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Thread: Furniture City transformation (NO 56K!!!!)

  1. #1
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Furniture City transformation (NO 56K!!!!)


    Grand Rapids Michigan

    On the banks of the Grand River in West Michigan, Grand Rapids is under a transformation from Furniture City and it’s industrial past into Michigan’s Grand City by exceeding development expectations.

    Where smoke stacks and sawdust once was is now replaced with construction cranes and an undeniable excitement as the City is utilizing its history to improve its future. Older buildings that once housed furniture manufacturing and assembly are now housing hungry patrons, residents, and a myriad of opportunities. One of these, The Boardwalk, is the former Berkey and Gay furniture factory, and was at one point the largest furniture factory in the world. Today, it houses restaurants, offices, convenience stores, a health club, a hair salon, a law firm, classes for Ferris State University and Spectrum Health, along with hundreds of residential Condos, many of which overlook the Grand River, or the amazing forested courtyard. Another redevelopment project is the transformation of the historic Union High School into Union Square Condos. This too will contain a range or shopping, eating, entertainment and residential opportunities.

    Union Square

    Boardwalk

    Not all the development is in old buildings however, River House at Bridgewater, Tall House Condos, Icon on Bond condos, and the new JW Marriott Hotel & Conference Center will all change the skyline of Grand Rapids.



    JW Marriott Hotel & Conference Center



    Icon on Bond


    Tall House


    Riverhouse

    In addition to these mixed use development, St. Mary’s Hospital is expanding and replacing two buildings, Spectrum Health is Expanding to accommodate Michigan State University Medical School, and the new Grand Rapids Art Museum is under construction in the center of downtown. Even the former downtown YMCA and it’s neighbor, the Civic Theater are getting into the action.

    Grand Rapids Art Museum


    Spectrum Health

    What was once temporary housing, workout centers, and locker rooms are being converted into the luxury condos of the Fitzgerald. One of the benefits of living here would be the opportunity to walk across the street to the recently renovated Civic Theater.


    The Fitzgerald


    Civic Theater

    Of course places such as Van Andel Area, DeVos Place, the BOB, the Amway Grand, Bridgewater, Brassworks, and McKay tower are landmarks in Grand Rapids that have already made the G.R. the place to be. The new developments are icing on the cake.

    The BOB (Red Brick)


    Amway Plaza Hotel (Back)

    Amway Grand Plaza (Front)


    Brassworks


    Van Andel Arena


    DeVos Place



    Even the surrounding neighborhoods are getting into the action. Heritage Hill, one of America’s largest residential historic districts, is located just to the east of downtown, but is still walking distance for everything that downtown as to offer. The Hillmount building was a former art deco apartment building constructed in the late 40’s has now been turned into condo units. Hillmount residents and the rest of the neighborhood has eating and shopping opportunities in every direction. From the shops on Cherry, to the Wealthy Street shops, to Michigan Avenue restaurants and bars, and back do downtown, there is something for everyone.

    Random Photo’s of Downtown Grand Rapids










    http://www.thefitzgeraldresidences.com/home.html
    http://www.vanandelarena.com/
    http://www.unionsquaregr.com/
    http://www.boardwalkgr.com/
    http://www.grriverhouse.com/
    http://www.hillmountgr.com/home.html
    http://www.heritagehillweb.org/
    http://www.icononbond.com/
    http://www.gramonline.org/expansion/
    http://www.grand-rapids.mi.us/
    http://www.grct.org/
    http://www.devosplace.org/
    http://www.amwaygrand.com/
    http://www.thebob.com/
    Last edited by michaelskis; 06 Oct 2006 at 9:46 AM.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  2. #2
    Cyburbian DecaturHawk's avatar
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    Great shots, M'skis. There is a lot going on here. From the redeveloping downtown to the historic neighborhoods to the suburbs planning lifestyle centers and village center redevelopments, GR is a great metro area. Don't forget the other cultural icons - the Van Andel Museum Center, Meijer Gardens, the Gerald Ford - and the educational opportunities right downtown, with the Pew Campus of Grand Valley State University, Kendall College/Ferris State (expanding into the old Art Museum when the new one is complete), Western Michigan-Grand Rapids, Cooley Law School and a classic urban community college campus. GR is a classic example of how the private sector can reinvigorate a city, as many of the downtown improvements you cited were catalyzed by private investment. It's a great place to work and raise a family.
    SOME say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice.
    From what Iíve tasted of desire
    I hold with those who favor fire.
    But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate
    To know that for destruction ice
    Is also great
    And would suffice.

