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Community Called to Action: Rally Around Artist's Creative Solution for Loitering.

Underwriting support from:
Mural located at 217 S. Division

Mural located at 217 S. Division

Historic Preservation Committee has asked Kevin Haviland (building owner) and Erwin Erkfitz (neighbor and artist) to remove an Artprize mural from the front of 217 S. Division.

Residents and neighbors suspect that once the mural is removed, exposing the deep recessed store front, it will once again become a gathering place and a source of blight in the neighborhood. The Historic Preservation Committee will be discussing and ruling on this issue on November 4th 2009 at 5pm.

After speaking with HPC officials it has become clear that without a STRONG show of support from the community there is a very good chance that the HPC will force Haviland to remove the cover (and subsequently the mural) from the front of his building. This notice is a call to action. Concerned resident who are interested in keeping the mural are asked to please attend the meeting on November 4th and be prepared to make some public remarks. 

Below is an example of a letter of support from the Heartside Business Association.

Please note that at this time the recommended course of action is to advocate for a temporary extension, as the mural is only a band aid solution for a bigger issue, the redevelopment and renovation of 217 S. Division,  not a permanent extension indefinitely is not a long term solution. 

The meeting will be held November 4th at 5pm. at City of Grand Rapids Planning Department 
1120 Monroe Ave., NW - 2nd Floor 
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Phone: (616)456-3159

What follows is a letter of support from the Heartside Business Association (published with permission from the HBA):

Greeting Grand Rapids Historic Preservation Committee Members,

The Heartside Business Association recently became aware that a letter was issued by the HPC ordering Mr. Kevin Haviland to remove the mural along the front of 217 S. Division. On behalf of the businesses and business owners that are a part of the HBA we are advocating that the HPC consider extending the exhibition of the mural piece and subsequently endorse the temporary enclosure of the front of the building. There are 3 key factors that have led the HBA to show support for Mr. Haviland:

  1. The previous negative impact of individuals gathering in the doorway.
  2. The positive feedback from residents and business owners since the mural has been installed. 
  3. The temporary nature of the cover along with a conviction that the building owner will be working to find a suitable buyer for the building in the next year.

Recently several new businesses have relocated into the lower levels of much of the 100 block as well as new residential apartments at 235 S. Division, 14 and 16 Williams. These investments have brought new awareness of the activities taking place outside of 217 S. Division. The original doorway had a deep and wide recess and had been vacant for quite some time, the space had become “home” to a group of individuals. Residents and business owners cited that space as a gathering place for prostitutes, drug dealers and individuals who have exhibited signs of extreme substance abuse. Frequently a group of 4-10 individuals could be found living in the doorway.

Since the doorway received its Artprize “facelift” we have head positive reports from residents, business owners and visitors. No longer are individuals afraid to walk by that area at night, they have found this to be a positive change and creative solution to a nagging community issue.

We have considered the Secretary of Interior Standards for rehabilitation and recognize that this extension would negate several of its key standards, however, we believe that the historic fabric of the building is not being destroyed and note that the enclosure does not permanently alter or damage the building. In fact, it is our belief that the art piece will help to protect the building while it remains vacant by allowing fewer access points for vandals and vagrants while providing an eye-catching building front that will aid in attracting new owners. 

Over the last several years many contributions to the Heartside neighborhood have begun to change the face of the South Division Business corridor. We have witnessed an increase in new businesses along the corridor and the improvement of several large properties. It is the belief of the Heartside Business Association that the renovation of 217 S. Division will not only help to retain those newer businesses but will act as an anchor attracting and retaining businesses within several block area. We hope that you will consider extending the mural display and doorway enclosure for one year as a temporary solution for a community issue while recognizing that the ultimate goal will be to support the sale of the 217 S. Division building to an investor interested in renovating the site to historic standards.

David Dee, HBA President

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