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When is it NIMBYism, when is it warranted?

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So we don't often talk about suburban developments.   But this article about a proposed apartment complex in Byron Twp. has me wondering.  When is someone being just NIMBY toward anything, and when is opposition to a development sensible.  

 

http://www.mlive.com/byron-center/index.ssf/2014/10/byron_township_divided_over_pr.html#incart_river

 

A proposed new Apartment complex of the M-6 corridor with 260 units is being met with opposition by neighbors.  I wouldn't have thought much about it but it's in Byron Township.   There are certain parts of Western Michigan where no matter what is proposed, it can cause the resident base to go into emotional collapse.  SWAN,  Belknapp, anything in Wyoming that isn't a big box, and the places that tend to have more residents that Grand Rapids tired conservative reputation is known for( i.e. Byron Twp,  Georgetown Twp, ect).  

 

The residents quoted in the article seemed to have some valid concerns about 260 new living units popping up in an area where the infrastructure isn't in place to handle it. (Not that it would take much to get it there).   If this community were to be proposed in another municipality would it be met with similar opposition?   What is clear is that people are moving to Grand Rapids and it's surrounding communities.  There are over 1000 housing units in some form of planning downtown,  but to my knowledge there have been no plans for suburban communities like this.  Right now even in the less desirable complexes the wait list goes out 2-3 months sometimes longer, and with the population gain only increasing momentum it's bound to go up.    It's only a matter of time before multiple proposals like this pop-up in the area as big developers start to see the dollar signs everywhere.     

 

The M-6 corridor is the most logical place for these types of development.   The southern tier suburbs are just better laid out with a perfect grid and road lane capacity for more people.  Whereas the infrastructure in the northern counterparts hasn't been laid out for it yet.   So where will more people go?   Is this just a case of Byron Center residents not wanting anything new anywhere?  Or is this responsible?   Where would new communities be better served where local residents won't be hostile to new developments?  

 

Change WILL happen,  but where?

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I wonder if the planned outlet mall received the same amount of push back.  If it did then it is true NIMBYism.  If not then they have something against apartments, for some reason.

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I wonder if the planned outlet mall received the same amount of push back.  If it did then it is true NIMBYism.  If not then they have something against apartments, for some reason.

 

Of course they have something against apartments. They've been to Kentwood (or lived there), saw what happened, and didn't really care for it.  Plenty of high end houses, no high end prices.  Not anymore.  What do you want to bet Byron Center Public High School does not have metal detectors, security officers, and gang wars--all of which has befallen Kentwood and its once shining jewel of a high school.

 

In case you haven't noticed, Byron is structured just like Kentwood, with one gigantic very desirable high school, lots of empty farmland, close proximity to a highway...  Hey, they can't all be EGR.  :dontknow:

Edited by x99
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I wouldn't call Kentwood the norm.   There are tons of older big communities in Kentwood that were built in the 60s 70s and 80s that are junk.   New apartment communities tend to be upper scale and at a price point that wouldn't attract the type of residents that ended up in those places.   I see no reason to think a new community planed for that area would turn Byron Center into "Kent-hood".     Unless you're being sarcastic. But I certainly wouldn't put that ignorant mindset past a resident from that area. 

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Having lived in Kentwood 15 - 20 years ago and then recently driven through to see how things are in the old neighborhood, I can say that my perception would closely mirror x99's.  I'm sure there are some areas that are still nice but overall it gave me a feeling that an accelerating downward spiral was encroaching on even the nicer parts.  

 

There is what appears to be a very nice, high-end apartment complex on Spaulding Avenue between Fulton and Ada Dr.  If this is what is proposed and the residents are fighting it, then I would be more inclined to believe it is NIMBYism.  However, if it's another York Creek - I would totally sympathize with them.  

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Is it apartments in general that people have a problem with or is it low income?

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Having lived in Kentwood 15 - 20 years ago and then recently driven through to see how things are in the old neighborhood, I can say that my perception would closely mirror x99's.  I'm sure there are some areas that are still nice but overall it gave me a feeling that an accelerating downward spiral was encroaching on even the nicer parts.  

 

There is what appears to be a very nice, high-end apartment complex on Spaulding Avenue between Fulton and Ada Dr.  If this is what is proposed and the residents are fighting it, then I would be more inclined to believe it is NIMBYism.  However, if it's another York Creek - I would totally sympathize with them.  

 

You're talking about stonefalls of Ada.  http://www.stonefallsofada.com/  I have a couple friends who live there they are very nice and target a much more favorable demographic.   These are the types of apartment communities that are being built in growing metros across the country.   I would be inclined to think that this is what we would be seeing more of in the area.   Without knowing the layout for what's proposed I can't confirm.   Another decent example would be the BayBerry Farms Apartments on Byron Center Ave built just across the freeway in the Wyoming limits.   Those have a higher price point and are more selective about residents.  That area in general is favorable to professionals moving to the area, not looking to be downtown.  I'm going to see if I can find out more about what has been proposed. 

