Developers target Grand Rapids’ ‘next great neighborhood’


Sun Title displays a rendering of its Creston Market renovation project on a sidewalk in northeast Grand Rapids. Photo by Mike Nichols

The historic Creston neighborhood in northeast Grand Rapids is set to see three projects under development that will create new apartments, a rooftop bar and retail space — which city officials believe will help transform the area.

This morning, 616 Development, Sun Title and Red Jet Café all announced several projects within a couple hundred feet of each other on Plainfield Avenue NE.

The projects are part of an “unofficial” first phase of redevelopment for the area, with more planned for the future, transforming the neighborhood into more than simply a “drive-thru,” as Grand Rapids City Commissioner Ruth Kelly put it.

“This is the most recent in a series of announcements that are coming forth about Creston — about the north corridor that we’re going to be excited about — because this is the next great neighborhood in Grand Rapids,” said Kris Larson, president and CEO, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., who lives just up the block from the development sites.

Red Jet Café rooftop bar

The first project announced was the addition of a rooftop patio and beer garden atop The Gilmore Collection’s Red Jet Café, at 1431 Plainfield Ave. NE.

Red Jet Café had designed a rooftop beer garden about 10 years ago, but had scrapped the plans because of costs, said Greg Gilmore, the restaurant group’s owner.

Now, with the upcoming investment in the neighborhood, the time for fully utilizing the roof space has finally come, he said.

Gilmore said the space will be about 1,800 square feet, seat 50 and be available three seasons a year.

The new rooftop garden will feature a bar menu that’s the “same as down below.”

The project will cost “a couple hundred thousand dollars,” Gilmore said, adding that construction will probably begin in the next year or two.

Creston Market renovation

The second project was announced by Tom Conkright, CEO of Sun Title, and includes the renovation and redevelopment of the Creston Market, at 1403 Plainfield Ave. NE.

Sun Title, which recently acquired a large chunk of that property, plans to expand the market from about 1,300 square feet to about 2,500 square feet, renovate the space, turn an antique meat cooler into a wine cellar and add a food-service counter that offers gourmet coffee and to-go meals.

Conkright’s plans include transforming the façade into a glass storefront, creating “intentional transparency.”

“Neighborhoods that are lit after 6 p.m. are walkable neighborhoods,” he said. “Everyone is committed to making sure that these storefronts, as they get renovated, provide more transparency and more vibrancy to see what’s going on.”

Sun Title, which is based in the neighborhood, also plans to renovate and restore the bookend building of the Creston Market, at 1365 Plainfield Ave. NE.

Once renovated, the ground-floor space, about 1,400 square feet, will be used for retail, and the apartments above will remain untouched, he said.

Conkright said he hopes all renovation work on the property will be completed by the end of next February.

He’s currently pursuing a number of tenants that could move in by spring.

Sun Title’s investment in the development is a “few hundred thousand dollars.”

“We believe that this neighborhood, by continuing to invest and celebrate and market its distinctiveness, we will realize an economic vibrancy that will spread throughout this proud Creston neighborhood and beyond,” Conkright said.

Construction on Sun Title’s Creston Market project is being done by Karns Construction, and the design is being done by Craig Architects.

616 Lofts on Plainfield

The third project, which was announced by Grand Rapid-based 616 Development, will be to transform the soon-to-be-razed site of the former Club North — which had been renamed The Break Room — at 1359 Plainfield Ave. NE.

616 Development will transform the site into a $6-million mixed-use property, with about 40 apartments and more than 2,600 square feet of retail space.

The project, called 616 Lofts on Plainfield, will begin in the next couple of months and should take about 12 months to finish, said Monica Steimle, director of development, 616 Development.

The project is only the beginning of 616’s plans for the area, Steimle said, adding that she hopes the project encourages other developers to take another look at the neighborhood and choose to invest in it.

It’s ready for business, she said, and it’s a neighborhood close to schools, parks and the river, which is a perfect option for a wide market of young professionals, families and empty nesters.

“Our culture as a developer is to upcycle underutilized spaces into assets the community can enjoy,” Steimle said. “And we are particularly proud of this project, because we believe it will help stimulate dramatic growth and revitalization in the Creston neighborhood.”

First Companies will be doing the construction, and Lott3Metz Architecture will design the project.

"Shared vision"

The three projects’ proximity to each other and the partnership demonstrated in the announcement today marked a major sign of collaboration between developers in West Michigan, Conkright said, adding that he was extremely excited that all the time and energy put into the projects is now gaining traction.

“We have a shared vision with other stakeholders in this community to transform this neighborhood,” Steimle said. “This is one of the first major steps toward that becoming a reality.”  

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