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Madison Square business incubator has community backing for $1.7M project

Deborah Johnson Wood

Converting a century-old building on the corner of Madison Avenue SE and Hall Street SE into a business incubator, nonprofit offices and restaurant will cost about $1.7 million. But Grand Rapids' Lighthouse Communities isn't worried – the nonprofit community development corporation has already received $500,000 in federal and state funding, another $1 million from local foundations and brownfield tax credits, and Huntington Bank has guaranteed the rest.

The two-story building at 1167 Madison SE has been in foreclosure twice in the last decade, says Jeremy DeRoo, Lighthouse executive director. But after internal demolition, some shoring up of weakened structural points and the removal of a decrepit addition, construction will commence after the state environmental impact review in late March.

"We'll have six business incubator spaces to help entrepreneurs open a business for less than market rate," DeRoo says. "We are expecting to attract primarily retail business because of the location, but not limiting it to retail tenants."

The spaces range from 500 to 800 square feet, and are wired for phone and Internet. Rent starts at $250 a month. Startups can lease the spaces for up to three years to establish clientele, and to use the support services offered, such as networking opportunities, business roundtables and to build relationships with banks, accountants, attorneys and other professionals.

"When they're ready to move out, we'll help them locate space in the neighborhood," DeRoo says. "The goal is to increase the quality of services available to the neighborhood through the businesses in this incubator space."

Lighthouse Communities, now at 1422 Madison, will relocate to the second floor area, doubling its office space. About half of the 5,000-square-foot space will be community meeting rooms.

A 1,500-square-foot addition to be built on the north side of the building will house a breakfast restaurant on the main level, owned and operated by Robert Ball, owner of Southern Fish Fry.

"We expect to open with at least 35 full-time jobs within the building," DeRoo says, "so it's a great job creation opportunity that will continue to create opportunities for the neighborhood."

Source: Jeremy DeRoo, Lighthouse Communities

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com. Have a development news tip for Rapid Growth? Contact us at info@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

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