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So we don't often talk about suburban developments.   But this article about a proposed apartment complex in Byron Twp. has me wondering.  When is someone being just NIMBY toward anything, and when is opposition to a development sensible.  

 

http://www.mlive.com/byron-center/index.ssf/2014/10/byron_township_divided_over_pr.html#incart_river

 

A proposed new Apartment complex of the M-6 corridor with 260 units is being met with opposition by neighbors.  I wouldn't have thought much about it but it's in Byron Township.   There are certain parts of Western Michigan where no matter what is proposed, it can cause the resident base to go into emotional collapse.  SWAN,  Belknapp, anything in Wyoming that isn't a big box, and the places that tend to have more residents that Grand Rapids tired conservative reputation is known for( i.e. Byron Twp,  Georgetown Twp, ect).  

 

The residents quoted in the article seemed to have some valid concerns about 260 new living units popping up in an area where the infrastructure isn't in place to handle it. (Not that it would take much to get it there).   If this community were to be proposed in another municipality would it be met with similar opposition?   What is clear is that people are moving to Grand Rapids and it's surrounding communities.  There are over 1000 housing units in some form of planning downtown,  but to my knowledge there have been no plans for suburban communities like this.  Right now even in the less desirable complexes the wait list goes out 2-3 months sometimes longer, and with the population gain only increasing momentum it's bound to go up.    It's only a matter of time before multiple proposals like this pop-up in the area as big developers start to see the dollar signs everywhere.     

 

The M-6 corridor is the most logical place for these types of development.   The southern tier suburbs are just better laid out with a perfect grid and road lane capacity for more people.  Whereas the infrastructure in the northern counterparts hasn't been laid out for it yet.   So where will more people go?   Is this just a case of Byron Center residents not wanting anything new anywhere?  Or is this responsible?   Where would new communities be better served where local residents won't be hostile to new developments?  

 

Change WILL happen,  but where?

 

 

I know that area pretty well where this apartment complex is being proposed. I tend to agree with the nearby residents. It's almost all single family homes in that area and a fairly rural road with an elementary school right across the street. There are better places for apartments in the Byron Center area in my opinion. That being said, this property borders M-6 and is close to the Byron Center Avenue exit so it will be developed at some point. I wonder what the master plan shows?

 

If it were ME living in that area, it would depend on the apartments. Stone Falls of Ada or something similar, I think I could get behind. Or the Cascade Ridge ones going in where Centennial Country Club used to be. But most apartments in this area are not that. Not even close. 95% of them are York Creek/Ramblewood-ish. They definitely pull property values down for the surrounding single family homes. It's just reality.

 

As far as I know, there was not a lot of push-back on the outlet mall. Mostly because it's being put in smack dab in the middle of a huge industrial park next to 131 with it's own drive (and it will get it's own traffic light). It fits their master plan already.

 

As I've always said. Everyone's a NIMBY at some point in their life. An oil refinery in East Hills? Not In My BackYard.

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Just to be clear,  I am not claiming that this is NIMBYism in this instance,  the jury is still out.  I understand concerns about where it's going as 64th St hasn't been widened to accommodate something like this.  

 

Comparing Ramblewood and York Creek isn't realistic either.   They are two of the largest apartment communities in the country with Ramblewood having just over 1700 units and York Creek having just under 1800.  Ramblewood was built by a group of local investors in the late 70s and early 80s and they did a phenomenal job.  As evidenced by some of the floor plans available in the south campus.  It was sold to AIMCO sometime in the 2000s when the original investors were looking to retire.  Even with AIMCO's downright predatory business practices it somehow still has decent number of professionals and quality residents, although I suspect that is declining.   York Creek was built starting in the early 90s and was finished in the early 2000s.  Again it was built by a local company, ( I almost want to say Rockford but I think that's wrong).   I remember York Creek WAS nice,  I even lived there in my early 20s .  The company that built York Creek went balls to the walls crazy building carbon copy communities of York Creek all over West MI during the booming 90s, then in the early 2000s  promptly sold all of them to Land & Co (as in Terry Lynn Land)  which promptly made them section 8.   Almost half of Comstock Parks school district population lives in York Creek and now has one of the lower graduation rates in the county.  

 

Sorry for the history lesson.  The point is at 260 Units it is barely 1/6th the size of the notorious apartment communities, and about half the size of the other unfavorable /cheap places in Kentwood.  These apartments would not be next to public transportation either.   The company looking to build appears to have other properties out of the area that are market rate.  

