Madison Square Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., is working with a local nonprofit organization to redevelop the building that was the original home of Grand Rapids Christian High School—creating both worship space and contributing to affordable housing in the community.
Dubbed the “415 Franklin Project,” named for the building’s address, plans call for the redevelopment of the 72,000-square-foot building to include 40 low-income apartments on the upper two floors and a worship center on the main floor. Project director Layla Kuhl said the building, originally built in the 1920s, was donated to the church in 2015 by developer Ed DeVries. He based his gift on wanting to see it redeveloped as a Christ-centered building and community resource.
“For the last three years, we've been talking with a lot of organizations, talking to neighbors, doing grassroots work [in determining] what would benefit the community, what their needs and aspirations [for the site] are,” Kuhl said.
The building was home to Christian High School until the late 1970s, and then served as headquarters for the Kent County Department of Human Services until 2009. It has been vacant ever since.
Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF), a nonprofit housing organization, is taking the lead on the housing portion of the project, having already secured state-allocated tax credits to finance construction. Rent for the apartments will be based on tenant income levels, Kuhl said.
Meanwhile, Madison Square will undertake a fundraising effort for the renovation of the chapel inside the former high school into a space for Sunday worship services as well as community gatherings. The rest of the main floor will be developed into classroom space that will be used for Sunday school classes during worship time and preschool and daycare programs during the week.
“Our vision is to have our space for our church, to have it well-used, and partner with other organizations that are doing good work in Grand Rapids,” Kuhl said.
Grand Rapids city officials approved the project last fall. An architect is being hired to develop an overall footprint for the project, and Madison is expected to consult with a church planner on how to develop its portion of the building—one branch of its multi-site ministry.
ICCF is redeveloping another Grand Rapids project linked to members of Eastern Avenue CRC. A group of 14 investing households from the church launched Restoration Row LLC in 2008 order to secure property for redevelopment. In 2018 the group will sell the properties to ICCF to begin the work. Jay Hoekstra, one of the appointed managers for the investing group, wrote about part of their journey here. Michigan state tax credits are again a key part of ICCF's financing of the Eastern Ave. project.
About the Author
Greg Chandler is a freelance news correspondent for The Banner. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.