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New Construction and Renovations in the Heartside District

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Are you so sure the vacancies are due to the community outreach programs or could it be the horrible economy? I bet more the latter than former. I would concede the point that some of the homeless that wander the streets incoherently don't help the selling points of a given property, yet somehow it hasn't stopped the redevelopment occuring on Division. Some very good examples of redevelopment being Rockwell's/Republic and 101 S. Division. As I already pointed out, redevelopment is occuring harmoniously even with the community outreach programs being there.

If people on here really want to advance the cause to move, close, or minimalize the community outreach programs in Heartside just so that a few more buildings can be saved (but the homeless suffer more), then go for it. I think it's wrong. People should come first in a communty, even if that means older buildings may not get saved.

Why not? that's exactly what they are. walking up and down division there are ton's of vacancies. The businesses that are there, with just a couple of exceptions, are not exactly mainstream. I see no problem with severely limiting the services in that location. I think that there should be some redistribution throughout the city with an overall reduction in total services. The aim being to end voluntary homelessness. Shelters/missions/minsitries enable this type of behavior.

On another point, I've had many conversations with homeless people/drug addicts and generally speaking the only response I can get is incomprehensible gibberish or a total lack of conversational focus intermixed with significant tangential thoughts and flights of ideas. Most other homeless can function in society and therefore are homeless by choice. (I"m not referring to the small percentage who are truly down on thier luck and homeless temporarily because they lost their job or had some huge medical expense, etc.)

Of course these people need the most help and should not be ignored because they wont go away until they freeze or starve to death (something I am not condoning) They used to end in large mental hospitals until those were all shuttered. now they end up homeless or in prison. I don't have a good solution other than to spread them around so that regular people who can't handle them don't get too scared off from one particular part of town.

Edited by d8alterego
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My point about you taking the moral high ground was that you establish an unrealistic framework of which no argument can be made. Yes, we all aspire for candy clouds and bubble gum sidewalks but some of us realize that will never be reality and choose to tackle real life problems in a way that can have actual solutions. You harp on others for not aspiring for candy clouds and criticize when realistic solutions are posed. Your argument is not won but rather acknowledged as fool-hardy and Utopian. Simply because people stop responding to you does not mean you've won, but perhaps you've lost their attention. Moral low ground, as you call it, (I prefer realism) may be the world we should all start dealing in.

I would agree with you Joe that I shouldn't put a "positive spin" on homelessness. My concern and point is that, with the goal being the redevelopment of Heartside, we shouldn't just see the homeless shelters or soup kitchens as an obsticale to that redevelopment. So far, the redevelopment projects and the shelters have gotten along just fine. If the community outreach programs fulfill their goals and eliminate homelessness as GRDad hopes, then good for them. Problem solved.

Your accusation of me taking the "moral high ground" is not an insult. I'd gladly take that stand in every arguement I make for it usually wins them. If you choose to argue the moral low ground, by all means do so. I was not the one to start the conversation about the homeless, nor pure morality issues, but I decided to voice my opinion on the collective generalizing of the homeless at a Heartside pocket park. I did not stray off topic since my point relates to the community outreach programs affecting Heartside. Those programs and those they serve also affect the neighborhood in how it redevelops. Is that not what this thread is about? Homelessness in Heartside is a big problem, even bigger when people generalize, marginalize, and discard them as something other than human. Hence the recent viloence against the homeless in many cities.

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I would consider myself a realistic optimist. When others on here decide to generalize all the homeless in a Heartside pocket park as drug users and criminals, I don't see that as "realism." I see it as irrational discrimination towards a group of people few try to understand or worse, help. I love a good debate, as long as there are a) facts and b) civility. I have, on multiple occasions, conceded points in my debates on here with those I may disagree with and have not always "won." If people stop responding because they don't like other's opinions, it's their loss. I'm still going to point out what I feel may be morally wrong with an issue in this forum or any other. Oh, and if you feel the moral low ground is "realism," that's a sad outlook on life.

