Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

GRDadof3

Downtown Unrecognizable?

44 posts in this topic

Is downtown becoming just a collection of "vertical gated communities"? A Belknap resident wrote into the GRPress this Sunday, and then it was followed up by LONG letter from the Press editor regarding the changes going on with downtown living.

Downtown unrecognizable

The article on the downtown condo boom stirred in me a mixture of feelings, and none were positive, to be frank ("At home downtown," Press, Aug. 12).

...snipped......

-- JAMES WILSON/Grand Rapids

http://www.mlive.com/news/grpress/index.ss....xml&coll=6

Do you agree with Mr. Wilson? Or do you see downtown in a different way? Many have said that the city will not truly transform until families start moving back in, which is one of Mr. Wilson's contentions.

Personally, I did not see the downtown that Mr. Wilson remembers. All I remember is decay, starting from when we moved here about a decade ago.

(Please keep this discussion civil. Thanks)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


I think it is always easy to have fond (and somewhat misleading) visions of the past. I think baby boomers do have great memories of downtown with Monroe Center and its dimestore row, but it is not like somebody destroyed that vibe and replaced it with urban gated communities. There was a pretty turbulent 30 year period in between.

Joe

Is downtown becoming just a collection of "vertical gated communities"? A Belknap resident wrote into the GRPress this Sunday, and then it was followed up by LONG letter from the Press editor regarding the changes going on with downtown living.

Downtown unrecognizable

The article on the downtown condo boom stirred in me a mixture of feelings, and none were positive, to be frank ("At home downtown," Press, Aug. 12).

...snipped......

-- JAMES WILSON/Grand Rapids

http://www.mlive.com/news/grpress/index.ss....xml&coll=6

Do you agree with Mr. Wilson? Or do you see downtown in a different way?

(Please keep this discussion civil. Thanks)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Unless the public school system improves, the families will never come. That will be the biggest challenge. Until then, let's all be thankful that the redevelopment of downtown is occurring and enjoy what it has to offer, to everyone. Just because you don't live downtown, doesn't mean you can't enjoy it. Museums and festivals in the summer, ice skating and holiday decorations in the winter, restaurants, museums and arena events year round, and retail making a slow, but deliberate push. There is something for everyone and it is only going to get better. No one should feel empty or left out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well for the fact that development today is entirely different from what was built in the past. I agree entirely with Mr. Wilson.

I highly doubt we'll see the Grand Rapids Mr. Wilson remembers... teaming with small businesses and people all about. The city just isn't structured to be that way anymore. The same goes for many other cities that experienced a triple decade of dismal times.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mr. Wilson is probably thinking of the 40s and 50s DT. I cant honestly blame him for thinking the way he does. To have seen all of that go in the rapid time frame that it did would leave a pit in my stomach too.

As for the fear of "vertical gated communities", I used to think along the same lines until about a year ago.

While I think all the fawning over these people who live in these places is a bit over the top (I mean who really thinks that these people who keep showing up in pictures in these downtown living articles holding wine glasses, starring blindly over a balcony, or walking around aimlessly with coffee cups wearing designer clothes are all that special for any other reason other than they can make the mortgage payment on their condo?), Im not susprised that it keeps happening. They are just newbies in a place that has had residents for years. They just have more money and I suppose they dress better. The local media critters are also just too lazy to get a good cross section of the people that live in the DT area and thus just go for that clich

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Urban transformation is forever an ongoing process which occurs in stages. Grand Rapids is merely in one of these stages. I'm not worried...this is simply a case of nostalgia.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Right now we will have the empty nesters and young professionals moving in. But if the price of energy continues to rise, then its just a matter of time before the rest of the demographics move back into urban centers. What Grand Rapids, needs to do is prepare for that eventuality by reviving its school system and inner city communities, and get mass transit going.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I mentioned this 'letter to the editor' in the retail thread as it relates to things Downtown. I really didn't take the context of the letter to be purely livability or practicality of downtown living. Rather, I thought it was largely attributed to downtown as a destination place.

I think Mr. Wilson's comments are derived mostly from perception, but what if he is 50% of the people looking at downtown? What if he feels priced out or worse yet not welcomed so that his choice is to reminisce of bygone? Is it just too bad he has it wrong with the rest of them? Or, does it help that he is being fed KIAS? It sounds like I'm joking, but really it sounds pretty valid.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


It is called progress and change - some people - those stuck in the past, cannot handle it.

