Monroe North is Getting Hot!


Just about everywhere you go in Grand Rapids these days, you see construction going on: new apartments, new college campus buildings, new hotels and office buildings, and yes roads!

While the West Side, East Hills and Michigan Street have been getting much of the attention and projects in the last 10 years, the Monroe North area sat quietly with its old industrial buildings, converted lofts, artist studios, riverfront parks and a small collection of watering holes.

After being one of the first areas near downtown to go through redevelopment 20 years ago, it slowed down when several large projects hit the skids during the Great Recession.

The temperature has turned up in Monroe North tremendously in the last few years however.

If you’re new to the area or “downtown” challenged, the Monroe North Business Association (as it is formally called) sits along the riverbank in the Belknap Lookout Neighborhood, bordered by Michigan Street at the South end, the Grand River on the West, Leonard at the North, and North Division on the East. It’s signature look has been broad collection of old and new industrial facilities, some dating back to the turn of the 20th Century.

That look is about to change dramatically in the next few years.

601 Bond, at Bond and Trowbridge

After over a decade sitting as a big empty grass lot, construction on the second phase of the Icon on Bond apartment project at Bond and Trowbridge kicked off this week. Official ground-breaking is set for August for “601 Bond,” according to the New York based Time Equities Inc. that is developing the project. This 16 story building will sit right behind Monroe Terrace and SpeakEZ and will be the new tallest in the neighborhood (it will be nearly twice as tall as the current Icon building!) and contain 200 market-rate apartments, several floors of parking, and ground floor retail space. Pioneer Construction is the construction manager on this project.

Embassy Suites, at Monroe and Newberry 

As covered previously in GRNow earlier this year, this seven-story hotel being developed by Suburban Inns is well underway, with steel and concrete rising rapidly on the site just North of the Brassworks Building. The 246 all suites hotel at 710 Monroe will feature an indoor pool, Big E’s Sports Bar & Grill, banquet facilities, and sweeping views up and down the Grand River.  Pioneer Construction serves as the construction manager on this project as well.

River’s Edge Apartments, 1001 Monroe Avenue at Canal Park

Slowly rising out of the trees near Canal Street Park on the Grand River at 1001 Monroe, Orion Construction is going vertical quickly with their new River’s Edge apartment project. The new residential building will contain 34 apartments, an “art walk” along the riverfront, indoor parking, a rooftop patio, and a new restaurant on the ground floor.

Michigan State University (MSU) – Grand Rapids Medical Research Center, at Monroe and Michigan St

Michigan State University’s second big investment in downtown Grand Rapids opens this Fall with 160,000 square feet of brand new medical research space, at the corner of Michigan Street and Monroe Avenue. MSU plans to move out of its current space in the Van Andel Research Center and add researchers, students and staff.

The Rowe, at Monroe and Michigan St

Right across the street from MSU is the newly redeveloped Rowe Hotel, converted into The Rowe apartment project. Detroit-based Atwater Brewing Company has taken up a comfortable space on the ground floor of this project, dramatically improving the once broken and dilapidated streetscape at this corner.

Grand River – Riverbank Parks and Rapids Restoration

The much anticipated restoration of the rapids in the Grand River is on track to get started in 2019, with the recent hire of a CEO to lead the project, who restored rapids in the Chattahootchee River in Columbus, Georgia.

The Sixth Street and Canal Parks will be “ground zero” for the restored rapids, which will involve removal of most of the Sixth Street Dam for whitewater rafting and kayaking. The river also makes some of its greatest drop from Ann Street down to the I-196 bridge; a drop of nearly 20 feet. The city is working to enhance the parks along that section of the river to coincide with increased recreational areas.

820 Monroe, at you guessed it, 820 Monroe

616 Development made a huge investment in 820 Monroe, completely renovating the old Sackner Products factory, adding apartments and new ground floor retail spaces. Eateries and retail shops that you’ll find there include City Built Brewery, Field and Fire Cafe, CKO Kickboxing, Fido & Stitch, Higher Ground indoor rock climbing, and Beer City Barre. Get your workout in and beer on all in one building!

New Local Businesses

A slew of businesses have recently announced their upcoming move to the area, including Integrated Architecture moving into an old printing building at 840 Ottawa, Green Giftz at 532 Ottawa, and a new yet-to-be-named restaurant at 801 Ionia across the street from The Garage. They will be joining mainstays and other recent additions like SpeakEZ, Gray Skies Distillery, and Rocky’s Bar.

Photo and interior renovation of Green Giftz by Custer, Inc.


Feel Like Walking (or Biking?)

This Spring the city of Grand Rapids unveiled the “Coldbrook Edge” park at the Northern end of Canal Park, right along the Grand River near Leonard Street. Almost a decade in the works, this small park and trail along the river provides an important link to help provide an uninterrupted trail from downtown up to Riverside Park and the White Pine Trail.

Don’t Feel Like Walking?

Don’t worry, the city expanded its DASH bus system to the Monroe North area last year. Or the Grand Rapids Beer Trolley recently kicked off and serves the Monroe North area.

Not Technically Monroe North, but!!

GVSU is still the 800 pound gorilla when it comes to higher education in West Michigan, and they have set up a huge presence in the Belknap Lookout Neighborhood recently (which encompasses Monroe North). A new health sciences building is going up at 500 Lafayette next to the I-196 freeway, and they’ve also recently announced another new health sciences facility at 333 Michigan would begin soon. Last year, they presented a new master plan to the residents of Belknap Lookout and the city of GR, detailing an entire new campus and commercial developments along College Avenue.

Could there possibly be any more? We hear there’s more in the works actually!

If you would like to find out more about the Monroe North Business Association, check out their website.

P.S. Be sure to check out the new GRNow app which you can get in both the IOS and Android store



Jeff Hill is a contributor to GRNow and a development and economics junkie who likes to keep his finger on the pulse of what’s next for Grand Rapids. You can email him feedback or insider story ideas to