    Robert Frost (1874Ė1963) (From Harperís Magazine, December 1920.)

  3. #3
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DecaturHawk View post
    Great shots, M'skis. There is a lot going on here. From the redeveloping downtown to the historic neighborhoods to the suburbs planning lifestyle centers and village center redevelopments, GR is a great metro area. Don't forget the other cultural icons - the Van Andel Museum Center, Meijer Gardens, the Gerald Ford - and the educational opportunities right downtown, with the Pew Campus of Grand Valley State University, Kendall College/Ferris State (expanding into the old Art Museum when the new one is complete), Western Michigan-Grand Rapids, Cooley Law School and a classic urban community college campus. GR is a classic example of how the private sector can reinvigorate a city, as many of the downtown improvements you cited were catalyzed by private investment. It's a great place to work and raise a family.
    There is just so much going on in and around Grand Rapids that it is hard to post it all in one shot. Much like Bearís Toledo thread, I will see about including as much information about this Grand City, as possible.

    *Note that many of the photos were taken by other Grand Rapids Residents and are posted for public viewing and use at www.flickr.com
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    What is driving the growth in Grand Rapids? What industries are creating the jobs that seem to be drawing new residents?

    Great pictures!

  5. #5
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Cool tour Mike.

    In the case of GR, there is pent-up demand for urban development. Michigan has some major economy problems (loss of manufacturing jobs), so you can't really point to any one industry, but... there is growth here in hi-tech fields, medical, and service industries.

    Michigan is also begining to realize that it don't have to go to elsewhere to find neat places. Stuff like Meijer Gardens, the Van Andel, and a plethora of redevlopment opportunities are being used to make people feel good about places like GR again. Same thing is happening in other parts of the state as well (K-zoo, Detroit, Port Huron). People are seeing these old areas as opportunities instead of outdated white elephants.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Looks pretty cool. Has GR lost all of its manufacturing base? Hopefully not, I hope its just relocating into more modern buildings. Still, I had no idea that there was this much new development in GR.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Blue View post
    What is driving the growth in Grand Rapids? What industries are creating the jobs that seem to be drawing new residents?

    Great pictures!
    Within the City proper, I do not think that there is any major manufacturing left. However there are still several furniture manufacturing plants and corporate offices in the MSA.

    Downtown is a combination of several things. Like mentioned above, the heath care industry is growing with all three major hospitals in the area undergoing expansion, and Michigan State Medical School will be fully relocated to Grand Rapids by fall of 2008.

    Several universities including Grand Valley State University, Western Michigan University and Ferris Sate University all have satellite campuses in downtown. Additionally several IT companies, professional sector, and tourism/ entertainment based businesses have opened in downtown.

    Finally, there is also a growing interest in Art and Culture with the renovation of the Civic Theater, a proposed concert hall, and the continued redevelopment of a section of Division street into an Art Gallery district where galleries are located on the pedestrian level of buildings and upper levels are work/ live spaces for artists.

    I think that the most amazing thing about this is itís not just a tear down and build new, but the developers realize how amazing many of these buildings are and are willing to spend a little extra to keep them, knowing that it will improve the community.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

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    The only bad thing about this is the dominance of the icky, icky Amway empire and all that that means.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian TOFB's avatar
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    Thanks for the update. My things have changed since my short stint in the suburb to the south in 87-89.

    Question - are the 2 GM plants in Wyoming still in operation?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BKM View post
    The only bad thing about this is the dominance of the icky, icky Amway empire and all that that means.
    The construction of Van Andel Arena is what started the snowball of development in downtown. Several other projects around the same time aided it, but this was the first of the mega scale projects that was truly successful.

    The best thing about GR is that all of the development is the cooperation between public and private entities have continued to spark new growth.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Jen's avatar
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    Good coverage 'Ski's

    The Arena gamble has paid off big time, the West Michigan population are fervent fans of sports and music and often sell out many events at "The Van". Regardless of what anyone thinks of Devos and Van Andel their generosity and goodwill towards GR cannot be denied. As with Fred Meijer and Peter Wege as well.

    While the large manufacturing plants have slowed and some completely idled, there are a lot of small to midsize manufacturers. Food, clothing, medical devices, tool and die etc.

