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ex detroiter

Can we get BIG?

31 posts in this topic

I hate having to open this can of worms but.... Why the he?? are we scared of becoming a big city? I travel a lot and try to observe what everyone has to offer. we have this complex of "oh we are just Grand Rapids" " we aren't Chicago" so f-ing what. I grew up in the detroit metropolous that has nothing to offer, yet they draw large companies to regional headquarters. We have nothing but opportunity here, yet we seem to dismiss it due to fear and loathing. WE ARE NOT SMALLTOWN GR!!!!!! We need to get the money out of 3-5 families hands and start allowing outsiders to bring fresh ideas into the fishbowl. We DO NOT Need to make the parking garages the most visible part of downtown. WE NEED TO UTILIZE THE RIVERFRONT!!! The Restaurants need to stop stealing from New York's menu 5 years ago. We need to make urban living in Downtown the most desired real estate in the STATE, we need to stop thinking "west michigan" and start thinking "MID WEST" Come on people, don't quote me demographics, get off the pot and get things stirring. We are not dependent on two families to make or break the rest of our lives.

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I agree with you in general principle. The 'We aren't Chicago' attitude is very defeatist. However, I think the smalltown desire for many residents is understandable. Outside of the city, most metropolitan residents grew in the West Michigan of old during the 60's and 70's. Before sprawl consumed the landscape most of the suburbs, which sometimes get treated unfairly, were nothing more than tiny farm villages. It would only be natural then for most locals who grew up in that era to be more use to and comfortable with the nice and quiet village/small town atmosphere(however disillusioned it may be these days.) Going to the 'City' meant going to Detroit or Chicago but at the end of the day GR has always been the not too big, not too small, just the right size town for many to come home to. I'm not saying its the right mentality but its one that exist and must be worked with accordingly. Grand Rapids can be someday a truely great city but it will take a lot of time for the economy to evolve and for people's attitudes to change. It will happen. Rome wasn't built in a day.

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I'm the last person to start a Detroit/Grand Rapids war so don't take this as one, but I'm just calling you out when you say Metro Detroit has nothing to offer. If that was the case, then pack your bags, because Michigan has nothing to offer.

Grand Rapids is a spectacular area and it is people like you who need to stick around because you have vision. Whether it is right or wrong, it doesn't matter. I know I preach to the choir, but Michigan need creativity and the young mind to stick around, whether it's Grand Rapids, Detroit, Marquette, Saginaw, or Rogers City.

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You've touched a stove thats is still burning hot ex, and its one a lot of rumblings and grumblings are born from.

You're right we shouldnt rely on devos and van andel, but we do have Grooters building Riverhouse, and theres signs that outside investment is coming.

Some things that are helping GR are

#1 Logie more or less retiring as GR mayor

#2 Duane Faust (even if nothing gets built, hes given inspiration for other foreign (i.e.: outside GR) investment.

#3 Fred Meijer (as he enters old age, hes giving his fortune away Warren Buffet-style and making sure his kids dont just live off his old wealth)

#4 MSU (When that med school is built will be a big boost in GR's economy)

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I was going to say let's not make this a Detroit vs. Grand Rapids thread, or I'll throw it in the trash (no matter how much "vision" comes with it).

But carry on, as long as this doesn't get ugly.

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You've touched a stove thats is still burning hot ex, and its one a lot of rumblings and grumblings are born from.

You're right we shouldnt rely on devos and van andel, but we do have Grooters building Riverhouse, and theres signs that outside investment is coming.

Some things that are helping GR are

#1 Logie more or less retiring as GR mayor

#2 Duane Faust (even if nothing gets built, hes given inspiration for other foreign (i.e.: outside GR) investment.

#3 Fred Meijer (as he enters old age, hes giving his fortune away Warren Buffet-style and making sure his kids dont just live off his old wealth)

#4 MSU (When that med school is built will be a big boost in GR's economy)

I agree with points #2,#3 and #4, however, I was always under the impression that Logie was a good mayor, however, at that point in my life, I really wasn't paying attention. Was he anti-development, just plain bad at his job, etc?

