Retirement Housing Project Ready To Start


    GRAND RAPIDS — A retirement housing project set for the northwest side may very well be the last large residential project to be built within the city limits of Grand Rapids.

    The project also featured a different developmental approach, as planners from Williams & Works Inc. talked with neighbors before they presented the plan to city officials.

    A little more than 40 acres of land at the northeast corner of Lake Michigan Drive and Maynard Avenue NW has been targeted for a residential building project that will include an independent-living facility, the expansion of an existing retirement community and the construction of two dozen single-family homes.

    “This is one of the last large pieces of undeveloped land available in the city. We’ve been able to, through the PUD, be creative enough to incorporate three different developments that work well together,” said Todd Olin, project manager for Williams & Works, an engineering firm hired by the property owner.

    Last month, city commissioners rezoned the property for residential development. Prior to the project, the land was a fruit orchard and home to the Graham Horticultural Station of Michigan State University. The property is owned by the Versluis family, who ran an apple orchard there and bought the MSU parcel in 1988.

    “We did a lot of planning on the project. Jay Kilpatrick headed up the planning aspect of it from the zoning perspective, and the engineering was also done by us,” said Olin.

    The development will yield a mix of retirement housing that includes:

    • A 115-suite independent-living facility at the corner of Lake Michigan and Maynard.
    • An expansion of the Marsh Ridge Senior Community at 470 Marsh Ridge NW.
    • Twenty-four single-family homes along the northwest side of the property.

    Another 100 senior living suites could be added at a future date.

    The independent-living facility will go up first. Holiday Retirement Corp., of Salem, Ore., is the developer and the world’s largest owner and operator of retirement housing. The company has 260 facilities in 39 states and six Canadian provinces, along with properties in the United Kingdom and France. Construction could begin this fall.

    “Holiday Retirement Community is anxious to begin and they are ready to go on approval,” Williams & Works principal Jay Kilpatrick told planning commissioners. “The largest development will probably take a year or so for design and finance approval, and the second phase will probably occur in 2002 or 2003.

    “The single-family development may coincide with it or it could occur later around 2003 or 2004. The assisted-living unit is the most long-term proposal and is at least five years into the future,” added Kilpatrick.

    Medallion Management Inc. will expand the 6-year-old Marsh Ridge by 131 living units, most likely through a series of single-story buildings and a pair of three-story structures. At first the senior housing project, which offers rent assistance to low-income residents, was to be expanded by two-story buildings. But the plan was changed to put up three-story structures instead, because the footprint is similar to two-story buildings.

    “The option we selected was for three-story buildings centered in the site to minimize the impact on properties on Burrit and Lake Michigan Drive,” said Kilpatrick.

    Medallion Management is based in Kalamazoo and provides rental homes for nearly 4,900 families and individuals in 75 communities.

    As for the single-family homes, the Versluis family is looking for someone to develop that section of the property.

    “A developer will purchase the land and sell the lots with a package deal for the homes to be built. So the buyer will be the developer, Realtor and builder,” said Olin.

    Landscape architect Pat Cornillese told planning commissioners that the area surrounding the project was largely residential with some neighborhood commercial to the west.

    “This site is visually outstanding and the development will be sensitive to that and preserve as much as possible, while also being sensitive to the neighbors’ concerns,” said Cornillese.

    The project drew little in the way of criticism from area residents, an unusual response for such a large development. Olin credited the lack of opposition to the project to the unusual approach they took with the development.

    “Rather than put an application into the city of Grand Rapids to start the process, we first went to the neighbors and the Northwest Neighborhood Association,” said Olin “We talked with the neighbors for six to eight months before we went to the city.”

    Initially, the project included some office, mainly space for doctors, dentists and other services that cater to seniors. But neighbors objected to that piece of the plan.

    “Based on discussions with the neighbors, we got rid of the office. They didn’t want to see that go in there,” said Olin.

    “Traffic concerns and an extension of what they referred to as the ‘Standale look.’ They didn’t want the Standale look.” 

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