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joeDowntown

"Grand Rapids Can Be Anything it Wants to Be"

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There is an interesting Editorial by Rob Bliss in the newspaper today:

Rob Bliss: Are you ready to declare 'I am a Grand Rapidian?'

While some people may have differing opinions of Rob Bliss, he makes a good point. "Grand Rapids can be anything it wants to be". We don't have to be like Detroit or Chicago. I don't think anyone wants to be the first, and it would take a Dubai-like explosion to be the latter.

So, to ask a question, what do you want Grand Rapids to be? What is something *tangible* (not "let's build a 90 story office building"), that can be started in 2010, that you think would make Grand Rapids a better place?

Think small. Grand Rapids has had a lot of success this year with events (ArtPrize, New Years Eve), as well as continuing to diversify during the recession. There is a strong social media community that is working on small solutions to every day problems (HELPCampaign for example). What can be done to "continue the conversation" that energized the entire community during Art Prize? To make Grand Rapids "that city"?

It could be arts, community, or business related. An event, a structure or a whole new way of thinking. What do you want Grand Rapids to be, and how you make it happen?

I'd love to hear your ideas. Maybe we can make some of the ideas generated here a reality.

Joe

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Grand Rapids is experiencing growing pains as it glacially shifts from insular identities of local community to a city with a robust collective mentality. We'll get there but it will take the same amount of time no matter what is done. Thousands of cities have made the mental transition before and Grand Rapids is no different. I'm supportive of almost any effort to improve Grand Rapids but I'm not naive enough to believe the body politic can change quicker than history has shown it to be capable of.

Build all the buildings you want. Hold as many festivals as you can in a year but the pivot point of regional social change still remains a human obstacle; not a development one.

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So true Temporary.name. So the question is, if you could do one small thing to incite change in GR this year (it sounds as if your change is social), what would it be?

Joe

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So true Temporary.name. So the question is, if you could do one small thing to incite change in GR this year (it sounds as if your change is social), what would it be?

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Ok, since I don't really understand Temporary.name's idea [grin], I'll throw out a few to get the conversation started.

1. "Embrace Winter". Night skating for adults at Rosa Parks. Sell hot alcoholic beverages and play good music. Get people into the city and enjoy winter. Meat market? no. Meat

freezer? maybe. :)

Difficulty to get done: Hard (permits, special alcohol use)

Benefit: Get people out of their house and alleviate cabin fever.

Cost: Unknown but offset with sponsors

People Needed: 20?

2. Reforest Grand Rapids. Plant a variety of native Michigan trees in downtown right of ways that cannot be developed. A perfect example is the triangular piece of land East of the GR Press building,

land locked by on ramps and off ramps.

Difficulty to get done: Medium (MDOT permission, ongoing nurturing until trees root).

Benefit: Beauty, nature, right inside the city.

Cost: $2500 for trees (retail cost, only land mentioned above)

People Needed: 10?

3. City Historical markers. Markers of local/national historic interest (that don't fall into National or Michigan Historic standards) explaining where we came from.

Examples: "Half Wright House", "Grab's Corner", "Speakers Corner", etc. (If you have more, send them. If you are wondering what these are, ask).

Difficulty to get done: Medium/High (permission from property owners, maintenance, city permission)

Benefit: Points of interest, more walkable cities, remembering our past - Plus, local design competition for sign design and local fabrication

Cost: $1500-$2000 per sign (3 signs the first year)

4. Startup weekend. Similar to Startup Weekend, a group of design, development, marketing and business people get together, pitch ideas and bang out completely working

website/companies in a single weekend. The idea is to take the best and brightest ideas, lend a hand and help launch new startups in Grand Rapids.

Difficulty to get done: Medium

Benefit: Foster talent that lives in Grand Rapids, unparalleled networking and real world experience, launch of new startups in Grand Rapids

Cost: $1000 for space, food and incidentals

People Needed: 50-60. (10-12 per startup)

5. Twenty dollar challenge. Designate one weekend for a $20 challenge. Encourage all of your friends and family to spend $20 at a local establishment. Each person should use social media to spread the word about what they bought, where they bought it and what they discovered.

