1 and 7 Ionia, or the Gunn and Hawkins buildings respectively, belong to the fabric of historic landmarks in downtown Grand Rapids. Built in different decades, these buildings were completely separate until they were functionally combined during our redevelopment in 2012. The four and a half and five story buildings now share one address: 1 Ionia.
a new scene
A reincarnated Grand Rapids Brewing Company has made its home on the 10,000 square feet of newly joined ground floor retail space of 1 Ionia. This thriving restaurant and organic brewery became one of downtown’s most popular establishments overnight, and remains a regular haunt of patrons of the Van Andel Arena next door, the Heartside and Entertainment districts, and – of course – our own 616 Lofts community.
On the second floor, the brewery’s management company Barfly Ventures occupies a large office. Bustling loft-style offices occupy the third floor. 24 market rate apartments – aka “616 Lofts on Ionia” – occupy the remainder of the second, third and fourth floors.
the 616 standard
Thanks to the creative architecture used to combine the 4 1/2 story Gunn building with the 5 story Hawkins building, several apartments at 616 Lofts on Ionia are true loft bi-level units. All are market rate units which feature a fusion of modern and historic features:
It began in 2009 when Derek stumbled into a tired looking 5-story-office building on arguably the best corner in Grand Rapids: 1 Ionia. Behind the grey, depressing and peeling paint he saw rich history and beautiful architectural lines.
In addition to the potential of the facade, 1 Ionia sits in the heart of the city, anchoring the Heartside, Arena and Entertainment districts. What would it be like to be next door neighbors with the Van Andel Arena? Derek began visualizing 616 Lofts in the upper floors. The only question remaining was why this opportunity had, up until now, historically had hit-or-miss occupancy?
Derek went back to the 616 Tribe and the team wrapped their heads around his vision for the property; before long, 616 Development was in control of the 1 Ionia building. After digging into residential unit layouts with the architects, the team was unhappy with the number of units that would fit: 10 residential units and two floors of stale office space, with a bar with a bad reputation on the ground floor. The deal was losing its legs, but instead of giving up, the Tribe doubled down.
Derek began looking at the building next door, 7 Ionia. He met the owner, Bruce Poppins. Bruce had acquired 7 Ionia, aka “the Gunn Company Building”, in 1976, and over the years the building had become like a 4th child to him. With 79 years of experience and wisdom, Bruce’s negotiation was one of the toughest negotiations Derek had encountered.
After countless hours with Bruce, a deal was struck and, unexpectedly, so was a friendship.
Ionia Development Project 2.0
With both buildings under the Tribe’s control, the project had momentum. Bruce’s Gunn building was only 4 and ½ stories with grandfathered-in stairways and an old freight elevator. However, the floors in the two buildings lined up perfectly, allowing for the two buildings to be functionally combined into one. By simply punching 2 holes per floor, we removed all of the Gunn building’s stairways as well as the freight elevator, providing both buildings access to 1 Ionia’s modern elevator and stair towers.
Combining the two buildings did three key things:
One) it made the floorplans extremely efficient, with more room for residential units;
Two) it doubled the size of the redevelopment, and
Three) 7 Ionia’s awkward 4 and ½ story could now be utilized in the form of coveted true loft bi-level units.
At $7.5M, 616 Lofts on Ionia was the first project in West Michigan to be awarded the state’s new Brownfield replacement incentives. This support, along with other state and local incentives, leveraged the creativity of 1 and 7 Ionia’s adaptive reuse to close cost gaps and propel the project forward to rapid stabilization.
New residents of 616 Lofts on Ionia, which was 100% preleased before construction wrapped, moved in Thanksgiving of 2012, just 12 months after the project began.