The Award For Hard Work In The Neighborhood

July 17, 2006
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The federal grant money awarded (and it is an "award") to the West Grand and Roosevelt Park neighborhood rejuvenation projects through the Michigan Department of Transportation is far more than seed money. Just as the federal funding provides a magnet for local matching money, the projects will create an economic domino in both neighborhoods. And that is just what was envisioned more than five years ago as ideas were charted into plans.

MDOT Director Kirk Steudle noted last week, "The idea behind this is to make dirt fly." And fly it has. Funding for the project is marked simply for Grandville streetscape and Turner Avenue beautification, but the effort to win those state awards already attracted private investment. The West Grand neighborhood has been dodging the flying dirt, most prominently represented by the Union Square condominium project under construction by Jonathon Rooks, and the American Seating factory renovation to condominiums.

The West Grand project was originally a vision to recreate Turner Avenue as a western "gateway" to the downtown from U.S. 131. The project has long included plans for a 16,000-square-foot rain garden at the corner of Turner and Third Street, which will see its first plantings this fall.

West Grand project manager Rob McCarty, who began to chart the planning as the former West Grand Neighborhood Association executive director, noted the state has not often provided so large a grant to any single project in the state. He views that as further incentive to develop the project considered unique in the state. "Michigan Department of Transportation has been a ton of help and cooperation for this. They would like to do this around the state and Turner Street could be the model," he said.

McCarty also noted the project(s) is an opportunity to "enhance the quality of life" in the neighborhood(s), and provides a "new energy" in that coordination. It is a significant point that creates the foundation for each of the city's Neighborhood Business Associations and underscores their importance.

McCarty's next challenge will be to find the additional funding to build on the base of the project. He continues to market the "sponsored sites" along Turner, which gives businesses opportunity to take ownership of a specific piece of the strip and become further involved in this transformation.

In all, the federal grants awarded by the state to the two neighborhoods are recognition of the renaissance already in progress.    

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