It was not that long ago that Grand Rapids began to rebuild its “urban core;” it was just yesterday that more downtown storefronts were vacant except for the homeless individuals seeking shelter at the doorsteps. And still there are those in the community who would simply wave off pending development as though it were not a big deal or “pie-in-the-sky” ideas.
But it is a big deal: With those images in mind, one begins to better appreciate the possibilities offered by developers now waiting on Calder Plaza for some sign from the city as to enter or leave. The opportunity for area furniture makers in providing for the meeting, conference and hotel rooms in the proposed hotel project — and displaying it opposite the new convention center — should also be considered. Those whom Blue Bridge Ventures represents have already spent thousands of dollars in preparations for this week’s meeting, and have spent exhaustive amounts of time moving through the government bureaucracy. At the very least, the city must provide the group with some indication of its intention. The dancing is over. Yes or no.
The Grand Rapids SMA is spurred by increasing commercial and industrial activity in Holland, Grand Haven, Muskegon and Rockford. And one need only look at the challenges facing Muskegon to be grateful for choices. The downtown Muskegon mall parking areas were literally padlocked closed as mall property foreclosure proceedings advanced. What is particularly laudable in the city is that it, the chamber of commerce, the Paul C. Johnson Foundation and Community Foundation for Muskegon County teamed to form the Muskegon Downtown Development Corp. to redevelop the area.
Charles Johnson, president of the Paul C. Johnson Foundation, commented, “Great things, exciting things will be happening right here in the months to come.”
Lest Grand Rapids city leaders become complacent with the rebuilding activity of the past 20 years, Muskegon’s excitement can be a reminder of how far GR has come, and has to go.
Muskegon’s hopefulness and willingness to create such partnerships — and the opportunity to do so — should be regarded by Grand Rapids city leaders in contemplation of the plans before them.
City Hall and the county building sit on prime real estate, a site that could be filled as a result of a companion convention center project. That alone would be reason enough for the city to get out of the way.