GR nonprofits to redevelop former industrial site with housing, offices and a community of ‘tiny houses’

GRAND RAPIDS — Two Grand Rapids nonprofits plan to redevelop a vacant furniture manufacturing building on the south side of town into housing and office space and also build a small community of homes on site.

Mel Trotter Ministries and Next stop West Michigan — which merged in July 2020 — are leading the development of Hope Village at 101, 119 and 135 Garden St. SE. The 1.65 acre site includes the vacant former home of Kindel Furniture.

The development team plans to build 16 tiny houses and renovate the second floor of the 15,760 square foot furniture building into 10 apartments. The first floor would include common facilities, including an office and laundry area.

The Grand Rapids Planning Commission will consider a request from developers at its September 8 meeting to consider rezoning the project site.

Mel Trotter and Next Step, which acquired the property in late 2020, included the tiny home component because of their relatively low construction cost, said Scott Jonkhoff, founder and director of Next Step of West Michigan. Hope Village aims to provide a walkable community that allows tenants access to the property, he said.

“Design-wise, tiny homes lend themselves to affordability because you can create some density in a development, Jonkhoff said. “It would be one of the first (tiny house) projects in our town, so hopefully this development will work for us, but also pave the way for other people.”

Eleven of the 16 small houses would measure 10 feet by 20 feet. The other five houses would measure 20 feet by 24 feet. Construction costs at this point range from $4 million to $5 million, Jonkhoff said.

Rent prices – although not solidified – will be “at the bottom” between $220 and $440 per month, he added.

Next Step of West Michigan will serve as the general contractor for Hope Village. Dixon Architecture is the designer of the project and Nederveld Inc. is the civil engineer. Construction could begin in the spring of 2023.

Next Step of West Michigan is a faith-based, nonprofit organization that provides job training in construction, manufacturing, and municipal cleaning to people who are struggling to find employment. Non-profit services for people who are struggling to find stable housing or who have previously faced incarceration or addiction. The non-profit organization’s office is located across from the planned Hope Village project.

“This project will help us to be more present in this neighborhood,” Jonkhoff said. “It’s an underserved and quite challenging neighborhood and we’re looking to improve it with this project.”

The 2020 merger between Next STep and Mel Trotter aligns with Mel Trotter’s long-term vision to grow revenue through social enterprises, the executives said at the time. Over the next 10 years, Mel Trotter aims to derive 70% of his income from these businesses, moving from a primarily donor-based model.

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