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Millions for an Amphitheater, while tens of thousands in Grand Rapids face poverty, eviction and structural racism

June 17, 2021

On Wednesday, MLive reported that the Grand Rapids City Commission has approved exercising the option agreement to purchase property from the County located at 1500 Scribner Avenue NW.

The MLive article also reports that the cost of purchasing the property from the county would total $7,450,000. If the City of Grand Rapids follow through with this purchase, it would then house the following departments at the new location – Public Works Department, Parks and Recreation Department and Office of Special Events. 

All of this, is of course, due to the proposed 14,000 seat outdoor amphitheater that would be somewhere on Market Ave. SW. We began reporting on the amphitheater proposal back in October. We have also written the following articles as this project has unfolded:

Grand Rapids invests over $6 million for private development in downtown, while Southeast Grand Rapids experiences disinvestment: We call this Structural Racism

Grand Action 2.0 speaker provides update on new development vision for Grand Rapids: Whiteness, Grand Rapids as a destination and Disaster Capitalism

DeVos controlled Amphitheater Project using public money will be voted on at the February 9th Grand Rapids City Commission meeting 

How is it that we allow groups like Grand Action 2.0 to get away with the shit they do?

Now, since Grand Action 2.0 first began proposing the 14,000 seat outdoor amphitheater, the City of Grand Rapids, along with the Convention and Arena Authority and the DeVos-owned 63 Market Holdings LLC have agreed to collectively pay for the relocation of the eastside trunk sewer, with the City of Grand Rapids paying $6,252,643. Next, the Convention and Arena Authority has entered into an option agreement that allows the authority to purchase 11.6 acres along Market St. which includes the City of Grand Rapids property that houses the Public Works Department, the Parks and Recreation Department and the Office of Special Events. The estimated purchase cost of the 11.6 acres is $24.5 million, according to MLive. The most recent news is that the City of Grand Rapids will likely purchase the 1500 Scribner Avenue NW property from the County for $7,450,000. 

This whole project so far has involved roughly $42 million, between the City of Grand Rapids, the Convention and Arena Authority and the DeVos-owned 63 Market St LLC. This is a great deal of money, which demonstrates that when a multi-billionaire family the the DeVos family wants something, they usually get it. Sure, building an outdoor amphitheater will bring more people, including more tourists to Grand Rapids, which means more money will be spent in the city. But, we must always ask ourselves who are the primary beneficiaries of such projects?

The primary beneficiary will be the DeVos family, since they own several hotels in the downtown area, a restaurant and a wine bar. The other beneficiaries will be other major property owners in the downtown area, many of which are part of the Grand Rapids Power Structure. Parking dollars go to the City of Grand Rapids and Ellis Parking. Most of the restaurants and bars owned in the downtown area are owned by those who own multiple establishments. It is true that all of the bars and the hotels rely on workers, but those workers will generally not see an increase in pay, which means the majority of the money will go to the ownership class, some of whom are millionaires and billionaires. 

The other thing, which is important to ponder, is the fact that when it comes to the economic interests of the wealthiest in this community, the City of Grand Rapids can move rather quickly and invest lots of public money to accommodate private economic interests. Millions of dollars will be spent by the time the outdoor amphitheater will be built. Imagine if those millions were being spent to provide decent housing to families facing housing insecurity? Imagine what millions could do if they were transferred into neighborhoods that have high concentrations of poverty, particularly Black and Brown neighborhoods, and those residents got to decide on how these millions would be spent? Imagine how much relief these millions, which are going into development for an amphitheater, could provide to families who are struggling to survive? 

It is never a question of a lack of money or a lack of resources when it comes to creating real equity in this city, since millions will be spent for an amphitheater. The question is really about priorities. When will people realize that the priorities the Grand Rapids Power Structure (which includes government officials) is to look out for their interests. Sure, they will always provide charitable donations, but they will never make it a priority to end the poverty and racism that thousands face in this community. We have to build a robust social movement that will not only challenge those with power in this city, but dismantle the power that is responsible for so much suffering in Grand Rapids.

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