GRAND RAPIDS — The city of Grand Rapids approved a nonprofit developer’s rezoning request for a retooled affordable housing project at the site of a former funeral home in the West Grand neighborhood.
The Grand Rapids City Commission on Tuesday approved Genesis Non-Profit Housing Corp.’s request for a major amendment to a previous planned redevelopment district (PRD). The move allows the nonprofit to move ahead with construction of Leonard Apartments, a $16.2 million, 55-unit senior housing project at 851 Leonard St. NW and 850 and 860 Courtney St. NW.
Genesis first proposed the project in September 2020.
The city commission adopted an ordinance in October 2020 to rezone the property from low-density residential and traditional business area to PRD to facilitate the construction of a three-story, 38-unit affordable housing development.
The original plan was to preserve the former Van’t Hof Chapel funeral home structure, built in 1931, by turning the upstairs into apartment space and adding 37 newly constructed units around it.
Developer John Wynbeek, executive director of Genesis, said the nonprofit twice applied to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority in 2021 for low-income housing tax credits to fund the project.
MSHDA rejected both applications on the grounds that the cost of preserving the funeral home was too high and the proposed number of units was too few to make the project feasible.
“It ended up costing more to preserve part of the building and then make something that looks historically consistent … so we revised the plan,” Wynbeek said.
Last summer, Genesis devised this new site plan, which calls for demolishing all the buildings on the property and constructing a four-story building with 55 senior apartments. Forty-eight of them will be one-bedroom units, and seven will be two-bedrooms. They’ll range from 664 to 1,000 square feet apiece.
The front of the building will feature a communal roof deck above the third story facing Leonard, and the fourth floor will recede from the street to accommodate setback requirements. All of the units will be accessible to visitors, and eight of the units will accommodate wheelchair users.
The project includes an 1,100-square-foot community room, a smaller meeting room, a property management office, and 36 parking spaces along Courtney Street.
Genesis is working to coordinate the same supportive services that are provided at some of its other properties, including a partnership with Grand Valley State University nursing students and assistance from Senior Neighbors.
Genesis secured 13 Section 8 vouchers from the city of Grand Rapids and nine from the city of Wyoming to help keep the project affordable to people making 30 percent to 60 percent of area median income, Wynbeek said. That’s about $19,000 to $38,000 per year for one-person households.
The nonprofit also plans to resubmit an application for LIHTC tax credits to MSHDA on Monday for additional financing, Wynbeek said. Pending receipt of the MSHDA tax credits, Wynbeek said construction would start in 2024 and conclude within 14 months, with leasing beginning in 2025.
Genesis earlier this year added Manistee-based Little River Holdings LLC, the non-gaming economic development organization of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, as a partner in the development, Wynbeek said.
Eugene Magnuson, CEO of Little River Holdings, said in a text message that the tribally owned firm entered into a master development agreement with Genesis and will serve as a co-developer on the Leonard Apartments project.
Under the terms of the partnership, nine of the senior housing units will be reserved for tribal members. Members of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians live in more than 200 households in Kent and Ottawa counties, Magnuson said.
“That’s a partnership that we’re excited about,” Wynbeek said. “Historically, Native American citizens resided on the West Side of Grand Rapids long before other settlements came, so I think that’s a really good fit for this project.”
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