Street Talk: On the right track


A few of the last remaining major eligible Grand Rapids neighborhoods not already designated as a Corridor Improvement District took the first steps in receiving that designation.

At last week’s Division Corridor Business Owners meeting, business owners from South Division Avenue, Burton Street and Grandville Avenue heard a presentation from city of Grand Rapids Economic Development Director Kara Wood on the process and benefits of forming a Corridor Improvement District Authority.

The Corridor Improvement Authority Public Act 280, passed by the Michigan legislature in 2005, is designed to assist communities with funding improvements in commercial corridors by allowing for the use of tax increment financing for commercial districts outside of the main commercial or downtown areas. In turn, the city of Grand Rapids adopted the development of Corridor Improvement Districts, of which there are currently five — Southtown, Michigan Street, North Quarter, Uptown and WestSide.

“The benefits of a CID authority are that it’s an opportunity for the neighborhood to drive organizing and really lead and provide a voice to city hall,” Wood told the group. “I don’t think many of the districts thought of this as being the primary outcome, but we as the city feel as though it was the most beneficial for them to have communication, have a strong voice, and now, you’ve become a reliable partner to the city.”

During the meeting, Wood said the city has made available more than $35,000 in funds to assist with the process of getting approval for a CID, which would run along the South Division corridor, in Burton Heights and on Grandville Avenue. The city has allocated $5,000 to complete a feasibility study, $25,500 for a TIF and development plan and $5,273 to cover the costs of publication, translation and public notices. The distribution of those funds between the three budgets is fluid if necessary, Wood said.

A feasibility study, which could cost between $5,000 and $15,000, would determine whether the neighborhoods are viable for a CID designation. Potential CIDs must meet several requirements laid out by the state in Public Act 280, including 51 percent of first floor commercial space in a corridor at least 30 years old, located within 500 feet of an arterial Federal Highway Administration road and zoned to allow mixed use and high-density residential. The city stipulates a CID must be in compliance with the act in addition to its own requirements. Those include a requirement the corridor is in transition or decline, be compliant with the city’s Master Plan, have a commitment to marketing the district and complete annual reporting to the city commission.

The study would begin the initial data collection phase for the equitable development plan currently being worked on by the city planning department.

The next step requires an established leadership team, comprising of five to seven representatives from the concerned neighborhoods. Currently, that leadership team consists of Garfield Park Neighborhoods Association’s Tonya Adkins-McKeever, Fran Dalton and Jesus Solis; South Division representative Han Lee; Grandville Avenue representative Synia Jordan; and Burton Heights’ Leonard Van Drunen. The group still is looking for further participation with the next meeting scheduled for 8:30 a.m., Feb. 9, at Habitat for Humanity of Kent County, 425 Pleasant St. SW.

“It takes a long time to cultivate, but if you don’t start, you’ll never get to the point where you can do this type of work,” Wood said. “So, if you compare where you’re at now to where the downtown was at, say, 20 years ago, that’s the journey that you could be on yourselves.”

Preventing attackes

Grand Valley State University has received funds from the state to help the school step up prevention of sexual assaults on campus.

The $33,454 grant awarded to GVSU is part of the Campus Sexual Assault Grant Program (CSAGP), enacted by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s wife, Sue Snyder. The program aims to change the culture of sexual assault on college campuses.

Jessica Jennrich, director of the Women’s Center at GVSU, said the grant will go toward developing a peer bystander training program to teach students about consent and how to engage in bystander interventions. Peer educators will be trained via a model from the national program, Bringing in the Bystander.

“Research indicates that peer education is one of the most effective ways to deliver messages,” Jennrich said. “While Grand Valley does discuss consent and bystander intervention with students, it is delivered by external agencies or professional staff. We do not currently offer a peer education program.”

Ashley Schulte, a victim advocate who is based in the Women’s Center, and other campus partners will work with educators and staff members from Allendale Public Schools to show how bystander and consent education can be used in the classroom.

Eighteen community colleges and universities in Michigan were awarded a total of $506,191 in state CSAGP grant funds. Nearly 30 applications were received.

Participating in CSAGP is one of several efforts to reduce the number of sexual assaults at Grand Valley. The university received a Violence Against Women Act grant in 2010, which was renewed in 2013, to fund initiatives, such as the theater education group ReACT! and student organization Champions for Change. Sexual violence and consent training is provided for new faculty and staff members, and Grand Valley also participates in the national campaign “It's On Us.”

Get organized

If getting organized in 2017 is on your to-do list, personal organizers Susie Marsh, of Susie’s Organization Solutions, and Kate Wert, of Clean Slate by Kate, have some tips.

First, the pair said it helps to tackle small areas of disorganization one at a time. So, rather than walk into a room and become overwhelmed by the project ahead, maybe choose a particularly untidy drawer or closet space first.

Marsh said sometimes taping off a section of the room and only focusing on that area until its finished can help reduce anxiety over taking on an entire space.

“Don’t even look at a whole room, just focus on a small space,” she said.

Wert said another good idea is to prepare donation boxes ahead of time so they are ready to fill when you get started. You can also keep a donation box available year-round to place items in when you realize you need to get rid of something. When the box is full, drop it off.

When deciding whether or not to keep or toss an item, Marsh and Wert said the best question to ask is whether the item brings you joy or if you are considering keeping it out of guilt.

“Don’t keep stuff out of guilt,” Marsh said.

Wert said another good way to help yourself make that decision is to think about the person who could use the item. Knowing someone else is going to use it can make it easier to part with.

Finally, Marsh and Wert said do not have an all-or-nothing mentality. Staying organized is about regular maintenance.

“That is a big new year’s resolution: ‘I’m going to get organized.’ People don’t see it as an ongoing process, but it’s all about maintenance. You don’t ever get organized,” Marsh said.

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