The downtown condo market may be coming back


The conversion of Clark Place from apartments to condominiums is complete, and only five of the 20 units are still available for sale. Courtesy Clark Place

Here are two words you probably haven’t seen juxtaposed in print or online for quite a while: downtown condominiums. 

While an outbreak of downtown apartment projects have been announced and completed in the recent past, downtown condo developments have been largely AWOL for at least five years.

Recently, that changed, and maybe this one will reignite a housing trend: What were apartments at Clark Place have become Clark Place Residential Condominiums.

Clark Place is part of the American Seating Park on Broadway Avenue NW that was developed about a decade ago by American Seating Co. and Pioneer Construction. The development was built on property owned by the furniture maker just west of the Grand River, and it includes the company’s headquarters, about 150,000 square feet of commercial space, the Off Broadway Apartments and Clark Place.

American Seating Park was heavily honored when it opened in 2003. It even became the poster child for historic preservation projects statewide that year after winning the Governor’s Award, the state’s highest decoration for renovations done according to historic guidelines.

A key portion of the 350,000-square-foot development was Clark Place, which offered 20 luxurious apartments when it opened. The units were located on the top floor of a four-story building that offered panoramic views, 13-foot ceilings, exposed brick walls, oversized doors, stainless steel appliances, cherry-wood cabinets and solid surface countertops. Some apartments had wet bars; one included a loft. The apartments ranged in size from single-bedroom to four-bedroom, with most having two. All units came with parking garages.

Earlier this summer, American Seating and Pioneer began converting the apartments into condominiums, and now the conversion is complete.

“From the completion of the initial renovation back in 2003 until a few months ago, these had been luxury apartments, and we have now converted that fourth floor of luxury apartments into residential condominiums that we’re calling Clark Place Residential Condominiums,” said Chris Beckering, director of business development for Pioneer Construction.

Beckering said there has been enormous interest in buying the units ever since the conversion was done. They’ve closed on 11 sales since June and four more are under contract, leaving only five to be listed and marketed. Six existing tenants bought their apartments.

With sales occurring so rapidly at Clark Place, the downtown housing market obviously has changed. “The market has come roaring back,” said Beckering.

“What we saw was an opportunity, given the low-interest-rate environment and the lack of supply of downtown condominiums. Many of the developer-owned projects that had been constructed over the last 10 years or so are finally sold out, which we felt created a nice opportunity to bring this project to market,” he added.

Beckering said the four under contract likely will close within a few weeks, as deposits had been made. The rest are listed on the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors Multiple Listing Service. The prices range from $179,900 for a 1,500-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath unit, to $229,900 for a 1,650-square-foot corner unit with two bedrooms and two baths. All include a private garage.

“It’s a sweet deal on downtown living with down-to-earth prices,” said Beckering. “That’s why we’ve had the sales velocity that we’ve had. These have all been priced very reasonably, and we have great financing packages available for buyers. 

“These are very nice and very large units. A typical downtown two-bedroom condo is 850 to 1,000 square feet. Our typical two-bedroom layout is over 1,500,” he added.

Beckering said he thought the average square-foot cost for a downtown condo over the past year has hovered around $155. In contrast, he said the condos at Clark Place were priced at less than $120 a square foot. The building’s condo association will manage the property; annual dues run about 18 cents a square foot — a figure he said was roughly 30 percent less than the normal downtown condo fee.

Beckering said most of the buyers so far have been suburban homeowners who are ready for a change of scenery.

“I think this project is a great bellwether for the return of the downtown condo market,” he said. “For a condo project to sell 75 percent of the units just two months after the condominium conversion was completed has greatly exceeded our expectations, which were quite high.”

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