Construction, Nonprofits, and Sustainability

Affordable housing complex installs 308 solar panels

December 19, 2019
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St. James Apartments & Townhomes rooftop solar panels
Courtesy Colliers International West Michigan

An affordable housing complex in Grand Rapids has completed its own rooftop solar array.

St. James Apartments & Townhomes, at 750 First St. NW, completed the installation of 308 solar panels capable of generating 125,000 kilowatt hours per year.

“We are committed to providing quality housing for Grand Rapids residents, and we are thrilled to also offer housing that makes a positive environmental impact,” said John Wynbeek, executive director, Genesis Non-Profit Housing Corporation. “The solar array at St. James improves efficiency for the building, resulting in lower electric utility costs, which helps preserve affordability.”

Electricity is included in the rent at St. James Apartments. The solar array is expected to reduce the cost of electricity by as much as 50% and will pay for itself in about 10 years.

Genesis Non-Profit Housing Corporation hired Colliers International West Michigan to help consult on the economic viability and tax credit portion of the project. Colliers engaged the National Equity Fund, which syndicated the solar tax credits that provided a significant portion of the funding for the solar project. 

The National Equity Fund and Mercantile Bank of Michigan provided the project’s funding.

“St. James is the most innovative and sustainable affordable housing community in Kent County,” said George Larimore, an SVP at Colliers. “The exposed flat roof of the building made it ideal for a solar array, and we’re pleased we could help Genesis Non-Profit Housing Corporation secure tax credits for the project.” 

A group of other firms were involved in the project: Solar Winds Power Systems designed and implemented the solar array; Destigter Architecture & Planning contributed architecture services; Pioneer Construction provided general construction services; and Van Haren Electric provided electrical services.

St. James Apartments & Townhomes opened in December 2018. The former school building was transformed into 36 apartments, and 16 townhomes were constructed for residents making 30% to 60% of area median Income.

Dwelling Place is the complex's co-developer and provides property management services.

In addition to having a solar array, the building is also LEED certified.

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