The grand castle apartment homes

The grand castle apartment homes DEFAULT

Grand Castle

Multi-family residential development

The Grand Castle is a multi-family residential development in Grandville, Michigan with 520 apartment units.[2] The Grand Castle's design was inspired by the Neuschwanstein Castle[1] and it has been described "as the second largest castle structure in the world."[3] Area architects are unimpressed, describing the structure as “post-capitalist absurdism,” “gaudy,” “ill-conceived,” "an eyesore," “misguided,” and “gimmicky.”[4]


After years of lower building proposals in the Grand Rapids metropolitan area, proposals and new construction began to increase to some of their highest rates in 2015 and 2016.[5] In 2015, Roger Lucas, owner of Grand Castle, LLC, and the site's developer, submitted plans to the City of Grandville, Michigan for the Grand Castle.

The site was originally developed by La Grande LLC as the LaGrande Mobile Home Park in 1957, which was one of the oldest mobile home developments in the area. LaGrande Mobile Home Park closed in 2005 to be marketed for redevelopment for highest and best use. Grand Castle LLC acquired the 23.6-acre site from La Grande LLC in May 2016 [6] and planned for a Mixed Use Planned Unit Development (MPUD) of the Grand Castle.[7]

In 2016, Grand Castle, LLC purchased 52-acre Sanford Lake, that adjoins the 23.6-acre development site. Sanford Lake was previously owned by Grand Rapids Gravel Company.[8] Sanford Lake formed years ago when the local gravel company actively mined the area. Gravel mining operations at the location ended several years ago, making Sanford Lake a safe habitat for various species of wildlife, including ducks, geese, northern pike, largemouth bass, and many other animals.

As of August 2018, only 50 people had placed money deposits on the apartments, resulting in a less than 10% confirmed level of interest.[4]

Design and construction[edit]

The origination of the Grand Castle is rooted from the owner's admiration of the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. Grand Castle's owner, Roger Lucas, said he and his family have visited the Bavarian castle "at least 10 times". The original proposal for the 23.6-acre site included a 10-story building with 356 multi-family units, though the final design is larger.[1][3][9]

Construction for the Grand Castle began in April 2016, with the castle passing the 100-foot mark on September 13, 2016.[1][3] Construction materials include, but are not limited to concrete precast walls and siding, "Red Iron" roof trusses, and steel panel roofing. The Grand Castle now houses 508 multi-family units which range from studio to three-story penthouse. There are also plans for 750 covered parking spaces, a clubhouse, a resort-style swimming pool, dog park, and a community beach with fire pits. Additional recreation activities include swimming, fishing, or kayaking at Sanford Lake, a walking trail, and other amenities.[1][3][9][8]

Michigan OSHA has conducted several inspections during construction. These inspections resulted in 12 violations, nine of which were "serious."[10]

Proposed Developments[edit]

Phase II of the Grand Castle's site development includes plans for an additional 104 residential units, situated in 13 carriage house buildings that contain 8 residential units each, around the Grand Castle's perimeter.[11] In addition, Phase II includes building 64,500 square feet of office and retail space along frontage on 28th Street.[11][3]



Inside Grand Castle apartments, the massive 522-unit building that rises nearly 200 feet into the air near I-196 in Grandville, there's no shortage of flourishes designed to make tenants feel like they're living in royalty.

There are plans for two fountains, one of which, near the building's entranceway, is expected to be topped with a large, glowing flame. The other, inside the building's courtyard, is expected to be 20-feet tall, carved from marble.

Elsewhere in the building, work is underway on a library, complete with a two-sided staircase, which, according to developer Roger Lucas, is modeled after one found in the Walt Disney classic film Beauty and the Beast.

On a nearby wall, there are plans for an 8-foot digital cuckoo clock.

Those quirky features will join other modern amenities, including a pool, fitness center, coffee shop, clubhouse and public lounges.

Lucas, a partner at Land & C0., the Wyoming-based firm leading the project, highlighted those features and others during a recent tour of the building, which is expected to begin accepting its first tenants by early- to mid-October. Initial plans called for the building to be completed last summer, but construction delays have pushed back the opening.

Despite the approaching move-in date, construction remains ongoing on a significant portion of the building. On a recent afternoon, workers could be seen installing insulation and dry wall on some units, while others worked on the building's smoke alarm system.

The building has not yet received its certificate of occupancy. And several of the signature amenities highlighted on the building's website are not finished. The project's overall cost is more than $50 million.

"The reality is we haven't finished it yet, and every day I have new problems," Lucas said. "It is nice to be this far, though. Being this far is a big deal. We're really down to the last pieces."

Between 80 and 90 people have reserved one of the 222 apartments that are expected to be completed within the next few weeks.

