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Skyliner

Comparison of GR to Other Northern Cities

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As I've made clear in the photos thread, I am very impressed with the enthusiasm and growth Grand Rapids seems to have gained over the years. I'm interested in your opinions about your strengths and weaknesses compared to other cities in the Northern and Midwestern States. Cities I can think of include:

  • Madison

  • Fort Wayne

  • Toledo

  • Akron

  • Dayton

  • Syracuse

  • Harrisburg

These are only the ones I could think of right now, but you get the idea. I'm hoping to take a tour through that region and would like your insight into what I can expect from other places in relation to Grand Rapids, which I can clearly see has the right kind of development going on. Your help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance! :thumbsup:

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As I've made clear in the photos thread, I am very impressed with the enthusiasm and growth Grand Rapids seems to have gained over the years.  I'm interested in your opinions about your strengths and weaknesses compared to other cities in the Northern and Midwestern States.  Cities I can think of include:
  • Madison

  • Fort Wayne

  • Toledo

  • Akron

  • Dayton

  • Syracuse

  • Harrisburg

These are only the ones I could think of right now, but you get the idea.  I'm hoping to take a tour through that region and would like your insight into what I can expect from other places in relation to Grand Rapids, which I can clearly see has the right kind of development going on.  Your help would be greatly appreciated!  Thanks in advance! :thumbsup:

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Hey Skyliner, without starting spittin flame wars with other cities, the only one on your list that is even close, in my mind, would be Madison. It has a beautiful downtown surrounded by lakes, lots of bike trails, UofW, etc.., and is too only a short distance from Chicago.

I haven't been to Syracuse or Harrisburg (PA I assume).

I would say our strenghs are:

A lot of recreational opportunities in West Michigan

Good diversity of industries compared to our Midwestern counterparts (still a little too

much mfr though)

A huge philanthropic community that has invested billions into the city

A multitude of different neighborhoods

Many opportunities to join organizations where you feel you make a difference

A growing arts and entertainment community, and the only Ballet and Opera Co. in

the State (for shame Detroit)

A vibrant downtown night life

A lot of the growth coming up is not just relegated to residential projects

Just the right size city that you can make a big spash if you want ;)

A lot of beautiful historic homes and buildings

Our weaknesses:

The perception that we are all ultra-conservative, bible thumpers :P

The perception that there are racial problems (true and we can do much better)

The GR Public Schools need to improve (while some of the outlying districts are the

best in the State)

We need a good mass transit system, soon!

Hope that helps. The amazing thing that I find is that so many people I meet here are not from here originally, but end up really liking it (like me). Pretty cool!

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It is simply incredible how similar our cities are (Grand Rapids and Greenville)!

Yes, I was referring to Harrisburg, PA, where I have lots of family members.

I was mainly thinking of comparisons between Madison and GR, because everything I've seen and heard from there is totally positive as well. I don't know a whole lot about the others, but I have family in Toledo, and have been to Syracuse and Dayton. I've heard some good things about Fort Wayne, but not enough to make an impression. :)

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It is simply incredible how similar our cities are (Grand Rapids and Greenville)!

Yes, I was referring to Harrisburg, PA, where I have lots of family members.

I was mainly thinking of comparisons between Madison and GR, because everything I've seen and heard from there is totally positive as well.  I don't know a whole lot about the others, but I have family in Toledo, and have been to Syracuse and Dayton.  I've heard some good things about Fort Wayne, but not enough to make an impression. :)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Interestingly, looking at this census data someone here posted earlier, Greenville and GR are very much similar size and growth rates (48 and 52):

http://www.census.gov/population/cen2000/phc-t3/tab03.txt

Madison is much smaller at only about 400,000. Wow! I thought it was bigger than that. All I know about Madison is travelling through there and staying for a day on our way to Minneapolis. My brother worked there for a short while and liked the walkability and the college-town feel. We don't quite have that same college town feel, even though we have about 12 colleges. They are spread our around the metro area though.

Good luck. Time to bolt!

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Wow, twelve colleges is quite impressive! What are they?

I've heard the same about Madison's college atmosphere. :)

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Madison, Toledo, Akron, Dayton, Syracuse, and Harrisburg all appear to have downtowns of exceptional size and height, but I don't know anything other than that, obviously other people here do. I think Grand Rapids' development really started with the Amway Grand Plaza (correct me if I'm wrong) and just took awhile to really get going fast, which it is now. Go to GR in about a year or two you should even be able to see some of the major projects going up.

On your tour, swing through Lansing, we have a smaller more compact downtown than Grand Rapids and we are just getting our first large projects downtown, contruction on the scale of whats going on in GR is still at least few years away for us.

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Wow, twelve colleges is quite impressive!  What are they?

