Growing pains: As West side redevelopment ramps up, so do residents’ concerns

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- From New Holland Brewing to several new residential projects in the works, redevelopment efforts on the city's west side continue to ramp up.

But with the planned growth also come growing concerns from many people already living in the area who fear being pushed to the side, or pushed out entirely as the west side's transformation continues.

Wednesday night, several dozen gathered at the John Ball Area Neighborhood office to hear from a Rockford Construction representative and to sound off on concerns with some of the projects they've got in the works.

"You give lip service to diversity in the neighborhood, but when you're buying up properties of low income people and displacing them, I don't see you being concerned about those people and where they go," said one woman in the crowd.

Jim Reminga, senior vice president of land and master planning for Rockford, fielded questions and concerns Wednesday night mostly pertaining to the company's New Holland Brewing Co. development and proposal for a new residential project near the corner of Fulton and Seward Ave.

The development near Seward and Fulton, planned to be primarily student housing, was a major point of contention for some residents for that very reason. While others expressed frustration over the fact the project calls for demolishing several older homes in the area.

"We hope that the development that occurs doesn't just benefit those who come to this area as a destination, but also is inclusive to the people currently residing here," said Margo Johnson, president of South West Area Neighbors Association.

The more than hour long discussion highlighted the careful balance developers like Rockford Construction walk as they move into areas like the west side.

"On one hand you don't want to hurt the people in the existing neighborhood... on the other hand there's a lot of people who want to live in this area," Reminga told FOX 17 following Wednesday night's meeting.

"Yeah I feel bad there are neighbors concerned what we're building doesn't do anything for them, but that doesn't mean it doesn't do anything."

Reminga said the Seward and Fulton project should be ready to be presented to the city's planning commission by January, adding that fielding concerns like the ones presented Wednesday are part of the process nearly every developer faces when coming into an established area.

"The real key is to find a way for us to add value to serve the market, to create energy on the west side and do it in a way that doesn't hurt anybody," he said.

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1 Comment

  • Larry S.

    Moving out of the west side twelve years ago was the best thing I ever did. It used to be the “best side”, now it is just a gang-infested ghetto all the way up through Comstock Park thanks to all the Detroit refugees. “Redevelopment” of the west side is futile unless it is preceded by aggressive and unrelenting law enforcement, including zoning and slumlord issues. Otherwise they will destroy it faster than you can build it.

    Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the effort. I love going into Ralph’s on Leonard and seeing it expanding instead of being driven out by Meijer. I love it that Brann’s is a different color every year. And I love it that the zoo continues to grow thanks to the generosity of some very kind people. All these things are great for the west side. But the city really needs to do its part as well, and that means more than just rubber stamping tax-abated development projects. They actually have to invest themselves in the neighborhoods, and that means taking care of the problems as well as bringing in new development. If you don’t do the former, the latter will only succeed in making the problems worse. I am surprised that the city has not learned its lesson in this regard, as they have had ample experience mucking this sort of thing up. Look at the GVSU neighborhood. Bringing in a college will transform the neighborhood, they said. But it hasn’t. It is still a very sketchy neighborhood, it just has a college in the middle of it now. So they are left with trying to push those bad elements out by buying up all the property and redeveloping it. That isn’t leadership, that is reactionary. That is patching up holes caused by lack of insightful planning. It won’t be effective, and long term the neighborhood will suffer for it. They will build all these apartments that no one in the area can afford, they will sit empty until they begin to decay, and then they will cut the rates so that people can afford them, but then the people who move in will be the same ones you are kicking out now by building the apartments in the first place. It is simply spending a ton of money to delay dealing with a problem. That is not leadership, that is buck passing.