Construction, Human Resources, and Nonprofits

Herkimer renovation is a special project

Construction job puts some of the city’s neediest residents to work.

March 8, 2013
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Herkimer Construction
The $29 million expansion of the Herkimer Apartments is putting to work some of the neighborhood’s low- and very low-income residents.

(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Dwelling Place of Grand Rapids is investing $29 million into expanding and renovating the Herkimer Apartments at 323 S. Division Ave.

Dwelling Place COO Kim Cross said $20 million of that amount is going toward the construction project that will convert all the building’s 122 residences into one-bedroom apartments. The work also will add a new five-story structure called the Herkimer Commerce building to the site and will feature offices and community space.

“There were 15 one-bedroom apartments and 107 single-room occupancy, or studio apartments, and when this is done there will be 122. But all will be one-bedroom apartments,” wrote Cross in an e-mail to the Business Journal.

Brian Winkelmann of DTS Winkelmann Associates designed the project; Rockford Construction Co. is managing it.

This isn’t just a standard construction project: It’s a Section 3 construction project that falls under the guidelines Congress established for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The city of Grand Rapids awarded the project $527,000 in HOME funds from HUD last year for the conversion. Section 3 of the HUD Act of 1968 requires that preferences for new employment, training and contracting opportunities be given “to the greatest extent possible” to low- and very low-income residents within the award area and to businesses that employ those individuals when a HUD award is made for housing.

This project is putting some of those unemployed individuals to work and giving them a means to make a living.

“We’re trying to give some people some chances. I’m working with a couple of staffing companies because there is so much protocol and rhetoric involved, and you’ve got to watch all the laws — drug testing and all kinds of stuff,” said Norm Noordeloos, president of Buckeye Construction Co. in Wayland, a subcontractor on the project.

Section 3 defines potential employees as residents who live in public housing or are low- and very low-income individuals. Low income is defined as 80 percent of the median income of the area where a project is taking place, while very low income is defined as 50 percent of the median income.

Noordeloos recruited his hires from the Heartside District, where the Herkimer is located and where the unemployment rate tops 50 percent. His firm has hired three people for the project who are currently working on the demolition phase. They also will put some of the finishing carpenter touches on the project when it nears completion.

Noordeloos said he can’t hire any more for the Herkimer work, but his firm is involved with the restoration of the Kendall Building, 16 Monroe Center NW, which 616 Development is undertaking, and he plans to hire a few more Section-3-eligible workers for that job.

“So as long as we can continue to work in the city, we’re going to continue to hire,” he said. “Meijer is a big proponent of this, and I’ve got a two-year service agreement with them. As this thing escalates itself, we’ll be hiring people. But it will be Grand Rapids residents.”

Noordeloos said the city also is a big proponent of the program. So are nonprofit development organizations such as ICCF, LINC and Dwelling Place.

He said the American Subcontractors Association is putting together a scholarship program for training purposes.

“We’re going to try to tie all of this in because the biggest thing is training. How do you train the right way? We need to train. We need to mentor. We need to get people into a position where they know they can make a good income doing construction work, and there is a shortage of workers for that, also,” he said.

The Herkimer Apartments project is expected to be done by the end of this year.

“Many of the residents were relocated, and not all, but most, will qualify to come back if they choose to. New programs will apply for income levels, the homeless and disability qualifications,” said Cross.

The city has Section 3 programs for Community Development Block Grants, its lead and hazard control program, the HOME Program and the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

Forty-six businesses are currently listed on the city’s Section 3 roster. Twenty-two are general contractors, including Buckeye Construction. The others are electrical, HVAC, painting and plumbing contractors. Habitat for Humanity of Kent County provides Section 3 training and development.

Companies can get on the business list by going to the Community Development page at www.grcity.us and clicking on “Section 3” on the left side of the page. General contractors looking to put some subcontractors to work can go to the same Section 3 list for contact information.

“We have to do something. We really do,” said Noordeloos. “I don’t want to let this die. We’ve done so much good stuff in the city that I think it’s time people understand that LINC, ICCF and Dwelling Place are doing some great things. But it’s time to get the private sector involved. It really is.”

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