GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Norm Cole has been fishing the rapids in downtown Grand Rapids for 34 years. "You never know what you’re going to catch," he said. "I have so much love for this river."
His view from the river to the east bank is about to change in a big way with groundbreaking for River's Edge, a mixed use development that will produce a five-story building with 32 apartments, indoor parking for 32 vehicles, and a yet-to-be-announced riverfront restaurant.
"When I was younger, it was all these factory buildings were empty," said Cole. "You didn’t see a lot of life down here."
The project is separated from the river only by the river walk.
"To be right on the river walk this is a really special piece of property for us," said John Wheeler, president of Orion Real Estate Solutions. "There’s just something magical about water and the Grand River is just a phenomenal piece of water."
Kristopher Larson, President and CEO of downtown Grand Rapids Inc. says River's Edge reflects the Grand River's legacy. "For many decades, the Grand River served as a highly industrial purpose."
That purpose has changed. "We’re seeing continued interest in people who want to work and live on the riverfront," Larson said.
And fishing near the fish ladder, Norm Cole is okay with development. "All these homes, condos everything they put down here, the breweries, everything has made Grand Rapids vibrant," Cole said. "I’m happy to see it."
River's Edge isn't the only project going up along the river. On the west side of the river, you'll find Grand View Place, a complex with 68 income-restricted affordable housing units. A new 15-foot wide trail system is under construction connecting the East and West side through downtown Grand Rapids. And on 15 acres at 201 Market Avenue, the city is making space for a development and hopes to sell that property soon.
River's Edge is expected to take about 14 months to complete, said Wheeler.