GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Over the years, the historic Sligh Furniture building on Century Ave in Grand Rapids has become a go-to spot to peruse and buy some unique, old stuff.
“The building itself lends itself so much to what we do. Every day, people come in and marvel, I mean the columns and just the structure itself is incredible and amazing,” Lost & Found Treasures Owner Mark Miller said.
Miller has owned his antique shop for 12 years, it's one of three massive antique stores in the building."We started off as a small 2000 square foot shop, and I've grown into approximately 50,000 square feet right now."
Right now, Miller and the other antique store owners who call the Sligh home, say a new development proposal could make them the things of the past.
Development firm Sturgeon Bay Partners unveiled a plan to buy the building and a huge chunk of land around Grandville and Century Avenue, to develop more than 700 apartments, retail space, parking, a garden and more.
At the latest Grand Rapids Planning Commission Meeting, Developer John Gibbs says the plan is to make about 10% of the units affordable housing. The planning commission approved part of their pitch, to build two new buildings on the site.
“We are very aware of the housing needs in Grand Rapids, specific to the housing study that was issued this past summer…and we think that this project will help solve this problem,” Gibbs said at the meeting.
The small business owners don’t see it that way and fear it could ruin a unique antiquers’ paradise in the heart of Grand Rapids.
“I think we need to think before we leap into a massive, another massive redevelopment and ask ourselves what's important, what's important to the community,” Miller said.
“The most important thing is once you change this, it'll never go back, and they're going to upset a lot of people,” Warehouse One Antiques Owner Mary Beth Schutt said.
“I'd love to see the community come together and pull together and help support us all and all the businesses that are in this building, because so many people can lose their jobs, you know, they may have nowhere to go,” Century Antiques Owner Jim Murray said.
The antique stores are garnering a lot of community support in a Facebook page called "Save the Sligh," which already has more than 1,000 members.