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World’s second-largest castle ‘has everything you could want in an apartment’

Posted on March 27, 2020 by Becca - Business, Community, Sponsor Content

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by Matt Vande Bunte March 27, 2020

Anyone driving by The Grand Castle gets a sense of the building’s momentous size. Construction materials for the 522-unit apartment community off I-196 west of Grand Rapids included 200 million pounds of concrete, 900 tons of steel and 320,000 kilograms of granite.

The Grand Castle is indeed grand. In fact, at 1.2 million square-feet, it’s the second largest castle in the world!

But you have to tour The Grand Castle to get a full appreciation of how grand it really is.

The Grand Castle in Wyoming, MI

The Grand Castle is a pet-friendly apartment community featuring an outdoor dog park with two separate fenced-in areas and several play elements. Taryn Willett visits the dog park with her shepherd mix ‘every day, multiple times. There’s always a dog to play with,’ she said.

How each apartment has brand-new stainless-steel appliances, granite countertops, full washer and dryer and its own water heater, plus high nine-and-a-half-foot ceilings.

How there’s a variety of floor plans that fit a variety of living situations and budgets, and more than 90 percent them get at least one covered parking space.

How the extraordinary architecture is complemented by unparalleled amenities:

  • Outdoor swimming pool and clubhouse
  • Castle-themed playground for kids
  • Two-story library with a “Beauty and the Beast”-style twin staircase
  • On-site gym with cardio and weight training equipment
  • Game room with ping pong, shuffleboard and arcade games
  • Spacious outdoor terraces and sun decks
  • 23-acre lake for fishing and kayaking, with a waterside walking trail
  • Covered loading docks for easy move in
  • Expansive courtyard with outdoor seating and water fountain
  • Fenced-in dog park
  • Fitness classes, watch parties and other organized social events
  • Conference rooms for personal parties
The Grand Castle, Library

A two-story library at The Grand Castle features a twin staircase, a la ‘Beauty and the Beast.’

“It has everything you could want in an apartment,” said Taryn Willett, 27, who lives on the sixth floor with her fiancée, dog and cat. “We like it for a lot of reasons.

“It’s newer, cleaner. It has a fresh feel. And it’s actually a really good price for the area considering it’s very close to downtown. We’re actually paying less money (than we were at our previous apartment) for a new building, and it’s closer to the highway. That’s a really huge plus because you can get anywhere in 10 minutes.”

Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany is the inspiration for both Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland and The Grand Castle outside Grand Rapids. The 19th-century palace includes a copper lion standing guard atop its turreted roof, just like The Grand Castle.

There are a lot of apartments in West Michigan, but there’s only one castle. The Grand Castle was inspired by a similar marvel in southern Germany.

The Neuschwanstein Castle itself was a monumental feat of construction for its time, requiring more than 500 tons of marble, over 1,700 tons of sandstone and some 400,000 bricks. It also featured then-innovative amenities including central heating, running water and toilets with automatic flushing.

The Neuschwanstein Castle attracts upwards of 1 million visitors per year. Yet, only 522 tenants get to call The Grand Castle home.

“I teach dance at night and once my little dancers found out I lived at The Grand Castle they were like ‘Are you a princess?’” said Brooke Hanges, who lives in a 2-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor with her puppy.

“My nephew is 3 and he thought that was the coolest thing to have Aunt Brooke live in The Grand Castle. He even put together a Lego structure of the Castle for me.”

Apartment in the Grand Castle in Wyoming, MI

‘It’s all updated and new,’ said Brooke Hanges, who moved into The Grand Castle last year. ‘Everything is open, and the high ceiling is huge. I don’t feel like I’m in an apartment. I feel like I’m in a home.’

A year after opening, The Grand Castle is more than 70-percent occupied. Studio apartments rent for as little as $730 per month, while three-story penthouse suites have more than 4,000 square-feet. One-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans also are available ranging in size from 712 square-feet to 1,500 square-feet, with rents from $930 to $1,770 per month. The apartment community also includes several accessible units with barrier-free features.

