GRAND RAPIDS — The Grand Rapids City Commission has approved zoning changes and a community partnership agreement meant to enforce social equity for the planned Boston Square Together mixed use development on the city’s southeast side.
Initially the development raised concerns among neighbors about gentrification and displacement in the historically disenfranchised part of the city. The development plans include retail and up to 270 residential housing units with varying housing types and affordability. Several people spoke in favor of the development and its addition of affordable housing stock in the area during a public hearing earlier this month.
Amplify GR is the project developer, which was founded with financial backing from the Doug and Maria DeVos Foundation, the Cheri DeVos Foundation and Rockford Construction Co. Amplify GR has been collaborating with the city of Grand Rapids, the Boston Square Neighborhood Association and Oakdale Neighbors for the past year to get feedback on the plan.
The collaboration resulted in the groups forming a community partnership agreement, which the city commission approved at its Tuesday meeting. The agreement outlines objectives community members hope to see in the development, including commitments to economic opportunity for business owners, rent affordability, opportunity for subsidized home ownership, as well as green space and community amenities including a community center and early learning center for children.
“As a lifelong resident of the Boston Square Neighborhood, I have longed to see a long-term vision implementing positive changes within our community,” Pastor Kenneth Hoskins, executive director of Oakdale Neighbors, said in a statement. “I believe that the Boston Square Together project will initiate that type of change. Not only am I looking at this opportunity from a residential prospective, but I also have the prospective as a partner in this project representing Oakdale Neighbors.”
The development is proposed in multiple stages spread across multiple years. Each stage will need approval from the city’s planning commission.
The community partnership agreement includes commitments to a minimum of 40 owner-occupied units and affordable housing based on area median income for at least half of the 230-250 rental units. It also stipulates at least 30,000 square feet of commercial space available for local businesses with a goal of 50 percent minority business owners, while Amplify GR will create a fund of at least $500,000 for below-market rate business loans.
The city commission also voted on Tuesday to rezone nearly 10 acres of property to advance the project. The 12 properties that were rezoned are located between Kalamazoo and Fuller avenues, and between Evergreen and Adams streets in the Boston Square neighborhood.
“Our number one priority has been and will remain to collectively provide neighbors access and opportunities to benefit from neighborhood growth,” Amplify GR Executive Director Jon Ippel said in a statement. “We’ve held important conversations with residents, taken desired community assets from previous area specific plans and are now ready to execute the vision created with neighbors that is inclusive of those who live, work and play in Boston Square.”