GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Trinity Health Saint Mary’s wants to build a nine-story building containing housing, retail space, a grocery store and offices for community service providers on the current 10 parking lots across from the hospital on Jefferson Avenue SE.
The building, part of what Saint Mary’s is calling the Heartside Health District Revitalization, will also include 1,000 parking spaces, according to the project description.
A portion of the proposed building’s 200 residential units would be reserved for low- to moderate-income residents.
The project was outlined by Saint Mary’s in its request to Kent County for $19 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for the project. It’s among more than 300 funding requests from a range of nonprofits and other organizations seeking the county’s share of $127.6 million in ARPA funds.
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In total, the project is expected to cost between $151 million and $197 million, according to Saint Mary’s. The building will be connected to Saint Mary’s by a bridge over Jefferson Avenue.
Curt McDonald, senior vice president of operations at Trinity Health Saint Mary’s, submitted the ARPA funding request to the county.
He was not available for an interview, said Amy Rotter, senior communications specialist at Trinity Health Saint Mary’s.
“We are still early in the process of developing a vision for the area with our neighbors and partners and have no details to share at this time,” the hospital said in a statement.
In addition to seeking ARPA funds, other sources of funding for the project are also being explored, including the Brownfields Redevelopment Authority, philanthropy and the State of Michigan’s Mid-Range Housing Missing Program, the project description said.
The project received a letter of support from Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalyn Bliss, as well as Vanessa Green, CEO of the African American Health Institute of Grand Rapids, a partner of Trinity Health Saint Mary’s.
“Their proposal excites me because it could dramatically transform a neighborhood with affordable housing, access to healthy food, space for small businesses and community organizations, and more attractive green space,” Green said in a letter to the Kent County Board of Commissioners.
Green noted in her letter that she learned about the building in a conversation with Saint Mary’s about her organization’s need for space and the possibility of locating space on or near the hospital’s campus.
The Kent County Board of Commissioners is currently in the process of deciding which community projects will receive a share of the ARPA funds.
The board is expected to finalize its allocations at a special meeting on Monday, November 14. Initial feedback from the board on the various proposals shows that 13 of 18 commissioners ranked Trinity Health Saint Mary’s proposal as a “low priority.”
In addition, a consultant who evaluated the ARPA requests submitted to the county noted that there were concerns about the Saint Mary’s project. These include that the project lacks guaranteed funding beyond 2026 and whether there could be a 2026 completion target.
The 10 parking spaces where the nine-story building will be built are currently owned by Saint Mary’s, according to the ARPA funding request.
Plans for the project include 39,000 square feet of retail space for uses such as a coffee shop, child care, massage therapy, gift shop or bakery. The goal is to have a grocery store as the main tenant in the building.
It will also have four floors of 200 apartments, followed by four floors of office space for public service providers. These community services would be recommended by residents and community leaders, but could include areas such as education and job placement assistance.
One resident said he likes the idea of adding affordable housing and a grocery store to the neighborhood.
“I’m all for new development that embraces the needs of the neighborhood,” said Daniel Drent, a former board member of the Heartside Downtown Neighborhood Association. “Housing alone, let alone affordable housing, is certainly an issue that is needed in the Hartside area. There is not enough affordable housing. So anything that can be done about that would be fantastic.
As for the idea of including retail, Drent said a grocery store has long been needed in Heartside. He said many residents in the neighborhood, which is home to several of the city’s rescue missions, are low-income and rely on public transportation.
A trip to Meijer, Family Fare or Bridge Street Market can take a long time, he said.
“It’s more than just getting a tomato,” Dent said, discussing the need for not only fresh food, but other products as well. “It’s also where I get my toothpaste, where I get my laundry detergent.”
Saint Mary’s ARPA’s request says the nine-story building will be the first development in a larger vision being created for the area. This area spans four blocks in the Heartside neighborhood, bordered by Wealthy, LaGrave, State and Lafayette streets.
Potential future developments other than the nine-story building were not detailed in the project’s funding request. Guiding the overall vision for the area is the need for affordable and marketable housing, as well as increased safety, access to fresh food and an improved quality of life, the project’s funding request said.
Christine Turkelson, planning director for the city of Grand Rapids, said earlier this month that neither she nor her colleagues had met with Trinity Health Saint Mary’s about the project.
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