Proposed Belknap housing development awaits approvals COURTESY RENDERING

Proposed Belknap housing development awaits approvals

BY Sunday, December 02, 2018 04:00pm

GRAND RAPIDS — A proposed housing development is seeking approvals from the city and state before moving forward in the Belknap Lookout neighborhood.

The project represents a collaboration between Grand Valley State University, housing developers Grand Rapids-based Third Coast Development LLC and PK Housing & Management Co. of Okemos, the city of Grand Rapids and Neighbors of Belknap Lookout (NOBL), a nonprofit neighborhood organization.

The development partners, known as Three PK, are proposing a multifamily development for the south side of Trowbridge Street, between Lafayette and Prospect Avenues, on the site of vacant lot owned by GVSU.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to work in the Belknap neighborhood,” said Brad Rosely, principal at Third Coast Development in Grand Rapids.

The project, which is seeking Planning Commission approval as a planned residential development on Dec. 13, will feature a mix of 70 percent “affordable” units aimed at tenants at or below 60 percent of the area median income, and 30 percent market-rate units.

Integrated Architecture of Grand Rapids designed the project; Grand Rapids-based Pioneer Construction Co. is serving as the general contractor.

Developers also are seeking $689,567 in low-income housing tax credits from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

Carol Thompson of MSHDA said the evaluation of LIHTC applications is ongoing.

The expansion of the university into the Belknap Lookout neighborhood stems largely from growth of its health-focused programs. In July, the GVSU board of trustees authorized the university to lease property on its health campus to the developers, who intend to build affordable housing.

The university will not use tuition dollars to fund or maintain the project, which is not intended for student housing, said Brian Copeland, associate vice president for business and finance at GVSU. However, he says it is possible students will be tenants in the apartments.

In 2016, an agreement between GVSU, the neighborhood association and the city regarding the property the university owns in the Belknap neighborhood specifically addressed future housing development around the new Raleigh J. Finkelstein Hall, Copeland said.

GVSU issued a request for proposals, ultimately selecting Third Coast/PK Housing. The proposal was subject to approval by the Finance and Audit Committee of the university’s board of trustees. Representatives from NOBL also sat on the selection committee.

“We always meet with the neighborhood and their group,” Rosely said. “This was worked on long before we were involved.”

The understanding between the neighbors and GVSU also pre-set the design criteria for the project.

Elianna Bootzin, executive director and community organizer of Neighbors of Belknap Lookout, said the development would be a transition between larger institutional infrastructure and the residential neighborhood.

“It has a pitched roof that echoes the church across the street; it has porches which echo the neighborhood architecture; it has parking back from the street,” she said.

The neighborhood association sent a letter to the Planning Commission in support of the project, mainly because it helps replace housing lost with the opening of Finkelstein Hall in 2018. Bootzin declined to comment on future development in the Belknap neighborhood.

The city adopted an Area Specific Plan (ASP) for the Belknap neighborhood in 2010, calling for the neighborhood to remain predominantly residential, although it does include concepts for two mixed-use districts.

The neighborhood spent more than a year working with stakeholders and consultants to finalize the ASP for about $90,000, MiBiz reported in 2017. The project was funded by neighborhood property owners, the city and a variety of foundations.

In its planned residential development application with the city, the developers emphasized multiple times the work they have done to abide by the ASP and with neighbors’ wishes.

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