Sunday Oct 01, 2023

Piece of MiEN Company’s new plan for old Baker Furniture building gets OK

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A furniture company’s plan to move its headquarters into the former Baker Furniture building in Grand Rapids has cleared another hurdle.

At its last meeting, the Grand Rapids Planning Commission unanimously approved MiEN Company’s request to add another 7,000-square-foot floor onto a portion of the historic building at 1661 Monroe Ave. NW, along the Grand River.

“(I’m) very excited to be working on this project. (It’s a) pretty important part of Grand Rapids and of the future of the city,” said Ben Franceschi of Mathison | Mathison Architects.

MiEN Company makes furniture for education settings. The business is currently based in Walker but ships its products worldwide, according to Franceschi.

The former Baker Furniture building has a long history in the furniture industry. It started as Grand Rapids Chair Co. in 1872, later becoming a subsidiary of Sligh-Lowry Furniture Co. and then Baker Furniture.

(A 1918 photo provided by the Grand Rapids Public Library’s History & Special Collections Archive shows the Grand Rapids Chair Company factory at 1661 Monroe Ave. NW in Grand Rapids.)

Remco Realty, which is registered to MiEN Company President and CEO Remco Bergsma, bought the property in August for $6.3 million, city property records show. The new owner plans to use the former warehouse and a portion of the building that juts out to the north for light assembly, shipping and office space.

The plans call for demolishing the loading docks on the building’s southern side and add residential access to the riverfront. The company plans to move its shipping operations to the northeast corner of the building, near Ann Street.

“You made my day,” neighbor Ty Lowing told Franceschi, after sharing frustrations about semi-trucks keeping him awake as they passed by his Travis Street home from the facility.

(A conceptual rendering provided by MiEN Company shows the business’ plan for the former Baker Furniture building, located at 1661 Monroe Ave. NW in Grand Rapids.)

Lowing also raised concerns about the building addition blocking sunlight to his home. Franceschi proposed a potential solar impact study, but the planning commission didn’t think it was necessary.

“I think the setback from it from the street, I’m comfortable with it, so I’m not too concerned about it. But out of your courtesy you want to study that with the neighbor, I’d allow that,” Planning Commission Chair Kyle Van Strien said.

MiEN Company plans to start construction in November, with a goal of moving its team into the updated space in March 2023.

Soon after that, the furniture manufacturer plans to collaborate with a developer to add about 200 housing units and retail space, “and of course there’s ample recreation opportunity here at the site,” Franceschi said.

“They’re very excited to be in the city and bring the economy the vitality of this business to the city. It’s very important to them,” Franceschi said.

He said MiEN Company representatives plan to attend Creston Neighborhood Association’s Wednesday committee meeting about land use.

Back to Top