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Townhome, retail development would transform stretch of Wealthy Street in Grand Rapids

Posted By: mlive on January 18, 2023.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

A stretch of Wealthy Street SE between Lafayette and Prospect avenues would be transformed with 18 townhomes, two renovated single-family homes, and commercial space under a proposed development plan.

The plan, being pitched by Grand Rapids-based Indigo Design + Development, would re-envision an area that has long been vacant and serves as an entryway to the historic Heritage Hill neighborhood, said Ryan Schmidt, partner at Indigo Design + Development.

“It’s really an incredible site that just needed some attention, and we’re really excited about the project,” said Schmidt, whose firm focuses on urban infill development and previously completed The Townhomes of Breton Village development in 2021.

As part of the development, Schmidt wants to move one of the two single-family homes slated for renovation from 406 Lafayette Ave. SE to 415 Prospect Ave. SE. The move is necessary to maximize the number of townhomes on the site, Schmidt said.

On Wednesday, the Grand Rapids Historic Preservation Commission is slated to consider the request to move the home and the development’s site plan. The commission is required to sign off on new development in historic districts.

“Anytime you’re going to do something like move a house, build a new building, or somebody wanting to build a new porch or things of that nature, it would require a special permit that’s reviewed either through staff or the historic preservation commission depending on the level of work,” Rhonda Baker, historic preservation specialist for the city of Grand Rapids.

Schmidt said the 18 townhomes and two single-family homes would be home-ownership units. The townhomes would be 3 and ½ stories and include a garage in the rear of the building.

The townhomes and single-family homes will be made available to potential buyers at the market rate. Schmidt said he did not have an estimate on how much they would cost. However, he said he’s confident there’s a strong market for home-ownership condominiums in the area.

“We had a lot of success with the Brenton Village project, and we essentially sold out immediately when we came to market with that project,” Schmidt said. “I think townhomes as a product type has gained a lot of support and acceptance in the market. It’s not something that traditionally we saw a lot of in West Michigan.”

He added, “There’s a strong market interest in Heritage Hill. Heritage Hills is just a wonderful neighborhood with so many amenities and a great focus on community.”

In addition to the housing, the development calls for two retail buildings.

One is a 2,700-square-foot single story building near the corner of Wealthy Street and Lafayette Avenue.

The other is a 1,100-square-foot, two-story retail building located mid-block on Wealthy Street SE. That structure could not be built until a lease for a billboard that’s currently located on the property expires in three years, Schmidt said.

“We have not started marketing the space, but we have received a letter of intent from an interested party that just heard about the project through a mutual connection,” he said. “We know that this will be appealing space to a number of potential commercial users, and we’re thankful for that letter of intent but we don’t have a specific commercial tenant lined up yet.”

Schmidt declined to identify the business that provided his firm with the letter of intent.

The housing proposal received support from Housing Next, a group that advocates for more housing at all income levels in West Michigan.

In a letter to the commission, Brooke Oosterman, the group’s director of policy and communications, pointed to a 2020 housing needs assessment showing a need for 8,888 new housing units in Grand Rapids by 2025.

“The goal of maximizing this property’s potential for community benefit by relocating one of the existing historic homes on site will have impact for generations to come as well as serve a current critical need in the community,” she said. “Due to changes in the market as well as the impacts of the pandemic, we know that demand has only gone up since this study was conducted and that every unit created counts.”

While one resident who lives nearby sent a letter to the Historic Preservation Commission expressing support for the concept, another resident expressed concern.

“Having something built here would be wonderful, but not if the cost is setting a bad precedent by moving a historic building so that a developer can fill nearly an acre of land with endless walls of buildings,” said Ryan Huizenga, who lives nearby at 433 Madison Ave. SE. “If that’s all the developer has to offer, leave well enough alone.”

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