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Billionaire Meijer Family opens store on Bridge St. now that the neighborhood is catering to the professional class

June 28, 2017

On Monday, Meijer executives and other members of the Grand Rapids elite showed up for a photo opportunity and to promote their own business interests.

Meijer held a “ground breaking” ceremony, where a bunch of White-connected men did the whole, “we are only mimicking that we are doing actual physical labor,” photo op.

Channel 8 began its news story with the news reader saying, “It’s an exciting day for Grand Rapids’ westside,” which normalizes the ongoing celebration of more development that will cater to the more professional/business class and further marginalize the working class and communities of color. 

The WOOD TV 8 story, like most media coverage of the new Meijer store on Bridge St, leaves out any historical context, which the billionaire Meijer family is happy about. MLive has Hank Meijer talking about how proud his father would have been about this new urban store. However, neither Hank, not his brothers, would be talking about what his Grandfather Hendrik Meijer may have thought about this, especially since Hendrik was part of a Socialist community and even made it a point to get married on the anniversary (November 11, 1912) of the execution of the Haymarket Anarchists.

The other major contextual piece that is ignored in the commercial media narrative about has to do with white flight. Meijer stores, like most retail stores, has focused heavily on suburban store development since the 1960s, in part because of the ways that cities were being designed around the use of cars, but primarily because there was tremendous economic divestment from the urban core of major cities, along with lots of white people fleeing cities out of fear, since black people were more aggressively demanding justice.

Now, the opposite is happening, where white people are re-investing in the urban core and re-taking property that has been lived on by communities of color. This is definitely the case on the near westside, which has see a significant increase in the number of Latino and African Americans over the past 20 years. However, now that white folks are seeing the benefits of “walkable” communities, they are moving back in droves to areas like Bridge St, which has been radically altered in recent years to cater to the professional and business class, with high-end stores, breweries, cafes and market rate housing.

Rockford Construction, the company that is behind this major re-development of the near westside, confirms the financial benefits that market rate housing options have on retail in their Complete Neighborhoods report, where they state: 

Locally, Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. demonstrated in a January 2014 presentation the effects of housing on retail. Market rate housing was estimated to generate $15,559 annually in retail spending, with affordable housing generating $7901 annually.

Market rate housing is already dominating the majority of the new housing options in the Bridge St. corridor and it is likely that the push for more market rate housing in the area will increase. Development projects like the new Meijer Bridge St. Market have a domino effect on neighborhoods that will ultimately mean that working class people and communities of color will be displace because existing housing options will be torn down and because landlords and property management companies will increase the rental rates.

There is nothing surprising in the commercial media’s response to the ground-breaking photo op for the new Meijer Bridge St. Market. However, it is important that we can counter the narratives about what this new grocery store will mean for the westside, who benefits and who will be marginalized. We don’t have to buy into billionaire Meijer family project, which will further the gentrification of the westside.

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