Plaza development represents the best of Grand Rapids and its spirit

The Plaza Roosevelt Development, in all its several parts, represents what is — and what could be more often — the best of Grand Rapids. Beyond the building plans and various seeds of promise for prosperity, it is a story of tenacious neighborhood residents and community spirit aligned in the light of empowerment.

The recently announced new high school to be included as part of the 5.5-acre plan is the most significant piece of Plaza development and, far more importantly, a bellwether of Grand Rapids’ future success. The opportunity for that success has been provided by a neighborhood of people, tireless year after year in the struggle to make positive differences in their neighborhood; and when they did, held the line to advance it another block.

Roosevelt Park is home to Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Southwest Community Campus. The at-capacity, dual-immersion Spanish/English theme school — in a neighborhood area defined by U.S. Census statistics as one in which fewer than half of adults hold a high school diploma — has a waiting list of more than 200 students. GRPS also noted many of those same K-8 students are “lost” in high school enrollments for lack of ability to find or maintain transportation to Union High School, which is 45 minutes away. All city residents are contributing to the success of the project, given voter approval of the $175-million GRPS bond proposal. The new high school will receive $20 million for construction and is expected to receive its first high school class in 2019 or 2020.

Plaza Roosevelt plans already included housing developments by Habitat for Humanity and Dwelling Place, which itself will construct 60 two- and three-bedroom, low-income homes. The collaborative effort includes increased health services through Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Clinica Santa Maria; up to four new GRPS Great Start Readiness Program preschool classes; shared community spaces; after-school programs for teens, as well as programs through Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities, Ferris State University, Hispanic Center of West Michigan and the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association. Site plans for the Plaza are not yet finished but will include input from the neighborhood residents, as well as the partners in the collaboration.

The neighborhood association’s vigil to reclaim, rebuild, maintain and improve the community provided the catalyst. The high school offers the most basic of needed solutions to foundational issues that have long hampered the ultimate achievement of education for neighborhood children. It’s an achievement deserving city-wide celebration.

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