Completion dates for the remaining units, including a dozen top-floor, multi-story penthouses, some of which boast private decks with sweeping views of the Grand Rapids skyline, have not been set.

Grand Castle is one of the most unique residential developments to be built in the Grand Rapids area in recent memory. And residents have no shortage of strong opinions about it.

Many who have taken to social media have called it an "eyesore" that few people will want to live in.

Others, though, have praised the castle, saying it provides another housing option near downtown Grand Rapids and could help revitalize the nearby section of 28th Street SW. The apartments are aimed at middle-income residents and young professionals.

Lucas dismisses the criticism the project has generated.

"Don't move here, I don't care," he said, when asked about those who have mocked the building's design. "I don't like every building in Grand Rapids, but I don't tell them it's ugly. I just say I don't like it."

Pricing ranges from $700 to $875 for a studio apartment; $915 to $1,435 for a one-bedroom apartment; $1,380 to $4,500 for a two- bedroom apartment; and $1,650 to $2,200 for a three-bedroom unit.

The project has been a significant undertaking, Lucas said.

Once completed, the building -- modeled after the famed Neuschwanstein castle in southern Germany -- will be the second biggest castle in the world, he claims.

The structure is completely comprised of concrete -- more than 200 million pounds in all -- and steel. The inner walls were poured in place last using a proprietary method that required him to import a crew of 50 workers from Miami, Florida.

It includes a 750-space parking garage, and was built with some 2,700 "geo-piers" that were sunk up to 20 feet deep around the site to keep it from sinking more than 1.25 inches.

A life-size lion statue is expected to be mounted atop the peak of the castle, just shy of 200 feet. And Lucas also wants to build a stable on the grounds that would house miniature horses.

"I just think people would like that," he said. "It would be a fun amenity without too much hassle."

Lucas has long been a fan of castles, and has visited several throughout Europe. He has visited Neuschwanstein castle 11 times. He loves the history, the detailed architecture, the sense of wonder the buildings inspire.

His goal is to replicate, as much as possible, that experience with the Grand Castle.

"Every time I toured Europe, I always thought it was painful that they had all the castles and we didn't," Lucas said. "To me, that doesn't make sense."

Later, he added: "I think there's a huge selling thing here, and the huge selling thing is that girls want to be a princess and guys, well - the power thing."

Construction on the castle started in June 2016, with the initial opening date set for last summer. But that opening date has been pushed back multiple times, most recently to mid- to-late October.

The delays, in part, were caused by the expansion of the project. Initial plans called for 400 units but was later expanded to include 522 units, Lucas said.

"When you add 120 units, it takes a few minutes longer," he said.

Troy Zapolski, executive vice president of finance at Land & Co., added: "It's very complex construction, and Roger has delayed to make sure everything is right, to make sure everything is perfect."

As for when everything will be perfect and the whole building will be ready for occupancy -- that remains an open question.

"I'm sure we'll get done," Lucas said, "it's just a question of when."

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GRANDVILLE –– Amid an apartment building boom across West Michigan, the Grand Castle stands out in ways few other projects do.

Standing 198 feet tall –– just shy of the 200-foot threshold that would require additional approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) –– the Grand Castle dominates the skyline along I-196 southwest of downtown Grand Rapids. Indeed, the precast concrete structure, which weighs an estimated 200 million pounds, serves as a marked departure from the boxy mid-rise buildings that have become commonplace in modern apartment development.

Inspired by Castle Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, the building’s overall appearance, size and scale have made it the butt of numerous jokes on social media and have led some commercial real estate executives to privately question how the project ever secured financing, let alone whether it will be able to attract tenants.

As developer Roger Lucas brushes aside jokes about jousting and mead swilling, he concedes that he’s banking on the Grand Castle’s excess as a selling point. He cites a yet-to-be-installed multi-tiered water fountain in the facility’s courtyard as one example.

“If you lived here, wouldn’t you like that stuff?” said Lucas, principal with The Grand Castle LLC.

Lucas is also a co-owner of Wyoming-based multifamily property management firm Land & Co., which is handling leasing and management of the project but is not involved in developing it.

“I might not make money as quick, but I’ll be smiling,” Lucas said of the expensive features he has planned for the project. “If this was my first project, I’d be really nervous.”

While Lucas relishes in the project’s grandiosity and excesses, the design has riled the ranks of architects in West Michigan.

Ted Lott, a principal with Grand Rapids-based Lott3Metz Architecture LLC, described the Grand Castle as “Brutal Disney by the freeway” and “post-capitalist absurdism.” Others who spoke on background referred to the project in terms ranging from “provocative” and “gaudy” to “ill-conceived,” “misguided” and “gimmicky.”

Still, even a harsh critic like Lott can find some silver linings in the project. While calling it a “roadside oddity,” he said the Grand Castle could “be an actively used part of our regional culture, so it won’t be passive. It’s bringing new and needed housing to our community and that’s good.”

