Economic Development, Government, and Real Estate

Amplify GR proposes Boston Square transformation

Plan includes housing for all income levels, commercial space, an early learning center, a community building and more.

January 17, 2020
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Boston Square Amplify GR
Housing for the project includes 22 owner-occupied townhomes and 215 apartment units for a wide range of income levels. Rendering Courtesy Amplify GR

The nonprofit Amplify GR is leading plans to transform a 9-acre site within the Boston Square neighborhood in southeast Grand Rapids.

The plans include housing for all income levels, commercial space, an early learning center, a community building, green space and more.

Rezoning was approved this month by the Grand Rapids Planning Commission to allow for retail space along Kalamazoo Avenue SE, the first step in the ongoing approval and development process, said Jon Ippel, Amplify GR executive director.

Boston Square is the “commercial gateway” at Southtown’s eastern end, anchored by Walgreens, Standard Lumber and Modern Hardware. The well-trafficked section of Kalamazoo Avenue provides accessibility and visibility opportunities for Boston Square retailers. The district includes an existing concentration of small, local retailers but has a high level of vacancy.

Amplify GR is leading the Boston Square Together collaborative that is creating plans for the site. Other partners include contractor Rockford Construction and Northbrook, Illinois-based developer Brinshore.

Boston Square Together hosted three open houses to gather community feedback for the development project. The plan was compiled using information from those events, as well as a neighborhood survey, a Boston Square-area specific plan created over a decade ago and the more recent Southtown business-area specific plan.

“This really tries to begin to implement that vision,” Ippel said.

More than 250 individuals participated in the feedback events, about 70% identifying as residents of Boston Square, as defined by Hall, Giddings, Burton and Eastern. Of the remaining participants, the majority were area business owners, employees or churchgoers.

Ippel said the overarching theme heard from the community was the desire for greater economic opportunity without displacement.

“This is a socially, economically diverse neighborhood, and we want to ensure that the design reflects that,” Ippel said.

Housing for the project includes 22 owner-occupied townhomes and 215 apartment units for a wide range of income levels with homeownership opportunities on the site and in surrounding neighborhoods. Most of the buildings throughout the development will be mixed-use with housing on the upper floors.

The affordable housing buildings would be owned by a group consisting of Amplify GR and Brinshore, which would facilitate the tax credits, Ippel said. The collection of owners for each building may differ, depending on the nature of fundraising needed for its completion.

About 62,000 square feet in retail and commercial spaces include a food hall, retail incubator space, a bank and a grocery store.

The goal is to have business ownership opportunities that reflect the diversity of the community, Ippel said.

A 12,000-square-foot early learning center was one of the key features residents want included in development. Through a partnership with the Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative, the center will serve young children from six months to 5 years old and provide education, health services and holistic support for families.

An 18,000-square-foot community hub will provide space for community events. In front of the community building will be green space, including an amphitheater and a rejuvenated Silver Creek.

The project also includes 340 off-street parking spaces and 140 on-street parking spaces.

In completing the project, there will be an emphasis on construction contracts for minority-, women- and 49507-owned companies.

The team plans to break ground no later than next year, Ippel said. New community amenities are planned to be completed in the following couple of years.

Ippel said he estimates full redevelopment will take about 10 years to be completed. Cost is undetermined, he said.

Ippel said Amplify GR plans to continue working with neighbors to inform the vision of the project.

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