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michaelskis

Good to Grand?

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Recently I have been listening to the book Good to Great where the author discusses what it takes for business and corporations to be good (aka Mediocre) to great (best in the world), and as an urban planner I think that the same theory can be applied to Grand Rapids. But for that to happen, it would have to tap into the right markets that complement the resources already available, and have it become the most desired place to live in Michigan, if not the mid-west.

But something like this is not a cookie cuter operation and would take much more effort than just the creation of a comprehensive master plan or new zoning ordinance. It would take a truly passionate effort from its businesses, residents, colleges, and corporations.

We can all agree that Grand Rapids is good, but it can be much, much better. Do you think that Grand Rapids could be come the number one desired place to live in Michigan? What about the mid-west? What do you think that it would take? What resources are available and has the city fully utilized them?

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Science and biology courses must be taken much more seriously in schools, at all levels. There cannot be any "opting out" of learning about evolution, reproduction, or, for that matter, contraception.

Private entities must step in to fully fund stem-cell research, since the current regime fears it so much. I can't think of a bigger brain-draw to a region than full-steam-ahead, unimpeded stem cell research.

There must be an end to the subtle anti-intellectual feeling one encounters in Grand Rapids. (And if it's subtle here, imagine what it must be like in Kansas!) Using words of four or five syllables still elicits sneering comments here from the Nascar crowd.

My husband and I will continue to vote "Yes" on every school millage that comes up.

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A better Grand Rapids Public School system that is the best around. One that competes with all the suburban school systems that are top notch; Kentwood, Grandville, Forest Hills, EGR, Rockford, etc.

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Increased strides for cultural diversity AND, AND interaction.

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One thing I think Grand Rapids is doing right is the Medical sector of its economic base. This can't be undermined, but is easily able to be overlooked.

When linked with a research institution, you have a very good thing going for you. Having GVSU's presence not only in the region but as a destination in the central city is a big bonus for higher learning...not to mention the other private schools in Grand Rapids.

Also, what makes Grand Rapids stand out, specifically in Michigan, is that it THINKS regionally. This is very difficult to do in a state so heavily plagued by home rule and local-level political strength. You may think these things are quite small in importance, but if you really think long and hard about the area's economic existence and how it is compared to others, you really start to understand the status quo of what makes Grand Rapids Grand Rapids.

It has strong cohesion on many fronts, and while this isn't attracting a big banking industry, insurance industry, entertainment industry, finance industry, etc...it really shows how without all that boom-town luxury, you can have a vibrant, healthy, growing city thanks to an involved greater sense of community pride.

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I think we can't rely too much on government and private institutions for this one. I'm sure to answer the question it would take a multi faceted approach from all fronts. One great facet to attain a status of Grand is more positive self-esteem for our city. You know, because sometimes we just don't realize who we are and how important we really are. We need more substance to Grand Rapids. There has to be more involvement from not just the regulars, but mom and dad in the West Side and the college student on Heritage Hill. You don't have to be involved in an organized activity, but involve yourself in picking up the trash on the side walk. If you do want a better community I suggest a dab of an entitlement and ownership mentality. When a Grand Rapidian stands up and owns a part of the city and expects a certain quality then things will naturally grow in another direction. If a Grand Rapidian expects better schools, he/she will make it happen. If a Grand Rapidian expects less crime, he/she will make it happen. I think the "stand up" mentality applies here and when people outside see us "stand up" they will be attracted to the attitude and choose to live here.

It takes a community to make a city.

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I think we can't rely too much on government and private institutions for this one. I'm sure to answer the question it would take a multi faceted approach from all fronts. One great facet to attain a status of Grand is more positive self-esteem for our city. You know, because sometimes we just don't realize who we are and how important we really are. We need more substance to Grand Rapids. There has to be more involvement from not just the regulars, but mom and dad in the West Side and the college student on Heritage Hill. You don't have to be involved in an organized activity, but involve yourself in picking up the trash on the side walk. If you do want a better community I suggest a dab of an entitlement and ownership mentality. When a Grand Rapidian stands up and owns a part of the city and expects a certain quality then things will naturally grow in another direction. If a Grand Rapidian expects better schools, he/she will make it happen. If a Grand Rapidian expects less crime, he/she will make it happen. I think the "stand up" mentality applies here and when people outside see us "stand up" they will be attracted to the attitude and choose to live here.

