Market value student housing and retail development coming to Grand Rapids’ west side

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – There is a high demand for affordable housing in and around downtown Grand Rapids. Tuesday afternoon, a new development project called Fulton Place kicked off in the city’s west side with its ceremonial groundbreaking.

Fulton Place will bring 112 living units and close to 145,000 square feet of residential and retail space coming by fall 2016. It will be on Fulton between Lexington and Seward.

“What you’re going to see is phenomenal development over the course of the next five to 10 years,” said Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell.

Before the ceremonial ground-breaking, Rockford Contruction CEO Mike VanGessel started by saying the “west side is the best side.” Project goals are to revitalize the area, bring more housing and shopping opportunities, all working hand-in-hand with Grand Valley State University’s recent growth.

“It’s a lot about people that are around Grand Valley, that have a campus life choice, they have many places they can choose to live in the neighborhoods,” said VanGessel. “We think this helps in a lot of ways, to take some pressure off the neighborhoods.”

“Fulton place” will essentially be three buildings: a 13,000 square-foot group of seven, four-bedroom townhomes geared toward student-living; another 5,500 square-foot three story apartment building with three units; and then the largest will be 125,000 square-foot mixed-use space with 102 units including lofts, two and four bedroom units, and then retail space.

But what about affordable housing?

“We’re very focused on it being obtainable and through good design, the unit sizes have allowed us to offer that as well,” said VanGessel.

VanGessel would not state a ballpark rent figure yet, but said these units will be market value although they are working to make them “obtainable.”

Housing experts estimate 6,250 housing units will be built in and around downtown in the next five years. However, only 28-percent of those units are expected to be “affordable.” Heartwell said we have to “protect against gentrification.”

“We’ve got to be careful that with our development we don’t drive low income people, the service sector workers, the people who are really keeping this city going, drive them so far outside of town because they can’t afford to live here,” said Heartwell.

The living spaces will be furnished with free Wi-Fi, which VanGessel said aim to be a safe place for students and nearby residents to live.

Fulton Place is set to be finished and ready for move-in by the 2016 -2017 school year.

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  • sara

    But how does one “protect against gentrification” while at the same time promoting projects that are essentially gentrifying the area? The Fulton Place project has displaced residents already — four homes were demolished for its construction — and the residents had to move elsewhere:

    Heartwell’s comments seem a bit disingenuous when not accompanied by any specific action aimed at protecting against gentrification in the city.

  • martha cooper

    if it’s aimed at college students then it’s low income housing. and maybe gentrification could better be avoided if some were availabe apartments to residents who might be displaced by this project.