 

I guess my original question is bigger than just this proposal.   I wouldn't call it NIMBYism where it makes sense,  as Dad says not all opposition is bad.   But there are those vocal few that take up causes that will fight anything no matter what.  Will NIMBYism hurt West Michigan, as the last of the close minded contingent tries to stop change from happening?   Or does change happen no matter how loud some people scream. 

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I guess my original question is bigger than just this proposal.   I wouldn't call it NIMBYism where it makes sense,  as Dad says not all opposition is bad.   But there are those vocal few that take up causes that will fight anything no matter what.  Will NIMBYism hurt West Michigan, as the last of the close minded contingent tries to stop change from happening?   Or does change happen no matter how loud some people scream. 

 

I think this kind of growth vs. opposition to growth is part of the natural life cycle of a suburb.  I think the comparison of Byron Twp. to Kentwood 20 years ago is pretty apt.  Unlike SWAN, which seems to prefer keeping its outdated housing stock and vacant lots over what the market actually wants, it's understandable the Byron neighbors want to protect their property values.  But, they ultimately can't stop all new developments like this, so long as the community keeps growing, which it likely will.  I think this is the first salvo in a long battle.

 

What do you want to bet Byron Center Public High School does not have metal detectors, security officers, and gang wars--all of which has befallen Kentwood and its once shining jewel of a high school.

 

 

Whatever.  :rolleyes:

Edited by RegalTDP

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Just to be clear,  I am not claiming that this is NIMBYism in this instance,  the jury is still out.  I understand concerns about where it's going as 64th St hasn't been widened to accommodate something like this.  

 

Comparing Ramblewood and York Creek isn't realistic either.   They are two of the largest apartment communities in the country with Ramblewood having just over 1700 units and York Creek having just under 1800.  Ramblewood was built by a group of local investors in the late 70s and early 80s and they did a phenomenal job.  As evidenced by some of the floor plans available in the south campus.  It was sold to AIMCO sometime in the 2000s when the original investors were looking to retire.  Even with AIMCO's downright predatory business practices it somehow still has decent number of professionals and quality residents, although I suspect that is declining.   York Creek was built starting in the early 90s and was finished in the early 2000s.  Again it was built by a local company, ( I almost want to say Rockford but I think that's wrong).   I remember York Creek WAS nice,  I even lived there in my early 20s .  The company that built York Creek went balls to the walls crazy building carbon copy communities of York Creek all over West MI during the booming 90s, then in the early 2000s  promptly sold all of them to Land & Co (as in Terry Lynn Land)  which promptly made them section 8.   Almost half of Comstock Parks school district population lives in York Creek and now has one of the lower graduation rates in the county.  

 

Sorry for the history lesson.  The point is at 260 Units it is barely 1/6th the size of the notorious apartment communities, and about half the size of the other unfavorable /cheap places in Kentwood.  These apartments would not be next to public transportation either.   The company looking to build appears to have other properties out of the area that are market rate.  

 

I guess my original question is bigger than just this proposal.   I wouldn't call it NIMBYism where it makes sense,  as Dad says not all opposition is bad.   But there are those vocal few that take up causes that will fight anything no matter what.  Will NIMBYism hurt West Michigan, as the last of the close minded contingent tries to stop change from happening?   Or does change happen no matter how loud some people scream. 

 

I wasn't making the comparison based on the size, I was making the comparison based on the lack of quality. Sorry for the confusion. I can count on one hand the number of apartment projects in the entire metro area that I'd consider "first class." (outside of downtown). Most of them are pretty dumpy now and going on 20, 30, 40 years old (about as long as they were built to last). I know, I lived in 3 different suburban apartment complexes (and looked at almost all of the rest) way back 20 years ago. I remember when Woodland Creek on East Paris was nice. Yeah, those days are gone.

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Just to be clear,  I am not claiming that this is NIMBYism in this instance,  the jury is still out.  I understand concerns about where it's going as 64th St hasn't been widened to accommodate something like this.  

 

Comparing Ramblewood and York Creek isn't realistic either.   They are two of the largest apartment communities in the country with Ramblewood having just over 1700 units and York Creek having just under 1800.  Ramblewood was built by a group of local investors in the late 70s and early 80s and they did a phenomenal job.  As evidenced by some of the floor plans available in the south campus.  It was sold to AIMCO sometime in the 2000s when the original investors were looking to retire.  Even with AIMCO's downright predatory business practices it somehow still has decent number of professionals and quality residents, although I suspect that is declining.   York Creek was built starting in the early 90s and was finished in the early 2000s.  Again it was built by a local company, ( I almost want to say Rockford but I think that's wrong).   I remember York Creek WAS nice,  I even lived there in my early 20s .  The company that built York Creek went balls to the walls crazy building carbon copy communities of York Creek all over West MI during the booming 90s, then in the early 2000s  promptly sold all of them to Land & Co (as in Terry Lynn Land)  which promptly made them section 8.   Almost half of Comstock Parks school district population lives in York Creek and now has one of the lower graduation rates in the county.  

