616 Development Growing with Grand Rapids

By Jane Whitttington on March 12th, 2016 / Comments

The landscape of the city of Grand Rapids is changing, and that is due in no small measure to 616 Development, the company founded by Derek Coppess. 616 Development has completed seven projects with one more under construction and two in the planning stages.

Increasingly, people are being drawn to downtown living with its closeness to work, restaurants, bars, galleries and all the other amenities of urban life. While the trend is spurred by millennials, empty nesters are also eager to relocate to the city center, and occupancy rates are soaring. 616 Development makes living downtown a reality and is continuing to create spaces appealing to residents eager to trade the suburbs (or campus) for an urban lifestyle.

According to Coppess, “Our DNA is in renovation. Most of our completed projects are renovations of existing buildings. However, as Grand Rapids grows, our pool of existing buildings diminishes, and we will look to new construction for company growth. We have a new build almost completed on Michigan Avenue with both apartments and retail space. It’s close to all the new development of the ‘medical mile’ in that part of town.”

He continues, “The trend now is to live where you work and become part of that community. We are less car dependent but at the same time more mobile and transient. This spurs the growth of urban living.”

In the Creston District, just north of downtown, 616 has purchased a number of parcels including blighted buildings and unused parking lots. Coppess says, “We are planning to raze everything and construct three to four story buildings of apartments with retail space on the ground floors. These dwellings will be amenity-rich. As a provider of rental space for both housing and retail, we look at ourselves as a for-profit social enterprise. We are bringing new life to underused areas of the city by offering both live and work spaces and filling a need for affordable housing.”

According to Monica Steimle, Director of Development, “Being creative about renovating existing space was exciting, and now that we are also working on new builds, that sense of a ‘blank canvas’ is proving to be a creative challenge as well.”

616 Development just received B Corps Certification, verifying that they meet specific standards as spelled out by B Lab, a non-profit organization designed to help businesses do well by doing good.

Coppess says, “While real estate is the vehicle, what I’m most excited about in growing this business is leadership—leading the vision and creating the culture.”

He goes on, “My parents were teachers, and every summer my father and I would build a house. I attended the College of William and Mary and was fascinated by all the old buildings on campus and in the surrounding areas. I started my career here in Grand Rapids when I was only 20, and I have to say, I met no resistance whatsoever. Grand Rapids is a ‘get it done’ community that respects its elders but supports young entrepreneurs as well.”

Coppess was recently named one of the “40 under 40” success stories in Grand Rapids Business Journal.

Asked for advice for entrepreneurs interested in real estate development, Coppess says, “This is not a ‘get rich quick’ business. You have to cultivate a long term perspective on growth. It takes a tremendous amount of work, an ability to be agile in a changing marketplace and a willingness to take on a lot of responsibility. Look for mentors, both professional and personal, and always be willing to learn.”

For more information about 616 Development and 616 Lofts (the property management arm of the business) and to see available and upcoming rentals, visit www.616development.com

About the Author

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Grand Rapids. A Michigan native and Michigan State University grad, she enjoys reading, travel, politics and volunteering.