My point about you taking the moral high ground was that you establish an unrealistic framework of which no argument can be made. Yes, we all aspire for candy clouds and bubble gum sidewalks but some of us realize that will never be reality and choose to tackle real life problems in a way that can have actual solutions. You harp on others for not aspiring for candy clouds and criticize when realistic solutions are posed. Your argument is not won but rather acknowledged as fool-hardy and Utopian. Simply because people stop responding to you does not mean you've won, but perhaps you've lost their attention. Moral low ground, as you call it, (I prefer realism) may be the world we should all start dealing in.

Edited by d8alterego

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This does prevent large developers from coming in developing. However despite this, I dont mind it 'undeveloped'. This area allows for more 'common' business owners to start affordable shops in the downtown area, rather than benefiting large business or bar moguls if it was developed. Therefore I would say this 'undeveloped' area does provide diversity in the city.

I like this argument. This is one way (in addition to, say, their consummate connection to the neighborhood) the homeless (and other irritating personalities for that matter) add "character"--not so much via their presence, which can be a bit of a pain but is rarely dangerous, but in the way they scare off some other elements which, to me, are irritating and undesirable in their own right: rich pricks, hicks, boring chains, expensive condos, $10 martini bars, etc. That'll be the fate of South Ionia, which is fine, because the more's the merrier for downtown as a whole, but for South Division let's keep some grit.

I also know some wonderful, neighborhood-enriching, not-so-good-at-making-money characters who are able to live there (in subsidized apartments) only due to Dwelling Place's vision for the neighborhood as a multi-income jungle/paradise.

Edited by winjer

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I'm not going to say disadvantaged, who is to say that their life choices are lesser than anyone else's life choices. it is discriminatory and wrong

Well, then I'll say it: drug and alcohol addicts have made poor life choices. If that's discrimination then I don't care.

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I would consider myself a realistic optimist. When others on here decide to generalize all the homeless in a Heartside pocket park as drug users and criminals, I don't see that as "realism." I see it as irrational discrimination towards a group of people few try to understand or worse, help. I love a good debate, as long as there are a) facts and b) civility. I have, on multiple occasions, conceded points in my debates on here with those I may disagree with and have not always "won." If people stop responding because they don't like other's opinions, it's their loss. I'm still going to point out what I feel may be morally wrong with an issue in this forum or any other. Oh, and if you feel the moral low ground is "realism," that's a sad outlook on life.

Perhaps YOU should see things from others' viewpoint. You only look at "saving another building" and scoff as if it's some trite and "upwardly mobile" thing to do. How about it being something that is helping to save the city from caving in on itself? Returning blighted and rundown properties to the tax rolls, or filling them with people who are paying taxes and actually "contributing" to society and not taking from society? How is that a BAD thing?

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Well, then I'll say it: drug and alcohol addicts have made poor life choices. If that's discrimination then I don't care.

that statement was actually a joke. I agree that people should be responsible for their own poor decisions.

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To further illustrate my point (because I think it is worth making and I apologize for beating a dead horse), those taking the "so-called" moral high ground would argue that not contributing to the tax role, etc. does not qualify as a lack of contribution. The homeless contribute in alternative ways and simply because they do not contribute to our preconceived ideas of economic value does not make them any less important. The homeless offer value and our city needs no saving from them.

The counter arguments are always predictable and establish a unarguable basis without being labeled cold-hearted or discriminatory. I'm now done expressing my annoyance with such arguments. Thank you for permitting me the opportunity to voice my displeasure.

Perhaps YOU should see things from others' viewpoint. You only look at "saving another building" and scoff as if it's some trite and "upwardly mobile" thing to do. How about it being something that is helping to save the city from caving in on itself? Returning blighted and rundown properties to the tax rolls, or filling them with people who are paying taxes and actually "contributing" to society and not taking from society? How is that a BAD thing?

Edited by grmetro
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There was an earlier post that I think hit the nail on the head. This is really not about homeless shelters in this area, it is about the concentration of homeless shelters in this area.

Concentration of anything is detrimental to a neighborhood, whether it is $10 martini bars, upper class BMW driving traditional families, poverty or homeless folks. As a society we have compartmentalized nearly everything -- leading to segregation and concentration of either wealth or poverty. When low income housing is built, it is built in a pod, in isolation and there is little if any opportunity to integrate diversity (either social or economic)into it. This perpetuates a cycle which reinforces undesireable behavior because there is little or no example of desireable behavior to draw or learn from.

