Neighbors worried about turning church into apts

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A 76-year-old church building in Grand Rapids’ Creston neighborhood will soon become luxury apartments.

The Grand Rapids City Commission recently approved a brownfield amendment that clears the way for the $2.6 million project at the former Saint James Lutheran Church at 445 Knapp St. NE, just west of Plainfield Avenue.

The developer, 111 Halo LLC, plans to divide the building into five three-story apartments, creating loft bedrooms out of the upper part of the sanctuary and bedrooms in the current basement area. Additionally, 111 Halo plans to build a two-story building in the parking lot east of the church that will house nine more rental units.

City officials call the redevelopment project “significant,” but some neighbors are skeptical.

“I was aghast,” Nancy Kuzniar, who lives across the street, said of learning about the plan. “I just thought, ‘Oh my goodness, that does not sound good at all.'”

Kuzniar has seen the building used in several capacities, mostly by churches, in her 30 years in the area.

“I know change has to come, but I never would’ve imagined that would be the change,” she told 24 Hour News 8.

Despite her reservations about the project, Kuzniar said she hopes it will attract more businesses to vacant buildings nearby.

“I’m kind of like 50/50 about it. I’m kind of interested and yet I’m apprehensive,” neighbor Ila Dauser said.

She said she and several other neighbors attended previous city commission meetings where residents voiced opposition to the project.

As it moves forward, she and Kuzniar both mentioned traffic and parking as their main concern.

“Knapp Street is always a busy street anyway and I was worried about the traffic and how clustered it might become,” Dauser explained.

The developer says monthly rent will range from $1,200 for a one-bedroom apartment to $1,500 for a two-bedroom space.

Developers were not available for comment on Wednesday and did not have renderings readily available. Project leaders told 24 Hour News 8 over the phone that they plan to restore the stained-glass windows and keep some of the original brick facade.

City officials say the development will help satisfy high demand for housing in Grand Rapids while generating more than $4,000 in annual tax revenue for the city.

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