Benefit: Bring awareness to local businesses. Dump money into local coffers. Encourage people to change their buying habits. Spread the word of local business through social

media

Cost: $20 per person

People Needed: As many as humanly possible.

Just a few ideas, large and small. Add yours, let's start a collection.

Joe

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...

1. "Embrace Winter". Night skating for adults at Rosa Parks. Sell hot alcoholic beverages and play good music. Get people into the city and enjoy winter. Meat market? no. Meat

freezer? maybe. :)

Difficulty to get done: Hard (permits, special alcohol use)

Benefit: Get people out of their house and alleviate cabin fever.

Cost: Unknown but offset with sponsors

People Needed: 20?

...

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Grand Rapids has been improving greatly since I've been here, which has been a dozen years or so. West Michigan has an awesome group of people with good spirits. The festivals are okay, but ArtPrize really brought out the best in people. People were talking with strangers more than any other event. A suggestion for those kind of events would be to have a TalentPrize. People with all kinds of talents could have performances at various venues around town with a structure very similar to ArtPrize. Reboot the talent conversation. :D

Make it easier, more affordable and more comfortable for people to come downtown. Heartside is building more parking ramps to help with the parking issues. It would be cool if the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) could provide parking discounts or even free parking for various events and install public restrooms at key locations. I think that would be good use of DDA money.

~John

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Veloise-

Maybe that is part of the change. Get the city to embrace change (which they seem to be moving toward). As Greg Sundstrom (GR city manager) said,

Grand Rapids is the iPhone, residents are the iPhone apps to get work done in new budget reality

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Temporary.name, Now I see what you mean. Something to bring notoriety to Grand Rapids. "Stories from the Tundra?". ;) Anyone have any thoughts on this one?

Joe

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Mass transit - Assuming we aren't going to get rail in 2010, my hope is that The Rapid makes a couple changes. First, they should run later--until 2-3 am, at least Thurs-Sat. A NYE fiasco where there was a multi-hour wait for a taxi ride reinforced what I thought before; that we need public transit to take people back home after they leave downtown bars and other events later than 10 pm. Second, they should develop an iPhone/Blackberry/HTC app for bus routes and times.

Difficulty to get done: Medium. Study probably needed to determine ridership on extended hours. Alternatively, The Rapid could just test it out for a couple weekends. The App wouldn't be too difficult.

Benefit: Safer/more convenient travel that encourages people to get out due to removing barriers associated with drinking/driving, parking/walking, and so on. Encourage a culture that values mass transit to further transit initiatives in the future. Remove cars from the road, making parking situation better DT and environmental responsibility.

Cost: Additional cost to run buses, but I expect a decent level of ridership to offset. I admittedly know very little about the numbers that The Rapid operates with--break-even ridership and so on.

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Mass transit - Assuming we aren't going to get rail in 2010, my hope is that The Rapid makes a couple changes. First, they should run later--until 2-3 am, at least Thurs-Sat. A NYE fiasco where there was a multi-hour wait for a taxi ride reinforced what I thought before; that we need public transit to take people back home after they leave downtown bars and other events later than 10 pm. Second, they should develop an iPhone/Blackberry/HTC app for bus routes and times.

Difficulty to get done: Medium. Study probably needed to determine ridership on extended hours. Alternatively, The Rapid could just test it out for a couple weekends. The App wouldn't be too difficult.

Benefit: Safer/more convenient travel that encourages people to get out due to removing barriers associated with drinking/driving, parking/walking, and so on. Encourage a culture that values mass transit to further transit initiatives in the future. Remove cars from the road, making parking situation better DT and environmental responsibility.

Cost: Additional cost to run buses, but I expect a decent level of ridership to offset. I admittedly know very little about the numbers that The Rapid operates with--break-even ridership and so on.

