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dbrok

The Identity of Grand Rapids

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I'm over in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area for the Thanksgiving holiday. I lived here four years during high school (after moving from Texas) and then came to Grand Rapids to go to college. Each time I come back, I always feel that the distinct character of the city is the same and is largely based on the things that come to mind when you think of Wisconsin: beer, brats, breweries, the Packers, cheese, dairy. 'America's Dairyland' is the motto on license plates. Chicago has a lot of character, too, and phrases and images like 'The Windy City' or the Sears Tower come to mind. With Texas you think of cowboys, bbq, big Cadillacs (all stereotypes, though).

In light of this, I've been thinking about this question for a while: does Grand Rapids have an identity? It's known as Calder City, but should the entire identity of GR hinge on one sculpture? By the same token, you could name it after da Vinci's Horse (the Calder is more visible, but The American Horse is arguably just as important in the art world). What other images do we have? Apples, Lighthouses and beaches (more Grand Haven or Holland than GR), furniture (mostly office, of course, and mostly outside the city limits). The motor capital and references to the auto industry apply more to the east side of the state and West Michigan is its own unique identity.

I sometimes feel like GR is a city without a distinct identity or descriptable character.

Any thoughts?

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Image usually comes down to marketing, and unfortunately, we just started trying this. The new push is to sell GR (and metro) as both a modern metropolitan area as well as a coastal playground. Will it work, it seems to be doing well as hits to the website were through the roof. This however could simply be the tourist environment improving since 2001.

In all reality, GR does not have a national image because of the Conservative feeling here. When I say Conservative, I do not mean soley political, but Conservative in business, in teaching, in growth, etc... In some ways this is good, it keeps us out of trouble and out of the lime-light. However, it has the opposite effect also.

As the city and region keep growing this traditional link to the past is quickly vanishing. Hopefully we can use the more beneficial traits and meld them with the new. Whatever the case, GR will probably more than likely develop a national image this decade as we come out of our shell per se.

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It's a tough one to put your finger on dbrok. Some cities have a negative "brand", which at least GR doesn't have to "re-invent" itself (see Detroit). Locally owned Hanon McKendry beat out 30 other communications companies recently to develop a "brand" for Grand Rapids.

http://www.grbj.com/GRBJ/Nav/Login.htm?Art...8-74586E15A1EC}

They do some very nice work, so it will be interesting to see what they come up with. If you think about it, what do cities like Portland or Madison have as a brand?

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They do some very nice work, so it will be interesting to see what they come up with. If you think about it, what do cities like Portland or Madison have as a brand?

Not that I'm (or anyone else in here) is the average citizen when it comes to this stuff, but when I think of Portland I think urban city with great street life, and Madison I think progressive, up and coming biotechnology hot spot. I'd like to GR branded as a combination of both of those city's qualities actually. :thumbsup:

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I think it's a little more than silly we call Grand Rapids the "Calder City" I think it adds to the sometimes ignorant mentality of the residents here. We are certainly not the only city with a Calder sculpture, (Chicago alone has like three). And I think it's silly that we call ourselves the "River City". Every Major city in America is located on some big river, Even dry ass Phoenix is on a river, (even if there is not water in it!). Grand Rapids suffered alot of blight in the seventies and eighties, whatever Identity we had as a region, went then, with the resurgence of growth going on now, I imagine we will come out with a new Identity, perhaps even a little more national renown.

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They do some very nice work, so it will be interesting to see what they come up with. If you think about it, what do cities like Portland or Madison have as a brand?

Portland, the Rose City, is microbrews, athletic gear, and trendy neighborhoods, Madison is a trendy college town and state capitol city. Also kind of a Berkeley between the lakes with all of the leftists there. Those cities are both trendy and well branded.

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I have heard a lot of people call us Amway City, which to be fair isnt such a nice thing to day :P

Oh, VOMIT !

If I ever hear G.R. referred to thusly, I'll move back to Saginaw!

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Oh, VOMIT !

If I ever hear G.R. referred to thusly, I'll move back to Saginaw!

And I will be right with you on that one, zen.

Portland, the Rose City, is microbrews, athletic gear, and trendy neighborhoods, Madison is a trendy college town and state capitol city. Also kind of a Berkeley between the lakes with all of the leftists there. Those cities are both trendy and well branded.

I would bet though that if you asked the average citizen, even the college-educated, most have never been to either Portland or Madison, and would be hard-pressed to give you their "impression". They will most likely say "doesn't Portland have light-rail?". I would say they are NOT well branded, except maybe via word-of-mouth.

I agree with Gary that a blending of both cities would be nice. I'm just being a devil's advocate.

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Grand Rapids should adopt the image or slogan which would work: "A place where a man can go on a journey without ever leaving."

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With a lot of the new projects leaning toward the more European modernistic feel...

The Art Museum, JW Marriott, the Children's Hospital, Blue Bridge (hopefully ;) ), Van Andel Institute, Two West Fulton,

...mixed with the old architecture downtown, Grand Rapids may begin to feel like the Netherlands or Berlin. Why not play up this area's Dutch heritage as the "Netherlands of the U.S." Just a thought.