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My thoughts is wait about ten more years when all the new development in DT are complete and have started to have an effect on the city and region. I bet the "We're just Grand Rapids" attitude will change to "We areGrand Rapids" in due time. Why? Look at how far GR has come in the last 20 years. When I first moved to the area back then. Grand Rapids was a dead city. Downtown was a ghost town. The old Grand Center, was hoplessly outdated as hosting anything there was like trying to hold the Consumers Electronic Show in a single wide mobile home. Munroe Mall was full of boarded up buildings and silent. Heartside was a prime example of urban blight chucked full of whinnos and bums. The only arena in town was a pre-renovation Deltaplex. What a pit that place was. Where the VAA is at now was a poorly maintained and weed filled surface parking lot. 20 years ago Grand Rapids was just another victum of "White Flight". Thus people had a right to moan "We're just Grand Rapids." back then.

But look at the city now. We have a great arena thats bringing in big concerts, first class shows, and some action packed sporting events. We have a steller convention center that's hosting events the old Grand Center could not even dream of hosting. With it we can compete with bigger cities like Charlotte, NC, Cleveland, OH, Nashville, etc. We also have the Van Andel Reserch Institute that's fired up the city's all out effort to become a regional and national Life Sciences hub. Shoot, I bet the cure to AIDS will be discovered by a scientist right here in GR. We are also seeing a heavy infux of higher education coming into the city. Grand Valley built a beautiful DT campus and is currently adding on an engineering school to the Eberheart Center. Let's not forget their medical reserch school on Michigan Street by Spectrum Health. Ferris State is is currently consoladating their presence here. Michigan State is now building a medical school in DT. Then there's the endless list of condos and mix use developments being proposed or under construction. There's even a chance that a monumental multi-billion dollar development to come to DT. With all the happenings going on, DT is a forest of tower cranes as the city is experincing a construction boom that's showing no signs of letting up. When the dust of construction finaly clears and all is said and done with, it will be a sure bet that we'll see a completly different and far more viberant Grand Rapids then the city we know today.

This city has taken some big steps in the last 20 years. Given that, I can't wait to see what will happen to GR in the next 20.

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I wouldn't want to grow up too fast if I were you, especially with the way cities "grow up" these days. Cities like Las Vegas, Charlotte, and San Antonio that were once on the same scale as Grand Rapids may be growing rapidly, but most of that is suburban and exurban sprawl that strains the resources of the metro (education, police/fire, hospitals, roads, infrastructure, utilities, etc.) Besides, Grand Rapids is growing at a pretty steady pace, especially for a Midwestern metro. You are adding nearly the same amount of people as Metro-Detroit, and come 2010, the metro could have a population greater than 1.5 million.

In the long run, a steady growth where services and infrastructure can keep up is far better than an explosive growth where the quality of living is compromised.

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hey snoog,

I have also been a fan of Logie, am I just misinformed? I kind of thought he managed the city well. I would say at the core he was there when the city began it's rennasaince. Of course I watched all of this happen from the cozy confines of Comstock Park. The only thing I knew is that when I first came to Grand Rapids, to the time I was an adult, the city started a transformation that was making it great and he was mayor the entire time.

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I wouldn't want to grow up too fast if I were you, especially with the way cities "grow up" these days. Cities like Las Vegas, Charlotte, and San Antonio that were once on the same scale as Grand Rapids may be growing rapidly, but most of that is suburban and exurban sprawl that strains the resources of the metro (education, police/fire, hospitals, roads, infrastructure, utilities, etc.) Besides, Grand Rapids is growing at a pretty steady pace, especially for a Midwestern metro. You are adding nearly the same amount of people as Metro-Detroit, and come 2010, the metro could have a population greater than 1.5 million.

In the long run, a steady growth where services and infrastructure can keep up is far better than an explosive growth where the quality of living is compromised.

Agreed. However unlike the cities you've pointed out. Most of the big growth construction wise is occuring in the core instead of in sprawl....Well there is the M-6 explosion on the metro's southern flank and GR township. But I don't its as bad as, say, Atlanta's sprawl. The Greater Metro Area has about 1.5 million people right now. But if you mean 1.5 million people in GR proper by 2010, that's going to be some insane growth. If the city proper exploded to 1.5 million in your timframe it would look like...

THIS.....

by 2010.