 

Sorry for the history lesson.  The point is at 260 Units it is barely 1/6th the size of the notorious apartment communities, and about half the size of the other unfavorable /cheap places in Kentwood.  These apartments would not be next to public transportation either.   The company looking to build appears to have other properties out of the area that are market rate.  

 

I guess my original question is bigger than just this proposal.   I wouldn't call it NIMBYism where it makes sense,  as Dad says not all opposition is bad.   But there are those vocal few that take up causes that will fight anything no matter what.  Will NIMBYism hurt West Michigan, as the last of the close minded contingent tries to stop change from happening?   Or does change happen no matter how loud some people scream. 

 

 

York Creek was built by Paul Land, Terry's dad along with several other similar complexes

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I wasn't making the comparison based on the size, I was making the comparison based on the lack of quality. Sorry for the confusion. I can count on one hand the number of apartment projects in the entire metro area that I'd consider "first class." (outside of downtown). Most of them are pretty dumpy now and going on 20, 30, 40 years old (about as long as they were built to last). I know, I lived in 3 different suburban apartment complexes (and looked at almost all of the rest) way back 20 years ago. I remember when Woodland Creek on East Paris was nice. Yeah, those days are gone.

 

I actually know the guy who is the property manager for Woodland Creek,  In spite of the fact that they are 30+ years old,  Cambridge Partners has done a pretty bang up job taking care of the community IMO.   They are remodeling every unit and upgrading fixtures.   One of the few places I might argue is still pretty nice haha. I think the problem with most of the places built during the 70s-90s time frame were thrown together so quick and had the purpose of only being a cash cow.  Even when maintaining them they still look old crappy and outdated. 

 

York Creek was built by Paul Land, Terry's dad along with several other similar complexes

 

 

For some reason I have been under the impression that those communities were aquired by Land and Co, that makes more sense.   Do you know when they became government assisted?

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For some reason I have been under the impression that those communities were aquired by Land and Co, that makes more sense.   Do you know when they became government assisted?

 

I do not. Paul may have aquired the property for York Creek from another developer, I don't remember that detail. I do remember very well, he had the entire site graded all at once and there was a huge soil erosion problem.

 

I have driven thru there several times lately and have noticed the buildings are well maintained as are the building exteriors

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NOT Nimbyism.   Byron TWP gave approval for rezoning.   It'll be interesting to see what these end up looking like, article states they will be "upscale".

 

Given the tenor of the mLive article, it surprises me that so many of the supervisors ignored the apparent wave of opposition of local residents to this project.  If I were among those who voted for this, I would not like my re-election prospects.  Either the mLive article was slanted, or they basically ignored everyone else that showed up at the meeting. 

 

Granted, this is not a terribly big apartment complex, but I can certainly understand a groundswell of opposition.  Just how "high end" can you build an apartment complex in an area with vast amounts of development land?  Mortgage payments in Byron Center are a minimum of $1000 a month for a worn out or tiny house (and are few and far, far between), and more like $1600 a month to start for something decent.  Then there is upkeep and maintenance.  Bringing 200+ units online overnight that will "sell" for $900 to $1100 a month is a massive change for the area. 

 

FWIW, the area actually serviced by East Kentwood HS hasn't seen but a single sale over $300k in over a year, if Zillow is anywhere close to accurate.  There's also a cluster of high priced sales around Crystal Spring/Stonewater Country Club.  This isn't in the City of Kentwood, but is serviced by the school district.  But here's the rub: 15-20 year old 4000-5000 square foot houses on a golf course with granite counters, mahogany offices, rec rooms, marble floors and movie theaters for between $300 and $400k.  These are selling for the same as or less than they did in around 1996-2001 when built, despite many being updated extensively.  If you run the math on the present value of an education for two and half kids, that's pretty much what's gone missing from these high end houses.  The owners won't use the schools, so it comes out of the value of the houses.  So if I'm in Byron Center with a big expensive house and there are hundreds of apartments coming online, I'm scared.  It took only fifteen years for these houses in Kentwood to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in inflation-adjusted dollars.  Yikes.

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And you attribute this solely to it being "Rentwood"?   Even though the lions share of apartment complexes in Kentwood were there before the suburban Gaines Twp.   Mc Mansions and 1990's subdivisions?  Not to mention that if these truly are high end units,  the price point should be between $1100-$1300/mo which is almost double the average price for the Kentwood places.

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And you attribute this solely to it being "Rentwood"?   Even though the lions share of apartment complexes in Kentwood were there before the suburban Gaines Twp.   Mc Mansions and 1990's subdivisions?  Not to mention that if these truly are high end units,  the price point should be between $1100-$1300/mo which is almost double the average price for the Kentwood places.

