Mixed-use development to replace Heartside eyesore

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It looks like a plan to develop an ugly vacant lot in Grand Rapids’ Heartside neighborhood will finally move forward.

As other plans fell through, the property at the southwest corner of S. Division Avenue and Weston Street has become an eyesore: a fenced-off crater covered with graffiti and overgrown with weeds.

Now, real estate company Sibsco LLC says it’s going to spend about $4.5 million to build a mixed-use building with apartments and ground-level retail space. The company is working with Rockford Construction and Lott3Metz Architecture.

“It’s one more area of Grand Rapids that’s going to look better,” Charlie Secchia of Sibsco promised.

The building with include 22 market-rate apartments: six two-bedroom townhomes, two 415-square-foot one-bedrooms and 14 “micro-units” that will be only 330 square feet each.

“It’s not the right apartment for two kids, a dog and a cat, no question about it,” Secchia joked.

He said the apartments were designed to be smaller so they would be cheaper than most of the apartments downtown. Each should cost between $800 and $1,600 per month. The development will have 19 parking spaces.

The old, crumbling buildings that used to stand on the property were torn down in 2014. The city had declared them “structurally unsafe” and fenced off the sidewalk in front due to fears of falling brick.

“There’d been a sewage leak or a water leak from a water main years ago caused the buildings to descend into a hole. There’s underground water. There were structural concerns of the buildings. There was every problem you can imagine on that site,” Secchia said.

In early 2015, a plan for a 12-story office building at the site was announced. But interest among possible tenants was lacking, partially due to lack of parking, so it never went up. The next idea was an affordable housing project, but it couldn’t get approval from the Grand Rapids Historic Preservation Commission, so it never came to fruition, either.

The Historic Preservation Commission approved the current project Sept. 5 and it doesn’t need further approval from any city boards. Construction should start late this fall or early next spring.

“It’s not going to change the skyline of Grand Rapids,” Secchia said. “What it’s going to do is cover up a hole that I’m embarrassed to look at.”

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