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Everything that happened under Logie happened under those two famous families. Hardly any major development that happened in GR wasnt proposed/financed by either Rockford Construction, or the Devos, and Van Andel Familes. Lets take a look at the big developments under Logie during the Renaissance:

  • Van Andel Arena

  • Van Andel Institure

  • Devos Place

I'd say Logie was a big reason Meijer wasnt allowed to invest heavily in GR until very recently as well. His disdain for organized labor probably clouded his view of Fred Meijer himself. I couldn't see Logie approving of naming Spectrum Health's heart center the "Meijer Heart Center"

Long time members of UP should know his beef with Jack Buchanan is legendary around here. ;)

In any case I really think GR should be bigger now then it is, and I put a lot of that blame squarely in Logie and his Planning Commission's hands. (His PC was legendary for being tight-a**es)

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I think that is great that we are not Chicago... but we are Grand Rapids. Instead of trying to be something we are not, we need to take a simple approach, examine what we have, and super empower the existing residents to take the city from good to GRAND. I think that with all the development going on, all the hype about new projects, and people starting to realize the potential that Grand Rapids truly has, we are on very top of the hill and the snowball has just started to roll!

The key for Grand Rapids is two fold:

The first of which is being realized is the development potential. Just yesterday I noticed a crew sandblasting the front of the vacant warehouse at 131 and Wealthy. Buy utilizing the existing infrastructure, GR can embrace and build on its past while progressing into the future. Additionally the development of vacant lots and reestablishment of vacant street corners is helping to recreate the downtown core of the community. Finally the skyline of GR is changing with several new large scale projects that will help to lure new developers and continue the momentum.

The second is a bit more difficult to do. In many neighborhoods, the residents of Grand Rapids need to take ownership in what they have now and what their neighborhoods could be. This is partly a social problem on a national level, however the simple act of interacting in a positive manner with your neighbors can have a truly profound influence on the condition of our neighborhoods and the reduction of crime. Too many people live in a social isolation beyond their work or organization environment. It is time to bring back block parties, shut of the TV and Video games, and get people outside into the back yards or the streets to meet, converse, and make friends with their neighbors. It only take small steps to trigger amazing results. The residents of Grand Rapids can take back the streets from the worst enemy of all, the perception and condition of their neighborhoods.

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I think our first priority should be getting the downtown area back to its former glory. All those surface lots used to be useful buildings. If downtown is dense again Grand Rapids will be a much greater city. It doesn't have to be as big as Chicago. Once the infill is complete then we can worry about expanding downtown's borders.

-nb

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We need to start thinking like a community. We need to starting thinking that our metro has a head and its near severed if the body wants to keep going the other direction. A lot of people like the homely feeling they get when living in the area, we can capatlise on this for a while until our land runs out.

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Ummm, last time I checked, having nearly 200,000 residents didn't make a city "SMALL".

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Agreed. However unlike the cities you've pointed out. Most of the big growth construction wise is occuring in the core instead of in sprawl....Well there is the M-6 explosion on the metro's southern flank and GR township. But I don't its as bad as, say, Atlanta's sprawl. The Greater Metro Area has about 1.5 million people right now. But if you mean 1.5 million people in GR proper by 2010, that's going to be some insane growth. If the city proper exploded to 1.5 million in your timframe it would look like...

THIS.....

by 2010.

I'm pretty sure he meant Metro. And unfortunately, most of the growth is happening in the suburbs. There will probably be 3000 - 4000 homes built this year alone in the suburban areas around GR and Holland, whereas there are only about 750 condos downtown under development right now and finished within the next couple of years. As someone pointed out to me recently, it's hard to believe a Metro of 1.1 Million only has 750 condos under development, or less than .001 of the population.

Also, commercial construction in the burbs probably outnumbers downtown quite a bit as well. Although downtown does have the brunt of the best (and most jobs producing) developments being added to the Metro right now.

AlabamaGuy: Good point. Some people seem to have a complex because we're completely surrounded by huge cities like Chicago and Detroit.

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But we aren't surrounded at all. Do people say that about Ohio's cities?

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But we aren't surrounded at all. Do people say that about Ohio's cities?

Depends on the City. Cinci I would say is NOT surrounded by sizable cities. Cleveland is somewhat because Pittsburgh and Detroit are an easy drive. But we're within a 5 or 6 hour drive of some pretty big Metropolis's: Detroit, Chicago, Toronto, Indianapolis, Columbus, Cleveland, Milwaukee (maybe 6 hours), Cinci, St Louis. So it's easy to take a road trip to one of these, and then come back and complain about what we DON'T have here. That's all I'm saying seems to be the attitude.

