GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Some high-demand affordable housing in Grand Rapids is ready for tenants.
Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss joined project and community leaders Wednesday morning to cut the ribbon on Garfield Park Lofts at 100 Burton Street SE, located a couple blocks east of Division Avenue.
They also broke ground on phase two of the project across the street: a three-story, 26-unit apartment complex called West Garfield Park.
LINC Up, the organization behind the project, says Garfield Park Lofts is the first new commercial construction in the neighborhood in nearly three decades, injecting $4.5 million into the community.
Orion Construction President Roger Rehkopf told News 8 that Garfield Park Lofts also stands out because it fulfills the need for affordable housing in Grand Rapids. Seven of the units are designated for families who meet low income eligibility guidelines, according to LINC Up.
The organization said demand for Garfield Park Lofts was so overwhelming during preleasing, they had to use a lottery system to determine tenants.
“Having to turn away over 450 people, not being able to get an apartment, you know that just speaks to the need that has existed in the community,” said Eric Brown, finance director for LINC Up.
“We are wrestling and struggling with affordable housing in our city,” Grand Rapids’ mayor acknowledged during Wednesday’s ceremonies.
“Projects like this really do take all of us working together,” she added.
Crews started work on Garfield Park Lofts 11 months ago after tearing down a vacant church that was beyond repair. Rehkopf said they saved some pieces of the building and incorporated it into the two and three-bedroom units.
“Now there’s 36 families that will be able to use this parcel of land and be able to live,” said Orion Construction President Roger Rehkopf.
Garfield Park Lofts also features on-site parking and greenspace.
Gwendolyn Nathan has lived in Grand Rapids for 72 years and has watched the city grow. She told News 8 she can’t wait to leave her Sheldon Street apartment for her new space at the lofts.
“They’re very nice, but when I saw my apartment and opened the door and saw a washer and dryer, I was super excited. I don’t have to leave out to wash and dry my clothes,” said Nathan. “They’re very nicely done. The rooms are large and I’m just so excited to move in.”
“Our model at LINC is, we want to make it a place we would want to live in,” said Brown.
LINC Up also infused local flair into the lofts, tapping Grand Rapids architect firm Isaac V. Norris & Associates to help design the space, and turning to Grand Rapids native E’lla Webber to create the artwork lining the walls “to help add a sense of pride to the project,” accord to Brown.
Webber created all the interior pieces within three days.
She told News 8 the mural she painted on the transmitter box outside included images of neighborhood children.
“They would watch me every day and they would come close to me, but they didn’t know that I was going to ask them to be a part of their neighborhood artwork,” Webber said. “I’m glad that some students came over to help me with that and it looks really good, so I’m proud of that.”
Rent at Garfield Park Lofts starts around $421 a month for residents who meet low income requirements.
“One thing I can say about LINC — they put their money where their mouth is,” said Nathan, who is also a volunteer with LINC Up. “(There’s) nothing they have said that they didn’t achieve. I’m a super supporter.”
“At LINC, neighborhoods matter. And we all know housing is so important to success in life,” said Brown. “So to say now that we were able to give 36 family units a place to stay – a safe, warm, dry place to stay… you never know what the trajectory is going to be on an individual on having a place to call home a place that they know they can rest their head at night,” said Brown.
Residents of Garfield Park Lofts are expected to start moving in Friday. Preleasing of West Garfield Park is expected to open in spring.