GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The century-old American Box Board Company building on Grand Rapids’ southwest side may soon be home to a cluster of apartments.
Chicago-based 3F Properties, LLC wants to adapt the riverfront property at the corner of Market and Godfrey avenues into 167 market-rate apartments with parking.
The developer expects to invest $26.1 million in transforming the 210,000-square-foot building, which sits on 2.25 acres. Wednesday, 3F Properties asked the Downtown Development Authority to freeze the property’s existing tax value for a decade so the developer doesn’t have to pay more after improvements are made and the property value increases.
The plans call for a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments as well as 106 parking spaces in the basement. 3F Properties Principal Mike Obloy said additional parking would be located immediately across the street along the river.
Obloy said the amenities would include “things that you would find in a more modern market-rate apartment project,” like a workout room, lounge and yoga room. KMG Prestige has been tapped to oversee the property since 3F Properties is located out of state.
Some members of the DDA voiced their concerns about the plan’s lack of affordable housing units in an area that borders a low-income section of the city; Obloy said the development’s size and design is “thoughtful” toward affordability to avoid pricing most renters out of the market.
Some DDA members also questioned why 3F Properties had not yet reached out to neighboring Grand Rapids Community College or residents for feedback. Obloy said they examine the viability of a project before reaching out to the community because they don’t want to “tease” stakeholders if the project doesn’t work out.
Ultimately after discussing the demand for housing downtown, the DDA approved the tax break. The only opposing vote came from Luis Avila who was concerned about the loss of an estimated $1.24 million in tax revenue from an exclusively market-rate housing project.
Samuel Morman started American Box Board Company in the early 1900s, according to records in the Grand Rapids Public Library Archives.
The facility employed approximately 160 people in December 1909. Eight years later, American Box Board Company and its business affiliates had grown to employ 650 workers, making it the second largest industry in Grand Rapids and the largest producer of folding boxes in the world, according to a February 1917 edition of Grand Rapids Progress.
American Box Board Company’s collection of businesses took in and churned out 350 to 400 tons of commodities daily – more than Grand Rapids’ leading industry at the time, furniture. The factory was open around the clock except for Sundays, the Fourth of July and Labor Day.