Local developer envisions innovative “neighborhood” of rental units in Alma

By Ralph Echtinaw

After sitting vacant for 15 years following the demolition of the former Alma middle school, three acres bound by Gratiot, Hastings, Pine and East Downie streets will eventually contain housing for upwards of 100 people.

Ryan Smith of Gemini Capital Management plans to construct 40 rental units on the property. There will be 56 off-street parking spaces and 24 garage spaces. However, “construction is on hold for the time being,” Smith said.

However, Gemini is taking contact information from those who are interested in renting an apartment. Follow this link to the Gemini web site, where you can leave your name and request for housing.

Unit sizes range from 400 to 1,360 square feet. The floor plans range from one bedroom and one bathroom to three bedroom and two bathrooms. Sixteen units will have attached garages. Three units will be set up to accommodate disabled individuals.

Units on the perimeter of the development will have street-facing front porches in order to maintain the character of the existing neighborhood.

Units on the interior will have front porches that Smith hopes will create a sense of community. Interior sidewalks will connect to municipal sidewalks.

Units will have open floor plans with windows that allow for ample natural light. 

Units will be wood framed using 2×6 boards and rest on poured concrete crawl spaces.

Hardwood floors, ceramic tile bathrooms, high efficiency stainless steel appliances, solid surface countertops, LED light fixtures, high efficiency HVAC systems with smart thermostats and high efficiency plumbing fixtures are planned.

Exteriors will feature fiber cement board, seamless metal roofing, front porches and irrigated landscaping. 

Smith intends to pursue as many alternative energy solutions as feasible, including solar collection systems on each unit along with the possibility of geothermal heating.  The sidewalks may also be heated.

“The design of this neighborhood achieves many goals outlined in the city’s master plan,” Smith said. “And we anticipate that this development will set the standard for future developments throughout the city and beyond.”

Gemini bought the property for $97,500 in November 2019 and planned to have the property rezoned to multi-family to allow construction of quadplex-style units, but “resistance” from nearby homeowners caused him to change plans, Smith said.

“I withdrew my application from the Alma Planning Commission and spent the better part of the last two years reworking the plan to better suit the neighborhood and incorporate as much of the neighbors’ feedback as possible into this new design. I feel that this new plan is a much better use of the site.”

“I believe that everyone involved throughout the entire process realizes the need for these redevelopments; and everyone is working together to see them become reality.”


Smith praised local officials for working well with Gemini on multiple developments throughout Gratiot County.

“The great thing about our local communities is that we have some really great leaders who realize the need for growth and are actively helping to foster it, which, I believe will help our local communities prosper and grow in the future,” he said. “Every city and village leader along with all of the commissioner and planning boards have been more than supporting and cooperative in helping make these developments feasible. 

“I believe that everyone involved throughout the entire process realizes the need for these redevelopments; and everyone is working together to see them become reality.”

Smith is also active in acquiring downtown properties in Gratiot County and refurbishing them, including the addition of apartments upstairs. This, he believes, will benefit downtown areas because people living downtown will likely shop downtown. He has done eight of those projects to date. One was a storefront just north of Main Street Pizza in St. Louis, which now has apartments upstairs. A similar project is planned for the building that most recently housed Uptown Treasurers on the northwest corner of North Mill and West Saginaw. You can read all about that one in THIS city council story.

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