organsnyder

Former Burton Heights UMC proposed to be demolished for apartments

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A couple of years ago, Dwelling Place announced plans to convert the former Burton Heights United Methodist Church (most recently La Nueva Esperanza UMC) into low-income senior housing. The plan called for tearing down the connected education building, and retaining the (older) church structure. Due to difficulties getting the necessary credits, however, that plan was scrapped. Now, Dwelling Place has come back with a new proposal.

 

Dwelling Place is now coming back with a new proposal: They now want to demolish all of the existing structures on the site (including the 105-year-old church), to be replaced with new construction of 39 units. These units would serve persons who are at or below 60% AMI, with 50 % permanent supportive housing units for persons with special needs.

 

At the next GPNA board meeting on July 9, Dwelling Place will be presenting their plans. This project would require a zoning change, so neighbors' input will have some sway. Most of the feedback I've heard has been negative, mainly with the design (which looks very suburban, IMHO) and demolition of a historic structure.

 

I live a block away, so I'm personally very interested in this project. I was very enthusiastic about Dwelling Place's original proposal, as it called for reusing the original church structure and seemed designed to be compatible with the neighborhood architecture—which is mostly intact. After seeing the new renderings, however, I'm concerned that it will stick out like a sore thumb.

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Here's the most recent elevations I've seen:

post-22119-0-67158200-1435768156_thumb.p

post-22119-0-68231500-1435768214_thumb.p

 

Here's the current building:

11046575_826491977404278_478365706504060

 

And here's what it looked like in 1931 (21 years after it was built):

11403083_826977034022439_427436942998900

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Here's the most recent elevations I've seen:

attachicon.gif100-burton-w-elevs.png

attachicon.gif100-burton-n-e-s-elevs.png

 

Here's the current building:

11046575_826491977404278_478365706504060

 

And here's what it looked like in 1931 (21 years after it was built):

11403083_826977034022439_427436942998900

 

These renderings look like a nursing home in Byron Center. Hopefully this is just a first swag?!

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The church should absolutely be left alone. That request must just be an example of "let's see if they will go for it" type of reasoning.

 

The "newer" structure? Well I suppose if they can produce a better building design than what they are proposing now. They can at least keep the front and demolish the interior. I guess it depends on what they would show in a better rendering.

 

If this is going to be a place for people that are on the fringe of not having a place to live within their means, then why would you want to demolish a fine looking structure like the church, which could never be rebuilt inexpensively, to build a structure that is as generic as they have proposed? The church could be renovated into a beautiful open common area and I can assume the setting will be comforting to many people that will live there. Imagine how nice it would be to sit in there with sunlight pouring through those stained-glass windows with that high ceiling. It wont feel like some low-income quickie project if they just used a little imagination.

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The GPNA board voted against endorsing the project, and it appears that Dwelling Place has abandoned the project. The property is now listed for sale—"Building on property in very poor condition. Value in land only."

 

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"Building on property in very poor condition. Value in land only."

 

Well if that isn't a text version of flipping the bird at the GPNA board I don't know what is.

 

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Well if that isn't a text version of flipping the bird at the GPNA board I don't know what is.

 

Yeah, that's how I feel about it as well. It does seem to reflect the attitude of the current building owners (a ministry in the UMC), who are sick of holding on to a building that is useless to them. I'm surprised that the Realtor didn't try to put a more positive spin on it.

The building is definitely in need of repair—five+ years of neglect will do that—but nothing I've heard leads me to believe that there are structural issues. The worst I've heard is that there's a lot of mold in the basement caused by a leaky roof. That's certainly not something to ignore, but it seems to me that mold remediation would be relatively easy if the building were gutted as part of being repurposed.

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Well if that isn't a text version of flipping the bird at the GPNA board I don't know what is.

 

It actually sounds like the GPNA flipped the bird at Dwelling Place, despite working on this for years and using continuous input from the neighborhood. Is there a board member, relatively new, who's an architect?

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It actually sounds like the GPNA flipped the bird at Dwelling Place, despite working on this for years and using continuous input from the neighborhood. Is there a board member, relatively new, who's an architect?

There were two iterations of the project. Dwelling Place first proposed tearing down the newer addition to the building (dating to the 1950's, I believe), renovating the original church building, and adding a newer portion. GPNA was extremely supportive of this initial proposal, including helping to meet some very tight deadlines needed to get various approvals. The vote of the GPNA board was unanimous in support of that initial project.

I don't know the exact reason, but Dwelling Place determined that they couldn't make the economics work with that initial project, so they came back with a proposal to raze the site and build new. That's when the GPNA board put the brakes on. The neighborhood has a lot of pride for its historic buildings, and the prospect of losing one was immensely unpopular. Still, the board told Dwelling Place was willing to consider it if the replacement they came up with was compatible with the neighboring historic buildings—especially the three other churches, of similar vintage, less than a quarter-block away. The proposal that was presented was not deemed by any on the board as matching the character of the neighborhood.

It felt to me that the GPNA board was being accused of NIMBYism and being afraid of low-income housing. That cannot be further from the truth. While there were a few residents at the neighborhood meeting that expressed concerns, no one on the board shared those concerns—in fact, one board member pointed out that the project would likely bring up the median income in the 07 zip code. This was purely about how the building would fit in with the surrounding neighborhood.

It is true that one of the board members is an architect. However, the vote against the project was unanimous, and I can't recall a single voice of support among any of the 20+ neighbors present at the meeting. This was not due to the agenda of any one individual.

