616 Lofts growth in Grand Rapids, Battle Creek is ‘exciting’
Unique property manager is expected to add hundreds of units to its holdings.
616 Development will wrap up its renovation of the Kendall Building at 16 Monroe Center at the end of this month, and 616 Lofts will begin moving residents into the dozen apartments during the first week of October. According to 616 Lofts Director of Community Development Monica Clark, all but two of the units are leased.
The addition of 616 Lofts at Kendall will bring the firm’s total number of units to 68. That number will jump to 90 in May, when 616 Lofts on Prospect is expected to open in the converted Bethlehem Church at 253 Prospect Ave. NE. The Heritage Hill site will have 22 apartments.
Then, a year or so from now, the number will rise by roughly 65 units when 269 Lofts at Battle Creek opens. The firm’s first venture outside of Grand Rapids also will include a hotel that will have a separate manager.
“We don’t have the project finalized at this point. But we are planning on having between 60 and 65 units,” said Clark of the plans for the Heritage Tower development.
“In Battle Creek, we will hire a community manager who will be focused on that local community. We want to keep that local focus because it’s a big part of who we are and what we do. We want somebody who loves that community, so we will hire a Battle Creek local to help build the connections into that market and we will support the other departments from our office here.”
Four departments make up 616 Lofts: community management, marketing, facility maintenance and accounting. The firm doesn’t adhere to the traditional method of property management because its primary goal is to create a community among its residents and, in turn, get the residents involved with the larger community in which they live.
The firm’s community manager plays a pivotal role in reaching that goal. Caitlin Kennon holds that position at 616 Lofts and deals directly with the residents.
“We spend a lot of time educating our residents on downtown living — where they can park and where can they go, what it’s like living in smaller spaces and things like that,” said Clark. “We do that through social media, blogging and events.
“We also have a program called the 616 Pass. This is our way of connecting with local retailers, restaurants, and anybody in the local community that has a business here that would like to offer some sort of special perk or benefit to our residents.”
Clark said 616 Lofts hosts four events each month as a way to get its residents more engaged locally. One of those events allows business owners who are partners in the 616 Pass program to introduce themselves to the residents and talk about what they offer.
Another interesting aspect of the firm’s management practice is to designate a resident liaison for every 616 Lofts — a sort of go-to person for the other residents who serves as an assistant to Kennon.
“Basically, their job is to keep very well connected to the residents in each building,” said Clark.
“Obviously, as we grow, it becomes hard for just one community manager to have a really good and strong connection like we want to with all of our residents. We are available for them at all times, and our liaisons are there for the residents if they have anything they want to talk about. They also help to get them involved in events and promote our Pass partners. They show units and give us feedback.”
All the feedback goes directly to Kennon. The same resident liaison system and a similar 269 Pass program will be established for Kennon’s counterpart in Battle Creek, who will manage the community there.
“Establishing the same drive and energy for that area is going to be super beneficial,” said Clark.
Kennon joined 616 Lofts in December, and Clark said she is a fast learner and has the personal strengths that made her right for the job, such as being a good social connector and relating well to others.
“I think it’s just natural for her to be able to connect with residents,” said Clark. “She has just been great.”
The firm’s growth also has been great and it’s going to get greater.
“In 2014 and 2015, we plan to bring on a total of 400 additional units,” said Clark, who added that 616 Lofts will continue to use the same management model it employs today for those apartments.
“We’ve got a lot of projects planned for the next couple of years so we’re looking forward to connecting in the same way. It’s exciting.”