When we end up with neighborhoods that embrace diversity and lessen these concentrated pods, we find ourselves drawn to them. But to create them, we have to learn from past mistakes and past triumps. We have to be willing to take some chances. Heartside is a richly unique and diverse neighborhood that could be better if there were not homeless shelters all concentrated within a few blocks of one another. They all do not have to be removed or relocated, but instead dispersed, or more appropriately, better integrated into the city.

And yes, the homeless people are citizens of this city, even though frankly many of them do not act like it. They are citizens in only a very general definition. Many of them are indeed victims of economic failure, but many are also flat out nuts or drug addicts - and it is this fringe element which poses the problem to moving forward.

A few years ago, my family and I were at a park, where a homeless women was sitting. After some conversation she ultimately started screaming and swearing - capped off by saying that "she hopes my kids die". Needless to say that my three kids (aged about 6, 4 and 2 at the time)were a bit traumatized by this crazy lady screaming at them. This park was not even in Heartside, but rather in Heritage Hill. Now, some might call this grit - and in fact, to some extent, it is. But the bottom line is, are you going to take your kids to this new park at Cherry and Division, or to the Heartside Park to enjoy some water features, if you run the risk of having some nut-job verbally accost them?

I am not, so both of these parks are off limits to my family, even though they are "public" and paid for by citizens such as myself. You may say, "well that is your decision" - but the decision was made (not by me, but by policy makers) when the park was placed next to concentrated poverty and homelessness. And by policy makers who have concentrated the poverty and homelessness in the neighborhood in the first place.

And as far as gentrification is concerned, we are a long, long way from worrying about that in Grand Rapids. There is a huge amount of affordable housing in this city, probably too much. My neighborhood in Heritage Hill, while thought of as somewhat gentrified, has people of all ages, races and incomes residing just in a one block stretch. There are people who have lived there for fifty years (who fought redlining in the 1950's), probably on fixed income because of their age. They are not being forced out by higher taxes or yuppies, they are integrated into a neighborhood and will probably be there until they die.

Gentrification, as we sit today in GR, would be good for most of our neighborhoods, it would provide investment, economic diversty, economic development, stability and ultimately better neighborhoods. That may not be true in 20 years, if homes in Heritage Hill start approaching the $500k to $700k prices that similar neighborhoods would garner in other cities.

Places like Manhatten and Boston and Capital Hill have gentrication issues, GR does not.

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There was an earlier post that I think hit the nail on the head. This is really not about homeless shelters in this area, it is about the concentration of homeless shelters in this area.

Concentration of anything is detrimental to a neighborhood, whether it is $10 martini bars, upper class BMW driving traditional families, poverty or homeless folks. As a society we have compartmentalized nearly everything -- leading to segregation and concentration of either wealth or poverty. When low income housing is built, it is built in a pod, in isolation and there is little if any opportunity to integrate diversity (either social or economic)into it. This perpetuates a cycle which reinforces undesireable behavior because there is little or no example of desireable behavior to draw or learn from.

et. al.

Huzzah!

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I in no way said that redevelopment was a bad thing. I just feel redevelopment can harmoniously occur without forcing them out. It seems to be working out so far in Heartside. Ideally, as you stated, the shelters/soup kitchens would fulfill their goals and they then would no longer be needed. That's what I'd like to see. My biggest beef in this whole debate centers around how some UPers generalize and marginalize an entire group of people. I didn't want to have to bring up my personal connection with this topic, but I feel it now should be said.

I have a very close friend named Jeff that went through hell 4 years back. He was kicked out of his home by his family and ended up on the street. No church in the area (and I'm not kidding when I say that) would help him out because a) he's gay and b) he's positive. He was not a criminal, a drug user, or crazy as some on here would claim. With nowhere to go, he moved into a non profit, non-religious shelter. After leaving the shelter/soup kitchen after a year, he continually goes back to "pay it forward." I went with him recently just to see what those people go through. Since then, I've been helping out whenever I can. He's now working a minimum wage job in the hopes of going back to school. I don't know where he gets his courage or strength, but I admire him for it. He's a success story, one of but a few. If I were to have told him, while he was there, that it was better the shelter close so that the old building next door could be re-add to the tax rolls, I would have been completely in the wrong. Wouldn't you agree?