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So now the Garfield Neighborhood is left with a severely deteriorated building that actually has negative value, meaning the existing building cannot be reasonably renovated into anything the market will bear in this area and the cost to acquire and demolish this obsolete building is more than the land is worth.  So instead of a new development on this site you are left with the same thing you started with, blight.  I drove past this site today and could not believe how bad the parking lot looks, pretty soon it will be more weeds than pavement.  What does the GPNA Board feel the architectural character of the neighborhood is? 

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So now the Garfield Neighborhood is left with a severely deteriorated building that actually has negative value, meaning the existing building cannot be reasonably renovated into anything the market will bear in this area and the cost to acquire and demolish this obsolete building is more than the land is worth.  So instead of a new development on this site you are left with the same thing you started with, blight.  I drove past this site today and could not believe how bad the parking lot looks, pretty soon it will be more weeds than pavement.  What does the GPNA Board feel the architectural character of the neighborhood is? 

That argument is flawed.  The GPNA supported redevelopment that included the historic church structure.  Barring that, they were open to accepting a development with the caveat that the design incorporate well into the existing neighborhood fabric.  It was the choice of Dwelling Place not to utilize the church structure and to come back with a design that did not meet the design request.  It seems somewhat Azzar-like to say "take this design you don't like or else we let the  site rot and become an eyesore.  How do you like that?"

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I am not so sour on the situation. Thankfully Grand Rapids is not in a position where it needs to be shoved into a "take it or leave it" proposal with no hopes of a better project. Yes, the current site is blight but I think the GPNA was right to say "thanks, but no thanks. we will wait for the next proposal"  

The proposal was awful. Just awful. There is no sugar coating the renderings shown to the community. They are suburban. Dated. Banal. Lacking in transparency, urbanity, and brick. They basically looked like a stretched out mcmansion....otherwise known as a nursing home.  Dwelling Place is run by some pretty bright dudes. They know what constitutes good, community enriching, design. This was not it. 

Edited by Jippy

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One correction to Jippy's post: It was Dwelling Place (not LINC).

It is unfortunate that the property is now in such disrepair. However, that blame lies at the foot of the current owners. Rewarding demolition by neglect is not a good idea, IMHO.

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Regardless of the how the situation started, progressed and ended, I don't think it's right to criticize Dwelling Place. They probably sank quite a bit of money and resources into this, so it's probably just as disappointing or moreso for them than the GPNA. In fact, the GPNA loses nothing, and probably committed nothing other than volunteer hours.

Plus, the fact that the Realtor put in the comments that the value is in the land and not the structures is probably a pretty wise thing to do LEGALLY. If DP's due diligence showed the state of the building(s) were beyond economical repair, than that's something that needs to be shared with future buyers. Sugar coat it and you risk being sued.

 

 

 

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Plus, the fact that the Realtor put in the comments that the value is in the land and not the structures is probably a pretty wise thing to do LEGALLY. If DP's due diligence showed the state of the building(s) were beyond economical repair, than that's something that needs to be shared with future buyers. Sugar coat it and you risk being sued.

 

I can see the wisdom in that.  I think my perception was in the words chosen to convey the point.  However, I was probably reading it through the lens of my preconceived opinion on the matter.  It just seemed a little terse and ham-handed.

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So now the Garfield Neighborhood is left with a severely deteriorated building that actually has negative value, meaning the existing building cannot be reasonably renovated into anything the market will bear in this area and the cost to acquire and demolish this obsolete building is more than the land is worth.  So instead of a new development on this site you are left with the same thing you started with, blight.  I drove past this site today and could not believe how bad the parking lot looks, pretty soon it will be more weeds than pavement.  What does the GPNA Board feel the architectural character of the neighborhood is? 

I think the story you have heard, obviously from only one side, is flat out wrong.  It's pretty alarming that someone running to be a city leader holds obvious disdain for the unanimous opinion of a local neighborhood association board and a large portion of the engaged residents.  Especially when you obviously have made no effort to understand the situation in the least.  

The GPNA board bent over backward to accommodate and support the developer to make the project workable for the neighborhood.  GPNA defended the goal of the project from the beginning, but the design was not negotiable, even though they removed a full story off the building in the middle of the process.  

I suggest should go talk to the board that represents a large number of third ward residents, and they will tell you about the character of our neighborhood and our neighbors.  

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I think the story you have heard, obviously from only one side, is flat out wrong.  It's pretty alarming that someone running to be a city leader holds obvious disdain for the unanimous opinion of a local neighborhood association board and a large portion of the engaged residents.  Especially when you obviously have made no effort to understand the situation in the least.  

The GPNA board bent over backward to accommodate and support the developer to make the project workable for the neighborhood.  GPNA defended the goal of the project from the beginning, but the design was not negotiable, even though they removed a full story off the building in the middle of the process.  

I suggest should go talk to the board that represents a large number of third ward residents, and they will tell you about the character of our neighborhood and our neighbors.  

mscholt-I did not hear any side of the story, I just read through the thread.  I re-read my comment and can't see where I am showing disdain for the neighborhood association.  I am just commenting on the sad situation left at that site, not the circumstances that led to this. That being said, you are correct I will contact the GPNA and find out from them what is going on, and I truly want to hear from the board's perspective what they feel the is the architectural character of the neighborhood.

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Guess there are two, three, seventeen sides to every story..

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Guess there are two, three, seventeen sides to every story..

Absolutely. Both sides definitely feel slighted. While I have my own opinions on who is most at fault for the recent misunderstandings, I think the crux of the matter is that Dwelling Place and GPNA's priorities weren't aligned on this project, and it was best for the project to be abandoned. Both sides took a hit by this project not going forward, whether it was financial, volunteer hours, or a large neighborhood property kept vacant and off the market.

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