Remove Roadblocks, Continue Progress

July 30, 2007
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Partnerships are vital in challenging economic times. Those alliances can be formed between neighbors, businesses and governments. They can work in tandem or forge ahead on their own, but fruits of such combined efforts sprout bountiful returns here on a regular basis.

The Business Journal has reported recently on several important examples of government/community/business partnerships that are solid examples of what can happen when the bureaucracy gets out of the way. It must be reiterated that government exists to serve its citizens, not the other way around.

The announcement that Macatawa Bank is teaming up with Neighborhood Ventures to help revitalize the Burton Heights business district is one of the latest examples. Macatawa and Neighborhood Ventures, which continues to make its mark as a successful business advocacy organization consisting of 20 business districts in Grand Rapids, will help fund storefront façade improvements in Burton Heights with the intent to attract and market businesses in the area. Micro-loans totaling $140,000 from Macatawa, along with technical assistance from the bank, will be combined with a $60,000 investment from Neighboorhood Ventures for physical upgrades to buildings and sound advice to business operators occupying the structures.

Garfield Development Corp., Garfield Park Neighborhood Association and the Burton Heights Business Association will all play important roles.

Macatawa Bank President Phil Koning expressed the purpose of the collaboration when he acknowledged the “vital importance” that neighborhood businesses play in a community’s existence.

To that end, Grand Rapids City Commissioners have made the Brikyaat Plan the first citizen-created plan to be admitted into the city’s Master Plan.

Brikyaat is in the Midtown neighborhood, and residents took it upon themselves to develop a plan to advance residential and business activity in the area. It was a tedious process. They took three years, raised $70,000 in grants, hired a professional planner, and worked with the city to make the plan official.

City commissioners gave their official blessing and informal kudos in recognition of the grassroots efforts, and the endeavor earned awards from the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects and Grand Valley Metro Council.

A five-year-old beautification plan for the near northwest side of Grand Rapids received a boost when city commissioners approved and praised a funding agreement with the Michigan Department of Transportation. The agreement secures the first phase of the Turner Gateway project. The West Grand Neighborhood Organization plans to add rain gardens, plantings, fencing and a retaining wall along Turner Avenue NW, a highly traveled area that runs along U.S. 131 from Leonard to Bridge streets. The MDOT grant will fund $84,500 of the project while the WGNO has raised the remaining $31,000.

Revitalization of neighborhoods and central business cores requires a time-intensive, focused mentality. That’s also how Muskegon Heights plans to revitalize its commercial district and is an element of Hudsonville’s efforts to produce a well-defined downtown structure. The list goes on.

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