The op ed writer had his/her downtown, and it failed, which is why we are where we are today.

To the writer, his/her vision of downtown will always be best, because that is what they prefer. Actually quite jaded and jealous sounding to me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do agree with that. If people get the perception that there is nothing for them downtown, then that perception needs to change. As other people mentioned, you have ice skating, fishing, music, art, museums, theatre, etc. But if you don't like to do they "stuffy" things, what else is there to do. We can never please everyone, but I do agree that downtown shouldn't be all about $4 coffee and the arts. That isn't everyone's thing. It'd be nice to focus on a lot of the cool stuff that is free. The history, the fish ladder, ice skating... Plus activities should be added to pile on to this thought. I think one of the topics Grand Rapids doesn't give much thought to is the history. I'd love to see a walking tour of significant structures, or significant places where events took place that shaped our community. It would be a nice free attraction for people to get in touch with their heritage.

Joe

I mentioned this 'letter to the editor' in the retail thread as it relates to things Downtown. I really didn't take the context of the letter to be purely livability or practicality of downtown living. Rather, I thought it was largely attributed to downtown as a destination place.

I think Mr. Wilson's comments are derived mostly from perception, but what if he is 50% of the people looking at downtown? What if he feels priced out or worse yet not welcomed so that his choice is to reminisce of bygone? Is it just too bad he has it wrong with the rest of them? Or, does it help that he is being fed KIAS? It sounds like I'm joking, but really it sounds pretty valid.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree to a certain extent with Mr. Wilson. I think that any population increase in the DT area is a good thing for the DT of our city as it will help nurture increased business and tax revenue. The more vibrant the downtown the better.

But I will say that I wish there were young profs and retired people as well that were more out-of-the - box when it comes to the urban lifestyle, and I myself am no exception. Look at Chicago, and don't think I am comparing our orange to their apple, but the outskirt neighborhoods, like Creston, Midtown, and Belknap, aren't run-down and abandoned rental specialties. They house the young profs. who buys for investment and keep them up and beautiful. I love the idea of big towers chock full of folks, but there are great neighborhoods near DT going unutilized. In a perfect world (city) , this wouldn't be the case.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One thing he mentions, that most people here would agree with I imagine, is that he wishes more of these new developments and more people would choose to live at the "street level", not up in the sky removed from the true "urban lifestyle". I definitely think more brownstones and townhomes would be a good next step for the near downtown area. There are a few that seem to have fallen by the wayside, like the Broadway/1st (?) area townhomes. But the 920 Cherry townhomes are more in line with his thinking, as well as Newberry Place (right in Mr. Wilson's neighborhood).

But some of you are right in that his nostalgia doesn't match reality. These "rich" people didn't drive out the small locally owned drug stores, general stores, departments stores and grocery stores. Globalization did.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It is called progress and change - some people - those stuck in the past, cannot handle it.

The op ed writer had his/her downtown, and it failed, which is why we are where we are today.

To the writer, his/her vision of downtown will always be best, because that is what they prefer. Actually quite jaded and jealous sounding to me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mr. Wilson is 100% correct, but only for the moment. When I first read is piece, I was outraged until I got home and noticed the range of SUV

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That letter to the editor hinted at the same type of class envy that always surfaces when things improve for some while others perceive they remain victims -- or at least they feel like they missed something along the way.

Call it the gentrification of downtown -- it's not a bad thing, but someone will always complain and the newspapers will always put them on the front page!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


You've all come up with some very worthwhile responses to the writer's concerns.

It might be worth writing a LTE of your own...? :whistling:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
That letter to the editor hinted at the same type of class envy that always surfaces when things improve for some while others perceive they remain victims -- or at least they feel like they missed something along the way.

Call it the gentrification of downtown -- it's not a bad thing, but someone will always complain and the newspapers will always put them on the front page!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't think it is as much to do with class than it is with Mr. Wilson's loss of place. He is projecting his frustration of losing his place onto those he perceived to have took it. It just so happens that they are of a different class or status. (Of course how are we to know that he is of a different class, I don't think it is mentioned) So I don't think his motivations are of classes at first, rather the fact that he can't experience downtown like those are right now. However, misdirected his thoughts are to those of professional and upper classes he raises interesting thoughts.

