North End Lofts is planned for the southeastern corner of Plainfield Avenue and Quimby Street NW across from Creston Brewery. Rendering courtesy Establishment Group
A Grand Rapids native has come home after leaving the 2008 market crash and plans to bring his development experience to a new project in Creston.
North End Lofts is a new $7.5 million mixed-use development proposed for the vacant lot on the southeastern corner of Plainfield Avenue and Quimby Street NW across from Creston Brewery.
Local developer and architect Brian Papke, partner with The Establishment Group, is leading the effort, with Construction Simplified serving as general contractor and Richard Postma Associates serving as architect.
“The Creston neighborhood is one of Grand Rapids’ most dynamic and exciting areas,” said Papke, who also is an architect helping to design the building. “I am confident this project will help ‘Keep Creston Funky’ while injecting additional energy into a neighborhood that is rich with history, character and inclusiveness.”
The project includes 36 one-bedroom, pet-friendly apartments and 7,100 square feet of ground-floor space, which includes potential retail space, co-working space and a conference room where residents can work and have meetings.
Residents also will have access to bike racks and 31 on-site parking spaces. Monthly rent at North End Lofts is expected to start under $1,000 a month.
Papke said his intention for North End is to create apartments that are “small A” affordable, or affordable by market-rate standards. The development will utilize smaller units to keep rental rates down.
“Rental property is something I’ve never done before,” Papke said. “It’s always been build and sell, but in terms of the market, rental to me is a great way to get into it at this point in time. In down markets, people need to rent.”
Papke said he may experiment with pricing about half-a-dozen units for low-income tenants.
Papke said he has been in the development sector since 2003 and had worked in the Grand Rapids area until the market crash of 2008. Afterward, he moved to Washington, D.C., and did urban condominium and retail development under Capital City Real Estate.
“The market out there is oversaturated now,” Papke said. “I had a good run, but I’ve been wanting to get back to my hometown. … Urban infill is something I’ve done for many years, and this project is a good fit for it.”
Papke said he still is involved in Capital City Real Estate while the company slows down and re-examines its portfolio.
Groundbreaking for North End Lofts is expected in the first half of 2020, pending city approval of brownfield and Neighborhood Enterprise Zone tax credits because the property formerly was the location of a gas station.
The developers expect nine to 10 months from groundbreaking to completion. Financing for the project still is being finalized.
As lead developer on the project, Papke is receiving expertise and support from The Establishment Group, which serves as a consultant on construction, marketing financing and other components related to development.
The Establishment Group was formed in 2019 and consists of Isaac Oswalt, Derek Coppess, Arthur Vachon and Joel Dunn. North End Lofts is the group’s first project working with a local developer, and it expects to work with Papke on future projects going forward.
“Brian Papke is a gifted human, and the North End Lofts is a catalytic location for that community,” Coppess said. “I am just grateful I can be a small part of a big vision for the neighborhood.”
While he is not directly involved in the project, North End Lofts signifies Coppess’ return to the real estate sector after a tumultuous 2019. The Business Journal originally reported last January that Coppess’ real estate firm, 616 Lofts, filed for bankruptcy after entering a partnership with Mount Pleasant-based KMG Prestige Inc. The partnership was meant to provide back-end operational support and “right-sized” its staff, trimming from nearly 30 employees to fewer than 10.
Seven properties in the 616 Lofts portfolio underwent a rebranding as “Lofts of Grand Rapids.” KMG Prestige told the Business Journal it took over property management responsibilities and ownership of the 616 Lofts portfolio in the summer of 2017. Coppess, in a letter to the Business Journal, said he resigned from 616 Lofts later the same year.
“I wish I could tell you that I walked away with my head held high, ready and excited for the next big challenge, but that just wouldn’t be true. I watched the 616 Lofts brand become Lofts of GR,” Coppess said. “I felt sorry for myself for a year or so, during which I learned that it’s very difficult to be creative and energetic when you’re feeling sorry for yourself. Real estate has always been the most obvious vehicle for me to continue that work.
“This is the formula we’re using at The Establishment Group to help developers of innovative projects across the country. Our team pools our experience and expertise to help others succeed.”