Nonprofit completes West Side affordable housing project


Courtesy Colliers International West Michigan

A West Side affordable housing development, more than five years in the making, is finished.

Genesis Non-Profit Housing Corporation has completed its St. James Apartments & Townhomes in Grand Rapids, at 750 1st St. NW, according to Colliers International West Michigan last month.

St. James Apartments & Townhomes is Genesis’ seventh affordable housing development in Kent County and its second development on the West Side.

DeStigter Architecture and Pioneer Construction served on the project and worked to maintain the character of the St. James Catholic Church school building, built in 1922, and its exterior architecture.

The community features 36 one- and two-bedroom apartments and 16 townhomes. The school auditorium was converted into a large community room, with the original stage and hardwood floor.

The redeveloped school building is 40,000 square feet, and the townhomes total 17,000 square feet. 

Amenities include on-site management, on-site parking, on-site social services for the 13 permanent supportive housing units, heated sidewalks and the community room.

In addition to achieving LEED Gold certification, St. James Apartments & Townhomes is Grand Rapids’ first affordable housing community with a rooftop solar array, according to Colliers.

The 52 new affordable apartments and townhomes in the community will target Grand Rapids residents who earn 30 to 60 percent of the area medium income. Thirteen of the units will also be reserved for people with special needs.

Families with students who live in St. James may be part of the Challenge Scholars Program sponsored by the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. Through the Challenge Scholars Program, students who stay on track and graduate from Union High School may be eligible to attend college or receive technical training tuition-free.

Genesis purchased the building in December of 2013 for $465,000 from the Diocese of Grand Rapids.

Redevelopment of the property was over five years in the making. A Business Journal report from the time of the transaction noted Genesis intended to convert the school into affordable housing after purchase. Construction, however, did not begin until March 2018.

The long lead time was attributed to Genesis’ pursuit of a Low Income Housing Tax Credit, which it achieved in July 2017. The organization received approval with the aid of Colliers International West Michigan, which also represented Genesis in the purchase of the property in 2013.

Genesis Executive Director John Wynbeek said Genesis purchased the property because it was unique and the nonprofit recognized the West Side was a quickly developing part of town. The organization wanted to buy the property quickly while it was available.

“We purchased the building in anticipation of redeveloping it, but these processes take a few years,” Wynbeek said. “Nonprofits have two opportunities per year to apply for these credits with the state. It’s a highly competitive process.”

Once it obtained the tax credits, Genesis was able to have the townhomes built in about nine months, and the school was renovated into apartments in 10 months, Wynbeek said.

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said the opening of St. James Apartments & Townhomes fills a growing need for long-term affordable housing.

“We appreciate Genesis’ commitment to finding affordable housing solutions that support seniors and families with students,” Bliss said. “We are fortunate to have an organization so dedicated to improving the lives of those they serve, while making a significant, positive impact on our community.” 

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