The developer is proposing a 48-unit residential project on the former church site
A local developer may need to overcome opposition from Plainfield Township officials over plans to repurpose former church property into a residential community.
Brandon Visser, with Plainfield Township-based Steve Visser Builder LLC, will appear before the Township Planning Commission Tuesday evening seeking comments on a proposal to rezone 5.5 acres at 4875 Palenque Place NE, near Grand River Drive and East Beltline Avenue NE, to support the development of a residential development. Of 48 residential units.
Plans for the project, known as Palenque Place, call for converting the abandoned Northview Community of Christ Church into apartments and constructing two additional multifamily buildings.
The developer is seeking approval to rezone the property from R-1B to R-3. The township’s R-1B zoning district allows for single-family homes and recreational, religious and educational facilities. the town Map of future land uses Designates the subject piece as Business/Office. The R-3 rezoning would allow for multifamily housing.
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Visser said Grand Rapids Crane Works The project will contribute to the town’s “huge need for residential housing” which “we are not even close to meeting at this time”.
“In short, it’s a beautiful site, but it’s been underutilized and neglected, and I think it’s exciting for us to not just completely bulldoze and start from scratch, but to do something by renovating and preserving the existing building, as well as… preserving as much of it as possible.” Green spaces while providing some wonderful amenities for the new residential units.
Steve Visser Builder began building single-family homes and condos in the 1980s. Notable projects include Orchard View Homes in Rockford, Bristol Ridge North Condominiums, and Winding Stream Estates in Walker.
After taking over much of the day-to-day operations from his father, Steve Visser, in recent years, Visser said he has expanded into multifamily developments in the northwest and northeast areas of the greater Grand Rapids area. This includes a Mixed-use project In northwest Plainfield Township, he is developing it in partnership with Dan Uccello, co-owner of Flo’s Collection Restaurants.
The Palenque Place proposal calls for 10 one-bedroom apartments and eight studio apartments in the former church, which was extensively damaged in a 2018 fire and is currently empty.
Visser will also build two new multifamily buildings totaling 30 two-bedroom, two-bathroom units.
He said the new buildings as well as the church would “appear” to be two stories from the project’s entrance, but the park-level floor would cut into the hillside at the back.
Apartments in the former church have either an outdoor patio or balcony and laundry inside the unit. The building will provide a communal area for a café, lounge and internal storage units for bicycles and other personal items.
The proposal calls for 3.1 acres of preserved woodland and green space (55% of the site), two outdoor patios with seating, a dog park, and cornhole and pickleball courts.
The project density is 8.6 units per acre.
Not a “knockout”
This will not be the first adaptive reuse of a former church in Plainfield Township, Plainfield Township Supervisor Cameron VanWyngaarden said. Five or 10 years ago, the town bought a foreclosed chapel near Coit and 4 Mile and turned it over to the now-defunct Kent County Land Bank, which redeveloped it into a single-family home, he said.
However, Van Wyngarden is skeptical about Palenque Place as proposed, for multiple reasons. Visser first proposed the project to town staff two years ago.
“Staff told (Visser) this wouldn’t work, but he wants to bring it before the Planning Commission anyway,” he said. “(We recognize) the need for more housing in general, and especially for housing that is achievable…but still has to be adequate.”
Van Wyngaarden said town staff had multiple objections to the plan, including density.
“It’s at the end of a dead-end street, so that creates more traffic on a quiet residential street,” he said. “This is not optimal.”
Contiguous uses include “two lots containing office buildings, two lots containing single-family homes, and one parcel that is an apartment complex,” so a multifamily development does not seem out of place, Visser wrote in planning documents.
Additionally, Visser said the redevelopment would discourage vandals, who have been encroaching on the site since the church was abandoned.
However, perhaps more concerning for the town is the site’s hilly terrain and the potential for rainwater runoff onto other homes, Van Wyngaerden said.
“It’s a very steep piece of land with a lot of grade changes, and what they’re proposing would require a massive amount of grading and basically destroy all the trees around it,” he said. “Even if they can get creative and save some trees, I have no idea where they plan to put stormwater detention, which is going to be required. … It will cause tremendous problems for all the neighbors.”
While Visser has not responded specifically to concerns about stormwater runoff, he said Grand Rapids Crane Works He plans to place small footprints of buildings on the high ground and only conduct “minor tree removal” at the site of the buildings.
Van Wyngaarden said that while the town sometimes allows developers to discuss early-stage ideas with the Planning Commission at public meetings before the site plan is fully developed, he expressed doubts about the project as currently proposed.
“I hope they handle it very carefully, because I don’t think this is critical,” he said.
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A developer is buying a sprawling paper mill site on Muskegon Lake for a mixed-use project
A Lakeshore neighborhood group is pushing to repeal the short-term rental ban
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