It takes a community to make a city.

I think that is a terrific idea, however I think that it would be extremely difficult to achieve. I think that it would take something of pride for the residents to rally around. You often see this with sporting events or other competitive events where there is a sense of community pride.

I also think for residents to take ownership in their community, communication, socialization, and positive interaction is essential. A few of the neighborhood organizations have started to do this with news letters and events, however it is still extremely limited and on a small scale.

I do think that it is something that could get the ball rolling and would have the potential for making truly dramatic changes.

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My belief is that there is no one single thing that will make GR into the city that it could be. Its going to take a number of actions to bring GR to its full potential. First and foremost Grand Rapids, need to bring in a diverse range of industries, anything from manufacturing to creative and hi-tech industries. In essence set up a local econamy that is diverse and not dependant on a single dominate industry. GR resides in Michigan, a state that has made the mistake of depending on one single economic sector, manufacturing. As a result the state's econamy is very cyclical caused by the ups and downs of factories. In years when manufacturing is pumping out huge production numbers, Michigan does well. But, as it is currently, the manufacturers are taking a beating, thus the state is being draged down with them. Like most Michigan cities, GR is heavily dependant on manufacturing to keep pumping out the goods. But with outsorcing and factories closing one after another, GR, like the rest of the state is taking a hit. But this city is trying to save itself by bringing in the Health Care industry. That's fine. But GR needs to bring in other econamic stimulii as well. Only a diverse economy will stave off the effects of Michigans ups and downs and thus allow GR to continue to grow and develop even when the rest of the state goes down the tubes.

Secondly, action needs to be taken to bring in a more robust mass transit system such as BRT or LRT. City leaders are looking at mass transit options as we speak which is good because currently the number of bus riders are at record levels thanks to soaring gas prices. The price of gas will only go in one direction, UP. Thus as time goes along its going to be more and more difficult to afford to drive a car which will force more people to use public transit. If the city installs a BRT or LRT network now, it will be ready to handle the influx of people that will give up cars in favor of the lower costs of using mass transit. Besides fixed mass transit routes has the effect of slowing down urban sprawl as developers will congragate near transit stations making for a walkable city.

Lastly, GR needs to think high density developments. A walkable city such as Chicago or New York is walkable because everything from gorceries to entertainment is within walking distance of one's home thus reducing dependance on the automobile. High density planing is what brings everything close at hand. It's also good for the environment because high density planning forces developers to build up instead of out. Added to that high density planning is mass transit friendly because, high density planning brings in enough people to support the system and also the nework would not have to cover vast distances which would lower the cost of installing and maintaing the system.

So, in short, GR needs diversify the local economy to stave off the effects of the state's cyclical economy, install a an effective fixed mass transit system to reduce dependance on the automobile, and develop a master plan that leans heavily towards high density to make the city walkable.

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The only thing hurting GR right now is the school system, and as a offshoot of that the violence we are seeing right now. Fix those and GR is world class.

In terms of economy, some (including me) would already argue that we are world class.

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The only thing hurting GR right now is the school system, and as a offshoot of that the violence we are seeing right now. Fix those and GR is world class.

In terms of economy, some (including me) would already argue that we are world class.

What world class American cities have outstanding public school systems? New York? Chicago? Maybe they do...I don't know because I don't live there. My impression of NYC public schools (family lives there, I used to work there) is that they have the same problems as other urban districts, just on a grander scale.

I'd argue we need look no further than Madison, Wisconsin (or Ann Arbor, Michigan) for models of how mid-sized cities can thrive in the 21st century. The thing they both have that we don't is a huge (30,000+ students) student population living IN THE CITY.

I think what hurts GR more than anything is GVSU being more in Allendale than downtown, Cornerstone (GR Township instead of the city), Calvin (outskirts instead of downtown), etc. Kendall is downtown (thankfully) and that's about it.

GR-metro has a student population of about 63,000 (source: http://www.grandrapidshighered.com/ ) but seems to only have fraction of that located downtown.

To put that in perspective, UofM only has 38,000ish students but with them all right in the city of Ann Arbor, you have a totally different dynamic going on there.

