In 2007, Derek Coppess had a revelation when he was buying a shovel in one of Grand Rapids’ suburbs. He needed to dig a single hole in his backyard, and rather than borrow one from a neighbor, he went to the store. Because he didn’t know any of his neighbors.
Because the landscape around him didn’t allow him to interact with the people who lived next door.
It occurred to Derek: living without community is no way to live. To have community, you have to live close to other people, and the best place to live close to other people is in a city’s urban center. Derek knew what he needed to do.
616 Lofts launches
Two years later, Derek Coppess refocused and evolved his Coppess Group investment company into a new, urban-centric brand: 616 Lofts, a residential-centric boutique development and property management firm with a vision for renewing downtown Grand Rapids’ underutilized spaces.
First, 616 chose 139 Pearl Street, aka “the Rood Building”, a project which, after 12 months, yielded market rate apartments above the popular bar and restaurant, Flanagan’s Irish Pub. The upcycled one and two bedroom apartments fused historic features (high ceilings, exposed brick) with eye-catching modern amenities (granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, in-unit washer/dryer).
Units were 100% preleased, and residents raved about the modern features, locale and community. 616 made its first iteration of a design cycle which the company would come to know well: do some things well, screw some things up and learn from mistakes that were made in the next project.
Next, 616 Lofts added a director of operations and a director of development, who helped to open a pocket of residential apartments above commercial spaces at 206 Grandville Avenue.
616 Development/616 Lofts – a symbiotic model
Soon, 616 Development branched off as the development partner to 616 Lofts. 616 Lofts became the property management arm for 616 Development’s Grand Rapids properties. This allowed 616 Lofts to become a geocentric property management model which could be reiterated in new Lofts communities as 616 Development branches out into other cities. In this way, 616 was able to retain management over all the residential communities it creates – a practice which remains key to the 616 development model.
616 welcomes new communities
On February 29 2012, 616 Development closed on a landmark deal: both 1 Ionia (the Hawkins Building) and 7 Ionia (the Gunn Company Building), which sat at a key, underutilized corner of Grand Rapids’ Heartside Entertainment district. The project functionally combined both buildings, a feat which created an attractive pocket of market rate residential units, including several true loft-style apartments. These lofts sat above 10,000 square feet of historic office space and 15,000 square feet of ground floor space, which would become home to a reincarnated Grand Rapids Brewing Company.
616 Lofts on Ionia was 100% preleased. Over 50,000 square feet of historic real estate had been reactivated within 9 months.
In early September 2012, 616 Development closed on a severely distressed property in the city’s heart: 16 Monroe Center (the Kendall Building), on the intersection of Fulton and Division. Built late in life by George Kendall, an early developer and father of Grand Rapids in 1880, the Kendall’s top four stories were once filled with residents, physicians, dentists, artists, clerks and photographers. These stories had since lain vacant since 1966. The ground floor struggled to retain retail until it finally saw its last tenant in 1993. Eventually, the city was forced to fence off the sidewalk around the building due to disrepair
That September, the Kendall began its transformation into a thriving mixed-used building once again. It became a perfect example of 616′s 24 hour building model: market rate upper level apartments, 3,000 square feet of ground floor retail space and new corporate offices for 616 Development and 616 Lofts in between.
The 616 Tribe grew to include a creative director, community manager and facilities director, then quickly began expanding into new markets. 616’s next big announcement was the redevelopment of a vacant gothic cathedral in Heritage Hill. The church would be recreated into a market rate apartment community which would meet the demand for housing which was spilling out from downtown into urban neighborhoods.
With construction on 616 Lofts on Prospect underway, 616’s next projects trickled in to the news: a $16.2M new construction mixed use on Michigan Avenue, and a $21.8M redevelopment of a North Monroe factory.
As we at 616 continue to pursue our mission to create community, we continue to invest in building critical mass in key urban areas. Our Tribe of talented, passionate individuals turns the flywheel more quickly each day as we share the thrill of watching revitalized communities grow.