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Continue to be ambassadors to the city. Promote it on Twitter, blog about it, flickr it, youtube it, tell your friends, etc.

There's nothing that gets the attention of people than the sense of community pride seen by its residents.

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Great point Arcturus. I deal with a lot of people who don't know where or what Grand Rapids is. When they hear Michigan, they think Detroit. I'm always the goodwill ambassador for Grand Rapids. With so much negativity, it is nice to hear positive news about Grand Rapids.

If you are lurking out there and don't feel like posting but have an idea for change, feel free to send it to joeforce [at] gmail.com

Joe

Continue to be ambassadors to the city. Promote it on Twitter, blog about it, flickr it, youtube it, tell your friends, etc.

There's nothing that gets the attention of people than the sense of community pride seen by its residents.

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What I've seen in people, is the sense of complete apathy towards this city. They simple don't care. They are always like "um, what is there in grand rapids?" I think a large part of this disconnect is due to poor advertising. I have a better sense of what is occurring at the Los Vegas convention center than at the Devos Convention Center a couple miles down the road. The best way for me to know what's happening in grand rapids is to stumble upon something nail to a street pole. As someone who is interested in what is occurring in the city, I still have no idea what is occurring downtown.

As far as the civic pride issue goes, what I must emphasize is that the city can't do anything to instill civic pride into it's individuals. It must be a grass roots effort or it would defeat the whole purpose. This website is an example of this. You can become a full on salesperson for this city, but I believe the best way for us promote the city is just to express your passions here, in the city. If everyone made this city a better place to express their particular passions, it would draw people to the city and it would instill a civic pride into the city. I think it would be a great idea to create a website to host communities of a particular interests, what ever they might be. That way there can be cross pollination. And again, it can't be hosted by the city, it must be community created and locally driven.

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Speaking of apathy, nothing (and I mean nothing) gets my goat more than hearing other GR natives refer to their town as "Bland Rapids." If those people are bored, then they clearly aren't trying hard enough. Going off on what crinzema just said, I think GR's impressive presence as a community on the UP forum, as well as other social media sites, speaks well to the sense of civic pride lying under the surface.

---

On a sidenote, if you haven't seen/heard it yet, last month Michigan Public Radio did a series entitled Generation Y Michigan that discusses the younger generation's migration out of the state. Yes, yes, I know that's been discussed ad nauseum on this forum, but you'll see several of the articles discuss GR's resiliency, as opposed to the rest of the state, in retaining college graduates.

Rapidian reporter Ruth Terry contributed a sobering rebuttal to some of the positivity surrounding GR, prompting a fairly interesting discourse in the Comments section of her essay.

I feel a lot of the issues raised in the series can relate to the discussion on this thread.

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Agreed Crinzema and RegalTDP. The city can't do it. In fact, I'd dare say the city lags behind what is being done culturally by 3-5 years. So the sense of pride and the sense of community has to come from outside initiatives the city is doing (or more importantly, drag them kicking and screaming while saying "this is what the people want").

It takes a lot of momentum to push an inanimate object. That is why I'd like to see more small changes, that we can make, with or without the city's help?

As far as communities crinzema, would this also include user groups? There are a lot of technology user groups in Grand Rapids, but the attendance can be weak at times. How do we get the word out? This is, after all, the best way to learn, network, socialize and become an advocate for the city. What other communities/groups exist in Grand Rapids that the mainstream doesn't know about?

I still have seen input from some of the regulars (GRDad). Have anything to add? :)

Joe

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GR's resiliency, as opposed to the rest of the state, in retaining college graduates.

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4. Startup weekend. Similar to Startup Weekend, a group of design, development, marketing and business people get together, pitch ideas and bang out completely working

website/companies in a single weekend. The idea is to take the best and brightest ideas, lend a hand and help launch new startups in Grand Rapids.

