GVSU, Grand Rapids city leaders celebrate affordable housing project under construction near Health Campus

Rendering of Belknap Place Apartments.
Rendering of Belknap Place Apartments to be constructed at the corner of Trowbridge Street and Lafayette Avenue.
Image Credit: Courtesy photo.

Construction is set to begin on a project that will bring new affordable housing to downtown Grand Rapids near Grand Valley’s Health Campus.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held November 4 for Belknap Place Apartments, a 50-unit complex in the Belknap Lookout neighborhood near the corner of Trowbridge Street and Lafayette Avenue. The $12 million project will have a housing mix of 80 percent affordable and 20 percent market rate. 

GVSU officials joined representatives from the City of Grand Rapids, Neighbors of Belknap Lookout (NOBL), Third Coast Development and PK Companies to celebrate the project. Belknap Place Apartments will be owned and operated by Third Coast Development and PK Companies.

President Philomena V. Mantella stands at the podium.
President Philomena V. Mantella.
Image Credit: Kendra Stanley-Mills

President Philomena V. Mantella called the project a win-win-win: for the citizens of the Belknap neighborhood, the City of Grand Rapids with expanded housing options, and Grand Valley as it contributes back to the community. 

“This development is elemental to Grand Valley’s promise to the City of Grand Rapids and the citizens with whom we work and live,” said Mantella. 

 Louis Canfield, chief of staff for the City of Grand Rapids, stands at the podium.
Louis Canfield, chief of staff for the City of Grand Rapids.
Kendra Stanley-Mills
 Grand Rapids Second Ward Commissioner Joe Jones stands at the podium.
Grand Rapids Second Ward Commissioner Joe Jones.
Kendra Stanley-Mills

Grand Rapids Second Ward Commissioner Joe Jones said a spirit of compromise prevailed throughout the planning process.

“Grand Valley made a conscious decision to become part of the community, not just a good neighbor,” said Jones. “This is a promise fulfilled to be the best neighbor GVSU could be.”

Louis Canfield, chief of staff for the City of Grand Rapids, said the project’s success can be attributed to strong partnerships with Grand Valley and NOBL. “As a resident of this neighborhood, I am excited to see this dynamic development; it will add to the vibrancy of the neighborhood,” Canfield said.

Participants hold shovels to turn dirt in celebration of the construction project.
President Philomena V. Mantella, right, joins city leaders and developers in celebrating the new construction project.
Kendra Stanley-Mills
Six GVSU leaders hold shovels over a mound of dirt.
GVSU leaders celebrate the construction of Belknap Place Apartments.
Kendra Stanley-Mills

Mantella said Grand Valley has worked extensively with the City of Grand Rapids and the NOBL on the shared development of Belknap, not only for this housing initiative, but also on the infrastructure in and around the neighborhood to make it a welcoming place to live.

“Support for our local community is embedded in Grand Valley’s commitment to inclusion, access and equity,” she said. “Your values are only good if you live them and this project gives us that opportunity.”

In 2018, the Grand Valley Board of Trustees authorized the university to lease the 0.85- acre-property for the development of affordable housing. GVSU worked with representatives from the City of Grand Rapids and NOBL to create a Memorandum of Understanding after the university purchased land to expand its Health Campus north of Michigan Street. The MOU required the committee to prepare a request for proposal and choose a developer for the project. 

Mantella thanked President Emeritus Thomas J. Haas and Pat Waring, former GVSU community relations director, for their dedication and commitment to the project.

Two women from the Belknap neighborhood greet each other with a hug.
Elianna Bootzin, executive director and community organizer of Neighbors of Belknap Lookout, hugs Kena Lee, deacon of Coit Community Church. Lee said: "GVSU has kept their promises. They've been great with including the neighborhood in their plans."
Image Credit: Kendra Stanley-Mills

Pioneer Construction will serve as the construction manager and Integrated Architecture is the architect. The project is expected to be completed in fall 2022.