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Community Updates: Friday, June 24

The City Planning Commission approves multiple commercial developments in Grand Rapids; Friends of Grand Rapids Parks announce the 2022 "Movies in the Park" summer series; the Kent County Health Department offers three days of free HIV testing in Grand Rapids
An Amtrak train leaving the station in Grand Rapids

An Amtrak train leaving the station in Grand Rapids /John Rothwell

The City Planning Commission Approves Multiple Commercial Developments in Grand Rapids

The Grand Rapids City Planning Commission met on Thursday, June 23 to discuss applications for commercial developments within the city. The first item on the agenda was the former Westside Apostolate Thrift Store building at 1232 Bridge Street. The Sovengard (a restaurant that currently operates at a location just down the road at 443 Bridge Street) would like to open a new location on this vacant lot. The proposed building will accomodate roughly 125 patrons inside, as well another estimated 100 patrons in an outdoor "beer garden" area. The applicant mentioned that they had reached a parking agreement with the nearby Resurrection Fellowship Church (allowing The Sovengard to use a portion of their parking lot), but the Commission did not recieve a copy of this agreement. Since the site in question is in a primarily residential area of Bridge Street, a few of the surrounding property owners showed up to present their concerns to the Planning Commission. One of the biggest issues that members of the community brought up was parking management -- especially as plans have been made to repave and repaint many of the neighboring roads within the next year. As one resident put it:

"We'd love to find an actual solution for a lot of us that have no driveways, alleys, whatever... we rely on street parking for our day-to-day lives."

Other neighbors expressed concern about noise pollution and traffic safety. One of the biggest issues that was brought up was that of the Bridge Street Hill, which sits right on the corner of Bridge Street and Valley Avenue (where the proposed restaurant would be built). "That hill comes right down -- that's why there's a lot of accidents right there," one woman said. "People can't stop -- in the winter, [they] come down, and hit cars coming off of Valley. I mean, it happens all the time and now you want to increase that." Another man, who stated that he was part of the John Ball Area Neighbors, also expressed concerns about the hill. "If drivers are not riding their brake from the top of the hill, they get going really fast... and they come out from that curve and the view block from the underpass and all the sudden they're right there in front of this place," he stated. "That's the nature of why people... who drive that street regularly find this to be dangerous."

Eventually, the City Planning Commission approved the application under the following conditions:

  • No outdoor entertainment
  • Adequate sound buffering is put in place to prevent disturbing nearby residences
  • If adequate parking becomes unavailable (such as the church parking lot agreement falling through), the outdoor seating area will be closed
  • Operating hours will be changed so that the restaurant closes at 10:00pm on weeknights and 11:00pm on weekends

The commission also approved a number of new developments at 3445 28th St. SE (the former Toys R' Us store) near Centerpointe Shopping Center. Among these developments are easements on the lot to ease traffic flow and an additional drive-thru lane/more building space for Chick Fil A. Two new buildings will also be constructed in this space -- one will be a Chase Bank and the other will be a BJ's Steakhouse. 


Friends of Grand Rapids Parks Announce the 2022 "Movies in the Park" Summer Series 

This summer, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks (in association with a number of other organizations) will be hosting the 4th season of Movies in the Park. The series will begin on Saturday, June 25 with a showing of Space Jam 2: A New Legacy at Gerald R. Ford Middle School and will be followed by a showing of Encanto on Friday, July 15 at Roberto Clemente Park. The last film of the season will be Sing 2, which will be played at Camelot Park on Saturday, August 20.

The movies will begin at dusk on the aforementioned dates, but games and music will be available to guests beginning at 7:00pm. Those who choose attend any of the film screenings are asked to bring their own chairs and/or blankets to the event should they desire them. Robinson Popcorn will be providing popcorn and soda (while supplies last) and Daddy Pete's BBQ will be giving free food to the first 150 attendees. Alcohol will not be permitted.

For more information about this summer's "Movies in the Park" series, visit the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks website here


The Kent County Health Department Offers Three Days of Free HIV Testing in Grand Rapids

June 27 is National HIV Testing Day and, in recognition, the Kent County Health Department will be offering three days of no-cost HIV/STD testing to members of the public at different locations throughout the city. According to a Thursday press release, this event will focus on the importance of self-care and, in addition to testing, will feature "access to health care information and resources, outdoor games and activities, and free snacks and drinks." The release also goes on to explain why HIV testing is important:

"Kent County has a higher-than-average percentage of people who are diagnosed with HIV at a later stage, meaning they have AIDS or Stage 3 HIV at the time they test. Testing for HIV is important because there are often no symptoms when someone has HIV. Once someone is diagnosed with HIV, medications will help bring the level of the HIV virus in their blood to a point where it is "undetectable," meaning they are not able to spread the virus to others. With medications, people living with HIV can live long and healthy lives."

The first testing date is on Monday, June 27 at Martin Luther King Jr. Park from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. The second testing date is on Wednesday, June 29 at Heartside Park from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. The third and last testing date is on Thursday, June 30 at Garfield Park from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. The Kent County Health Department always offers free HIV testing at the Fuller Clinic, so individuals who cannot attend on these dates can also make a seperate appointment there. Their phone number is (616) 632-7171. 

For more information, visit the Kent County Health Department's website here or view Thursday's press release here.


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