Difficulty to get done: Medium

Benefit: Foster talent that lives in Grand Rapids, unparalleled networking and real world experience, launch of new startups in Grand Rapids

Cost: $1000 for space, food and incidentals

People Needed: 50-60. (10-12 per startup)

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I watched a news story broadcast by Russia-Today on youtube. My nickname for the news station is Propaganda-Today. But in this video, they ask people who experienced the collapse of Soviet Union what they would recommend for Americans to do to get ready for a complete economic collapse. I believe the first suggestion was to get to know your neighbors. I was taken back by this suggestion because it wasn't something I expect. I don't think many people in America feel obligated to try to get to know their neighbors. If Grand Rapids wants to become a city where people feel welcomed and want to stay, you can't help but take the advice of the Russians this time. The last time I ate dinning with a neighbor was never. It's so funny how we live so close to people now adays, but we live further apart mentally than people 100 years ago in the rural country. And believe me, people would freely and openly brag about Grand Rapids if they had quality neighbors to brag about. Grand Rapids is really only what it's citizens repeatable do everyday.

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I watched a news story broadcast by Russia-Today on youtube. My nickname for the news station is Propaganda-Today. But in this video, they ask people who experienced the collapse of Soviet Union what they would recommend for Americans to do to get ready for a complete economic collapse. I believe the first suggestion was to get to know your neighbors. I was taken back by this suggestion because it wasn't something I expect. I don't think many people in America feel obligated to try to get to know their neighbors. If Grand Rapids wants to become a city where people feel welcomed and want to stay, you can't help but take the advice of the Russians this time. The last time I ate dinning with a neighbor was never. It's so funny how we live so close to people now adays, but we live further apart mentally than people 100 years ago in the rural country. And believe me, people would freely and openly brag about Grand Rapids if they had quality neighbors to brag about. Grand Rapids is really only what it's citizens repeatable do everyday.

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...Maybe that is part of the change. Get the city to embrace change (which they seem to be moving toward). ...So maybe we need to work on the city (idea #8). I'm sure between the collective whole here, we have some influence in the city. ...

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Why just college graduates?

That's the fallacious foundation on which GR's desire to become "cool" rests. Suggested/implied/assumed limitations on who is eligible for retention are why such a desire is doomed from the start. True cool cities invite all; not just the ones that dubiously add to the 'bottom line' of inane demographics.

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Ok, since I don't really understand Temporary.name's idea [grin], I'll throw out a few to get the conversation started.

4. Startup weekend. Similar to Startup Weekend, a group of design, development, marketing and business people get together, pitch ideas and bang out completely working

website/companies in a single weekend. The idea is to take the best and brightest ideas, lend a hand and help launch new startups in Grand Rapids.

Difficulty to get done: Medium

Benefit: Foster talent that lives in Grand Rapids, unparalleled networking and real world experience, launch of new startups in Grand Rapids

Cost: $1000 for space, food and incidentals

People Needed: 50-60. (10-12 per startup)

This sounds like some of what the nonprofit Neighborhood Ventures does with ideas/people/small business in GR. Their founder/president recently moved and I haven't heard much of what they've been up to since then. They have a great concept and it would be cool if their resources/connections could be combined with other efforts to promote and put on this weekend. It would give their nonprofit more attention, which I think they need and deserve, while launching new startups.

Victoria

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I think the issue is that college graduates specifically are perceived to be fleeing the area. I don't think the goal to increase that group is exclusive to that group, only that this specific group is leaving disproportionately.

There's a well-established correlation between prosperity and educational attainment, so you want to encourage people to go to college (not to say that every single person has to, mind you). You also want those people to stick around after they have been filled up with knowledge.

Anyway, that's how I read it.

I'm not sure your experience mirrors the whole. I eat dinner with neighbors on my street at least once a month. More often in summer when it's warm and we can BBQ. I don't presume my experience is necessarily normal either, but I think city neighborhoods with long-time residents (homeowners or long-term renters) end up with people knowing their neighbors.

At any rate, it's good advice. I think neighborliness fosters civic pride, increases safety, and contributes to our overall happiness levels.

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