Sure, it's just one story out of many, but in this great economy we are in, many are going through similar stories and have never been homeless before. Maybe I should ignore the homeless and see your point that a growing tax base would help out the dying city. I just feel that things wouldn't change or improve much in their lives (maybe yours but they'd still be crazy drug users right?) and it would be much easier than having to defend myself here.

Perhaps YOU should see things from others' viewpoint. You only look at "saving another building" and scoff as if it's some trite and "upwardly mobile" thing to do. How about it being something that is helping to save the city from caving in on itself? Returning blighted and rundown properties to the tax rolls, or filling them with people who are paying taxes and actually "contributing" to society and not taking from society? How is that a BAD thing?

I would concur with you GR Town Planner that a concentration of anything can be detrimental.

There was an earlier post that I think hit the nail on the head. This is really not about homeless shelters in this area, it is about the concentration of homeless shelters in this area.

Concentration of anything is detrimental to a neighborhood, whether it is $10 martini bars, upper class BMW driving traditional families, poverty or homeless folks. As a society we have compartmentalized nearly everything -- leading to segregation and concentration of either wealth or poverty. When low income housing is built, it is built in a pod, in isolation and there is little if any opportunity to integrate diversity (either social or economic)into it. This perpetuates a cycle which reinforces undesireable behavior because there is little or no example of desireable behavior to draw or learn from.

When we end up with neighborhoods that embrace diversity and lessen these concentrated pods, we find ourselves drawn to them. But to create them, we have to learn from past mistakes and past triumps. We have to be willing to take some chances. Heartside is a richly unique and diverse neighborhood that could be better if there were not homeless shelters all concentrated within a few blocks of one another. They all do not have to be removed or relocated, but instead dispersed, or more appropriately, better integrated into the city.

Edited by d8alterego

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I in no way said that redevelopment was a bad thing. I just feel redevelopment can harmoniously occur without forcing them out. It seems to be working out so far in Heartside. Ideally, as you stated, the shelters/soup kitchens would fulfill their goals and they then would no longer be needed. That's what I'd like to see. My biggest beef in this whole debate centers around how some UPers generalize and marginalize an entire group of people. I didn't want to have to bring up my personal connection with this topic, but I feel it now should be said.

I have a very close friend named Jeff that went through hell 4 years back. He was kicked out of his home by his family and ended up on the street. No church in the area (and I'm not kidding when I say that) would help him out because a) he's gay and b) he's positive. He was not a criminal, a drug user, or crazy as some on here would claim. With nowhere to go, he moved into a non profit, non-religious shelter. After leaving the shelter/soup kitchen after a year, he continually goes back to "pay it forward." I went with him recently just to see what those people go through. Since then, I've been helping out whenever I can. He's now working a minimum wage job in the hopes of going back to school. I don't know where he gets his courage or strength, but I admire him for it. He's a success story, one of but a few. If I were to have told him, while he was there, that it was better the shelter close so that the old building next door could be re-add to the tax rolls, I would have been completely in the wrong. Wouldn't you agree?

Sure, it's just one story out of many, but in this great economy we are in, many are going through similar stories and have never been homeless before. Maybe I should ignore the homeless and see your point that a growing tax base would help out the dying city. I just feel that things wouldn't change or improve much in their lives (maybe yours but they'd still be crazy drug users right?) and it would be much easier than having to defend myself here.

This is why these shelters are the problem. You said that your friend was a regular guy, so why did he live in the shelter for a year? Shelters enable this kind of behavior. I could see needing it for a month or two sure, it sounds like he was in a tough spot but by then he should have been able to enter a regular working, contributing to society kind of life. I can tell you my own story about how when I graduated college I moved out my parents house after one week with a couple of hundred dollars and a crap car that never ran right into a 200 dollar a month apartment (actually just a room). I've never looked back. It's great that your friend is "paying it forward" he should because he milked the system for way too long.