 

Not entirely.  My initial comment about Kentwood was a bit off the cuff, but after actually spending some time looking into it, I'm surprised how on the mark it actually was. 

 

Apartments facilitate mobility, and they generally do not stay looking good forever.  In suburban areas and large complexes, I think this is particular true.  It is too easy and too cheap to just build a newer, bigger, better complex.  Rents in the old one decline, and new renters move in for the "good" school system.  After I posed this initially and stumbled across the surprising demographic changes in Kentwood's schools, I did a bit more research during lunch.  It appears that what a lot of inner ring suburbs have recently experienced is the resurgence of white flight.  See, for example, http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/sep/05/death-america-suburban-dream-ferguson-missouri-resegregation

 

Blacks with few resources move in, whites with resources move out.  Kentwood is a hotbed of this phenomenon, and Byron Center is on their doorstep, likely filled with many recent "refugees".  I had heard that Kentwood was a "bad district", but I had never looked at any of the actual data for Kentwood schools before. It's fairly stunning.  Huge demographic shifts in a 15 year period, and significant declines in test scores and statewide rankings.  http://www.schooldigger.com/go/MI/schools/2034005721/school.aspx

 

The figures are absolutely shocking.  White people using schools in Kentwood vacated in the span of a bit more than a decade.  80% caucasian freshman classes declined to 40% in 15 years for the freshman class, with continuing steady declines.  The overall city demographics have not seen as dramatic a change, presumably because of retirees and people without kids content, for now, to stay put in their single-family homes, but the future seems clear: Kentwood is becoming a black city.  Sadly, I cannot think of a single city where the school system has become predominantly black and young white families with kids were still willing to move in.  That said, it is also fair to note that when these demographic shifts occur, crime tends to follow, and school performance tends to decline.  We could spend hours looking at the sociological factors behind that, and argue about who or what is at fault, but the statistics themselves are fairly solid.

 

Now, all of this is happening on the doorstep of Byron Center--in the span of 15 years--a blink of an eye in the lifetime of a city.  There are not 15 miles of highway (a la Hudsonville) or lack of transit or space (a la Cascade).  Byron is full of "refugees" from Kentwood who saw what happened to those shiny new apartments when they got older.  They use terms like "bad schools", "high crime", "traffic", and "overburdening infrastructure" to voice opposition, but those are, I suspect, simply euphemisms.  The fact is that without apartments, it is very difficult to achieve any significant degree of mobility for a typical black family that has, statistically speaking, relatively few available assets.  As Kentwood continues on its decline, they have nowhere to go until someone builds large apartment communities which, in ten years, probably won't be so pricey...

 

That anyone living in Byron Center would ever publicly acknowledge any of this is doubtful, but I don't think my surmising is that far off.  

Edited by x99

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Not entirely.  My initial comment about Kentwood was a bit off the cuff, but after actually spending some time looking into it, I'm surprised how on the mark it actually was. 

 

Apartments facilitate mobility, and they generally do not stay looking good forever.  In suburban areas and large complexes, I think this is particular true.  It is too easy and too cheap to just build a newer, bigger, better complex.  Rents in the old one decline, and new renters move in for the "good" school system.  After I posed this initially and stumbled across the surprising demographic changes in Kentwood's schools, I did a bit more research during lunch.  It appears that what a lot of inner ring suburbs have recently experienced is the resurgence of white flight.  See, for example, http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/sep/05/death-america-suburban-dream-ferguson-missouri-resegregation

 

Blacks with few resources move in, whites with resources move out.  Kentwood is a hotbed of this phenomenon, and Byron Center is on their doorstep, likely filled with many recent "refugees".  I had heard that Kentwood was a "bad district", but I had never looked at any of the actual data for Kentwood schools before. It's fairly stunning.  Huge demographic shifts in a 15 year period, and significant declines in test scores and statewide rankings.  http://www.schooldigger.com/go/MI/schools/2034005721/school.aspx

 

The figures are absolutely shocking.  White people using schools in Kentwood vacated in the span of a bit more than a decade.  80% caucasian freshman classes declined to 40% in 15 years for the freshman class, with continuing steady declines.  The overall city demographics have not seen as dramatic a change, presumably because of retirees and people without kids content, for now, to stay put in their single-family homes, but the future seems clear: Kentwood is becoming a black city.  Sadly, I cannot think of a single city where the school system has become predominantly black and young white families with kids were still willing to move in.  That said, it is also fair to note that when these demographic shifts occur, crime tends to follow, and school performance tends to decline.  We could spend hours looking at the sociological factors behind that, and argue about who or what is at fault, but the statistics themselves are fairly solid.

