Nonprofit plans $6M construction project downtown


A partial rendering of the project. Courtesy Dégagé Ministries

A nonprofit focused on homelessness is planning a $6-million construction project to expand its services.

Dégagé Ministries plans to demolish the historic Carriage House at 139 Sheldon Ave. SE in downtown Grand Rapids and build a new three-story, 5,366-square-foot structure in its place, according to Marge Palmerlee, the nonprofit’s executive director.

The nonprofit is also renovating two adjacent buildings facing Sheldon Avenue, as well as its headquarters at 144 Division Ave. S.

The new structure will connect all of Degage’s buildings and allow passage between them.

Built in 1890, Palmerlee said the Carriage House is no longer safe. The nonprofit has been using the space in a limited capacity. Demolition was approved by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission last month, she said.

Between the construction and renovations, Dégagé is adding nearly 10,000 square feet to its operations, Palmerlee said.

The changes include moving the organization’s dining room from Division to Sheldon and adding some greenery and park benches outside the new dining room. The hope is to alleviate some of the foot traffic on Division, Palmerlee said.

The project is expected to take a year to finish, starting with demolition this spring.

Dégagé purchased the Carriage House parcel in January 2017 for $620,000, according to city property records.

Plainfield Township-based Progressive AE is the architect on the project.

Grand Rapids-based Rockford Construction is the project’s contractor.

Financing is coming from Macatawa Bank, and Palmerlee said Dégagé is in the early stages of a capital campaign.

Expanded services

The increased space will allow the nonprofit to expand and add several services.

“We looked at some of the gaps in the community and how we can fill them,” Palmerlee said. “We’re seeing pressing needs that are really hindering people form moving forward.”

The capacity of the women’s shelter service will be expanded from 40 single women to 80, and there will be room to also house women with children.

In partnership with Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, Palmerlee said Dégagé will add an area where clients can recuperate after surgery. She said doctors often delay surgery when patients have nowhere to recover, and those who have undergone surgery could be subject to additional issues. This will give patients the ability to recover in a safe place.

The project will also allow expansion of Paul’s Mom’s Cookies, the nonprofit’s cookie-baking and sales venture that employs women who have gone through Dégagé programs.

The project also includes new classrooms for helping clients with workforce development, personal finance and other skills.

Still early in the planning stages, Palmerlee expects to add employees in several of these expanded departments. 

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