Preferred employer discounts of 5 percent or more are available to employees of many of the Grand Rapids-area’s largest employers.

The Grand Castle is proving to be a great fit for people of all ages. In addition to 20-somethings just starting out and mid-career professionals, many residents age 55 and up are finding a home at The Grand Castle, too.

“It’s no maintenance,” said John Green, 72, who moved into a two-bedroom apartment with his wife after downsizing from a 4,900-square-foot home on 18 acres. “We love it here. It has so many things that make it worthwhile as far as things to do.”

As for The Grand Castle’s distinctive architecture, Green loves it.

“Whenever we have somebody come to visit, we never get the excuse that they couldn’t find it.”

the lake at the Grand Castle
Located off I-196 just west of Grand Rapids, The Grand Castle is close to the Grand River, Kent Trails and Millennium Park. It also features a 23-acre lake for fishing and kayaking along with a waterside walking trail. ‘It’s super nice having the water right there,’ said Brooke Hanges, 27, who keeps kayaks in a storage unit by her covered parking spot.
game room at the Grand Castle
The game room at The Grand Castle features shuffleboard, ping pong, pinball and hundreds of classic arcade games including Ms. Pac-Man and Golden Tee Golf.
fitness room at the Grand Castle
The Grand Castle has two adjacent fitness rooms with cardio and weight training equipment. ‘I like how the gym is right there and the pool is right there,’ resident Brooke Hanges said. ‘I’ve had gym memberships before. I was going every day, driving there and driving back. That can add up. I like that I can walk around the corner and head to the gym. It’s just easy. It saves about 20 minutes.’

a bathroom in an apartment at the Grand Castle
Large bathrooms with granite countertops and walk-in closets are a hallmark of the apartments at The Grand Castle. ‘The overarching feedback from the people who live here is that they really love their apartment,’ said Aaron Dood, property manager.
a kitchen in an apartment at the Grand Castle
Kitchens at The Grand Castle come with brand-new stainless-steel appliances and granite countertops. ‘I really liked the fact that I would be the first one living in my apartment,’ said Brooke Hanges, who moved into the apartment community a year ago.
dog park at the Grand Castle
A pet-friendly apartment community was a must for Brooke Hanges. The Grand Castle goes above and beyond with an outdoor dog park that has two separate fenced-in areas and several play elements

second floor courtyard at the Grand Castle
Second-floor residents at The Grand Castle have doors leading to an expansive courtyard where they set out tables and chairs for summertime relaxation.
courtyard at the Grand Castle
The expansive courtyard in the interior of The Grand Castle features a regal water fountain befitting a fairytale castle.
outdoor terrace at the Grand Castle
The eighth floor at The Grand Castle features spacious outdoor terraces and sun decks for casual gatherings and organized events. ‘We love the rooftops on the 8th floor,’ said Taryn Willett, who lives in a 1-bedroom apartment with her fiancée, dog and cat. ‘We use those probably once a week in the summer. We meet a lot of people.”

social event at the Grand Castle
Social events such as a Game of Thrones watch party with catered food are common at The Grand Castle. ‘This place is like a whole town or village in one,’ said Aaron Dood, property manager.
bike room at the Grand Castle
Located off I-196 just west of Grand Rapids, The Grand Castle is a short drive or an $8 to $12 Uber ride to downtown. It’s also close to the Grand River, Millennium Park and Kent Trails. On-site bike storage is available for residents.
The Grand Castle in Wyoming, MI
The Grand Castle has 522 apartments including studios that rent for as little as $730 per month and three-story penthouse suites of over 4,000-square-feet. ‘It’s actually a really good price for the area considering it’s very close to downtown,’ resident Taryn Willett said. ‘We’re actually paying less money (than we were at our previous apartment) for a new building, and it’s closer to the highway. That’s a really huge plus because you can get anywhere in 10 minutes.’


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?”

2 Bedroom 2 Bath Luxury Apartment Grand Rapids, MI

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]



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Grand Castle apartments rising in Grandville

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