Economic Development, Nonprofits, and Real Estate

New nonprofit aims for 'economic growth' in urban neighborhoods

June 30, 2017
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Amplify GR open house
Amplify GR is a nonprofit that works to "activate place, empower people and energize participation" in the Boston Square, Cottage Grove and Madison Square neighborhoods of southeast Grand Rapids. Photo via

A new nonprofit formed with the backing of local philanthropists and a developer has announced its plans to bring "economic growth" to southeast Grand Rapids.

Amplify GR, which recently opened at 1480 Kalamazoo Ave. SE, announced today a four-pillar initiative to bring jobs, housing, education and wellness opportunities to the Boston Square, Cottage Grove and Madison Square neighborhoods.

“Amplify GR believes neighborhoods are the heart and soul of Grand Rapids,”  said Jon Ippel, executive director, Amplify GR. “We want to make sure residents and business owners of the city’s southeast side have the opportunity to participate in our community’s overall growth.”

Besides Ippel, Amplify GR’s other team members are Willie Patterson, community engagement director, and Bethany Underwood, program assistant.

The nonprofit said it will work with local residents, business owners and community groups to carry out the four pillars of the initiative.

The Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation, the Cheri DeVos Foundation and Grand Rapids-based Rockford Construction support the organization, among others.

“We started this initiative with Amplify GR, because we believe all neighborhoods in Grand Rapids deserve access to jobs, housing, schools and better health,” said Doug DeVos, co-founder, Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation. “We are committed to…making sure everyone has a voice in shaping the future of their neighborhood.”

Rockford Construction is the lead development partner for Amplify GR, and the firm will focus on vacant and underutilized properties in the area. On behalf of Amplify GR, Rockford recently purchased 32 nearby properties on almost 35 acres.

“We’re proud to serve as a lead development partner for Amplify GR,” said Mike VanGessel, CEO, Rockford Construction. “We are in this for the long haul, and we look forward to working hand-in-hand with residents to bring jobs, housing, education and wellness opportunities to the neighborhood.”

Brad Mathis, community development director at Rockford, will serve as lead liaison to Amplify GR.

“Our top priority is to ensure the Amplify GR properties support economic growth that current residents and existing business owners can benefit from,” Mathis said. “We’ll be working with residents on developing a plan for the redevelopment of these properties, as well as employment initiatives.” 

City commissioners David Allen and Senita Lenear hosted a town-hall meeting yesterday with Amplify GR, Rockford Construction and the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation, which allowed residents and local business owners to share ideas and listen.

During the meeting, Amplify GR invited community members to get involved with its multi-year planning process for the initiative. 

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