After reading it, I wonder if he was the "it" crowd for the downtown of the 40s-50s or when downtown was ripe for him?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My first thought upon seeing this topic title was 'You bet it's unrecognizable!' Mr. Wilson's DT might be a distant memory but at least there are people enjoying the DT area both night & day. With all the new restaurants, bars, buildings, offices, residences, etc. DT is unrecognizable from even the mid 90s. I, for one, am glad for that fact. We've come a long way!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You've all come up with some very worthwhile responses to the writer's concerns.

It might be worth writing a LTE of your own...? :whistling:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'd love to see a walking tour of significant structures, or significant places where events took place that shaped our community. It would be a nice free attraction for people to get in touch with their heritage.

Joe

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That is a very good idea - something I would love to see as well. I just don't know what type of response we would get from the public - it would probably have to be a summer event when kids/families are off of school. But there are numerous ways one could divide this as well. Architecture, historical business', historical factories, places where specific events occured, Residences of influential people, places of worship throughout the years, city parks, etc.... I mean even Grand Haven has their historical Trolley tours.

If anyone ever seriously started organizing something like this - let me know, I'd be interested in helping out. Maybe I'll bring it up to the GR Historical Commission too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"The landscape of downtown has become unrecognizable to me. It has become a playground for the well-heeled, a world of martini bars and chop houses, where people shop at high-end markets and will gladly pay twelve bucks for a bottle of olive oil"

I see absolutely nothing wrong with this. It is about time that we have the option to buy that $12.00 bottle of olive oil without going to Ann Arbor or Chicago. It is about time that we can purchase a decent bottle of wine without leaving the city. Upon moving here, I personally had to wait ten years to buy a decent loaf of bread, and now I have at least 2 places where I can get something other than those tasteless extruded loaves of mass produced bliss. And I can walk to get them.

We need more martini bars and more good restaurants. Sure I would like to make sure that there are at least a few neighborhood "hole in the wall" bars around, but that is out of our hands, with archaic liquor license laws dictating the winners and losers.

As far as the core downtown is concerned, it absolutely has to have taller structures in lieu of townhouses and single family homes. The density that it requires dictates that. Tall buildings do not allow living on the street level and that is OK downtown...as long as there are storefronts and not parking garages at the street.

This is all just nostalgia (which is a bit misplaced) and alarmist behavior. What we are seeing is a transformation of our city, and while it is not all good, I truly believe that the good far out weighs the bad. And as far as this tranformation process is concerned, it is happening way too slow for my taste...there are still not enough quality, high end goods and services, far too many derelict buildings and way too many inferior restaurants and stores.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
"The landscape of downtown has become unrecognizable to me. It has become a playground for the well-heeled, a world of martini bars and chop houses, where people shop at high-end markets and will gladly pay twelve bucks for a bottle of olive oil"

I see absolutely nothing wrong with this. It is about time that we have the option to buy that $12.00 bottle of olive oil without going to Ann Arbor or Chicago. It is about time that we can purchase a decent bottle of wine without leaving the city. Upon moving here, I personally had to wait ten years to buy a decent loaf of bread, and now I have at least 2 places where I can get something other than those tasteless extruded loaves of mass produced bliss. And I can walk to get them.

We need more martini bars and more good restaurants. Sure I would like to make sure that there are at least a few neighborhood "hole in the wall" bars around, but that is out of our hands, with archaic liquor license laws dictating the winners and losers.

As far as the core downtown is concerned, it absolutely has to have taller structures in lieu of townhouses and single family homes. The density that it requires dictates that. Tall buildings do not allow living on the street level and that is OK downtown...as long as there are storefronts and not parking garages at the street.

This is all just nostalgia (which is a bit misplaced) and alarmist behavior. What we are seeing is a transformation of our city, and while it is not all good, I truly believe that the good far out weighs the bad. And as far as this tranformation process is concerned, it is happening way too slow for my taste...there are still not enough quality, high end goods and services, far too many derelict buildings and way too many inferior restaurants and stores.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"The landscape of downtown has become unrecognizable to me. It has become a playground for the well-heeled, a world of martini bars and chop houses, where people shop at high-end markets and will gladly pay twelve bucks for a bottle of olive oil"

It would be nice if Mr. Wilson would wander in and join the conversation and explain himself. I have a feeling we are missing his point. I

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.