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The DeVos Family now wants to remake part of a southeast Grand Rapids neighborhood: Part II

June 6, 2017

Last week we reported on the organization known as AmplifyGR, an organization that is a non-profit, created by the DeVos family’s RDV Corporation.

We reported that AmplifyGR was working with Rockford Construction Company and the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation to develop parts of the Southtown neighborhood area, particularly, the Boston Square area and part of industrial area surrounding Cottage Grove SE.

In the March 15, 2017, Southtown Corridor Improvement District meeting minutes it states in part, “Longer term they are asking how do they reposition the properties in Boston Square and Cottage grove in a way that provides employment to people living in Southeast Grand Rapids.

While these minutes reflect the notion that AmplifyGR and Rockford Construction want to provide employment opportunities to people in the area, Rockford Construction had purchased more than two dozen properties in these neighborhoods more than a year before these pronouncements were made at the Southtown Corridor Improvement District meeting.

We Call it a Land Grab

In the first map (below), you can see that Rockford Construction (according to the most recent data available on the Grand Rapids Parcel Viewer map) owns thirteen properties in the Boston Square area. The land that Rockford Construction owns in this area is fairly substantial and makes them the largest land owner along the Kalamazoo corridor in the Boston Square neighborhood.

In this second map below (according to the most recent data available on the Grand Rapids Parcel Viewer map), one can see that the Rockford Construction Company now owns fifteen lots in the Cottage Grove area between Jefferson and College SE. In this instance, Rockford Construction, along with the Notions Marketing Corporation.

This means that as of right now Rockford Construction owns 28 properties in the target area for development, as proposed through the information presented by AmplifyGR. In addition, what this information suggests is that for at least a full year before AmplifyGR began to “engage” the community, Rockford Construction was quietly buying up property with the intention of developing the Boston Square and Cottage Grove areas.

Here is where resident are at a disadvantage. Developers, like Rockford Construction, do not come to residents in neighborhoods to present an idea before they develop plans or buy property. It seems that the only just thing to do would be for residents to have an equal say in what happens to their neighborhoods before plans are being developed or property is being purchased by an outside entity.

Now, this may seem unrealistic in a world where property ownership is held sacrosanct, but such a process would limit the power that developers, land speculators and investors have in the process.

What AmplifyGR is really doing, and what it was designed to do (in my opinion), is to amplify the voices of developers and investors who have purchased land in the Southtown area, without telling residents, thus creating a power dynamic that favors those with wealth.

In this instance, with an imbalance of power, what recourse do residents have if they do not want what AmplifyGR, Rockford Construction or the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation is selling? Residents could organize and ban together to create and community land trust, which takes time and is no easy task or they could organize to publicly resist these forces through an informational campaign that would seek to get the larger community behind them to stop the proposed plans laid out by AmplifyGR, as we reported on last week

AmplifyGR already pulled out of a scheduled meeting with Grand Rapids Homes for All that is scheduled to be held at the Baxter Community Center on June 8.  However, this seems like an important opportunity for people who are concerned about the economic and political forces like Rockford Construction and members of the DeVos family who want to redesign an entire neighborhood. One of the best ways to defeat power is by shinning the light on what they are doing, along with resistance to whatever plans they want to impose on residents of that area.

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