The Rapidian Home

City officials monitor growth trends, watch for indicators of gentrification

Grand Rapids planning director Suzanne Schulz discusses how City officials work to ensure the growth of a diverse city population.
Grand Rapids houses many upscale renovated buildings

Grand Rapids houses many upscale renovated buildings

A new housing development on Fourth Street

A new housing development on Fourth Street /Scott Trumbo

Grand Rapids is one of the few economies in Michigan to be making a rebound. In recent years there has been a lot of high end construction in the downtown area. There are now all kinds of restaurants, shops and businesses that cater to high end services. 

Often with new development, especially when there is a push for high end, there is always a fear of running into problems with gentrification. Gentrification is typically defined as a process in which wealthier citizens move into a neighborhood, causing an increase in costs in housing and services available. The concern is that growth and development can turn into displacement: low income residents, businesses and others who work or live in the area being forced to find a different place to live. Though research varies on the amount of displacement caused by gentrification, many municipalities work to mitigate the possibility of gentrification-caused displacement becoming a reality.

According to the 2010 American Census there are 81,075 housing units serving a population of 188,040 in Grand Rapids, Mich. Using the same survey, 39 percent of houses are rental properties, with the rest being owner occupied properties.

One of the most common types of development around Grand Rapids are large scale projects. For instance Grand Valley State’s nearly 19 million-dollar acquisition of four city blocks for the new health science campus illustrates the scale some developers are willing to go.

The City of Grand Rapids Planning Director Suzanne Schulz keeps a watchful eye on the community’s growth.

“People do not lose their homes in Grand Rapids because the neighborhood value has gone up so much they can’t stay,” says Schulz.

Schulz does not believe that the housing market is too high priced. She also mentions that initiatives like the Michigan Street Corridor Plan and research from the Johnson Center of Philanthropy's Community Research Institute help better illuminate the conditions within the entire Grand Rapids community.

“There is a huge benefit of having a range of incomes. You get reinvestment. You get equity in properties… right now it is trying to find what this balance will look like,” she says.

She stresses the importance for any city to have a diverse range of income earners living in all areas of the city. The benefits of having high income earners in an area could involve higher home values for owners and more services available due to having more tax revenue being brought in.   

Displacement can be a side effect caused by lack of opportunity, and that is something that Schulz does not want to see. 

Schulz and many other city administrators are conscious of the future development of Grand Rapids. The Michigan Street corridor plan provided extensive amounts of data for understanding of the overall health of the community at large. Schulz wants to aim at keeping that diversity in Grand Rapids. With a wide range of incomes in Grand Rapids, Schulz is confident the doors of opportunity will open. 

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.