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Community Updates: Friday, January 13

Roger That! symposium to return to the Grand Rapids Public Museum and Grand Valley State University in February; proposed Brownfield project on the City's northwest side draws frustration from residents at Tuesday's City Commission meeting; and more
A comet in a starry night sky with the silhouette of a lighthouse visible in the foreground

A comet in a starry night sky with the silhouette of a lighthouse visible in the foreground /John Rothwell

Roger That! Symposium to Return to the Grand Rapids Public Museum and Grand Valley State University in February

In February, the Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM) and Grand Valley State University (GVSU) will be partnering to host the seventh year of Roger That!, a two-day symposium that "celebrates space exploration and the life of Grand Rapids native, Roger B. Chaffee." 

Roger That! will begin at the Grand Rapids Public Museum on Friday, February 10 and continue through Saturday, February 11. During this event, GRPM visitors of all ages can take part in a variety of educational activities and lessons organized by the Museum and its community partners. Attendees will be able to examine samples and artifacts collected from meteorite impact sites, learn about the history and purpose of NASA's Golden Record, design their own rockets, catch a show at the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium, and more. Visitors can also register for a free lecture from this year's keynote speaker, astronaut José Hernández (ret.), that is scheduled to take place at 11:00am on February 11. For more information about the numerous activities that will make up this year's Roger That! celebration, visit the GRPM's website here

On February 10, GVSU will also be hosting a number of events beginning at 8:30am as part of the Roger That! celebration, the schedule of which can be found here. The conference will feature eight speakers from a variety of disciplines:

Astronaut José Hernández (ret.) will be giving his presentation at the Loosemore Auditorium beginning at 6:30pm on Friday, February 10. This presentation will be available in-person and via Zoom.

Those interested in attending this conference are asked to register here.


Proposed Brownfield Project on the City's Northwest Side Draws Frustration from Residents at Tuesday's City Commission Meeting

At the January 10 meeting of the Grand Rapids City Commission, the first of 2023, a public hearing session was held for a proposed Brownfield project on the City's northwest side. Jeremiah Gracia, the Director of the Grand Rapids Department of Economic Development, and a representative from the development team presented a plan to the City Commission in the hopes of receiving a Brownfield Plan Amendment and Local Brownfield Revolving Fund dollars to support this project.

According to the presentation, the proposed space would include sixteen residential housing units (including studio, one-bed, and two-bed units) and over 30,000 square feet of office space. The developers also claim that this project will facilitate the creation of approximately 95 jobs "with average wages of $29.00 per hour." This statement resulted in some raised eyebrows from a few of the Commissioners, including Commissioner Lisa Knight of the Second Ward. "I have not seen an office job pay $29 an hour unless you're moving up into the C-Suite," she stated. Commissioner Nathaniel Moody of the Third Ward also expressed some skepticism, asking the developer if they had a description of the jobs that are paying $29 per hour. In response, the representative from the development team stated that "it's really an average office salary... $65,000 a year times the square footage of... how many people per square foot of space that we come up with this idea."

During the public comment portion of this meeting, many Grand Rapidians expressed frustration over the lack of affordable housing in the City, as well as the possibility of the City granting Local Brownfield Revolving Fund dollars to the developers on this project. The estimated monthly rates for the residential units provided in the report are:

  • $1,335/month for a studio
  • $1,540/month for a 1-bedroom
  • $1,875/month for a 2-bedroom

"A lot of people in this city can't afford that," one resident remarked while at the podium. "...[the developers] can afford it. They don't need our money, they don't need the City's money, and a lot of it can be reinvested in affordable, market-rate, or below market-rate units for our people in this City." Another resident expressed concern over the AMI rates provided by the developer. "If you look at the chart, it has an under 100% [AMI], which means literally nothing," he said. "It could be 99% and they delivered what they said they were going to do."

This discussion around the lack of affordable housing also led into a discussion about the lack of resources for and treatment of unhoused individuals in the City (especially as it pertains to two ordinances proposed by the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce in December of 2022). According to one resident that identified himself as a local clinical social worker who works with a nonprofit, "it is much, much cheaper for the City to work on sustainable long-term housing for people than it is to work on criminalizing just trying to live." 

To watch the full City Commission meeting, visit the City of Grand Rapids YouTube channel or watch below:


Also in the News:

  • The City of Grand Rapids sent out a press release this week to remind residents that, in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, many of its offices (excluding GRPD, GRFD, and GRPL) will be closed on Monday, January 16. 


  • The City of Grand Rapids sent out a press release to announced that residents can now access the City's annual financial report online, as well as a "Citizen's Guide to the City's Finances." For more information, visit the City's website here


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