Uptown World

November 24, 2003
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The phrase “heading uptown” takes on a whole new meaning as four area business districts hope to prove that one is not a lonely number.

Four southeast neighborhood business districts are collaborating in a joint marketing initiative promoting their area as “Uptown.” The four business districts — Cherry Lake Diamond, East Hills, Eastown, and Wealthy Street — are in close geographic proximity, all contained in a single square mile, with only a few blocks separating them from each other. Each district has seen a recent upsurge in new businesses and each is surrounded by a thriving residential neighborhood.

“While each district has its own unique character and blend of restaurants, retailers and other services, we know that by working together we can create an even stronger destination area for people who want to live, shop and play in an interesting, ‘urban village’ environment,” said JayeVan Lenten, owner of Spirit Dreams in Eastown.

“We have more to gain by working collaboratively than by focusing on competing with each other.”

And the name didn’t come about just by happenstance.

“The Uptown name fits because we’re up the hill from the downtown area and our business districts are definitely thriving, up-and-coming areas,” said PhilChaffee, co-owner of Harmony Homes Realty Inc. in the Cherry Lake Diamond district. Chaffee pointed out that the business districts benefit from both the strong residential areas surrounding them and their location as a primary corridor between downtown Grand Rapids and the southeast suburbs.

The four business districts that comprise the Uptown area offer a welcome change from the typical mall shopping experience, according to GuyBazzani, owner of Bazzani and Associates in the Wealthy Street district. “They know that it’s more fun to spend time — and money — in a neighborhood business district than in yet another mall with the same chain stores that you can see everywhere. And there’s a growing awareness that it makes economic sense to support small, locally-owned neighborhood businesses rather than big corporations that don’t have a stake in our community.”

Business owners in the four areas frequently refer customers to other establishments within the four districts. JoelCarrier, co-owner of bluedoor antiques in the East Fulton district, said having a variety of antique and home furnishings businesses within close proximity creates a strong draw as a destination for antique hunters and others interested in unique home décor items. The wide variety of restaurants, coffeehouses, take-out food businesses, and nightspots also adds to the appeal of the Uptown area.

The Uptown committee has adopted a logo that incorporates a map showing the four business districts. The aim of the Uptown promotional effort and the logo/map is to increase the visibility of the area and help potential customers understand the close geographic proximity of the business districts and the opportunities afforded by the proximity of more than 100 businesses in the four districts.

Representatives of the four districts have been working on the Uptown concept since July. Eventually the committee would like to make brochures with maps of the four districts and business listings available through the CVB and at the Meijer Gardens, Van Andel Museum Center and other area attractions.

Members of the Uptown committee include Van Lenten, Chaffee, Bazzani, Carrier, LeighVander Molen, co-owner of Kava House in Eastown, ReneeWilliams of Huntington Bank in the Wealthy Street district, and MarkRumsey, manager of the Wealthy Theatre District’s Mainstreet program. All are active in their business district associations; in addition, Bazzani, Chaffee, and Vander Molen serve on the city’s Neighborhood Business Alliance steering committee, and Bazzani is the founder of the local chapter of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, which also seeks to promote neighborhood-based businesses.

Also, word has it that these four districts won’t be the last to undergo a name change. Look for more announcements regarding the downtown neighborhoods in coming weeks.

  • The Medial Hall of Fame, co-sponsored by sister publication Grand Rapids Magazine, last Friday unveiled the portraits of 29 inductees from years 2000 and 2001. The incomparable accomplishments of the individuals and medical pioneers inducted are described in plaques beneath the portraits, taken by photographer David DeJonge

The portraits will remain on display on the second level of the Public Museum of Grand Rapids Van Andel Museum Center. The unveiling of the display and reception for the inductees drew medical and community members from across the region. James H. DeVries and Ronald Williams, co-founders of DLP Inc., now Medtronic DLP, and Ted Thompson of X-Rite Inc., are among the business leaders in the Medical Hall of Fame. The first researchers inducted (posthumously) were Drs. Pearl Kendrick and Grace Eldering, and assistant Loney Gordon. The women developed the first viable vaccine for pertussis (whooping cough) while heading the Grand Rapids branch of the Michigan Department of Health during the 1920s through 1940s. Their large-scale controlled field trials and regimented laboratory technique were considered groundbreaking for that time and shaped modern clinical trials.

The magazine will induct another class in September of 2004.

  • One last note: Street Talk last week noted the barrels in the lobbies of Second Story Properties buildings around downtown, all for collection of food for Mel Trotter Ministries. Second Story owner Sam Cummings vowed to match a dollar to every pound of food collected. The barrels overflowed with 1,015 pounds collected even before the Nov. 21 collection date.

  • Finally, you should be able to loosen your belt a little this Thanksgiving while keeping a tighter grip on your wallet. The Associated Food Dealers of Michigan report that the average price to purchase and prepare a traditional turkey dinner is $3.06 per person this year, down about 12 cents from 2002.

The costs are based on a standard dinner for 10 and include all the traditional trimmings: stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, yams, green salad, fruit salad, cranberry sauce, rolls and pumpkin pie. Mmmm…    

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