GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Creston Neighborhood Association (CNA) is making affordable housing a priority for a proposed apartment and retail building in the heart of the neighborhood. 

“If they are getting this benefit of a lower tax rate, what benefit comes to the neighborhood," asked Megan Kruis, the executive director of Creston's neighborhood association. "It’s important to us that some of the units are affordable." 

Brian Papke, the developer behind the North End Lofts, said in order to begin the project at the corner of Plainfield Avenue and Quimby Avenue NE, they need the city's approval on two tax incentives: Brownfield and Neighborhood Enterprise Zone (NEZ). 

In order for the city to approve a NEZ, a tax incentive for housing development, the neighborhood has to sign off on it. Kruis said as part of that the association has requested that five of the 36 one-bedroom apartments are low income units. Papke, who works for The Establishment Group, said five low-income units should be doable. 

Papke estimates that rent for the remaining apartments will start at $1,000.

"We won't be the most affordable, but I think we will be fairly affordable given that we are a new building," Papke said. 

Kruis said the neighborhood, which the association has surveyed primarily through door knocking, is hopeful about this project. 

“That particular site has been a disappointment in the past," Kruis said. "We are just really excited for something good and productive to be there."

The developers behind 616 Lofts LLC had previously proposed a mixed-use building at the vacant lot that fell through. Derek Coppess the founder of 616 Lofts LLC, which no longer exists, is now a co-founder of The Establishment Group. 

RELATED: New apartments going up in Creston neighborhood

Papke said he is learning from the community about the impact of this lot being vacant. 

“I am just looking at this as a blank site that has history that we are finding out about as we go here," he said. 

Kruis said she's hopeful after seeing the involvement Papke has had with neighbors and local business owners. 

“I am encouraged because the developer has been really open to neighborhood feedback," Kruis said. "We understand that they have to make numbers work. And I think they understand when they seek and listen to community feedback they will end up with a better project."

Papke said he's received a range of feedback covering the design of the building to concerns over parking. Overall, he said, most of the feedback is rooted in excitement. 

"A lot of feedback is just that they are happy to see something happen. This really is the most prominent corner, in my opinion, of what is Creston," Papke said. "So, everybody’s excited and I think we are excited to really do something great for the community here."

Kruis said the neighborhood's focus will remain on affordability, preventing displacement of current residents and business retention and recruitment that's accessible to all people. 

“We want the future of our neighborhood to be a place where any resident no matter their income level could find a home and thrive here," Kruis said.

Papke is hosting a neighborhood meeting Tuesday that goes from 7 to 9 p.m. at Creston Brewery on Plainfield Avenue NE. The CNA will also soon be sending out an online survey to garner further insight from neighbors. 

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 Emma Nicolas is a multimedia journalist. Have a news tip or question for Emma? Get in touch by email, Facebook or Twitter.

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