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Derek J. Coppess created 616 Lofts in 2009 with the intention to build a vibrant residential community in downtown Grand Rapids. Judging by the recent success of such projects as the 616 Lofts above Grand Rapids Brewing Company at 1 Ionia Ave and the lofts above Flanagan’s Irish Pub at 139 Pearl St., he is well on his way towards achieving his mission.
The lofts above Flanagan’s was 616 Lofts’ first development.
“We started building up a waiting list of hundred, two hundred people, three hundred young professionals that want to live, eat and work down here,” says Coppess, who acts as the Managing Director.
With the popularity of the 616 Lofts above Flanagan’s, Coppess and company helped to bring the idea of placemaking and residential community to downtown Grand Rapids.
“Placemaking goes back to our core mission,” says Coppess. “For us, it’s all about people. It’s all about community.”
616 Lofts is different from most property management and residential development companies. According to Monica Clark, Director of Leasing and Operations, the central focus is community rather than just creating a space for a resident to lease.
Apart from building popular market rate housing, 616 Lofts also strives to connect with and educate their residents on living within a tight community while also living downtown.
“[We teach] them how to be engaged in their community,” says Clark.
616 Lofts provides their residents with handbooks and literature on their website that has tips for simple urban living as well as guides for parking and how to make use of public transportation options.
Additionally, 616 Lofts attempts to learn more about what their residents want and how best to serve them through their resident liaison program.
“[We have] one of our residents who is giving us inside perspectives,” says Marjorie Steele, Creative Director.
616 Lofts also offers the 616 Pass for all of their residents. They can be used for discounts and other special offers at various local businesses in the community.
“It introduces them to what they have around here,” says Clark. “And it’s also good for the downtown economy.”
616 Lofts, and parent company 616 Development, also attempt to foster the idea of placemaking and community building through bringing in retail and businesses to their developments. According to Coppess, having mixed-use buildings will help people engage and foster a tighter community. Restaurants, retail and other businesses can act as a group gathering place.
Additionally, 616 Lofts also plan monthly events so that people can meet their neighbors, believing that when people get to know their neighbors, everyone lives a little bit better together.
“We have developed our management company around community and around the idea of wanting our residents to engage,” says Clark.
“The ultimate goal is organic community creation,” says Coppess.
How Coppess and company facilitate organic community creation stems from their unique development strategy. According to Coppess, most development occurs after a commercial anchor tenant has signed a lease for a space in a building. With an anchor tenant locked in, developers can then receive financing for the rest of the building.
However, 616 Lofts takes a different approach. They allow the residents to dictate what type of business, retail or restaurant should occupy the vacant commercial space.
“We take a great location and empty retail, and then we fill the upper floors,” says Coppess. “We let that organically drive what happens for the retail [space].”
As for the future of Grand Rapids, members of the 616 Loft group are very optimistic about some of the projects and development currently taking place.
“Grand Rapids is turning into a really unique urban center,” says Steele. “It’s picking up traits from other really progressive urban centers across the country.” Specifically, Steele points to the city’s vibrant art community and the Downtown Market project on Ionia.
As far as future projects for 616 Lofts, Coppess says that there are four to five sites downtown and in some neighborhoods that they will start developing this year.
According to Coppess, Grand Rapids can expect 300 to 400 residential units over the next 18 months from 616 Lofts.
“We are on a mission to bring as many people as we can [downtown],” says Coppess.
After being raised in a small rural town just outside of Lansing, I moved to the Grand Rapids Area to attend college, and have been here ever since. During college, I focused a lot of my attention on film and video, communication, media literacy, and media ecology. I have had the pleasure of working on movies, television shows, and on other media platforms. I love all things Michigan, will gladly choose a Founders Oatmeal Stout over any other beer, and challenge you to find a better place to be than Autumn in Michigan.
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