Carrier Crest Apartments Provide Affordable Housing since 1992
By Alex Valentine
Creating stable and affordable housing has always been a high priority for the Creston Neighborhood Association (CNA). In the 1980s, CNA’s Housing Committee saw the need for affordable senior housing and crafted a plan to purchase and rehabilitate the former St. Alphonsus convent at 205 Carrier St. The convent, vacant for the previous five years, would be transformed to include twelve housing units for low-income seniors, an office headquarters for CNA, and the St. Al’s food and clothing pantry.
CNA worked with the Creston Non-Profit Housing Corporation to raise the $670,000 needed to purchase and rehabilitate the old building. Through their hard work and diligence, CNA was awarded several large grants, including $34,000 from the Frey Foundation, $21,000 from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, $60,000 from the Steelcase Foundation, and $35,000 plus a zero-interest loan of $55,000 from the Grand Rapids Foundation. These generous grants made the project possible.
Plans for construction came to fruition in the summer of 1991, with construction to start in November 1991 and be completed by May. With plans in place, CNA began to advertise the opening of the application process for housing. CNA and St. Alphonsus Parish celebrated the Creston Senior Housing Development on January 27th, 1992, during which neighbors and parishioners gathered to watch as the old statue of Mary was moved from the convent to the St. Alphonsus rectory.
Although there was much to celebrate, significant work still needed to be done. The completion date moved from May 1st, 1992 to July 1st and the estimated cost of construction went up from $670,000 to $870,000. In light of these unanticipated costs, Jim and Shirley Balk, owners of Hansen Balk Steel Treating, provided CNA with a $15,000 challenge grant: the Balks would donate $15,000 if CNA could raise $15,000 to match it. After successfully raising the money and receiving the grant, CNA was also awarded a grant from the City of Grand Rapids, presented to CNA by Mayor John Logie.
It was a race to the finish line as the July 1st deadline was quickly arriving. Builders and planners worked together with Kendall College interior design students and local businesses to design and furnish the apartments, including for two model showings. CNA and the Creston Nonprofit Housing Corporation were nearing the end of fundraising with the sale of $380,000 in tax credits. Names were taken for future residents, and everything was finally coming together.
After six months of construction and years of planning, the Carrier Crest Apartments were dedicated on July 29th, 1992. Seniors, 60 years or older, with an income of less than $14,000, now had an affordable housing option with rent at $190-$250 per month and CNA had a new home. Three hundred neighbors and supporters gathered as Pastor Fr. Jack Dowd provided the “Blessing of the Building.” The people and organizations who helped make the Carrier Crest Apartments a reality were recognized, including Constructors, Inc., architect John LaPorte, Comerica Bank, and the many other donors, neighbors, and volunteers.
Carrier Crest continues to offer vital affordable housing for seniors. The organizers’ dream of stable housing for vulnerable residents has come true: many of the current 12 residents have lived at Carrier Crest for more than 15 years. Sue Capps, Carrier Crest property manager, keeps a long waiting list to fill the occasional opening. Many of the people who helped create the apartments still provide oversight. Thank you to Helen Lehman, Kim Beyer (Constructors Inc.), Glenn Disosway, Roger Williams, and Tom Deschaine for their continued leadership!