LC Companies raises downtown affordability with $18.5M Baker Lofts


Baker Lofts in downtown Grand Rapids is located in the former Baker Furniture Co. building. Photo by Johnny Quirin

The Downtown Market has a new neighbor: Baker Lofts.

The newly renovated version of the old Century Furniture Building, at 40 Logan St. SW, is just a block south of the urban marketplace.

At one time, the four-story structure was home to the Baker Furniture Co.,  but LC Companies just spent $18.5 million to historically transform the century-old building into an apartment complex with 87 units across its 125,000 total square feet of space.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Tuesday afternoon to officially mark the opening of Baker Lofts.

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A scouted location

LC Companies is an Ann Arbor-based developer headed by Mike Jacobson. 

Jacobson also is an attorney who has lived here for quite a while, and he told the Business Journal in November that he has had his eye on the building for at least three years.

“Our initial discussions and efforts to start working on the building pre-dated the Market announcement," he said. "But that only strengthened it as a location. But Ionia, in our minds, was going to extend beyond Wealthy Street, and it really is a fine, old building. I’m very familiar with downtown."

Affordable need

Jacobson also is familiar with developing affordable housing, which is what his firm is offering at Baker Lofts.

LC Companies is a collection of firms that have various business interests, with offices in Ann Arbor and in northern Michigan. But Jacobson pointed out that, of those various businesses, the firm’s specialty is developing affordable housing.

“The concept of affordable housing encompasses different strata," he said. "Predominately, we serve people with incomes of 60 percent or less of an area’s median income. And in our case, we predominately serve people from 40 to 60 percent of that income tier and that encompasses a lot of people who work downtown.”

“We have found a unique niche in the city and plan to fill it,” said Jacobson on Tuesday. “This area just outside of downtown is ripe for development and in need of affordable apartments.”

Historic tax credits

The renovation project was approved for federal historic tax credits and also will receive tax credits from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. The federal and state credits have been projected to be worth a total of about $14 million.

City commissioners gave the project a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes status last August. Instead of paying property taxes, LC Companies will pay the city 4 percent of its rental income each year.

“The transformation of this area of Grand Rapids has begun, and we are excited to have affordable residential living just a few steps from the Downtown Market and only a couple of blocks from the city’s arena and entertainment district,” said Mayor George Heartwell.

The space

Baker Lofts offers 16 one-bedroom units and 71 two bedrooms.

Monthly rents range from $446 to $669 for the single bedrooms and from $536 to $804 for the two-bedroom apartments.

The apartments range from 650 square feet to 1,200 square feet.

The building also has about 15,000 square feet set aside for commercial space.

Design and contractor

Jacobson said his firm will apply for LEED certification for the building from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Gary Breen of Concept Design Studio in Norton Shores designed the restoration project.

“They’ve done other historical rehabilitations for us," Jacobson said. "Gary is very good at what he does and is great to work with."

Rockford Construction Co. managed the renovation work, because of the builder’s successful track record of historically reviving a lengthy list of old structures.

“Rockford has a vast amount of experience in rehabilitating old furniture warehouses," he said. "They’ve had properties of similar construction, so it was very logical to consider them.

“Historical rehabilitations are not new to us,” he added. “We have done several others in the state: in urban areas that have proved to be very attractive to residents. These are the kind of buildings that people like to stay in, and we don’t experience a lot of turnover.”

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