 

Now, all of this is happening on the doorstep of Byron Center--in the span of 15 years--a blink of an eye in the lifetime of a city.  There are not 15 miles of highway (a la Hudsonville) or lack of transit or space (a la Cascade).  Byron is full of "refugees" from Kentwood who saw what happened to those shiny new apartments when they got older.  They use terms like "bad schools", "high crime", "traffic", and "overburdening infrastructure" to voice opposition, but those are, I suspect, simply euphemisms.  The fact is that without apartments, it is very difficult to achieve any significant degree of mobility for a typical black family that has, statistically speaking, relatively few available assets.  As Kentwood continues on its decline, they have nowhere to go until someone builds large apartment communities which, in ten years, probably won't be so pricey...

 

That anyone living in Byron Center would ever publicly acknowledge any of this is doubtful, but I don't think my surmising is that far off.  

 

 

I'm not going to touch any of the racial discussion with a ten foot pole, but to go along with this, even the Byron Center natives don't even consider anything East of Burlingame "Byron Center." Which is strange because the school district stretches way over beyond Eastern Avenue on the other side of the highway.

 

There's already a rather large apartment complex in Byron Center called Byron Lakes I believe? But adding a couple more may cause the economics to change. It did seem suprising that the board voted to approve 4 - 3, but I think that may have been because some of the investors are actively involved in Byron Center politics..

 

I've also heard about the plummeting values of Crystal Springs. I think what didn't help this was the Western part of the development was much larger stately homes on the golf course. Then Pulte came into the Eastern part and built homes that were half the value, right on the golf course. Then the golf course itself ran into financial troubles (which I'm sure didn't help property values) and was eventually bought out by the Watermark folks.

 

An even more interesting situation is the Centennial Country Club debacle in Cascade, which has now been broken up, torn down (for upscale apartments) and the golf course has been allowed to go to weeds, with some of it sold off to small builders like Sable and Epique.

 

But that's a discussion for another time. :)

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I'm not going to touch any of the racial discussion with a ten foot pole, but to go along with this, even the Byron Center natives don't even consider anything East of Burlingame "Byron Center." Which is strange because the school district stretches way over beyond Eastern Avenue on the other side of the highway.

I've also heard about the plummeting values of Crystal Springs. I think what didn't help this was the Western part of the development was much larger stately homes on the golf course. Then Pulte came into the Eastern part and built homes that were half the value, right on the golf course. Then the golf course itself ran into financial troubles (which I'm sure didn't help property values) and was eventually bought out by the Watermark folks.

 

I don't really like touching it either, but it is unavoidable when you talk about Kentwood and Byron Center.  The area is changing, whether these communities like it or not.  Being so close to a highway, transit, and relatively affordable, they are first on the list for migration out of the city.  Less than two decades ago Kentwood in almost every conceivable respect was the spitting image of what Byron Center is today, including the diversity of its student population. 

 

Schooldigger is fascinating for a stats nut.  It tracks everything from diversity, to MEAP scores, to free lunches, most for 25 years.  Looking just at economic measures, Byron went from 4% on free lunches in '98 to 25% now.  EGR went from 1% to 10%.  Kentwood went from 6% to 54%.  Assuming almost no one in EGR is actually so poor they need a free lunch and that some sort of expansion of the program accounts for this, about 9% of that can be discounted (a bold assumption, I know).  That leaves about 16% of Byron students underprivileged, and 45% of Kentwood students.  So Byron is already changing, and I don't think there is much question that building a lot of apartments will accelerate the socioeconomic stratification.  Keeping the school top notch through that change will be a big challenge for them.  As we've seen time and time again, once they fall apart, construction other than retirement houses is over.  The existing housing stock simply gets recycled and eventually used up and thrown away. 

 

As for Crystal Springs, the lower priced stuff is in the same boat.  I don't think the lower priced $260k houses brought low the $400k houses.  All of the houses in there across the board have been losing value (after inflation) since they were built, which, perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, was just before a massive demographic shift in Kentwood.

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Not entirely.  My initial comment about Kentwood was a bit off the cuff, but after actually spending some time looking into it, I'm surprised how on the mark it actually was. 

 

Apartments facilitate mobility, and they generally do not stay looking good forever.  In suburban areas and large complexes, I think this is particular true.  It is too easy and too cheap to just build a newer, bigger, better complex.  Rents in the old one decline, and new renters move in for the "good" school system.  After I posed this initially and stumbled across the surprising demographic changes in Kentwood's schools, I did a bit more research during lunch.  It appears that what a lot of inner ring suburbs have recently experienced is the resurgence of white flight.  See, for example, http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/sep/05/death-america-suburban-dream-ferguson-missouri-resegregation

 

