Boston Square developers receive rezoning approval

1622

The Grand Rapids City Commission granted approval to a trio of nonprofits seeking to rezone a site in the Boston Square neighborhood to boost equitable opportunities for residents.

Amplify GR, the Boston Square Neighborhood Association and Oakdale Neighbors, the entities behind the Boston Square Together (BSQ Together) equitable development and community partnership agreement (CPA), last week received city commission approval for their planned residential development (PRD) request for rezoning a 10-acre site in the heart of Boston Square.

As a result, a community development plan dedicated to widening pathways in a neighborhood that has experienced decades of inequity can move forward to the next phase.

The city commission’s vote took place after a yearlong collaboration between neighbors, business owners, community stakeholders, the city of Grand Rapids and the three local nonprofits to ensure the development project includes more equitable opportunities throughout Boston Square.

The nonprofits formed BSQ Together last summer and have since developed a shared vision alongside residents for the project in question. Rezoning of the area will allow BSQ Together partners to begin the development process on assets to the community, including the provision of more affordable housing options, increased opportunities for homeownership, an early childhood learning center and an entrepreneurship hub where local businesses can incubate their ideas and passions.

These amenities and several others were identified and ideated last year during three open house events hosted in the neighborhood by BSQ Together.

Kenneth Hoskins Courtesy BSQ Together

“As a lifelong resident of the Boston Square Neighborhood, I have longed to see a long-term vision implementing positive changes within our community,” said Pastor Kenneth Hoskins, executive director of Oakdale Neighbors. “I believe that the Boston Square Together Project will initiate that type of change. Not only am I looking at this opportunity from a residential perspective, but I also have the perspective as a partner in this project representing Oakdale Neighbors.”

A key component of the collaboration process was the development of the CPA. The agreement creates a shared framework of how community development reflects neighborhood priorities and has been referred to by city staff as “a model for other neighborhoods to follow.” The CPA outlines a variety of housing, economic and community amenity goals that require shared responsibility for greater collective impact and frames a set of neighborhood priorities that a group of organizations, implementation partners and residents will work together to achieve over the next 15-plus years to create more equitable outcomes in Boston Square.

Jon Ippel Courtesy BSQ Together

“Our No. 1 priority has been and will remain to collectively provide neighbors access and opportunities to benefit from neighborhood growth,” said Jon Ippel, executive director of Amplify GR. “We’ve held important conversations with residents, taken desired community assets from previous area-specific plans and are now ready to execute the vision created with neighbors that is inclusive of those who live, work and play in Boston Square.”

Victor Williams Courtesy BSQ Together

Victor Williams, co-founder of Boston Square Neighborhood Association (BSNA), added the group has been advocating for neighbors throughout the development process.

“BSNA is excited to walk alongside neighbors through the next steps in this process as we continue to hear their voice and include their wisdom in the process, as we feel working together collaboratively will provide realistic and equitable solutions for our community,” Williams said.

The partners of BSQ Together are committed to achieving the following:

  • Affordable housing options for a wide range of income levels
  • Homeownership opportunities on both the site and surrounding neighborhoods
  • High-quality and sustainable design
  • Dedicated community spaces
  • Emphasis on construction contracts for minority-, women- and 49507-owned companies
  • Neighborhood-based construction employment opportunities
  • Dedicated spaces for local business ownership with an emphasis on reflecting the diversity of 49507
  • High-quality Early Childhood Learning Center
  • A future design that includes an equity-focused approach of health, education, arts, recreation and technology (HEART) for all

BSQ Together plans to hold public meetings in the coming months to share plans with neighbors and partners.

More information about the organizations and their plans is at bostonsquaregr.org, amplifygr.org and oakdaleneighbors.org.

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