    There has also been investment in the Interurban Transit Partnership (ITP) called "the Rapid", new modern bus terminal etc.

    Grand Rapids is still home to visionaries and people who get things done, people like Brigit Klohs of the Right Place an ED agency, Guy Bazzani of Bazzani Associates has incorporated green practices known as the "triple bottom line" into his architecture and development firm. Also Fred Keller of Cascade engineering who runs his firm according to environmentally and socially responsible practices.

    GR also has a river running thru it and a fish ladder and salmon fishing in the city! There are numerous neighborhood parks and an expansive new park being developed in phases called Millenium park.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Aside from its obvious Rust Belt Turnaround beauty, GR is quirky, for a City. My sister-and-law lived there last year, and she said it is very conservative. Not what you'd expect from a city. I don't know how factual this comment on someone's blog is, but after I attended a statewide planning conference there a couple of years ago, I had a similar impression:

    From my experience, almost all business in Grand Rapids is driven by conservative values, so although the area maybe somewhat liberal; all economic development or lack thereof is based on the secular beliefs of group of strong GOP supporters. An example of such is the Devos and Amway families, two prominent republican families that have made millions through their Pyramid scheme “Multi level marketing” business. To show that they apparently care bout the community, they have made it their goal to inscribe their namesake onto every Non-Profit building in the city. Its obvious what they are doing, tax deductible philanthropic donations to well recognized non-profit organizations is essentially a way to attain free publicity while also gaining support of the community.
    Perhaps this comment is more fair to Grand Rapids, yet gives you an impression that maybe the Furniture City is still uncomfortable for some:

    All of my family members grew up in Grand Rapids, MI. I must say being that I am forced to visit there frequently, it doesn't seem too threatening. It's basically just a town full of old white people who go to church a lot.
    There's no doubt that Grand Rapids is going through a transformation. The physical aspects of the "city" are in place. But will it really be a satisfying place for everyone, reflecting the values and culture of a broader pluralistic society?

  13. #13
    Cyburbian TOFB's avatar
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    Well put Wannigas.

    I recall when living there Meijer Stores mailed an apology to everyone in town when they decided to be open on Sunday.

    In my town, Wyoming, a fairly rough blue collar UAW town, there were exactly 5 bars for its 65,000 residents.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Jen's avatar
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    You want to get away from WASP's go to East Town (NOT EastGR), or West Leonard St. Go to Kava house, Gaia, or Shakedown Street. There are a lot of churches, but also synagogue, hindu, buddhist, islam,quaker and UU's.

    Now if you want real conservatism go to Hudsonville or Zeeland, you'll get the evil eye for mowing your lawn on sunday.

    A lot of people complain about W MIch being too stuffy or conservative but I know a lot of native GRapidians and they party hard. Music fans sold out two bob seger shows, sold out Clapton, and sold out many others.! That wouldn't happen in a city that frowns on fun.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Wanigas? View post
    There's no doubt that Grand Rapids is going through a transformation. The physical aspects of the "city" are in place. But will it really be a satisfying place for everyone, reflecting the values and culture of a broader pluralistic society?
    In some aspects when it comes to businesses, I will agree with you to a point. Many of the places in downtown close at 5pm on Sundays.

    Beyond that you would never guess it was that conservative. Crush, the bridge street bars, and many other places are full of people who party hard until the wee hours of the morning. Additionally, there are several pizza places that are open until 4am on Fridays and Saturdays.

    I think that many people think that GR is just made up of traditional white upper/middle to upper income families with manicured lawns, white picket fences, and a Volvo in every driveway. I assure you it has a phenomenally wide spectrum of diversity. Every thing from liberal activist protesting the war on a street corner wearing self designed clothing to homosexual couples being very proactive in neighborhood enhancement programs, to old money doctors that went to Harvard, to any demographic/ stereotype you can think of.

    Additionally, last night the Gubernatorial debates were at a TV Station located next door to where I live, and the Granholm (D) supporters outnumbered the DeVos (R) supporters 3 to one... and DeVos is from and lives in the Grand Rapids Area.

    I think that in the past, it was much worse, however along with the other transitions a liberal/conservative balance appears to have been reached within the ďCityĒ once you get into East Grand Rapids and a few of the higher income burbs... like Jen said, itís even a bit too conservative for me!
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

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