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tamias6

The Urban Renewal

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As anybody that has lived in GR for awhile already knows, back in the 60's the city, like most other American cities, was having a tough time with urban blight afflicting the downtown area. Thus like many American cities at that time, Grand Rapids demolished the north half of downtown, including its own city hall, to make way for urban renewal. The result is what we see today, namely the foreboding City Hall and the accompanying Kent county building, the vast plaza adorned with one of Calder

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I did a Calder Plaza redevelopment thread a while back that had a healthy discussion about this. At that time I did a redevelopment concept which brought back the street grid to provide some kind of retail environment. When creating this I was more interested in creating a park and city hall concept then building placement.

Most of the buildings provide some kind of mixed use situation to capture convention business. The Calder Red/Orange represents the sculpture. Run a wide plaza (Not shown) from Michigan then wrap around the water fountain then on to the street directly south of Michigan -- having criss-cross the existing plaza. Use that wide plaza for public cathering such as Festival.

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You also have to remember that the city did not build all the buildings within the affected area. They contributed (used sparingly) the city and county buildings, the federal building on the North end, and the State office building on the NE end. They levelled it and left a blank slate for private developers to come in. And it STILL has not been fully built out after 45+ years. The parking lot next to 5/3 is still not developed, and the courthouse was just added in the last 5 years.

I don't think those areas were "blighted", but more "economically challenged". There were a couple of great old theaters along Michigan, plus the old brewery (which I've posted images of before), that were just awesome examples of early 1900's architecture.

I still maintain that with the right mix of complimentary architecture, the city and county buildings would look great (with a bath). But once you create a super-block, it's difficult to go back to the old style of building to the outer edges of the footprint. Imagine a new tower on the 5/3 lot with ground floor retail pushed right out to Ottawa. Although it would look great, it would NOW not fit in with its surroundings, because they all have plazas around them (5/3, 300 Ottawa, courthouse, 200 Ottawa, Calder, etc etc.). Still, it's worth doing in my book to bring the trend back the other way.

For you history buffs, this DOCUMENT from the GR Press shows the city's discussions about the targeted areas, the new highway coming in, and some other interesting things. In other words, even a group of citizens banded together can agree to make a bad decision.

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...For you history buffs, this DOCUMENT from the GR Press shows the city's discussions about the targeted areas, the new highway coming in, and some other interesting things. In other words, even a group of citizens banded together can agree to make a bad decision.

Interesting that they were proposing putting the county jail at Crescent and Bond. That sure would have changed the character of the area. I wonder which one of Rizzo's buildings is the jail.

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I'd push back the walls about 4-10 feet (depending on area, probably vary some along the walls), add ramps and stairways leading up to the plaza from the sidewalk, and fill in that 4-10 feet with greenery and sculptures.

Next, I'd throw in some modernist buildings on any of the empty land. Buildings that are weird or funky. These buildings should be either rental or condo development... help get more people in that area. Add ground floor retail to those buildings... more of a destination retail sort of thing. Try to get Meijer or perhaps a Spartan Store to occupy an entire ground floor. Any retail that isn't of the destination variety wouldn't do well due to not being right out on the street. Allow some lit signs along the sidewalk near stairways advertising the retail in the plaza and allow for some sort of marquee so any stores can show specials or sales out by the street.

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it prob doesnt belong on this thread but the plaza where the govt building are should have an open air market whenever there are no festivals.

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One of the things about the city and county building is that according to some, the stabile and those two buildings are related artistically. Think that's valid? Will the stabile still hold the same artistic value as it does now in a reconfigured space or would it be like a fish out of water?

Here's a photo of the stabile with the city and county buildings in the background.

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One of the things about the city and county building is that according to some, the stabile and those two buildings are related artistically. Think that's valid? Will the stabile still hold the same artistic value as it does now in a reconfigured space or would it be like a fish out of water?

I think it would look just as good in the center of a square surrounded by grass and trees. But what do I know. I'm sure that some consideration was given to the site but I've always wondered where the statement came from that it was so intrinsically linked to the surrounding buildings. Did Calder say that? Not that this has much to do with the question but I remember Calder fell asleep during the dedication ceremony or maybe he was just resting his eyes.

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