I've heard the same about Madison's college atmosphere. :)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

From largest to smallest:

Grand Valley State Univ - campus in Allendale and Business/Engineering Schools downtown - 20,000 students

GRCC - 2 year - 8000

Calvin College - Private - SE Grand Rapids - 4100

Aquinas College - Private - East Fulton area - 2000

Cornerstone University - Private - NE Grand Rapids - 1600

Davenport University - Graduate MBA - Caledonia :P - 1400

Kendall College of Art & Design - 700 (getting ready to expand again)

then a lot of Michigan universities are clammoring for space downtown for satellite offices:

Western Michigan University & WMU/Cooley Law School joint venture

Ferris State Univ/Kendall College joint venture

MSU (with a proposal to move their Medical School from East Lansing to Grand Rapids)

CMU (in Cascade)

And the Van Andel Research Institute (within the Van Andel Institute) is primarily dedicated to cancer research and post doctoral study, and is getting ready for a massive expansion:

http://www.vai.org/vari/default.asp

I think that's it. But I have to say that we don't quite have the college-town feel that East Lansing, Kalamazoo or Madison has (both good and bad aspects), but I think that is evolving.

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The city won't have a "college town" feel for decades or maybe another century because like everything else, a university is something you grow and foster.

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The city won't have a "college town" feel for decades or maybe another century because like everything else, a university is something you grow and foster.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Yikes! Somebody is having a bad day :P Let us know if you need any more info Skyliner :D

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"...we don't quite have the college-town feel that East Lansing, Kalamazoo or Madison has..."

I would put Ann Arbor at the head of this list. For all the instiutions of higher learning here, we conspicuously lack a university feel. For my money, that's THE biggest downer about Grand Rapids (and I speak as someone who has really come to like this town.)

When I moved here in 1982, G.R. was laughable. "What, I can't buy gas on Sundays? Why in hell not? Oops, I cursed! Guess I'm going to hell now! Uh-oh, I said "hell!" Damn it! Uh-oh!..." etc., etc.

G.R. has vastly changed for the better since then, thanks to the people from ELSEWHERE who moved here, looked around, and collectively said, "You've got to be kidding!" They're the ones who created (and still create) the critical mass needed to open this community up to new things. And to our relief, this town is gradually losing it's oppressive churchiness. Oh, the stink of it wafts around now and then, but there are so many sub-groups to be found here ("tribes" in the new urban-speak) that it's easy to find your own.

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"...we don't quite have the college-town feel that East Lansing, Kalamazoo or Madison has..."

I would put Ann Arbor at the head of this list. For all the instiutions of higher learning here, we conspicuously lack a university feel. For my money, that's THE biggest downer about Grand Rapids (and I speak as someone who has really come to like this town.)

When I moved here in 1982, G.R. was laughable. "What, I can't buy gas on Sundays? Why in hell not? Oops, I cursed! Guess I'm going to hell now! Uh-oh, I said "hell!" Damn it! Uh-oh!..." etc., etc.

G.R. has vastly changed for the better since then, thanks to the people from ELSEWHERE who moved here, looked around, and collectively said, "You've got to be kidding!" They're the ones who created (and still create) the critical mass needed to open this community up to new things. And to our relief, this town is gradually losing it's oppressive churchiness. Oh, the stink of it wafts around now and then, but there are so many sub-groups to be found here ("tribes" in the new        urban-speak) that it's easy to find your own.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

:lol: Stop beating around the bush zen and tell us how you really feel :lol: . Very eloquently put. A lot of people we knew on the "East Side" could not believe we were moving here, and said "don't try to mow your lawn on Sundays". It's not nearly that bad, and now more and more of them have "escaped from Alcatraz" and moved to the West side too:P

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I am an open minded Christian who despises churchiness. Glad to hear GR is getting a sense of humor! So is the West Side of GR the Bible Belt of the Bible Belt?

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I am an open minded Christian who despises churchiness. Glad to hear GR is getting a sense of humor! So is the West Side of GR the Bible Belt of the Bible Belt?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Actually, I was referring to the East Side/West Side of Michigan (if that's what you were referring to). And yes, I would say the Southwest side between GR and Holland is bible capital :P I'm an old (well not real old) Catholic boy, and I can't stand the "soul savers" :sick:

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the western suburbs are, head west on the ford freeway thru grandville, and into Ottawa county

my children, I give you the promised land, you are now delivered from canaan.

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I am an open minded Christian who despises churchiness. Glad to hear GR is getting a sense of humor!

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Likewise, although I will say it bothers me a lot that "church" is always equated as an oppressive and negative community. Of course there are always pretentious people, but is it really a church that makes them that way? It 's an unfair stigma to associate religious people as damaging to a city's development.

