On July 1, MTM Management of East Lansing will take over Burns Park on Grahl Drive, a rental apartment project “designed for still active seniors.”
Back in 2002, recently retired developer Jim Furlong had no intention of developing any more property. When his wife took a photography course at the H.C. Burnside Senior Center off Michigan Avenue, she spotted property to the south and said “that looks like it would be good for apartments.”
The idea for the project came from his mother. She would not leave her five-bedroom home until she fell and had to move to a nursing home.
“This was a tribute to her,” he said. His wife’s mother lived there four years before she had to move into assisted care.
“I really didn’t want to get back in it,” but his two sons, son-in-law, and brother did. Son Kevin rezoned 6.7 acres purchased from Chris Grahl, who became part of the project for a while.
Jim said the first 15 one and two-bedroom units along Burns Drive “were really hard to fill. It was overwhelming.”
Then those in the community recognized the project as a place for those not ready for assisted living, but ready to downsize. Furlong said the demand has been good.
The apartments are a short walk to the Burnside Center. All utilities and maintenance are included. There have been residents who had to go into assisted care, but kept their units and later moved back.
“We have good quality here and quality tenants. We’re proud of that,” he said.
The second set of 15 units along Furlong Drive were easier to fill. Then came the economic recession of 2008-09. They struggled for three years until the project became full again.
The family saw demand with waiting lists for units. In 2018, they received approval to expand to the south with eight new single-story buildings containing 26 units, four one-bedrooms, and 22 two-bedroom units. But the rising cost of building stopped plans to expand.
“It would have tripled rents. Maybe the new owner in the future” will add the units.
The family wanted to keep the cost reasonable. There was no government assistance.
There had been other offers to buy, but all wanted Furlong to stay and help manage.
“If they wanted me, we decided why not just stay,” he said.
As for the sale “I was apprehensive because I really care about the tenants. That was my concern. They could pick up the phone and call me. They know I would take care of them,” Furlong said.
He has already introduced the new manager to residents.