How will North End Lofts transform the Creston Neighborhood?

A new $7.5 million, mixed-use apartment building is planned for the Creston neighborhood, on the vacant lot at the corner of Plainfield Avenue and Quimby Street NE. According to a press release from developer, The Establishment Group, the three-story North End Lofts will transform this key intersection. The ground floor would offer 7,100 square feet of retail space. With rents expected to start at less than $1,000 a month, all 36 of the units would have one bedroom.

“The Creston Neighborhood is one of Grand Rapids’ most dynamic and exciting areas,” says developer Brian Papke of The Establishment Group, who also has experience as an architect. “I am confident this project will help Keep Creston Funky while injecting additional energy into a neighborhood that is rich with history, character, and inclusiveness.”

Papke expects to break ground during the first half of this year, pending city approval of brownfield and Neighborhood Enterprise Zone tax credits.

Some neighborhood residents have expressed concerns on social media that the project does not reflect the Progressive AE-led design charrette that was created in collaboration with corridor businesses and neighbors in 2007. However, for the Creston Neighborhood Association, the main objection is that the apartments will not be accessible for Creston’s working-class residents and families because the rents will be too high.

According to Rent Jungle (December 2019), the average rent for an apartment in Grand Rapids, MI is $815 for a one-bedroom and $1076 for a two-bedroom, a 4.52% increase from 2018. Considering that Michigan has a $9.65 minimum wage for hourly workers ($3.67 for tipped workers), with average wages for working-class residents only a few dollars higher than that, rental costs at North End Lofts would be too high for a lot of people currently living in the neighborhood.

“The number one priority for any housing development [in Creston] is that we would like to see mixed-income and affordable housing added. Creston is currently one of the more affordable neighborhoods in the city of Grand Rapids,” says Megan Kruis, executive director of the Creston Neighborhood Association. “People want the neighborhood to remain affordable.”

She notes that the project as proposed meets all conditions of the City of Grand Rapids planning department but hopes that Creston’s citizen voices will impact the decision on awarding Neighborhood Enterprise Zone tax incentives that developers are requesting.

“The City of Grand Rapids takes into consideration what kind of public benefit [a project has],” Kruis says. “The City’s economic development staff have been very happy to work with the neighborhood organizations to educate the resident leaders on what the incentives are and what the landscape is. The economic development department takes neighborhood feedback into account.”

Kruis hopes that the Creston Neighborhood and the City can work together to create a new area-specific plan that collectively lays out what the neighborhood residents and businesses want.

“That is such an important process,” she says. “It’s a way to collectively lay out what the neighborhood wants with robust community engagement—to have it become city policy, so we have that as a tool to recommend the kind of development that really fits here.”

While Kruis says that the neighborhood association likes the idea of a mixed-use apartment building with ground-level retail space on the site, she’s also concerned that the project excludes families with children, as all units have only one bedroom. In addition, the project, as proposed, could exacerbate rising home and rental costs throughout the Creston neighborhood.

“Even our business owners know that it’s beneficial for Creston to be a place for people of different incomes, a place where people with any kind of jobs … could make a home there,” Kruis says. “We are not opposed to development, but want it done with respect for current residents. We want every measure to be taken to prevent displacement.”

The Establishment Group is hosting a community information meeting about the North End Lofts, 7 - 9 p.m. Feb. 11 at Creston Brewery.

Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor 
Photo courtesy The Establishment Group

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