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It's hard for me to make comparisons to other Northern cities, as I'm really only firmiliar with midwestern towns. I'd say the Grand Rapids, Madison comparison would be a good one. Ann Arbor is a great city hands down, at about half the size of G-Rap. Dayton has a nice looking Downtown as your driving thru, Not much life if you get off the free-way. Same is true of Toledo and Akron. Grand Rapids downtown, is a little on the downside if you prefer height. But what it lacks in tall buildings, it more than makes up for in street level Density. Fort Wayne has alot of open land in it's downtown, and G-R has almost no open lots. What will need to happen to Take Grand Rapids to the next level, will be the quality of retail among other things downtown. As it is Downtown is full of four and five star restaurants, but lacks noticeable national chains. I know people are very big into locally owned business. But a healthy mix smalls shops and mid to upscale chains, really shows how healthy a downtown area is, when national chains are willing to invest in the area. Right now we still have trouble competing with the major thoroughfares.

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From largest to smallest:

I think that's it.  But I have to say that we don't quite have the college-town feel that East Lansing, Kalamazoo or Madison has (both good and bad aspects), but I think that is evolving.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Right. The college-age population downtown is still largely forgotten. But, I think the current work on S. Division is a huge plus. Additionally, there seem to be some perfect development opportunites on N. Division, ie Keeler Building and the Ellis lot next door.

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From largest to smallest:

Grand Valley State Univ - campus in Allendale and Business/Engineering Schools downtown - 20,000 students

GRCC - 2 year - 8000

Calvin College - Private - SE Grand Rapids - 4100

Aquinas College - Private - East Fulton area - 2000

Cornerstone University - Private - NE Grand Rapids - 1600

Davenport University - Graduate MBA - Caledonia

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wow 25,000! That reminds me, dont we have 40,000 or so people living downtown?

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wow 25,000! That reminds me, dont we have 40,000 or so people living downtown?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

No, I think it's currently closer to 5000 or 6000. Maybe about 40,000 work/study in the downtown vicinity?

I wonder how the downtown population compares to the mentioned cities...

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I don't know about the other cities, but downtown Lansing is home to 4,000+ residents (does not include the east bank), and 30,000 downtown workers.

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Churchiness is a defining characteristic of GR. You cannot think about GR's history or development without taking into account churches.

My guess is that GR is a lot less Calvinistic than it was when I was a boy. I knew people who didn't take the Sunday paper. One of my friends in elementary school in the 60s had his Sunday dinner cooked on Saturday, so as not to violate the Sabbath. A great treat was going to the Ottawa County beaches on Sunday afternoon and then have them empty out when all the poor Christian Reformed kids had to go to church for a second time on Sunday night.

All that said, the megachurches still appear to have a big impact on the area. Calvary Church, which used to be on East Michigan Street, was sort of a joke when I was a kid. Now it is a major force in its new digs on the Beltline. Conversely, it appears that Fountain Street Church is much less influential as a liberal voice. At the same time, some of the larger CR churches, like LaGrave Avenue, are less conservative.

The City of GR is probably much less church now than before, but I would agree that the eastern Ottawa County suburbs probably still are pretty strict. Is the McDonald's in Jenison still the only one that closes on Sunday??

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All that said, the megachurches still appear to have a big impact on the area.

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haha yeah McDonalds is open everywhere around here on sundays. My family is somewhat akin to Mcdonalds royalty, if you can call it something like that. either way, I know all the owners and corporate people, they could give a rats ass about churchy people and sabbath. All they care about is $$ and where they can make it. and I dont care where you are, even the most remote scary mormon parts of Utah, there will always be someone who wants fries on sunday.

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Churchiness is a defining characteristic of GR.  You cannot think about GR's history or development without taking into account churches.

My guess is that GR is a lot less Calvinistic than it was when I was a boy.  I knew people who didn't take the Sunday paper.  One of my friends in elementary school in the 60s had his Sunday dinner cooked on Saturday, so as not to violate the Sabbath.  A great treat was going to the Ottawa County beaches on Sunday afternoon and then have them empty out when all the poor Christian Reformed kids had to go to church for a second time on Sunday night.

All that said, the megachurches still appear to have a big impact on the area.  Calvary Church, which used to be on East Michigan Street, was sort of a joke when I was a kid.  Now it is a major force in its new digs on the Beltline.  Conversely, it appears that Fountain Street Church is much less influential as a liberal voice.  At the same time, some of the larger CR churches, like LaGrave Avenue, are less conservative. 

The City of GR is probably much less church now than before, but I would agree that the eastern Ottawa County suburbs probably still are pretty strict.  Is the McDonald's in Jenison still the only one that closes on Sunday??

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

^There was a study out just a week or so ago that states Grand Rapids as the 122nd conservative city(or somthing in the 120s.) I would have guessed we were in the top 20...

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