It Takes A Condo To Make A Village

July 22, 2007
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Although the new residences lie near the intersection of Michigan Street and College Avenue, the address is well on its way to becoming a global village.

Buyers from as far away as the Philippines, Taiwan and England have invested in the two-story townhomes and single-story flats that make up Park Row Condominiums, which is located in the Mid Towne Village.

"We're getting a lot of doctors and a lot of people from out-of-town. I literally have a homeowner from the Philippines. I have a homeowner from Taiwan, and I've got other people looking that are from England," said Joe Ross, principal in Developer Marketing Services Inc.

"For some reason, we're pulling in a real international crowd. That has surprised us because our research showed baby boomers and empty nesters from the suburbs (would be buyers). But we aren't finding those people."

Kegle Construction Co. of Grand Rapids and DMS Inc., a division of Lansing-based Communications and Research Inc., are developing Park Row. Jim Kegle, president of Kegle Construction Co., is the lead partner and developer. Ross and Kathy Schaefer own DMS Inc. and are the sales agents for the development that features 34 units.

"We getting close to being half sold and those aren't reservations. We've got more reservations, it's just that we've actually got 14 homes sold," said Ross in June.

Professionals in their 30s to early 50s have been the buyers. Most are from urban centers and have ties to the medical and bioresearch facilities on Michigan Street.

"It takes a condo to make a village," said Ross with a laugh. "That's the whole point. They want to be in a small, intimate neighborhood."

Mid Towne Village is a 200,000-square-foot mixed-use development with a small town environment that is largely dedicated to the health field. Park Row is the housing component of the village, and it's nestled next to a tree-lined hill north of Michigan Street and east of College Avenue in a significant area that many refer to as the "Medical Mile."

The Chicago brownstone-style homes in Park Row range from 650 square feet to about 2,000 square feet, and prices range from $147,000 to $400,000. The single-story units are being built on the lower two floors and offer up to three bedrooms. The townhomes are on the building's east side and have front porches and entrances at street level.

All units have state-of-the-art air conditioning, heating, telecommunications and electrical; gated and covered parking; high-efficiency windows; 24-hour maintenance; and balconies. The condos are near the Village Green Park, and the locale is expected to be good for biking and walking because traffic will be kept to a minimum.

The building's style is based on turn-of-the-century row houses and was designed by Cornerstone Architects.

"The design is similar to what you would find in some of the older neighborhoods in Chicago or New York. We've been trying to do something like that on a new site in Grand Rapids for a while. This was one of those opportunities where the developers liked that idea, and we had been promoting it for a while," said Tom Nemitz, president of Cornerstone.

Having the building situated on a hill made the design easier and helped capture the look that Nemitz wanted for the structure.

"Because it's on, what I would call, a walkout site, it allowed us to park underneath the building in the back of the building. From the street front, it truly does look like an urban townhouse, so we were able to hide the majority of the parking underneath the building. It proved to be a benefit for us to have a site like that," he said.

Park Row has a total of 52,500 square feet, and Ross said it qualifies as an Energy Star structure. Although it might look like a four-story building, Nemitz said it actually rises 3.5 stories.

"It's three stories, and then we have the potential for loft space in the upper levels of the townhomes so they can expand those if they so desire," said Nemitz. "The project was a lot of fun, not only because we got a chance to do that style, but also because the developers seemed to be very concerned about doing a quality project."

Nemitz has a passion for older buildings, something his father instilled in him at an early age, and he is well known for his award-winning designs for renovation projects.

"The people that drove our building decisions were Jim Kegle and Dave Weber. They're the developers. But they're also partners of ours in this project, and they chose Tom because they knew he has that heritage of West Michigan and he knows downtown," said Ross.

The developers held a groundbreaking ceremony for the $9 million project in April. The foundation was laid in June, and the exterior framing is going up in August. Buyers should begin moving into their new Park Row homes in late September.

"We really do have a different niche," said Ross. "We're already getting calls from MSU (medical school) faculty and, of course, students who know they're going to be here next year. I like to brag about the international crowd that we're getting. It's reflective of the Medical Mile." CQ

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