GR holds first Neighborhood Summit

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A community is only as good as the sum of its parts. With that in mind, Grand Rapids city leaders held the first Neighborhood Summit Friday to gather ways to improve life block by block.

Participants included what for many neighborhoods is the most-recognized institution: Schools.

“They are an anchor, a pillar in the neighborhood, absolutely,” said Bridget Cheney, principal of Congress Elementary School.

But Cheney says that too often, schools are treated as a separate issue when it come to neighborhoods.

“We all love the community that we live. We all love the community which we play. So why not bring them together?” said Cheney, who was among the participants in the summit.

Mayor George Heartwell set the idea for the summit in motion last year as a way to tap into the energy already coming from the various Grand Rapids neighborhoods, including downtown.

“People have similar concerns … with access to grocery stores and transit and gathering spaces,” Second Ward City Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss said. “We have all of these amazing neighborhoods. All for them are at different places when it comes to revitalization.”

Participants attended break-out sessions and talked about what works and what doesn’t. They voted on their top priorities to help guide city leaders, especially around budget time.

“It’s more than just an event. It’s the start of a larger ongoing conversation about the importance of neighborhoods, how we make sure we maintain those neighborhoods , and also that we build on them,” said Bliss, who added she hopes the first ever Neighborhood Summit become the First Annual Neighborhood Summit.

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