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Sturgeon Bay Partners remains on track despite slight delays with redeveloping the former Sligh Furniture Co. factory in Grand Rapids. Sturgeon Bay Partners remains on track despite slight delays with redeveloping the former Sligh Furniture Co. factory in Grand Rapids. MIBIZ FILE PHOTO

Sligh factory redevelopment remains on track; co-developer brought on

BY Sunday, April 24, 2022 05:59pm

GRAND RAPIDS — The developer proposing a massive redesign of a former Grand Rapids furniture factory recently acquired the sprawling building, brought on a partnering development firm and received a six-month zoning-related extension from city planners.

Overall, Detroit-based Sturgeon Bay Partners’ plan to repurpose the former Sligh Furniture Co. building into hundreds of apartments along with parking, retail and amenities remains on track with slight changes since city planners first considered the plans a year ago, Sturgeon Bay co-founder John Gibbes told MiBiz.

Sturgeon Bay plans to redevelop the Sligh building into 753 apartment units and demolish three other buildings on the nearly 7-acre site, making way for two new buildings with parking garages, a rooftop garden, retail space and lobby areas. A small cafe and public courtyard also are proposed at the center of the site. 

The city’s zoning ordinance specifies that optional plan reviews — which was approved for the Sligh project in April 2021 based on discrepancies in building heights in some parts of the project — are valid for a one-year period. The city’s planning commission approved a six-month extension for the site plan on April 14.

“The extension was (needed) primarily due to our efforts to secure historic tax credits and other state and local incentives, and we’re working with our third parties to value-engineer the site based on cost increases that people are seeing across all industries right now,” Gibbs said. “With the right tax abatements and incentive packages, we will be able to make it work.”

The development team plans minor modifications to the unit count and type to further the city’s housing goals, Lynee Wells, founder and president of Grand Rapids-based Aligned Planning wrote in a recent memo to the city. Wells is a consultant on the project.

“With market fluctuations resulting in volatile pricing for construction materials, as well as product shortages, we must consider many attributes of the building construction, which necessitate more time for final design,” Wells said in the memo. 

Gibbs said he is unsure whether the development team will apply for competitive Low Income Housing Tax Credits for the project. Apartment unit price points are still undetermined, but the goal is to have at least 10 percent of the total unit count be affordable to households earning 60 to 80 percent of the area median income, he said.

Sturgeon Bay Partners, doing business as JV SBAM SA LLC, acquired the former Sligh Furniture Co. building at 211 Logan St. SW on Feb. 15 under a conveyance deed transfer, according to city and county property records. The developer previously acquired other properties on the block at 188 Wealthy St. SW, 190 Wealthy St. SW, and 440 Grandville Ave. SW on May 14, 2021, for a total of $5.3 million, as MiBiz previously reported. 

Touloukian Touloukian Inc. is the project architect while Grand Rapids-based Barnes & Thornburg LLP serves as the legal adviser. 

Sturgeon Bay Partners also is bringing on an out-of-state development partner that has experience in large, mixed-use multifamily developments, Gibbs said. He declined to disclose the co-development firm.

“We’re really excited about this project,” Gibbs said. “We would like to work with local neighborhood associations and local retailers to figure out what retail is needed. I think a small grocer would be pretty conducive for a site of this size and some other smaller neighborhood retail.”

Meanwhile, several artist studios and stores currently operating in the Sligh building, including three large antique shops, have previously spoken out against the development and its potential to displace the businesses.

Lost & Found: Treasures of Old & New owner Mark Miller met with the development team shortly after Sturgeon Bay Partners closed on the Sligh building in February, he said. 

The meeting with developers was friendly, and Miller plans to operate from his current location as long as possible, he said. Miller said he has been “constantly looking” at other locations to move his store, but retail space is selling or leasing at premium prices around Grand Rapids. 

“We have at least two years in this space and possibly can return after the remodel, but we don’t know what that looks like,” Miller said. “It may not be feasible depending on the size that they allow for us.” 

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