Partners launch improvement program at HōM Flats

Developer says partnering with E3 Coaching Studio fits his mission to offer ‘quality’ workforce housing.
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Leasing is underway for Holland’s HōM Flats on Felch Street, which has 114 dwellings that are a mix of market-rate and affordable units. Courtesy HōM Flats

HōM Flats recently created programming at its workforce housing developments designed to open doors for residents’ life and career advancement.

Vishal Arora, who was born and raised in Zeeland, is founder and CEO of New York City-based Magnus Capital Partners, a real estate investment firm with workforce housing across the country.

In fall 2019, Magnus broke ground on phase one of its first West Michigan-based workforce housing development, HōM Flats at 28 West, at the former Studio 28 movie theater site at 1401 Prairie Parkway SW in Wyoming. The development has units at various price points, including for “the missing middle” — residents with incomes that don’t top 40%, 60% or 80% of Kent County’s area median income, respectively, but who make too much money to qualify for Section 8 housing. The development also includes some market-rate units.

All the units in phase one are completed and 96% are occupied, Arora said.

Arora

Phase two of that development broke ground in 2020 and currently is leasing up, Arora said. The 28 West development will have a total of 386 units when completed.

In 2021, Magnus broke ground on another HōM Flats development — 114 units at 12181 Felch St. in Holland, dubbed HōM Flats on Felch Street. Leasing is underway for those units, which also are a mix of market-rate and affordable units split up into similar income tiers as those at 28 West based off the AME for Ottawa County.

Magnus now is developing HōM Flats at Maynard, at 526 Maynard Ave. SW in Grand Rapids, a mix of market-rate and lower-income units that are expected to be completed in 2023.

Rents at all HōM Flats developments “are set to meet a majority of prevailing workforce wages, e.g. $15-$25 per hour,” Arora said.

He said his goal with all the HōM Flats developments is to offer a “socially responsible,” comfortable, safe and affordable community where the units and common areas possess “high-quality design, innovative style and best-in-class amenities.”

Shared complimentary amenities include outdoor dog parks and indoor dog-washing stations, outdoor waste stations, remote workspaces, on-site resident cafés, free Wi-Fi in common areas, fitness studios with fitness classes, game rooms, rooftop terraces, walking paths, a playground, free parking, free on-site recycling, 24-hour maintenance, on-site printing and a package delivery room.

In-unit amenities include appliances, including stove, refrigerator, washer and dryer, dishwasher and a built-in microwave; central air; water and trash services; walk-in closets; ample storage; custom cabinetry and kitchen islands; luxury vinyl flooring; open floor plans; pets allowed; 24-hour maintenance; and key-fob entry.

“The whole idea was to create a high-quality workforce housing development brand,” Arora said. “The workforce in West Michigan generally has limited housing choices, and the housing choices they have, from a rental perspective, are typically very old and without any meaningful amenities. We think we’ve changed that story a bit here by offering new construction, lots of amenities and a great design package with a great service level.”

Each HōM Flats development also offers a Flats PASS Program, with exclusive discounts for residents from a select group of restaurants, retailers and service providers.

Arora then went a step further to build programming to help residents sharpen their skills and improve their quality of life, to help open doors for career changes, promotions and creating a healthy work/life balance.

To that end, in February, he forged a partnership between HōM Flats and E3 Coaching Studio, a Grand Rapids-based firm founded in 2020 by Amy Pierce-Danders to offer career and life coaching.

HōM Flats at 28 West is on the site of the former Studio 28 movie theater in Wyoming. Courtesy HōM Flats

“One major plank of HōM Flats is to integrate ourselves into the community as much as possible, and part of that extension comes through these vendor relationships,” Arora said. “At a certain level, this relationship with E3 does that. It brings us closer to the community and the community closer to us. But in more thematic terms, we think of it as people who are in the workforce and looking for career advancement — ways to find their way up the economic ladder, resourcing opportunities, asking questions about where they might go — these things are often hard to find naturally and organically. When you have a dedicated resource like E3 available to the residents at no cost … it becomes (beneficial) to their career advancement.”

Pierce-Danders has over 20 years of workforce development experience and moonlights as an alumni career coach and student career adviser at Grand Valley State University. She has helped over 2,500 people through the process of determining career direction, overcoming imposter syndrome, conducting an effective job search, and building their confidence in all things career and life. She designs professional toolkit documents, such as resumes, cover letters and more.

At HōM Flats, her programming will include life and career coaching for residents at all ages and life stages, including parents, children, students, entrepreneurs and retirees. She will advise those who are just figuring out what they want to do with their lives alongside people who may be pivoting during the “Great Reset” (an alternative term for the “Great Resignation”).

The planned-out, yearlong pilot curriculum will include scheduled in-person events and workshops, virtual learning, drop-in hours for teens and young adults, hours by appointment for adult career coaching, and appearances by “resource curators” such as Michigan Women Forward and other economic development organizations to help residents who are entrepreneurs.

There also will be opportunities for parents and guardians to learn how they can guide the children and youths in their care, which will include resource toolkits, as well as programming called “When I Grow Up” for 4- to 8-year-olds and their parents to develop their creativity and learn about their strengths and interests through play.

Pierce-Danders sees programming all along the age spectrum as essential to fill gaps in the education and personal development landscape in West Michigan.

Pierce-Danders

“It’s helping parents and guardians understand that maybe your child really is going to be an exceptional fit for one of our skilled trades occupations that we’re so short on here. Or maybe your child is going to grow up to be a litigator. It all just depends,” she said.

E3 Coaching and HōM Flats also will offer intensive cohorts for 12 individuals at a time called “coaching communities,” which will involve a self-examination and discovery process to advance participants’ careers, and it soon will begin offering workshops for students on completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to receive federal tuition assistance.

In addition to the E3 Coaching partnership, HōM Flats also has hosted organizations like Express Employment Professionals to offer on-site job fairs for residents as part of the Flats PASS.

All the events and programming are available to residents and their families for free.

Pierce-Danders said she has in the past as part of her workforce development efforts done on-site recruiting for property management companies, but she is not aware of any other housing developments in Michigan that offer such a comprehensive suite of work/life development programs as this new partnership affords.

“HōM Flats has gone above and beyond in investing in workforce housing initiatives and providing the tools for residents to help them escape generations of issues,” she said.

Pierce-Danders said she plans to do a survey midway through the pilot and at the end to ask residents questions about outcomes, including, “Has this had a positive impact on their happiness quotient in life, has it allowed them to obtain an increase in income, and has it allowed them to create balance in their lives so that they can spend time in the buckets of their life that they prefer to?”

Added Arora: “Our goal is that everyone finds the seats they’re supposed to be in. Even if it’s just a few people, that’s a meaningful impact.”

More information about HōM Flats and its programming is at homflats.com.

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