616 Lofts founder Coppess sued by attorneys for unpaid fees

BY Sunday, March 08, 2020 06:45pm

GRAND RAPIDS — Derek Coppess, the founder of the bankrupt 616 Lofts LLC who has faced a string of lawsuits related to various development entities, has run into another legal challenge, this time from his former legal advisers.

In a case filed Feb. 25 in the 17th Circuit Court for Kent County, Grand Rapids-based law firm Kuiper Kraemer PC alleged Coppess, his father Ronald Coppess and 616 Development LLC owes the firm $89,912.14 in legal fees, plus interest.

Derek Coppess, the founder of the bankrupt 616 Lofts LLC COURTESY PHOTO

According to the filing, Kuiper Kraemer represented Coppess in a case filed by investors in one of his real estate entities.

Neither Kuiper Kraemer, nor the firm’s attorneys, Ada-based Muller Myers & Farran PC, could be reached for comment for this story.

Coppess on Thursday declined to comment on the Kuiper Kraemer case, saying he had not yet been served with the lawsuit.

Kuiper Kraemer, at the time operating as Kuiper & Orlebeke PC, served as legal representative for Coppess in at least one case, a 2017 lawsuit filed by Violet Hough, the widow of Coppess’ former mentor Murray Hough, according to court records reviewed by MiBiz.

In the case, Hough alleged Coppess used false pretenses to secure an investment of several hundred thousand dollars in 2009 from her late husband, and failed to pay off promissory notes. According to a settlement from August 2019, Coppess and his wife, Amanda Coppess, were ordered to pay $375,000 to Violet Hough.

In the last three years, Coppess has faced multiple civil lawsuits involving former investors, some of which have been dismissed or settled, as MiBiz reported this month. 

In interviews for the report, Coppess insisted he would pay back the debts he owed people and “make it right.” 

“I was taught you make sure you pay whatever you sign up for and, honestly, this is like the extreme ownership piece of it,” he said. “I’m not gonna play victim on it (and) hide. I’m taking anything that comes at me — good, bad, whatever — and dealing with it. And I’ve been able to learn a ton from it.”

Coppess previously founded and fronted 616 Lofts LLC, a $100 million development firm that completed seven large-scale apartment buildings and added 300 housing units in Grand Rapids. The umbrella company, which did not hold ownership stakes in any of its affiliated properties, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy after it fell into financial turmoil as its headcount and operations outstripped the property management fees it generated. 

Earlier this year, Coppess re-emerged on the Grand Rapids development scene with a new venture, The Establishment Group LLC.  

The Establishment Group partnered with Ada-based developer Brian Papke on a $1.4 million property acquisition for a site previously owned by an affiliate of 616 Lofts, which had planned to turn the Creston neighborhood property into a mixed-use project that never came to fruition.

The new company plans a three-story, 36-unit, mixed-use building at the southeast corner of Plainfield Avenue and Quimby Street. 

According to plans submitted to the city in late February, The Establishment Group is planning for the project to include 18 studios and 18 one-bedroom apartments, along with 8,100 square feet of commercial space. 

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