GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Excavators, cranes and roofers are hard at work in northeast Grand Rapids, transforming the former home of Wealthy Park Baptist Church into a new neighborhood of town houses dubbed Michigan Meadows.
NEW PROJECT, NEW WORRIES
Wheeler Development Group bought the roughly 19-acre property at 2233 Michigan Street NE near the East Beltline in December 2018 and started building in June after months of meetings and input from neighbors, some of whom were concerned about traffic and preserving green space.
>>App users: See the Michigan Meadows transformation here.
“We went through rezoning and we went through planning commission, neighborhood associations,” said John Wheeler, CEO of Wheeler Development Group. “It’s been about a year and a half before construction, working to make sure that the project that we presented was well-accepted by the neighbors and the city, the planning commission. And it was. We take our time to make sure it’s the right project and the right mix.”
It could’ve been worse for concerned neighbors. Wheeler says the site master plan called for up to 300 apartment units on the property.
“That’s not what we chose to do. We chose to build this more of a neighborhood where each building has between three and four units per a building and a lot of walkout basements. We have 36 basements out of 87 units. A lot of different floor plans, views. So we get the buildings to fit the site,” he explained.
Wheeler Development Group says it is also preserving some of the original landscape.
“We’ve got about 6 acres to the back that’s just all-natural, and that will be where the families and the kids will obviously migrate to and play. They’re not structured or paved, but it’s going to be a really neat wooded natural area,” said Wheeler.
The $22 million is located in the longstanding Michigan Oaks neighborhood where some homeowners have lived for 40 to 50 years.
“You want to get into a well-established neighborhood, too, because they care about each other. There’s a neighborhood association here and it’s a very powerful neighborhood association. And obviously we’re joining that neighborhood association with all of our residents,” said Wheeler.
The developer’s aim: to add to the neighborhood feel.
“We want it to feel like you’re driving down the street of single-family residential homes. And there’s neighbors who get to know each other, but in their own space,” he said.
INSIDE MICHIGAN MEADOWS
Those close to Michigan Meadows say its appeal comes from its proximity to highways, downtown, the Medical Mile and the East Beltline’s oasis of shops and restaurants.
The development also has an advantage over downtown living:
“Parking here is a dream,” said Lexi Brooks with PURE Real Estate Management. “You’ve got your own attached garage in every single unit, whether it’s a single stall or a double stall. You’ve got room to park behind those and not only that, we’ve got guest parking throughout if your friends or family or anybody are coming to stay, coming to visit. It’s very easy for them to find a spot to park and come in.”
Michigan Meadows’ town houses come with two or three bedrooms each in six layouts, some including daylight and walkout basements. The two-bedroom units come with a single-stall attached garage and are 1,264 square feet. Three-bedroom town homes are 1,475 square feet with a garage that can fit two vehicles.
“For our two-bedroom units, they’re going to have en suite bathrooms and walk-in closets in both bedrooms, so it really creates that master suite feel in both of those bedrooms. And in the three-bedroom units, the master (bedroom) has a very large bedroom walk-in closet. It’s got the en suite bathroom in there and then we’ve made a really nice size second bathroom for upstairs to share between the two other bedrooms,” explained Brooks.
Visitors are greeted by nine-foot ceilings and a first-floor gas fireplace.
“It’s got a great wow factor,” said Brooks. “Upgraded appliances, very high-quality finishes, granite countertops. You’re getting full-size appliances, fireplaces in all of the units, walk-in closets, and a lot of the upgraded interiors that people are looking for.”
The town homes also come with storage space and a patio or deck.
Former apartment dwellers can ditch the quarters: Each town home has its own washer and dryer on the second floor.
“Conveniently located right near the bedrooms where all of your laundry is happening,” said Brooks. “It’s nice to be able to have a dedicated room, a dedicated area to have your laundry. You’re not having to bring it off site, lug it all the way downstairs. It’s going to be right there, conveniently next to your bedroom.”
Gone also are neighbors directly on the other side of your wall and the noise that comes with them.
“We patented these party wall designs where they are completely bifurcated — air space in between, two separate walls. You can’t hear anything. We developed that with an architecture firm about 20 years ago. So the noise is not an issue with our units at all, ever,” said Wheeler.
“(Construction is) right outside the window. We’ve got a lot of machinery on site today so the fact that we can stand in here and not hear that I think is a great testament to the property and quality of the build,” said Brooks.
The insulated walls also pay off for tenants.
“You’re getting those lower utility costs because they’re very well insulated, the appliances we’re choosing are higher end and are more efficient so we’re preserving that energy. It’s better for the environment, better for our tenants and their wallets,” said Brooks.
Wheeler says they have a goal for how everyone should feel when they walk in the door:
“’I’m home’: That’s what we try to deliver. Our designers, our leasing people, our property managers- we have in house property management with PURE Real Estate Management – we want you to feel at home. This is your home.”
Brooks says rent starts around $1,795 for a two-bedroom town house and $2,195 for a three-bedroom town house, both without basements.
While appliances are included, furnishings are not.
Brooks says there’s also a two-pet limit.
THE MOVE-IN MARKET
Wheeler Development Group is no stranger to development.
“This is our 23rd town home project over the last 25 years in the Grand Rapids area,” said Wheeler.
The company also creates apartments. Wheeler says there are stark differences between both living situations.
“The demand for this type of housing is high because these are really homes, these aren’t apartments. And we build them with energy-efficient everything, we fully furnish them with all the utilities: washers, dryers, appliances. So basically you’re looking at a model home and that’s what makes it different than an apartment.”
Also different: how long renters stay, with town houses typically attracting longer-term tenants, according to Wheeler. He said his company tries to stretch out that stay by converting town houses to single-family condominiums for ownership after three to 10 years.
“Every time we convert a project, over half the people that are renting buy,” he explained.
Though Michigan Meadows is still under construction, the first tenants have already moved in and interest is growing, according to Brooks.
“Weekly we’re getting new applications in and having plenty of tours scheduled, (and) walk-ins. We do have an open house here, so we allow people to walk in just as their schedule allows and take a look at the units,” she said.
Orion Construction is handling the build-out, which is expected to wrap up around the end of June.