GRAND RAPIDS, MI -- Construction is underway on 36-unit apartment building for low-income residents near the corner on Burton Street SE and Division Avenue, the first multi-family housing development in the Garfield Park neighborhood in at least 30 years, officials say.
LINC UP, a community development organization, hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking Tuesday for Garfield Park Lofts, a $9.4 million project that is expected to be completed by November 2019.
Jeremy DeRoo, LINC's executive director, said Grand Rapids is seeing a "huge increase" in property values and rental rates, and projects such as Garfield Park Lofts will help solve a demand for affordable housing playing out across the city.
"That's really what the project today is about - making sure that people that have been living in the neighborhood get to stay living in the neighborhood," he said.
Tuesday's event also featured the opening of a time capsule, from 1909, that was discovered when construction crews demolished the vacant Burton Heights United Methodist Church to make way for the new building. Inside was a Sept. 24, 1909, copy of The Grand Rapids Herald, a bible, a 1901 penny, a copy of The Literary Digest, newsletters from the church, and other items.
Garfield Park Lofts, 100 Burton Ave. SE, is designed to serve low-income residents.
Twenty-one of its units are earmarked for residents whose annual income is at or below 60 percent of Kent County's area median income. For a two-person household, that's $33,600 or less.
The remaining 15 units are reserved for residents whose annual income is at or below 30 percent of Kent County area median income. For a two-person household, that's $16,800 or less.
Michael Scholten, board president of the Garfield Park neighborhood association, said a large portion of residents in his neighborhood live in rental housing, and rising prices are putting pressure on residents.
"As housing prices and rental rates rise, those people get displaced," he said. "Those are our neighbors, and we don't want them to be displaced from our neighborhood."
Tuesday's groundbreaking featured remarks from other community organizations that are partnering with LINC on the project, including Orion Construction, which is building the project, as well as PNC Real Estate.
Dwelling Place, a nonprofit housing developer, is also assisting with the project. The project received low-income housing tax credits from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.
DeRoo said 30 percent of the cost of construction will "flow to local minority contractors and the workers on the site."
"This project is not just about creating affordable housing," he said. "It's also about reducing the need for affordable housing by building the wealth and income of the families that are living in the neighborhood."
Roger Rehkopf, president of Orion Construction, said the development will be a "catalyst for continued revitalization" in the area.
"We're activating a vacant site and breathing life into an area that will inspire the community and engage them in the project," he said in a statement.