Blacks with few resources move in, whites with resources move out.  Kentwood is a hotbed of this phenomenon, and Byron Center is on their doorstep, likely filled with many recent "refugees".  I had heard that Kentwood was a "bad district", but I had never looked at any of the actual data for Kentwood schools before. It's fairly stunning.  Huge demographic shifts in a 15 year period, and significant declines in test scores and statewide rankings.  http://www.schooldigger.com/go/MI/schools/2034005721/school.aspx

 

The figures are absolutely shocking.  White people using schools in Kentwood vacated in the span of a bit more than a decade.  80% caucasian freshman classes declined to 40% in 15 years for the freshman class, with continuing steady declines.  The overall city demographics have not seen as dramatic a change, presumably because of retirees and people without kids content, for now, to stay put in their single-family homes, but the future seems clear: Kentwood is becoming a black city.  Sadly, I cannot think of a single city where the school system has become predominantly black and young white families with kids were still willing to move in.  That said, it is also fair to note that when these demographic shifts occur, crime tends to follow, and school performance tends to decline.  We could spend hours looking at the sociological factors behind that, and argue about who or what is at fault, but the statistics themselves are fairly solid.

 

Now, all of this is happening on the doorstep of Byron Center--in the span of 15 years--a blink of an eye in the lifetime of a city.  There are not 15 miles of highway (a la Hudsonville) or lack of transit or space (a la Cascade).  Byron is full of "refugees" from Kentwood who saw what happened to those shiny new apartments when they got older.  They use terms like "bad schools", "high crime", "traffic", and "overburdening infrastructure" to voice opposition, but those are, I suspect, simply euphemisms.  The fact is that without apartments, it is very difficult to achieve any significant degree of mobility for a typical black family that has, statistically speaking, relatively few available assets.  As Kentwood continues on its decline, they have nowhere to go until someone builds large apartment communities which, in ten years, probably won't be so pricey...

 

That anyone living in Byron Center would ever publicly acknowledge any of this is doubtful, but I don't think my surmising is that far off.  

 

Well, I think you're discounting the effects of the Housing Bubble / Great Recession, of which Kentwood was a willing and enthusiastic participant until the big crash.  Whatever you think of Kentwood, you can't talk about property values over 20 years without mentioning that as a huge factor.  As far as apartments are concerned, despite the "Rentwood" moniker, there haven't been many new apartments in the Kentwood School District since the early 90s, if any at all.  I can only think of Bloomfield Townhomes, which was late 90s.  Maybe there's more, I just don't remember.

 

However, there were tons of Housing Bubble-era single family developments started in the last 20 years.  Hello, Bailey's Grove?? How about all the new condos and houses near 44th and Shaffer?  They even built over the old Meadowlane Golf Course to make new houses.  They squeezed in new houses in old neighborhoods, like over by the Rail Trail and Sutherland Drive, or just south of Christie Ave.  Hey, when you're driving on the M-6 past the Meijer, you see all those houses directly the south?  Those were not there prior to 2000.  And look what happened - the market crashed, and some of those developments are still unfinished (Hello, Pfeffer Woods Drive).  So is it really apartments that hurt Kentwood, or too many houses?

 

As to your comments on White Flight, I completely agree with regard to that it's still happening, though I don't think it's "shocking" news or some big secret - it's true, White Flight never stopped.  Nobody knew that?  Maybe I'm just too familiar, having grown up in Kentwood in the 80s/90s while it was going on.  I grew up in the same house I was born in until I left for college, but that wasn't the case for many people I knew.  I saw lots of families move further south as the years went on - first south of 44th, then south of 52nd, then Crystal Springs...

 

Reports of Kentwood's demise have been greatly exaggerated, IMO.  It's still growing, AND median income and property values are still going up.  Spare me the BS about metal detectors and gang violence at EKHS - that's not happening, nor is that kind of talk anything new.  I've been hearing that since the 80s.

 

However, the bad news is poverty in Kentwood almost doubled between 2000-2010, which I would attribute to the Recession.  Suburban poverty exploded nationwide during that time, and I suspect Kentwood bore the brunt for the metro area.  Those school performance charts in the link you provided seem to support this.  I don't know how well White Flight or racial makeup correlates with declining school performance, but it's been definitely well-established for some time now that a rise in poverty does correlate, almost directly. 

 

Though I agree, in this case perception is reality to a Byron Center parent, and I suspect many view Kentwood the way you do.  I liked your now-edited comment on the real subtext behind "traffic" and "overcrowding of schools."  That was spot-on.

Edited by RegalTDP

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The narrative of "white flight" is probably inaccurate. Rather what we've been seeing is the general increase of population along the M-6 corridor (and especially the southern or suburban side of the highway. While Kentwood saw a drop of approx 2,300 for whites n the 2000-2010 census, nearly 4,000 whites moved into neighboring Gaines. Is this a flight? Most likely it is a product of new households. The white population is still significant (over 70%) but it is noticeably older, such that Kentwood schools is now a majority minority district.

