GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — When the Inner City Christian Federation bought the Blodgett orphanage in the mid-2000s, the building at 920 Cherry Street was nearing 100 years old and it was a mess.
Eight million dollars later, ICCF’s Cherry Street headquarters has become a major part of the neighborhood’s revitalization.
“Yeah, we’re sad to see them go,” said Kyle Dobrowolski, who manages The Green Well nearby.
The Green Well is one of many restaurants and bars that have opened in the Fairmont Square District of the city over the last decade.
Dobrowolski says there shouldn’t be a problem finding a tenant for the 30,000-square-foot building ICCF is now leaving.
“I think it’s still growing around here, so I think it’s going to be a good spot to live and grow as well,” he said.
ICCF will move into the former home of Grand Rapids Christian High School at Franklin Street near Madison Avenue SE. The building last housed the Kent County Department of Social Services.
A local developer donated the long-vacant building to Madison Square Church back in 2015, but the building was too big for the church. They needed a partner.
“And when they reached out to ICCF, we were really excited about the opportunity to take this building, which has set vacant for a long time, has a storied history in this community, and turn it back in to an active place,” said Ryan VerWys, president and CEO of ICCF.
The $19 million investment for ICCF will allow the church to use half of the building for services and a child care center.
The other half will be used for ICCF offices and 41 much-needed affordable housing units.
Founded in 1974, ICCF provides affordable housing assistance to about 2,200 families in Grand Rapids every year. The move to Franklin Street puts ICCF closer to the majority of clients they serve.
“Over 60 percent of those homes are within a half-mile of this building,” VerWys said. “And for us, we think about how do we transform a community. How do we help people? Proximity is the key to that. “
As for the Cherry Street building, the “for rent” sign will go up in late 2020. The new residents will likely be a single company or organization.
Colliers International will handle the lease. Scott Morgan with Colliers says it won’t be a hard sell.
“It gets away from some of the more generic, suburban opportunities. I mean there’s nothing like this out in the market,” said Morgan.
VerWys hopes to spur a comeback in the Franklin-Madison area like ICCF did on Cherry Street.
The worry is that uptick in development will start pushing out the people the ICCF serves, ensuring they have an affordable place to live.
“The challenge of making sure we’re an inclusive community and have places for people of all walks of life to have a home is one of the most significant challenges of any community development organization faces,” said VerWys.