Division Draws Cities Together

March 23, 2007
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KENTWOOD — Division Avenue has seen its share of development and decline.

During the 2007 West Michigan Regional Urban Development Charrettes, officials from Kentwood, Wyoming and the Interurban Transit Partnership hope they can develop ways to improve the area and help it re-establish its vitality. The charrette area covers Division Avenue from 36th Street to 60th Street and from U.S. 131 to Jefferson Avenue.

Lisa Golder, economic development planner for the city of Kentwood, said Kentwood and Wyoming have never worked together on planning for the area, and this is an opportunity for collaboration.

"Wyoming has done a lot on their own, but I think there is some benefit to operating together," she said.

The two cities will be working with representatives from the Interurban Transit Partnership, which is planning a $33.6 million high-speed bus system for Division Avenue. Though not yet funded, the project is in the planning stages, said Jim Fetzer, director of development for the ITP.

"We're planning on submitting an application for Very Small Starts funding from the Federal Transit Administration," he said.

The funding that is being sought is for 50 percent of the project and will not be decided until 2009.

"What we hope to gain out of (the charrette) is more public input and awareness of the project," he said.

Fetzer said he would like to talk about land use and pedestrian-friendly developments along the corridor.

Golder said the area is a walkable community, but with the added bus line, it would become even more accessible.

"What's nice about these older neighborhoods, what we talk about with new urbanism is already in place," she said. "We've got the commercial that's adjacent. The ITP really pulled the whole thing together."

The high-speed bus route calls for bus stations that might feature coffee shops and other amenities.

Golder said the area was once a shopping center for the whole district, which she hopes would experience a resurrection with the new bus line.

"It will be the place for convenience and walking and hopefully picking up the bus if you don't want to drive all the way downtown or if you can't drive downtown," she said.

Golder said she is looking forward to the charrette process and believes it will be a positive step for the area.

"I wonder, would we have ever done this without the charrette process, this program to help us along?" she said. "It gave us the impetus to even start thinking that way.

"It kind of opens your eyes, and that's what it's all about, the regional cooperation."

Fetzer said he has participated in charrettes before and finds them useful.

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