HNCP: Gentrification & The Heartside Neighborhood

Pastor Jay wrote in his preceding article about how you may have noticed numerous articles regarding the business development, which is expanding the downtown area into the Heartside neighborhood.

Gentrification, which is the restoration of run-down urban areas by the middle class usually resulting in the displacement of low-income residents, usually carries a negative connotation.  In fact, it is seldom mentioned when talking about redevelopment of urban areas – that is how volatile the term itself has come to be.

It was refreshing when Pastor Jay met with Kris Larson, the new Executive Director of the Downtown Development Authority, and surprisingly, Mr. Larson did not shy away from talking about gentrification.  He suggested it is not a question of when Heartside will be gentrified but how.  The real questions are: How can Heartside and Grand Rapids be a positive example of inclusivity?  How will gentrification affect residents, specifically those with mentally or physical disabilities, and those who struggle with addiction and/or homelessness?

Gentrification is happening; soon there will be new restaurants, shops and living space in Heartside.  The cranes all around the neighborhood and the construction fence around the block to the south of us are visible reminders.  It is yet to be determined how this will play out for the Heartside Neighborhood.  For now, the Heartside Neighborhood Collaboration Project continues to ask these questions: How can Heartside be a place where all are welcome?  How can attitudes be changed so that poor is no longer misunderstood to mean dangerous?  How can we be catalysts to help Grand Rapids and Heartside be positive examples of development done well?

Bethlehem Church has already showed our hand.  We took a long vacant building and redeveloped it into a place where all are welcome.  We are here, and committed to supporting the people and this neighborhood – all the people of our neighborhood.

“To go fast, go alone; to go far, go together.” Ancient Chinese Proverb