Out of town development

What seems like positive news about the future of 28th Street emerged in yesterday’s Grand Rapids Press. According to the report, the City Commission have been revising their ‘master plan’ for the first time in a decade. Parts of the plan share intentions to make 28th Street more pedestrian friendly, giving the suburb of Kentwood more of a sense of place, improve transport links, and potentially make ‘land-use modifications’ which could imply changes to the zoning laws that currently maintain large portions of 28th Street as ‘commercial property only’ and result in a street that is effectively one big strip-mall.

It’s difficult to know quite what to make of these suggestions, and any analysis must note that these are currently draft plans. 28th Street is, to my way of thinking, a pretty unpleasant place to be, filled with box stores separated by parking spaces and an always-crowded road. If the majority of the city’s retail life continues to take place out there, it needs to be a more pleasant place.

There remain the box stores. Both an eyesore and a leach on the local economy, there’s good reason to oppose their presence, but there’s little chance of them moving away, and it would be sad if precious planning money were invested in increasing their turnover at the expense of the local businesses that are still trying to maintain some semblance of downtown, and neighbourhood life. In improving transport links the city would do well to look very carefully at how they could best utilise the space around their new central bus station. While Kentwood could certainly do with a lift to its “sense of place”, it’s to be hoped that the center of Grand Rapids isn’t forgotten.

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  1. 28th Street Development

    pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, landscaping along the busy road and a more comfortable feel for shoppers…

  2. hi, james. our small town of Three Rivers, MI is about to approve a big box ordinance that will guide the look and feel of future stores by regulating lighting, sidewalks, buffer zones, tree types, facade design, etc. i don’t know how deeply you’ll get into this issue, but the city commission worked off of several model ordinances from Portage (MI), Ann Arbor and Frankfort (IL). let me know if you’d like contacts for any of these to pass on to decision-makers. i’d also recommend:



    perhaps you’re just an observer, but these principles are quite interesting, nonetheless.