West Side building boom continues as developers take notice


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — More than 200 housing units are currently under construction on Grand Rapids’ West Side.

It represents a building boom happening across the river from downtown.

“You can see there are more and more places that are popping up every day where people can go and spend time with their family and friends. There is just a lot to do on the West Side,” said Jeff Olsen, project director for 616 Development.

That’s just part of what makes the West Side attractive to both developers and people looking for a place to live.

“We’re really excited to build a bridge from the core to the West Side. There [has] been some great development with Rockford (Rockford Construction) and some others that have put some energy into the community. When people wake up and want to go to some place with soul, I do think they think of the West Side and we did too,” Olsen said.

616 Development is working on two projects just off of Bridge Street. One is a new build — 616 Lofts on Alabama. The other across the street is the renovation of an old building plus an addition.

“We’re placing a building and homes where there once was a parking lot. The existing building was leaking from the roof down to the basement. Some of the growth and unkempt area on the back side which is now our parking lot. So yeah, we’re going to change the neighborhood, but we’re also trying to do it in the least impactful way possible,” Olsen said.

Construction on the New Holland Brewery building in Grand Rapids. (April 13, 2016)

It’s not only the 616 Development building up the West Side. Rockford Construction, which moved its headquarters to the West Side years ago, is also busy building the New Holland Brewing Company building, as well as a student housing complex called Fulton Place.

“From where we started at when we arrived on the West Side, we had a couple of adult book stores and novelty shops here. It was really something I focused on right away to say that this is really the gateway — this really needed to be the authentic West Side I knew growing up,” said Mike VanGessel, the CEO of Rockford Construction.

The traditional landscape of the West Side is dotted with churches and Polish halls. It’s an area of the city that remains steeped in traditions.

VanGessel says they are focusing on preserving the authenticity of the West Side and its traditions, while also bringing some contemporary architecture.

“When we came to the West Side there was a lot of vacancies and there was a lot of emptiness, parking lot wise that exists. One of the things we’ve been very thoughtful about is space and height and how tall do things get. Just introducing new architecture is very exciting but you also want to be thoughtful about it,” VanGessel said.

VanGessel thinks the West Side will continue to develop and echo the growth downtown is experiencing.

“We think the West Side is a perfect neighborhood that really compliments the downtown. It really gives people a great alternative lifestyle. Parking is really great on the West Side, the walkability of the West Side, the green space of the West Side,” said VanGessel.

————Online:616 Development

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