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And I will be right with you on that one, zen.

I would bet though that if you asked the average citizen, even the college-educated, most have never been to either Portland or Madison, and would be hard-pressed to give you their "impression". They will most likely say "doesn't Portland have light-rail?". I would say they are NOT well branded, except maybe via word-of-mouth.

I am sure way more people know about Nike, Addidas, Columbia Sportswear than they do Portland's light rail. The trees, volcanoes, and rivers etc. are also way more notable than a dippy lightrail line. Portland certainly has a natl. identity, Madison too, unfortunately much of it is negative due to the extreme extreme leftists that keep both places in the news. I don't think Madison & Portland are good examples of places the lack natl. identity. Grand Rapids on other hand...

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I am sure way more people know about Nike, Addidas, Columbia Sportswear than they do Portland's light rail. The trees, volcanoes, and rivers etc. are also way more notable than a dippy lightrail line. Portland certainly has a natl. identity, Madison too, unfortunately much of it is negative due to the extreme extreme leftists that keep both places in the news. I don't think Madison & Portland are good examples of places the lack natl. identity. Grand Rapids on other hand...

I think all of us here would admit that Grand Rapids does not have a national identity (or even a good Midwestern one), that was dbrok's post in the first place. But I still have to respectfully disagree on the Portland/Madison point. I would bet that maybe 1% (or less) of the population even knows that Columbia, Nike or Adidas have anything to do with Portland. Light rail in Portland makes it into the headlines because every city of GR's size has sent their officials to Portland to report back how great the light-rail system and how walkable/livable Portland is :P . I'm not at all saying they are bad cities. In fact, they are great small/mid-size cities to emulate. I wouldn't consider the notability of these cities on a forum like UrbanPlanet as a good litmus test though, because forumers here are way more "in-tune" with different cities than most people. But it's an interesting topic.

BTW: what extreme leftists in Madison have made the news? We're not that far from Madison, and I read the news religiously, and I can't remember anything :huh:

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Great posts. I do like something along the lines of Rizzo's idea: "Grand Rapids should adopt the image or slogan which would work: 'A place where a man can go on a journey without ever leaving.'

Something that hit me today while I was thinking of the all new projects around, like biotech, was "The City of Grand Endeavors". Maybe that slogan is a little over the top, but Grand Rapids has been pretty amibitious lately, especially for the size of population.

BTW: what extreme leftists in Madison have made the news? We're not that far from Madison, and I read the news religiously, and I can't remember anything :huh:

Madison does have a reputation as a pretty liberal city. The University of Wisconsin is based there and is sometimes referred to as the Berkeley of the North.

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Great posts. I do like something along the lines of Rizzo's idea: "Grand Rapids should adopt the image or slogan which would work: 'A place where a man can go on a journey without ever leaving.'

Something that hit me today while I was thinking of the all new projects around, like biotech, was "The City of Grand Endeavors". Maybe that slogan is a little over the top, but Grand Rapids has been pretty amibitious lately, especially for the size of population.

Madison does have a reputation as a pretty liberal city. The University of Wisconsin is based there and is sometimes referred to as the Berkeley of the North.

Gee -- I thought that Ann Arbor had the honor of being the "Berkeley of the North."

My impression of my hometown is that it has a national reputation of conservatism and of being a city full of churches and religious institutions (home of Calvin College, the Acton Institute, several religious publishing houses, etc.).

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My impression of my hometown is that it has a national reputation of conservatism and of being a city full of churches and religious institutions (home of Calvin College, the Acton Institute, several religious publishing houses, etc.).

OK, maybe we do have to "re-invent" Grand Rapids :P Although I tend to lean to the right economically, I'm glad that GR does not make the 25 most conservative cities list:

America

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I agree that we dont really have any national presents, I wonder how that happened? Have other cities been spending money branding themselves while we did nothing, or did things just evolve this way? :huh:

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I agree that we dont really have any national presents, I wonder how that happened? Have other cities been spending money branding themselves while we did nothing, or did things just evolve this way? :huh:

I would say in GR's defense, you almost have to jump to the next tier of cities to find any that have a distinct "identity" or "brand". Think about it, of this list of similar sized metro areas (2002 pop.), not many of them have a distinct identity:

Richmond, VA MSA 1,126,262

Oklahoma City, OK MSA 1,121,271

Birmingham-Hoover, AL MSA 1,068,177

Rochester, NY MSA 1,042,782

Salt Lake City, UT MSA 997,197

Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT MSA 896,202

Honolulu, HI MSA 896,019

Tucson, AZ MSA 881,221

Tulsa, OK MSA 877,909

Raleigh-Cary, NC MSA 859,126

Dayton, OH MSA 846,710

New Haven-Milford, CT MSA 835,657

Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY MSA 835,582

Fresno, CA MSA 834,632

Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA MSA 784,463

Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA MSA 783,920

Worcester, MA MSA 770,321

Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ MSA 758,082

Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI MSA 757,848

Albuquerque, NM MSA 753,988

Baton Rouge, LA MSA 716,817

Akron, OH MSA 700,267

http://www.proximityone.com/msa03us.htm

Honolulu - duh; Raleigh-Durham - Research Triangle Park; Salt Lake City - Olympics, Mormons :P ; Oklahoma City - unfortunate; Tuscon - couldn't tell you the difference from Phoenix; Omaha - ?; Akron - rubber/tires (?); Tulsa - ?; Birmingham - Forrest Gump; Allentown PA - Billy Joel song/steel mills

If you haven't been to these places, it's a stretch to come up with something.

