Tear-down planned soon, Dégagé open to Suggestions


Since moving to Grand Rapids in the 1990’s I’ve been intrigued by this whimsical carriage house and what it would be like to live here. I am sure its the same for many other fans of history, architecture, and Grand Rapids Michigan. This structure, next to Dégagé Ministries, is the last remaining evidence of the pre-industrial era of downtown Grand Rapids. It even pre-dates the period of protection governed by Historic Preservation. This is one of the reasons it is coming down.

Carriage House currently owned by Dégagé, used as a temporary pass-through from Sheldon to Division

Another reason the building is not long for this location is that it just doesn’t make a lot of sense in its current location. Times have drastically changed, and it is more of a museum piece now than a useable structure.  The building is wedged in between two commercial buildings, no stand-alone single family residences exist nearby. It’s a workaround spot right now, currently set up as a walk-through connection from the Dégagé building on Division to the building on Sheldon, with several steps up into the carriage house, and then several steps back down into their other building.

Dégagé Ministries is launching a capital campaign to remove this home and replace it with a more accessible building, adding much-needed services for women in need. The existing program has helped over 4500 women to date and is in need of expansion. They plan to move the dining hall & gathering area, currently on Division, to their building on Sheldon. It is notable that this may incidentally cause a minor shift in the amount of loitering along Division avenue.

To be clear, this plan is already in motion, already approved by the City of Grand Rapids and passed through the Historic Preservation Committee. Funds are being raised. Yet, the local organization admits it would be a bit of a shame to tear this building down if there is a will and a way to save it.

Current law office, former carriage house moved from Heartside Neighborhood

Buildings like this have been moved before. Take for example the law office that currently resides at State & Lafayette. This is a former brick carriage house from the same era and location as the Dégagé building.

I’ve been asked by Dégagé to check around and see if there is any interest from the community in possibly moving the structure to a new location. This process would need to begin with an engineering assessment to see if the place would withstand a move. Then, an intricate plan would have to be made for digging it back out of its current location then moving it somewhere uphill.

The process of moving a home is costly, especially a very old one, and there are some additional special considerations such as stop lights, automobile traffic, power lines, but surprisingly people exist around town who can move things like this. I first encountered Rollaway Movers in 2009 when I had a rental property on National Street that was shifting in a counter-clockwise direction. The foundation was giving out in one corner and I had to have it rebuilt in order to save the home.

National Basement Overhaul

Rollaway also gave me a quote on moving the Magnum Opus building at 1422 Wealthy. My company Life Cycle had been managing the property, had just finished 90% of its rehab when it was sold and slated for tear-down. The buyer eventually decided to save it, but not before I’d received a reasonable quote for moving the building. I was highly impressed!

Rear of referenced Dégagé carriage house, built into a commercial structure

For further information or any questions please don’t hesitate to contact Pete Bruinsma at Grand River Realty.