Edited by jasonsquiresdo

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As I sit here and type this while sitting in my apartment on South Division (S. Division & Williams to be exact) I can hear the homeless outside walking by, yelling, etc. On a daily basis I deal with the situation. I live in the triangle of shelters, Guiding Light next door, Mel Trotter a block down, and Degage a block north. Everyday between 1 - 5 the flow of homeless people going between shelters is constant. Everyday/night there is break-ins, vandalism, drug deals, and more. Our corner is always a haven for crack deals, most of which I can witness from my window, just last week there were 10 break-ins to cars over the course of two days, mine being one of them.

With all due respect to everyone that posts on this board and more directly so far in this debate I feel in order to truly understand how bad the problem is you need to spend as much time in this neighborhood as I do on a daily basis, i'm not attempting to take away from any of your credibility or tell you that you aren't allowed to have an opinion in this because you don't deal with what I do on a daily basis, iv'e been reading this board for years now, but never until today has a topic struck my attention as much as this one has.

Bottom line is something has to be done about the shelters, there are far too many in far too small of an area, and the problem is only worsening, multiple times a week soup is served across the road from my building, nearly everyday an ambulance is outside my door attending to someone, multiple times a day police are in the area trying to deal with the ever growing amount of crime created by the homeless population.

The shelters need to go, not go as in the sense of shutdown completely and for good, but go in the sense of being moved out of the area and spread out throughout the city, if anyone ever hopes to truly rebuild this area it has to be done, iv'e lived in this area for four years now, two where I am now and two before that in The Globe, every month the problem worsens yet there is so much being done to try to renovate the neighborhood. I know in two weeks they're shutting down Commerce from Wealthy to Cherry to rebuild it, I know there are plans for the buildings right across the road from mine on Williams, since iv'e lived in this area iv'e seen the progress being made to the area but true progress and success I feel is unattainable with the homeless population in this area.

I fear that if something isn't done within the coming years about the centralization of the homeless population everyone attempting to try to turn the heartside district into something more will lose total interest, and to me, this section of town has more has the ability to become the best part of town.

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I have to agree with the idea of spreading these shelters out to different area around the city. One of the biggest problems is that these places are within a stones throw of each other, giving these bored folks too much time to bunch up within an area less than half a square mile! It may be convenient, but it is becoming a real problem especially with the warm weather upon us.

And here's a dirty little secret I heard from people that volunteered at one of these places. Many, if not the vast majority of the homeless people wandering up and down Division are not even from the area. They are bussed in from all over the country. NY, Detroit, Arizona, Florida, and even the west coast! Some get off the Greyhound, and go right to the nearest shelter.

How in the world is this even acceptable anymore? These institutions, for whatever good they think they are doing, are becoming a 10,000 watt beacon for way too many people form outside of the GR area to journey here and just clog up Heartside even worse than it is now. And frankly these places need to be held responsible for what are in essence their customers. They cant just wash their hands at 6AM and chide us for not being more "compassionate". The people who live in that area, and the businesses that have invested in rehabilitating that strip, deserve some peace and order, and these places have to be even more proactive or there likely will be a major PR backlash.

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I've held back on commenting on this topic for awhile but it's time to jump back in - jasonsquiresdo, Stay Cold and GR_Urbanist have stated my thoughts exactly and much more eloquently than I could have. I totally agree that the problem is the concentration of these services for the homeless in too small an area. There was a time when South Division was the most "happening" street in GR and it has the potential to lay claim to that title again. I have always lived in parts of GR that were on the cusp - Heritage Hill in the early 70's, Cherry Hill at the beginning of its turnaround and East Hills as well. There were transition issues in each of those neighborhoods but they not only survived but prospered as well. (I currently live on Lake Drive, on the boarder of East Hills and Eastown and consider it the best location in town.) I think Heartside is in that problem transition stage right now. Tons of progress along with the inevitable culture clashes that go with the territory. Downside - while some of us agree that spreading these services around would benefit everyone, there is the NIMBY factor to take into account - where do they relocate that pleases their new neighbors and provides fair access to social services and public transportation that many rely on? When I lived in East Hills, my neighbor was a halfway house for Project Rehab - a noble and needed service for people struggling with addiction but there wasn't a day that went by that I didn't wish they were someplace else. It ended up being a major factor in my decision to sell. I'm beginning to ramble here - good luck to ALL of the residents of Heartside. If I ever do make another move, that would be the neighborhood I would choose - unfortunately, not just yet.

