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DeVos-created Amplify GR to host meeting June 29 on development plans in Southtown

June 12, 2017

The DeVos-created organization, AmplifyGR, will be hosting a meeting on June 29, from 6 – 7:30pm at the Living Word Church, located at 1534 Kalamazoo Ave. SE.

In the past two weeks, we have posted two stories about the DeVos/Rockford Construction plans to re-develop parts of Southtown.

In our May 29 article, we primarily provided information on the meetings and planning that AmplifyGR has been participating in, meetings that have largely been limited to planners and policy makers. The May 29 article also provides details of the vision that the DeVos/Rockford Construction tandem has for parts of the southeast area of Grand Rapids.

On June 1st, we reported that AmplifyGR had canceled a scheduled meeting they were invited to that was being hosted by GR Homes for All. That meeting was cancelled in part because of the fact that AmplifyGR was clearly presented as a DeVos-created entity, something that they were not transparent about on either their website or their Facebook page.

Last week, we then posted part two of our initial article on the DeVos/Rockford Construction collaboration to redesign parts of Southtown, with details on how many properties they had purchased in preparation for their development plans. 

Now the June 29 meeting has been scheduled. The AmplifyGR facebook page says that the meeting is being hosted by the two Third Ward City Commissioners (Lenear and Allen) and AmplifyGR. The description also says that Doug DeVos, from the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation will speak, followed by the CEO of Rockford Construction, Mike VanGessel.

The Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation are financing this re-development project, although we do not know how much money they are investing in the project, since their foundation will not have to legally post their 990 financial disclosure documents for another two years. However, we do have information on what the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation has been funding in recent years that are relevant to the AmplifyGR discussion. 

First, the person who is working for AmplifyGR, Willie Patterson, used to work for LINC, which has received more funding from the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation since their founding than any other source.

Second, the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation has invested significantly in “educational” projects in Grand Rapids, often in conjunction with the Grand Rapids Public Schools. Their foundation has been the primary funding source for the Believe 2 Become project, which has been a way for the DeVos family to inject religion into the local public schools, along with the Grand Rapids Initiative for Leadership, which is an even more overtly faith-based program that works with the GRPS. This “educational” funding is relevant, since one of the components of the Southtown development vision is education. Education, with the DeVos context means private, charter or faith-based programing with a public school system.

Lastly, the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to ideologically driven organizations, such as the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which has been a leader in opposing marriage equality in the US. More importantly, the Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation regularly funds groups like the Acton Institute, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, all of which support neoliberal economic policies that harm working class families and communities, like the neighborhoods being targeted in the AmplifyGR plans.

After Doug DeVos and Mike VanGessel speak at the June 29 AmplifyGR meeting, there will be a presentation of the development plans, “followed by the opportunity for neighborhood residents and business owners to ask questions and learn how to stay involved in the ongoing planning in the community by the City of Grand Rapids and AmplifyGR.”

This last sentence suggests that what is being developed is more or less a done deal and that the June 29 meeting is designed merely to inform people what they will be doing. Let’s face it, a meeting that only lasts 90 minutes, includes comments from politicians, Doug DeVos and the CEO of Rockford Construction, followed by a presentation of the AmplifyGR project, won’t allow for much time for people to speak up. In reality, the June 29 meeting is a managed meeting, like so many other meetings led by developers, and is not really designed for public input, rather it is just to create a perception that they want to hear from the community.


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