Growing pains: As West side redevelopment ramps up, so do residents’ concerns

Posted at 10:47 PM, Dec 03, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-03 22:52:29-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- From New Holland Brewing to several new residential projects in the works, redevelopment efforts on the city's west side continue to ramp up.

But with the planned growth also come growing concerns from many people already living in the area who fear being pushed to the side, or pushed out entirely as the west side's transformation continues.

Wednesday night, several dozen gathered at the John Ball Area Neighborhood office to hear from a Rockford Construction representative and to sound off on concerns with some of the projects they've got in the works.

"You give lip service to diversity in the neighborhood, but when you're buying up properties of low income people and displacing them, I don't see you being concerned about those people and where they go," said one woman in the crowd.

Jim Reminga, senior vice president of land and master planning for Rockford, fielded questions and concerns Wednesday night mostly pertaining to the company's New Holland Brewing Co. development and proposal for a new residential project near the corner of Fulton and Seward Ave.

The development near Seward and Fulton, planned to be primarily student housing, was a major point of contention for some residents for that very reason. While others expressed frustration over the fact the project calls for demolishing several older homes in the area.

"We hope that the development that occurs doesn't just benefit those who come to this area as a destination, but also is inclusive to the people currently residing here," said Margo Johnson, president of South West Area Neighbors Association.

The more than hour long discussion highlighted the careful balance developers like Rockford Construction walk as they move into areas like the west side.

"On one hand you don't want to hurt the people in the existing neighborhood... on the other hand there's a lot of people who want to live in this area," Reminga told FOX 17 following Wednesday night's meeting.

"Yeah I feel bad there are neighbors concerned what we're building doesn't do anything for them, but that doesn't mean it doesn't do anything."

Reminga said the Seward and Fulton project should be ready to be presented to the city's planning commission by January, adding that fielding concerns like the ones presented Wednesday are part of the process nearly every developer faces when coming into an established area.

"The real key is to find a way for us to add value to serve the market, to create energy on the west side and do it in a way that doesn't hurt anybody," he said.