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The only true solution is to turn the shelters into rehabilitation centers eliminating the option to be a shelter for transients with the stipulation to all seeking rehab., that if they fail the program that they be sent to a stricter center where drastic measures are used to "help" the person. Both the missions have two groups: program and transients. The problem is with the people that do not want help or to be rehabilitated. Those people need to be dealt with harshly. In other words they should be offered the option to shape up or ship out. Heartside is or should be about helping people, not welcoming those that do not want help. Heartside is extremely compassionate but they also let people take advantage of them. What Heartside needs is MORE TOUGH LOVE.

~John

Prov. 3:5&6

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I've held back on commenting on this topic for awhile but it's time to jump back in - jasonsquiresdo, Stay Cold and GR_Urbanist have stated my thoughts exactly and much more eloquently than I could have. I totally agree that the problem is the concentration of these services for the homeless in too small an area. There was a time when South Division was the most "happening" street in GR and it has the potential to lay claim to that title again.

South Division was the "happening" street because it was US 131. It was the way one in a car or truck got to GR from points south. If you wanted to bypass downtown you took 28th Street (the South Beltline) east to the East Beltline or west to Wilson (the West Beltline). (3 Mile Road was going to be the North Beltline but a bridge over the Grand got in the way of that plan.) I rode the bus home from high school on Division from Franklin to Monroe in the 60's and it was "gritty". The hookers would be standing on the corners north of Wealthy at 3:30 in the afternoon.

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The only true solution is to turn the shelters into rehabilitation centers eliminating the option to be a shelter for transients with the stipulation to all seeking rehab., that if they fail the program that they be sent to a stricter center where drastic measures are used to "help" the person. Both the missions have two groups: program and transients. The problem is with the people that do not want help or to be rehabilitated. Those people need to be dealt with harshly. In other words they should be offered the option to shape up or ship out. Heartside is or should be about helping people, not welcoming those that do not want help. Heartside is extremely compassionate but they also let people take advantage of them. What Heartside needs is MORE TOUGH LOVE.

~John

Prov. 3:5&6

I agree strongly with your idea that a greater emphasis on rehab would be a very good idea. But for those people who are unwilling or unable to rehab, where is it that they are going to "ship out" to? It seems they've already shipped out from wherever it is they originally came from and that's why they are in Heartside now. Not many of them were born and grew up there I would guess.

The article that GRDadof3 posted awhile ago about the elimination of all but one of the homeless from the Times Square area was interesting (probably should leave the last one as an historic landmark) but did they solve homelessness or were they just encouraged to move to some less visible area?

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The Goodrich Apartments, located at 333 - 339 South Division, are planned to undergo renovations. The building was renovated in 1993. The $3 Million renovation will renovate the 14 affordable apartments (LIHTC), 9000 square feet of commercial space, and improve the project's parking and landscaping.

Scanning the most recent DDA Agenda there is a BRIP Grant supporting the renovation of the Goodrich Apartments at 339 South Division.

Side note; road construction began yesterday on the intersection of Commerce & Williams, they're doing all of Commerce between Cherry & Wealthy between now and November, i'll try to take some pictures later today.

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Scanning the most recent DDA Agenda there is a BRIP Grant supporting the renovation of the Goodrich Apartments at 339 South Division.

Side note; road construction began yesterday on the intersection of Commerce & Williams, they're doing all of Commerce between Cherry & Wealthy between now and November, i'll try to take some pictures later today.

Thanks Stay Cold.

BTW, Welcome to UP - GR. Thanks for contributing!

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South Division was the "happening" street because it was US 131. It was the way one in a car or truck got to GR from points south. If you wanted to bypass downtown you took 28th Street (the South Beltline) east to the East Beltline or west to Wilson (the West Beltline). (3 Mile Road was going to be the North Beltline but a bridge over the Grand got in the way of that plan.) I rode the bus home from high school on Division from Franklin to Monroe in the 60's and it was "gritty". The hookers would be standing on the corners north of Wealthy at 3:30 in the afternoon.

Thanks for the history, Dad. I also remember when S. Division was very rough, with the ladies of the evening staking their territory.

Thanks for the "South Beltline" reference. Only Grand Rapidians of a certain age would remember that!

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