Now jump to the next tier (a sampling):

San Antonio, TX MSA 1,786,620

Orlando, FL MSA 1,752,192

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA MSA 1,739,443

Columbus, OH MSA 1,659,893

Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, RI-MA MSA 1,613,159

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA 1,612,929

Indianapolis, IN MSA 1,574,680

Las Vegas-Paradise, NV MSA 1,522,164

Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI MSA 1,512,504

Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, NC-SC MSA 1,410,292

Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro, TN MSA 1,353,096

Austin-Round Rock, TX MSA 1,349,291

New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA MSA 1,315,254

Memphis, TN-MS-AR MSA 1,230,554

Louisville, KY-IN MSA 1,182,832

Jacksonville, FL MSA 1,177,602

Almost all have a major university, pro sports teams, major attractions, large downtowns, etc. Most of it happens naturally.

I need to cut my posts shorter. :blush:

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Well I honestly think that it is hard to give Grand Rapids an identity because if you really think about it, we are a mixture of a lot of different scenarios here...

We have:

- the artistic side

- the religious side

- the heritage side

- the now-becoming modern side

and I could probably name a bunch more...

GR is more of a heinz57 city

Just as long as they don't name GR as "The DeVos City" -gag-

I think it's going to take a few years for GR to get a real identity because we are sort of in a way reinventing ourself with the new marriott coming, river house, the medical center across butterworth, the childrens hospital, and with gvsu being downtown now - I think it's all starting to come together.

To be funny, the first thing I think of when I see GR is the skywalks...

"Grand Rapids - The Skywalk City"

and think of the skywalks that are going to be built by spectrum

But I think GR still has a lot of work to do before it gets any sort of big national respect

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We have:

- the artistic side

- the religious side

- the heritage side

- the now-becoming modern side

I think it's going to take a few years for GR to get a real identity because we are sort of in a way reinventing ourself with the new marriott coming, river house, the medical center across butterworth, the childrens hospital, and with gvsu being downtown now - I think it's all starting to come together.

I agree completely... now it's our time to figure out who we want to be as a city. We must find our niche in the midwest and the nation as a unique place that will attract people here and show off what we have to offer in the midst of all this development.

To be funny, the first thing I think of when I see GR is the skywalks...

"Grand Rapids - The Skywalk City"

I thought Minneapolis already had this honor. :whistling:

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I have to agree with blueradon to the extent that maybe we're "not quite ready for prime-time", but in five years, that might be totally changed.

I think of:

Healthcare

Philanthropy

Hills (compared to much of Michigan, Northern Ohio and Indiana)

Low crime

I kinda like the Grand Endeavors idea.

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When Muskegon and holland metros get added to GRs metro then you'll see us back up a tier and higher in recognition.

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When Muskegon and holland metros get added to GRs metro then you'll see us back up a tier and higher in recognition.

I know not everyone here agrees, but I like to think of the Grand Rapids metro as including lakeshore communities and also some of the rural areas in counties adjoining Kent; making us a region of around 1.3 million. The number has changed several times sense the new census. First, under the old MSA area of GR and the Lakeshore it was 1.1 Million, then they changed things to Kent, Newaygo, Montcalm, Ionia and Barry counties and the number went to the 750,000 range, and then the CMSA number of 1.3 M was created.

That being said, GRDad's post makes a lot of sense IMO. There seems to be a point at which a city gets some national recognition that comes somewhere over 1.2 million people.

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I know not everyone here agrees, but I like to think of the Grand Rapids metro as including lakeshore communities and also some of the rural areas in counties adjoining Kent; making us a region of around 1.3 million. The number has changed several times sense the new census. First, under the old MSA area of GR and the Lakeshore it was 1.1 Million, then they changed things to Kent, Newaygo, Montcalm, Ionia and Barry counties and the number went to the 750,000 range, and then the CMSA number of 1.3 M was created.

That being said, GRDad's post makes a lot of sense IMO. There seems to be a point at which a city gets some national recognition that comes somewhere over 1.2 million people.

I absolutely agree. I've grown up in G.R. but spend a ton of time at the lakeshore. We keep a boat in Grand Haven and spend much time in Saugatuck as well. I consider the lakeshore very much a part of my "hometown."

One quick pet peeve...how can guys like Blueraven trash the DeVos name then immediately in the next paragraph mention some major projects that are helping it all "come together," 4 out of 5 of them thanks to the DeVos family? Do you people even know these guys? I am fortunate enough to know the family through my father and have even worked for them at one point. I, for one, will be forever thankful to what they've done not only for G.R. but for Orlando, and really the country.

Just have to stand up for some guys that I really respect! :)

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