The Rapidian

Cousins plan to turn farmhouse into Grand Rapids' first hostel

The first hostel in the history of Grand Rapids is poised to open come spring of 2015. Currently they're getting ready to welcome international travelers.
Phil and Mark Bouman, cousins and proprietors

Phil and Mark Bouman, cousins and proprietors /Eric Tank

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"Hostels are a reflection of their owner. A good hostel is not only a reflection of their owner but of the city and the location that they are."

-Mark Bouman 


/Eric Tank

Entryway with butler bench on left

Entryway with butler bench on left /Eric Tank

If all goes according to planned, Grand Rapids will see its first and only international hostel at 117 Page Street in the Creston neighborhood spring of 2015. The home, a farm house built in 1878, has been purchased by cousins and West Michigan natives Phil and Mark Bouman.

The house is in remarkably good condition structurally, right down to the original molding that gives the indoors an antique aesthetic. At 4,100 finished square feet of space the unit is large enough to boast three communal rooms, a dining room, kitchen, five bedrooms and two bathrooms on three separate floors. 

"It really shows the history of Grand Rapids with the wood and fine finishings," says Phil Bouman. "There' s a lot of great common space, especially the first floor."

The main floor entry will eventually be furnished with a front check-in desk along the south wall and an information stand next to the butler's bench shelved with brochures, pamphlets and city information. Large sliding pocket doors segue into the television room on the east wing leading south to the dining room that will have two pub height tables situated in front of the fireplace. Through to the west, the butler's quarters will function as a music and reading commons with a small lending library. The large kitchen with brand new appliances, plenty of cabinets, tall ceilings and a built in dining booth anchors the north end. 

The red carpet lined staircase winds to the second floor dedicated to sleeping quarters. Four of the five bedrooms will be outfitted with bunk beds and storage lockers. One room will serve as a semi-private room with a queen size bed and private bathroom. The floor can sleep up to 30 individuals. 

Of the four bathrooms in the house, the two on the first and second floors will be remodeled to maximize space by splitting them in half and adding an additional shower head to each. A partition will be added to the second floor creating a private hallway to the third floor. 

Most different in syle and feel, the carpeted third story modern commons will function as a recreational room with pool table, fooseball, darts and a video projector with pull down screen and wired for surround sound.  

About a mile from downtown, the house is located 75 yards from three bus stops, on bike laned roads and in close proximity to the river. 

The Bouman cousins, both 2009 graduates of Calvin College, have traveled the globe and have extensive experience staying in hostels. 

"We've both been fortunate to be able to travel around the world and live abroad on separate occasions. We've experienced other cultures and met people from all over the world at the hostels we've stayed at- and we want to do that in our own city. Kind of show off Grand Rapids to the rest of the world, and provide a space for people to meet other travelers coming from different states, other countries and different corners of the world," says Mark. 

The cousins are currently working with the City of Grand Rapids to draft the language needed to set regulations in place. Although many cities accross the country have hostels and ordinance precedents, Grand Rapids currently and historically has not. 

"There are alot of cities around the US that do have verbage in place so yeah, we're trying to come up with something that makes sense for the city of Grand Rapids," says Mark Bouman. "I think Grand Rapids is really poised for a hostel. Michigan has been pushing tourism a lot and has been pretty successsful in doing so with the Pure Michigan campaign."

So far the cousins say that they have had unanimous support from city officials, commissioners and the Creston Neighborhood Association and business district. 

GR Hotel is fully funded, with logo and website up and running and a PR team ready to roll.

"We're going to work with the city on what makes sense for a hostel. We prefer to work together," says Phil Bouman.    

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