Growth defines Grand Rapids. The city bustles with residents flocking to trendy apartment complexes. Construction sites climb skyward, and new businesses pop up every day.
The media has taken notice. In recent years, Grand Rapids has gained a reputation as one of America’s hottest destinations. Top 10 lists of fastest growing economies and best cities for first-time home buyers consistently include Grand Rapids. The craft brewing industry reigns supreme, earning Grand Rapids’ distinction as Beer City USA. Not that long ago, critics thought of Grand Rapids as flyover country.
Lifelong residents can hardly recognize the downtown area they once knew. The rise of the VanAndel Arena, Medical Mile, and the Grand Rapids Downtown Market amaze people to this day. Each year, ArtPrize draws in over 500,000 visitors, who check out the art pieces filling every public space. Once complete, the Grand River Restoration project will offer new walkways and water sports. Change is coming to the city, and it’s coming fast.
Is this change positive if some residents are left behind, though? Not all of the lists that Grand Rapids has appeared on have been positive. In 2015, Forbes Magazine ranked Grand Rapids in second place on a list of the least economically-friendly cities toward African Americans. Another concern is that gentrification will increase the cost of food and housing, pushing out individuals who can no longer afford to live downtown. What good is growth if it comes with greater racial disparity and income inequality?
As Grand Rapids grows, it is critical to consider what the impact of change will be. Infrastructure needs to adapt to accommodate a rising population. Sustainability must factor into building plans. Neighborhoods can shape the cities’ brand.
What’s your take? Do you like the direction that Grand Rapids is heading in? Are you feeling excited about the development, worried about change, or somewhere in between? How do you think the city should grow intentionally?
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