Funding Should Turn Out For Turner

January 20, 2003
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West Grand Neighborhood Organization is planning an ambitious “neighborhood” improvement that will, in fact, impact the entire city — and most especially the downtown business district. Grand Rapids Business Journal advocates on behalf of this project because its implications could become of significant economic impact.

Rob McCarty, business district developer for the WGNO, is spearheading the project to re-design and beautify up to 11 blocks of the area, which would provide an entryway into the city from U.S. 131, particularly from the northern communities of Muskegon and Traverse City. The plan designates the Leonard Street U.S. 131 exit as the start of a route leading into downtown. The project enhances the area with greenery, plantings and small parks. A similar improvement plan is exemplified by North Monroe Avenue.

The West Grand plan would:

  • Boost the improvement of residential blocks that line the West side of Turner Street and both sides of Broadway Avenue.

  • Improve the eastern edge of the West Leonard Business District.

  • Clear some of the traffic congestion from the Pearl Street exit of U.S. 131.

  • Enhance opportunities for businesses along the entire strip.

  • Create a very marketable area, much the same way businesses were drawn to North Monroe.

  • Improve the perception of the city, as visitors and commuters (and residents) come into the city.

Meijer Inc. co-chairman Hank Meijer has indicated interest in supporting the project, which has direct impact for Meijer headquarters, and for the reasons cited above.

The project also has the initial support of the Michigan Department of Transportation, though MDOT currently is wading through state budget cuts. MDOT owns the rights-of-way adjacent to the expressway. WGNO also is attempting to secure transportation enhancement grants, but needs to pull together some private funding from businesses. Neighborhood businesses are planning “sponsorship” of park areas and continuing upkeep of specific sections of the designated area.

Some major West Grand business improvements already are in process. American Seating has an agreement with Pioneer Construction to renovate existing, vacant buildings on its property, likely for condominiums or loft apartments. Robert Israels has planned renovation of the old Widdicomb Furniture factory.

This initiative is born of a proactive neighborhood group, supported by resident businesses, not by a city declaration. The group has determined how it can enhance the community.           

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