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Cincinnati is near Indianapolis, Louisville, and Dayton. Though I'm pretty sure it's larger than the second two. Not sure about Indianapolis. Cincy has around 2 million in it's metro area, how big is Indy?

-nb

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There was a time in GR's history where it aspired to be bigger then its humble beginnings. It was growing up. Can you believe the locals actually thought cosmopolitian and had cultural expositions in the late 1800s early 1900s? I bet it was a bustling city back then.

I refuse to believe that we don't have things here because these big cities (some of which aren't even that much bigger then GR) exhist within driving distance. I don't discredit your response, but others who have used "the other cities" excuse for why we don't have nice things.

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There are cities built on grand/large scales in the midwest, Chicago and Detroit being the two biggest, and some may argue some of the currently shrunk ones are as well (i.e. Cleveland, Cincinnati, Milwaukee...). Barring some major reconstruction of central GR, and I'm talking about tearing out entire neighborhoods to put up apartment blocks through a considerable amount of the core, GR is not among these. That doesn't mean it can't be a great city or grow, but we're talking a MAJOR reconfiguration and reconstruction of the city to fit the grand scales of the aforementioned cities. IMO, Grand Rapids doesn't need to be a Chicago, and I think it's one of the most remote possibilities if it's trying to be. It's much more built like a Minneapolis or Omaha in its central city.

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All three cities have a very different planning history. None can be compared against the other.

In order to compare cities, we must look at why the were built on this "grand" scale. The growth industries, that managed to create such large population growth.

Detroit is a perfect example of what makes population go up: many jobs and plenty of land to go around. Given the same, Grand Rapids will be no exception. As Detroit, Grand Rapdis was built to accomidate its growth.

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I don't think you're understanding me. Phoenix has a lot of land and jobs, as well, but it's core is not built on a grand scale. I'm talking scale of the central, here. GR could annex land and become a huge draw jobwise, and it still wouldn't mean that it was built on a grand scale. That's what I'm arguing. Maybe we're on two different pages. What I'm arguing is that a place like Phoenix could grow outward until the cows come home, but it will never be a Philly or Detroit in inner-city build, at least not in the forseeable future barring some reconstruction and reconfiguration of the inner-city.

With it's current build and layout, taking into account the cities current size (45 or so square miles), the city could comfortably get up to 260,000 over the next few decades, or so. That would give it a density to that of current Minneapolis, which is tightly packed for a midwest city of similar build in layout. After that, we're talking a reconstruct of the inner-city (i.e. Heritage Hill and other inner-city hoods) into vastly more dense builds.

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I don't think you're understanding me. Phoenix has a lot of land and jobs, as well, but it's core is not built on a grand scale. I'm talking scale of the central, here. GR could annex land and become a huge draw jobwise, and it still wouldn't mean that it was built on a grand scale. That's what I'm arguing. Maybe we're on two different pages. What I'm arguing is that a place like Phoenix could grow outward until the cows come home, but it will never be a Philly or Detroit in inner-city build, at least not in the forseeable future barring some reconstruction and reconfiguration of the inner-city.

With it's current build and layout, taking into account the cities current size (45 or so square miles), the city could comfortably get up to 260,000 over the next few decades, or so. That would give it a density to that of current Minneapolis, which is tightly packed for a midwest city of similar build in layout. After that, we're talking a reconstruct of the inner-city (i.e. Heritage Hill and other inner-city hoods) into vastly more dense builds.

I think I know what you mean. I sort of alluded to it in a previous post about expanding downtown's borders after there was no room left for infill. The problem is we don't have a big central urban core, and cities aren't really built that way anymore, so they only way to expand it to Chicago levels would be to raze residential areas. I'm not opposed to that as long as historical areas like Heritage Hill are protected, but good luck getting West side residents to buy in to that plan.

Chicago, on the other hand, has plenty of room to expand downtown. I would consider Chicago's urban core to extend all the way north past Wrigley field! Although not all filled with skyscrapers up there, the neighborhoods are dense and built out to the street, and high rises aren't terrbily out of place. Unless there's a return to classic city development, Grand Rapids just won't have that huge feel. Our street grid doesn't extend very far at all.

Just imagine skyscrapers at the end of a cul-de-sac.

-nb

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