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Though I agree, in this case perception is reality to a Byron Center parent, and I suspect many view Kentwood the way you do.  I liked your now-edited comment on the real subtext behind "traffic" and "overcrowding of schools."  That was spot-on.

 

I didn't think some of the other things in the post were coming across well.  It is difficult to talk about what is going on in the inner ring suburbs without sounding like a racist or elitist boor.  There's a good reason any journal or news articled on this stuff is footnoted to high heaven and back again.  Still, these issues just seem to be avoided in public.  I don't think that does anyone any good. 

 

So far as housing prices in Kentwood being a bubble or apartment issue, I disagree.  It is a school district issue.  You move those houses half a mile south to Byron or Caledonia and values would skyrocket.  Gang violence in Kentwood schools is not a myth.  Students are forced to wear identifying badges and lanyards at all times--that is not for no reason.  A 2010 news article discussed a 14 year old kid who brought a gun to school at the behest of his gangster buddies, his mother claiming he was "scared for his life."  '08 post from a student who said they had gangs. In 2013 a Kentwood graduation party was shot up by a gang member searching out a rival gang member--"already at the party were members of a suburban gang out of Kentwood."    You get that going on, the entire school district is absolutely worthless to home buyers (or builders), and every high end house gets the cost of a private education sucked out right of it.  Same story in Ottawa Hills, or down by GR Christian. Great houses, dirt prices. 

 

The narrative of "white flight" is probably inaccurate.

 

I think it is accurate, even if mortifying to our sensibilities.  Click "see more" on the enrollment area on this link and on the one I posted before.  This is for the freshman campus, the other for EKHS:  http://www.schooldigger.com/go/MI/schools/2034000591/school.aspx  

Back in 2002--2002!--EKHS had 1270 white students out of 1600 total.   Now they have 900 out of 2000.  That is flight.  There have been studies on the tolerance threshold--basically how many people of another race a particular group will tolerate until they move out.  Old example, but see, e.g., http://smg.media.mit.edu/library/Clark.ResidentialSegregation.pdf

Viewing a "school" as a neighborhood where one has to send one's kid for 8 hours a day, when the tolerance threshold is reached, the family vacates, even if they live in a homogenous neighborhood.  Houses go for sale, property values drop, and the exodus accelerates as the tolerance threshold is reached in the physical neighborhoods.  In the Kentwood school stats, you can pretty clearly see the tolerance threshold get reached. 

 

It's fascinating stuff, really.  I read about this in history books--never actually saw it happen.  Back then, though, people were more honest.  It's thoroughly amusing that we're now so enlightened that we don't want to talk about it or acknowledge it in public other than with euphemisms and double-talk.  That's always a fabulous way to deal with things.  Of course, we're so conditioned to think we would never, ever engage in this sort of behavior that for all I know, the people in Byron aren't even thinking about it on a conscious level, so we hear, "Well, we don't think the road infrastructure could handle another whole 400 cars a day..."  Throw 200 single family homes there and no one would bat an eyelash. 

 

Edited by x99

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Actual exploration of data -- visually (http://censusviewer.com/city/MI/Kentwood) suggests that the narrative of white flight is mistaken. The link with decline in white student enrollment is seen in the very specific cohort of 45-49. But is that white flight, or moving up. The scale (approx a 200 loss) suggests perhaps the latter. This is even more striking since there is no overall change in white populations of age 30-45, and in fact we see an increase in numbers for white population >50.

 

What is also striking is the decline in young children -- that suggests that first time homebuyers are looking elsewhere. Not white flight exactly, but a similar pattern to that found in Grand Rapids. Those numbers don't affect the high school (yet) but are at the elementary and middle school level.

 

Where I think you may be right is with the emphasis on socio-economics (though i would want to look at the specific Census data there to be sure).

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Actual exploration of data -- visually (http://censusviewer.com/city/MI/Kentwood) suggests that the narrative of white flight is mistaken. The link with decline in white student enrollment is seen in the very specific cohort of 45-49. But is that white flight, or moving up.

 

You're right that this is not the "white flight" where entire neighborhoods or cities are being vacated.  What is being vacated is a school district.  And it is clearly the high school as well--the trend line isn't exactly what I would call flat.  Is this happening overnight?  No.  But the demographic trend is undeniable, and I don't think "moving up" is at all accurate.  It's simply a convenient foil.

 

Assuming any of my guesswork is not entirely wrong, putting up 250 apartments in Byron is a huge deal because it facilitates demographic shifting far, far more than 250 single family homes.  250 new houses and I'll bet you wouldn't hear a peep. 

 

There are a lot of very, very important and difficult questions here--economic, social, and racial.  Not that I expect pointing them out will do any good.  It's a lot easier to keep your mouth shut, pack your bags, and "move up".

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