Madison, Wisconsin is similar with 41,000 students enrolled right in the city (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madison,_Wisconsin ) and has a metro population of 500,000ish so its' a decent mirror of Grand Rapids demographically. The city on the other hand is leaps and bounds ahead of GR as far as having a vibrant downtown, and awesome, lively neighborhoods. You won't be surprised to see that the census estimates for the population of Madison between 2000 and 2005 showed a 6% increase in population, either. Yes that's just an estimate, but it's a nice one to see in a vibrant city.

Both Ann Arbor and Madison have far fewer college students in their immediate vicinity than GR...but ours are too spread out to have the same effect on the city.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say Madison is the perfect example of what GR could be some day, but isn't (yet).

Don't read this all as me being a hater....I'm living here because I like GR and think it's headed in the right direction. But I do think that we need to be realistic. Becoming the next Ann Arbor or the next Madison is a lofty, but admirable goal.

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I think that that suydam brings up something that is very interesting. Why don

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I think that that suydam brings up something that is very interesting. Why don

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In fact, I'd go so far as to say Madison is the perfect example of what GR could be some day, but isn't (yet).

That would be valid if you really wanted GR's number one industry to be college. Which, for what it's worth, is good but not great. There is A LOT of compeition and regional population fluctuations can wreak havoc on your economy.

GR on the other hand is almost the ideal of the well distributed economy. With sector leaders in every single one of the census economic catagories, we claim what only New York can claim. The part of this which is best is that GR is well known for weathering economic storms. Example. While Michigan's (outside of GR) economy is second to last in the nation - GR happily steams along at about the national average. Considering how depressed the State is right now, that is impressive to say the least. If Michigan was actually doing well, GR would be BOOMING - oh wait - it is.

This diverse industrial and service oriented economy is the key to the region and the city. It actually makes GR very unique on the world stage and is what draws many external companies here to setup shop. Not to mention the highly skilled work force and a work ethic that some in the business world consider second to none.

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That would be valid if you really wanted GR's number one industry to be college. Which, for what it's worth, is good but not great. There is A LOT of compeition and regional population fluctuations can wreak havoc on your economy.

GR on the other hand is almost the ideal of the well distributed economy. With sector leaders in every single one of the census economic catagories, we claim what only New York can claim. The part of this which is best is that GR is well known for weathering economic storms. Example. While Michigan's (outside of GR) economy is second to last in the nation - GR happily steams along at about the national average. Considering how depressed the State is right now, that is impressive to say the least. If Michigan was actually doing well, GR would be BOOMING - oh wait - it is.

This diverse industrial and service oriented economy is the key to the region and the city. It actually makes GR very unique on the world stage and is what draws many external companies here to setup shop. Not to mention the highly skilled work force and a work ethic that some in the business world consider second to none.

My assertion of Madison's greatness was more a description of the city's vibracy and downtown.

Anyway, you're right...diversity is the key to greatness.

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My assertion of Madison's greatness was more a description of the city's vibracy and downtown.

Anyway, you're right...diversity is the key to greatness.

Let's not crown Madison the king of mid-size cities quite yet. Remember that in addition to being home to UW, Madison is also the state capital. This has been a sizeable, constant positive influence on the city's economy. If you think about the two huge economic engines placed right in Madison's lap, you have to question why they have not grown to be the size of similarly endowed cities like Columbus or the Twin Cities.

Granted, Madison is a great city, and they enjoy a very progressive, diversified economy. However, I have to say that GR blows the Mad City away when it comes to sheer non-subsidized economic power.

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My assertion of Madison's greatness was more a description of the city's vibracy and downtown.

Sure, but for more of a traditional city, GR is no slouch. When you add the 2000 - 3000 people moving downtown this decade, it will get even better. I would suspect that by 2010, downtown GR will be quite the vibrant and exciting place.

Don't get me wrong, I really like Madison, but reality is GR will never have a student base like that downtown. Madison's geography greatly helps them, we are much more spread out. Not much you can do about that except build more and more residential units downtown. As of now, there seems to still be a huge unsatisfied demand - which is good. However, that could change at any moment if GR does not grow downton's infrastructure smartly.

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I think what hurts GR more than anything is GVSU being more in Allendale than downtown, Cornerstone (GR Township instead of the city), Calvin (outskirts instead of downtown), etc. Kendall is downtown (thankfully) and that's about it.

I don't mean to split hairs but Cornerstone is actually on the very edge of the city. It forms the NE corner. But your point is correct, people got to the township now that Knapps corner is growing to spend a lot of their money, etc.

