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Grand Rapids Then and Now


6th Gen local

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City Hall is just to the west of 5/3. Was an Urban Renewal of this scale done in any other U.S. city? This was a very massive bulldozing project. I also had no idea that D/A was responsible for the design of all these buildings.

Grand Rapids' urban renewal was actually small in comparison to some other city's. This WIKIPEDIA page has a bunch of links to different urban renewal projects. I would imagine Illinois Center in Chicago (as an example) was part of an urban renewal project, because it consists of such a "super-block" of land. I'm just not sure what was there before. As walker mentioned, I had read that the area of Monroe where the convention center now stands, and Michigan in that area where the Press building is, had become a huge skid-row area where retailers were hurting and closing up shop, and businesses fleeing to the suburbs. Along comes the Federal government handing out huge dollars to redevelop failing inner cities.

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The underlying point of urban renewal was to effectively leverage the value of the land. The 5/3 Building alone was worth as much as all of the buildings that were removed on that block combined.

That single building more accurately reflected the value of the downtown property and as a result, increased the city's tax revenue from that property. More revenues means lower taxes for individual property owners elsewhere in the city.

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I'm pretty sure the World Trade Center in New York was a huge urban renewal project. It covered something like 16 acres right in the middle of Lower Manhattan.

You know, with the Monroe are being in decline, I can understand what the city did. I certainly don't like it though. It would be more forgivable if they at least left city hall and the courthouse, which were just amazing. The rest would be nice, but isn't nearly so unique.

-nb

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I know everyone is going hate me for saying this, but I really like that rendering, especially the top, the way it arches, and the two-story main floor, with the frame looking like enormous tree trunks extending up the side of the building.

Its so 60's... so cool.

Pardon my use of harsh letters, but what the F happened?

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I know everyone is going hate me for saying this, but I really like that rendering, especially the top, the way it arches, and the two-story main floor, with the frame looking like enormous tree trunks extending up the side of the building.

Its so 60's... so cool.

Pardon my use of harsh letters, but what the F happened?

I'm a 60's guy I guess. I actually like the design of the finished product too. Of all the buildings in the urban renewal area, this is the only one I'd want to save. Like the rest of the area though, with its walls along Monroe and Lyon, it isn't pedestrian friendly and doesn't interact well with the rest of DT.

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This is the first time that I have visited this thread, the historical images that are being dug up are wonderful.

The aerial photo from GRDad shows just what the mantra of the 1960s did to the city of Grand Rapids. Such a great looking block structure and collection of neighborhoods existed before the S-Curve snaked its way through.

The Daverman photo shows the utter incredible scale of the urban renewal of that era and the total disregard for what was there. We are talking about a large number of fine-grained blocks being consolidated into a few super blocks. Cleaning the palatte, simplifying the system. These photos never cease to amaze me.

This oversimplification of a system in an attempt to make it more efficient continues today, in almost everything, including factory farming (food production) and big box retail, most likely with the same poor results.

Interesting that when we speak of urban renewal today, we are talking about much smaller instances, removing a building here or there and sometimes single blocks, but very seldom at a mutiple block level or at a neighborhood level. At least we have returned from the edge.

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Here is a preliminary rendering of the Old Kent Bank building from 1964.

http://home.comcast.net/~nederland/oldkentbank.jpg

"The design represents an attempt to avoid the monotonous glass and steel, "ticky-tacky" office boxes which appear to typify the after-birth of metropolian urban renewal across the U.S."

After-birth?

Even in the middle of the urban renewal period they recognized that most of it was crap. Very interesting comment.

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the original design would have been sweet but I still like the current one too. the building doesnt get much credit because its from the 60s but I think we need buildings from every era to have a well rounded city. The only building I would remove is the federal building that thing is just butt ugly

I've nicknamed the fed building "The Jolly Green Giant."

That's my opinion of it.

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  • 4 weeks later...

A couple of urban renewal photos I found in the main forum:

See, Grand Rapids wasn't the only one, or even close to the most devastating.

St. Louis was pretty traumatic as well. All the land around the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial was factories and businesses.

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Jeez! It's almost like both these cities were nuked and suburbia built in there places. GR is lucky to have what's left of it's pre 60's DT.

A couple of urban renewal photos I found in the main forum:

Norfolk, VA

mc12.jpg

Charlotte

sky2.jpg

See, Grand Rapids wasn't the only one, or even close to the most devastating.

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Jeez! It's almost like both these cities were nuked and suburbia built in there places. GR is lucky to have what's left of it's pre 60's DT.

The only pictures that I have seen that can compare to these are pictures of Dresden about 1960, after the firebombing.

In fact, when I was growing up in the 60s, downtown GR seemed like a World War II ruin, since the whole place was always in a state of demolition and rebuilding. That 1965 Daverman picture was very familiar -- a weird mix of a few old survivors (City Hall, County Building) amidst the rubble, with the new Daverman-designed structures going up.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I'd assume he's talking about the high school. The original building is out front, closest to division, and a much more modern addition is in back. I don't know the history of the building, but I'd say it's more likely that that one had a collapse as the only other one on division is a pretty new middle school. If there actually was a collapse, that is. I really have no idea... :dontknow:

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I heard that originally there was 2 buildings, both across the street from eachother. One of them catered to special needs students.. which is the one that collapsed. I also remember hearing something about a tunnel that connected the two buildings to eachother. It apparently collapsed a very long time ago. I don't think the whole building collapsed, but at least the roof did. A coworker of mine was telling me this, which he had heard from his grandfather, who also recounted when Clay was a dirt road and how he used to go hunting where 54th St. Meijer now stands.

Edited by tSlater
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  • 3 months later...

I was digging through my photos from 1995 today and thought I'd share a few. Does anyone else have some good "pre-boom" pictures?

If I'm not mistaken, this was the Phoenix Furniture Company's downtown factory. I think there were a lot of people who wanted this building saved. It is now part of GVSU downtown (is it where the parking ramp now stands?).

403969442_eff5bd78e0_b.jpg

Fulton and Ottawa ramp just getting off the ground. This replaced a surface lot and began the trend of decent looking parking structures.

403969447_f6ae19af72_b.jpg

I paid how much to go to this uninspiring school? :) Before the glass atrium. I do miss the 2 story brick building (barely visible) that they knocked down. I still think they could have included it in the plan.

403969436_591a36c3cc_b.jpg

I must have had a cat in the car when I took this picture. Lots of fuzz in the photo. :) Grandville Avenue when it was a ghost-town. Pre-S-Curve reconstruction. They knocked down the building across the street from corporate color (visible in this picture). It was a real gem if I'm not mistaken but they needed the land to widen the curve. Wish they could have saved that one!

403969431_6612bce4ae_b.jpg

Enjoy. I will try to post more soon.

Joe

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