CEO Jonathan Bradford of the Inner City Christian Federation
(ICCF) will tell you that even in urban districts, strong neighborhoods should look – and even operate – a lot like a forest does.
"If you were to take a walk through the woods, it's impossible to have a healthy woods composed only of maple trees," he says. "There will be all kinds of plants in the woods – some live a long time and some only live a short time – but there is this cycle of growing and dying and decomposing and more growing. It's quite comparable to the way the strength of a neighborhood is to be found in its diversity."
Though Bradford admits this particular metaphor isn't his to claim, the idea that incorporating key elements of diversity is at the heart of fueling urban revitalization is very much at the forefront of the nonprofit developer's Tapestry Square
, where construction is finally underway on the first seven of 15 affordable townhomes under "Phase A" of the project.
"The entire vision for this development is to achieve a newfound stability in the neighborhood and we believe that's best accomplished when we have a lot of use-diversity and economic diversity," Bradford says, adding that each of the new townhome units that stretch along Wealthy St. SW between Sheldon and LaGrave avenues will be sold in a condo association configuration for owner occupancy.
Phase A's 15 townhomes are only half of the eventual 30 total ICCF has planned for Tapestry Square and the seven currently under construction include three four-unit buildings and one three-unit building.
While eight of these units will be market-rate, homebuyer assistance will be made available for the first seven Phase A units at two different levels, adjusted according to family size.
Five will be made affordable to households making less than 80 percent of that average medium income, which works out to roughly $43,000 for a family of three, while the remaining two townhomes will be available for ownership through homebuyer assistance at 60 percent of the average medium income, or about $36,000 for a family of four.
"We know that ownership is important for the long-term stability of a neighborhood and we've done rental and we will do more rental, but we also want to do ownership," Bradford says. "We know there's a demand for ownership units and from the very first dialogue we've had with local stakeholders 12 years ago, we made very sure of that."
Phase B includes the other half of the 30 townhomes, the construction timeline for which Bradford says is contingent on how the first 15 Phase A townhomes sell.
Tapestry Square Townhomes marks another move toward final fruition of a decade-long renovation project spearheaded by ICCF in the early 2000s, when the stretch of Wealthy St., once packed with 30-some retail businesses in the 1950s, had only two operational storefronts – a liquor store and a tire store.
"If a neighborhood is nothing but institutions – hospitals and schools and churches and more hospitals, you have just one use happening and you don't have much human activity happening around the clock," he says. "…We will eventually have ownership and rental activity, educational activity, retail activity of several kinds, green space for recreation, etc."
Although the past decade has ushered a slow but steady catalyst of urban redevelopment through the city of Grand Rapids, Bradford says recent meetings with local stakeholders and area residents are only serving as further proof that the mission of Tapestry Square, the foundation of what the ICCF project set out to do all those years ago, is still relevant.
"We learned that the opinions and the hopes that were voiced to us back in 2002 had really not changed much at all," he says. "In other words, people said, there had to be affordable units, which we knew and that's what were all about anyway, but there had to be more rental and ownership units, more retail and hopefully a grocery store. The needs, the concerns, the ideas of 2002 were substantially reinforced."
Though Bradford says ICCF's working "very, very hard" to make the ultimate goal of having grocery, commercial, and residential forces at work in Tapestry Square, he says at this point in the process, the organization isn't ready to make any kind of public comment on the details.
The seven units pioneering Tapestry Square Townhomes will officially open for reservation within 30 days of March 1, though Bradford says ICCF has already got a waiting list of people who emailed in hopes of claiming the handful of affordable housing available.
He says, "They are very eager to sign up."
Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Inner City Christian Federation
Grand Rapids $45M Wealthy-Jefferson project gets new name, launches Phase 2
Grand Rapids Wealthy-Jefferson development to break ground at last on $7.5M Phase 1
Long awaited $15M Wealthy/Jefferson development project ready to move ahead in GR