Also, Aquinas is tucked neatly into the city. But in terms of anyone really having a downtown presence there is none, other than what you stated.

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I think we'd be better served if we looked at LARGER booming cities in the next Tier and both their successes and failures, to strive to be like: Nashville, Charlotte, Austin, Portland, Kansas City, Denver (you get the picture). Although a vibrant student life downtown is great, it doesn't NECESSARILY translate into corporate expansion and relocation, which undoubtedly leads to much more growth and a more secure future.

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I think the entertainment/shopping needs to be heightened.

Personally, I think all the mom and pop smaller stores downtown are really cool, but I have to admit I never go downtown to shop. Hardly anybody does. With the huge malls in Grandville and East Grand Rapids it's a no-brainer.

Part of the charm of GR is the smaller name places, but I think some good shopping is something every big city needs. Nice botiques with expensive clothing to get the people from the wealthier areas to come spend their money downtown like they do in the heart of bigger cities.

Also, I'd love to see sports here. Detroit, unfortunately has teams in all 4 major sports which makes this difficult.

Do you think Michigan is too small... or GR is too close to Detroit for it to happen? Some states have two teams, and heck even some cities! I don't think it's too far a stretch.

I think it could definitely be done if the city starts to grow. Maybe not soon, but maybe 10 years down the road. THe only problem is there are so many other big cities without teams who would be in competition to get franchises.

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THE MOST OVERLOOKED THING METRO GR LACKS: World-class FM 24-hour R & B Radio Station like WGCI (107.5) in Chicago or like WJLB (97.9) in Detroit. Go to "www.mbei.org" and look under "Organizational Focus 2005 / 2006" projects for "WMBE FM Radio". They could use some folks with radio/telecomm experience to help on the steering committee for that project. WSNX IS ABSOLUTELY NOT AN EXAMPLE OR A SUITABLE SURROGATE.

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Agreed, this area does need better variety in its radio stations. We have a lot of radio stations we can pick up here, but they all cover only about 4-5 genres. They need to stop competing with eachother and start exploring untapped markets.

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I agree, the radio needs help.

For me it's not THAT bad, because I've only lived here for a little over a year (moved here from the U.P. where it's wAaaaaay worse)

Anyway, I like the type of music WSNX plays (rap, r&b, pop) but the problem with them is they have like 10 songs that they play over and over and over!!! There needs to be more variety. I hate hearing a song, going into the grocery store for a half hour, and then hearing the same song when I get back into the car.

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Anyway, I like the type of music WSNX plays (rap, r&b, pop) but the problem with them is they have like 10 songs that they play over and over and over!!! There needs to be more variety. I hate hearing a song, going into the grocery store for a half hour, and then hearing the same song when I get back into the car.

Ha! Welcome to corporate radio. In this day and age when the record companies are in kahoots with the corporate radio organizations good luck trying to get variety on any of the major stations. Songs need to have so many spins per week or the program director for the station doesn't get his free trip to the Bahamas from the record companies

Think that DJ is really playing your request? Only if it happens to be on his playlist in front of him.

Want variety? I'd try WYCE 88.1 or internet radio. live365.com is a great place to find a ton of free music.

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I don't mean to split hairs but Cornerstone is actually on the very edge of the city. It forms the NE corner. But your point is correct, people got to the township now that Knapps corner is growing to spend a lot of their money, etc.

Also, Aquinas is tucked neatly into the city. But in terms of anyone really having a downtown presence there is none, other than what you stated.

i think calvin - with their involvement in the martineau project and (pending?) ladies literary club acquisition - is working on building their downtown campus. which i am all for, because calvin students have tendency to get way more involved with their local communities than most other colleges.

Kendall college is downtown but might as well be in allendale for all of their involvement with local culture. which is completely depressing to me because i that contributing to a local arts community should be a responsibility of every artist. i believe at kendall you get very technically proficient artists who have virtually no connection to their surroundings. i also think the difference between calvin students and kendall students is institutional, though i did not go to either of these schools and am very possibly talking out of my ass.

i'm pretty thankful that grand valley has a downtown campus because it allows virtually my whole life (work, school, play, etc.) to be within a mile radius of my house.

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THE MOST OVERLOOKED THING METRO GR LACKS: ...

Not sand volleyball??

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