The project’s architect, Matthew Gove, a managing member at Winter Park, Fla.-based Fugleberg Koch LLC, did not respond to a request for comment.

A different approach

Built along a retention pond on the site of a former mobile home park, the apartment complex also includes a handful of multi-story penthouse units, one of which measures approximately 10,000 square feet and features a ballroom.

Close observers of the West Michigan apartment market tend to agree that going all in on amenities can help drive demand for a project. They also believe in the old adage that all publicity is good publicity for attracting attention to a project like the Grand Castle.

“Nothing like this has been built, but having some unique features can’t hurt,” said Matt Jones, an associate vice president in the Grand Rapids office of commercial brokerage Colliers International Inc. who specializes in multifamily investments. “Everyone knows what the Castle is, so from a PR perspective, they’re not doing bad.”

The Grand Castle’s bevy of amenities, such as free parking, a pool and fitness center, could also work in its favor, according to Jones.

“As tenants have more choices, it’s coming down to an amenities arms race,” Jones said.

Land & Co. executives say that they’ve received interest from about 400 people who want to live at the Grand Castle. The company maintains a waiting list with about 325 names, while about 50 people have put money down on an apartment, according to Troy Zapolski, executive vice president at Land & Co.

The leasing and management company had been hesitant to take deposits from more prospective tenants because of some construction delays, but it now believes that people will be able to begin moving into certain units by Sept. 14. Additional units should be ready for occupancy in the following weeks as build-out continues at the site.

‘Reasonable’ luxury

The total cost of the 522-unit Grand Castle project remains unclear. Lucas would only say the project costs more than $50 million, but declined to get more specific on overall construction and development costs.

The developer is financing the project with a mix of his own equity and debt from Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp.

Lucas also is serving as the Grand Castle’s construction manager, which he notes results in a significant cost savings for the project. As well, the Grand Castle’s scale and modular construction, known as Outinoord, allow the developers to deliver apartment units at a much lower rate than many of the other newly-built developments in the market, according to executives.

Asking rents for new units at the Grand Castle fall in the range of $1-$1.40 per square foot, which includes a range of amenities not always found in smaller apartment developments.

By comparison, newer apartments in downtown Grand Rapids and the surrounding areas rent for $1.50 to $2 per square foot or higher, according to various commercial real estate reports.

“We’re affordable castle living. We’re building something that everyone can afford to live in,” said Zapolski, adding that the Castle’s rents –– which cost $700 at the low end for a 530-square-foot studio –– could still be out of reach for some tenants. “But the majority can live (here) at a reasonable price for luxury living.”

Adding capacity

Quantifying the impact of a massive new suburban apartment project — castle or otherwise — can prove tricky. Jones at Colliers International said it’s still too early to tell what the influx of hundreds of new units could mean for the overall market.

He pointed to an April report from Colliers that determined occupancy for apartments in the Grand Rapids area continues to hover above 90 percent, even as hundreds of new units have come online in recent months.

An analysis by MiBiz of apartment listing services found that only a handful of landlords are pitching incentives to would-be tenants to get units filled.

The existing dynamic of high demand and limited supply has at least one long-time West Michigan real estate executive thinking the project could have a chance for success.

“We’re in an extraordinary period of boom. We’ve got incredible inward migration, and the development is bringing more residential units to the region,” said Sam Cummings, managing partner at Grand Rapids-based CWD Real Estate Investment Inc., which owns and manages a mix of office and retail holdings, as well as some residential properties. “There is more than likely a price by which that thing is full. I don’t pretend to know what that is.”

Catalyst project?

Local officials hope the Grand Castle could have a more holistic impact on the 28th Street corridor near the I-196 interchange.

“I’m hoping it will be a catalyst for more redevelopment in that area, which would be a real benefit,” said Grandville Mayor Steve Maas, noting the project could house 1,000 new residents in the suburban community. “28th Street would benefit from some reinvestment in that area.”

For his part, Lucas said the project was designed to draw more people into the community.

“One of the goals is that you have … something that is unique,” Lucas said. “Second of all, I think we’ll have a tourism problem because when they come down the (I-196) freeway and they see this thing in the middle of the freeway, they’re like, ‘What is that?’”

As he shrugs off criticism about the project’s design, Lucas is betting that there’s truth in his frequently used marketing line: “Every girl wants to be a princess.” Living in a castle — the Grand Castle — offers that opportunity, he said.

“I just think there’s a big group of people (that want to live here) and I think it’s even in the back of our minds as Americans — even though we don’t have that many castles — they’re kind of cool. They exude power, strength,” Lucas said. “I’m just trying to tap into some different ideas. I’ve filled quite a few apartments in West Michigan for 33 years; I know what the boxes look like. Why not do something different?”

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