz also reported on plans proposed by an affiliate of Grand Rapids-based developer Metric Structures LLC for a mixed-use project at a vacant church property at 739 4th Street NW on the city’s west side.

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