The Kendall Building, one of downtown Grand Rapids’ most iconic faces, sits at the corner of Fulton Street and Division Avenue, the literal center of the city. Built in 1880 by pioneering businessman George Kendall, this five story red sandstone structure sat obsolete for twenty years until it was revitalized with commercial and residential life in late 2013.
Simultaneously, work began to redevelop historic Monument Park, which sat directly in front of the Kendall Building. An architectural firm moved in to the formerly vacant building across the street. The newly developed park is now a green amenity to residents, tourists and patrons of the Kendall’s ground floor restaurant.
This corner, previously a vacant eyesore, is now full of life.
616 Lofts at the Kendall is home to twelve residential market rate apartments, a ground floor Italian-style farm to table restaurant and roughly 5,000 square feet of offices as 616 Lofts and Development’s own headquarters acting as a buffer between the two.
historic + modern amenities
The Kendall Building’s red sandstone and high ceilings lent themselves to a perfect fusion of historic and modern features throughout both the building’s residential and commercial spaces. Salvaged barnwood and reclaimed art using doorknobs from the old upper offices make 616’s second floor offices one of a kind. Market rate residential apartments offer a few unique features, such as exposed brick and high ceilings, alongside the same specs as are found in 616 Lofts’ other communities
The Kendall Block, as it was first known, was built in 1880 by George Kendall, a prominent Grand Rapids businessman and one of the city’s earliest and most prolific real estate developers. Kendall came to Grand Rapids in 1846 and went on to hold several public offices and serve a prominent role in the development of the city and its schools. In 1849, Kendall purchased the 75 acres northeast of the corner of Fulton and Division, which was then platted “Kendall’s Addition”. After developing many other buildings, roads and bridges, near the end of his life Kendall constructed the five story mixed-use building which would be his namesake, choosing the prime lot at the corner of his 75 acre Addition. This corner had become the city’s center.
The building itself is iconic; its historical facade includes unpainted red brick, two recessed storefronts, oriel and arched windows The building’s name is embossed in sandstone.
Records of the earliest tenants of the building are hazy, but Kendall Block appears to have been a flourishing mixed-use building since its initial construction. From the early 1900s to the late 1960s, the Kendall was home to a diverse mix of professional offices, dental and obstetrician practices, artist and photography studios. Retailers such as GR Floral Co, House of Flowers, Presseur Jewelers and The Camera Shop made their homes at the building’s ground floor.
Upper level office occupancy began to dip in the early 40s, and by 1966 floors 2-5 were vacant. They remained so until 2013. Ground floor retailers hung on until 1983, after which, with a few brief false starts, vacancy set in here as well. The building fell in to decay. The city fenced off the sidewalk in front of the building due to its disrepair.
616 attempts the impossible
False starts at redeveloping the property were made in recent years, all of which failed despite the building’s prime location and historic nature. Seeing the project as not only a challenge, but as a symbol of downtown Grand Rapids’ history, the 616 Tribe set their sights on the building.
After unlocking the Kendall’s potential, the Tribe embarked on the most exciting urban development projects they had taken on to date.
A $4 million rehabilitation plan was set in motion to transform the obsolete property into a mixed-use 24 hour building, following 616’s standard model.
As with 616 Lofts on Ionia, the 616 Tribe secured incentives through state and local incentive support. 616 Lofts at the Kendall welcomed new residents into its apartments in October of 2013, twelve months after the project was announced. 616 Lofts and 616 Development built a home for their growing Tribe on the second floor.
Twelve market rate residential apartments, a teeming office and a farm to table Italian restaurant have restored the Kendall Building to occupancy levels it hasn’t enjoyed for nearly 100 years.
want to know more about the Kendall Building?
Check out this infographic for a detailed history of the building’s tenants and occupancy.