DeVos nonprofit works to redevelop GR’s SE side

A property on Grand Rapids' southeast side that Amplify GR, a DeVos-backed nonprofit, is working to redevelop. (June 14, 2017)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A DeVos family-funded nonprofit is working to redevelop vacant buildings on Grand Rapids’ southeast side, specifically in the Cottage Grove and Boston Square neighborhoods.

Amplify GR says the development will be driven by the wants and needs of residents in the neighborhood, but some are skeptical.

There are people who are concerned that redeveloping these buildings could push out neighbors.

24 Hour News 8 spoke with residents who said they aren’t worried about development, they are excited.

“I think it’s a good idea, yup,” said April McFerrin. “It’s just sitting there, you might as well use the building for something.”

McFerrin and her mom moved into the Cottage Grove neighborhood last year and is now raising a young son. She would like to see more places for kids to play.

Amplify GR
Amplify GR, a DeVos-backed nonprofit that aims to help revitalize Grand Rapids’ southeast side. (June 14, 2017)

Amplify GR worked with Rockford Construction to purchase roughly 20 properties. The nonprofit was created by foundations for Doug, Maria and Cheri DeVos.

“Downtown there has been a tremendous revival of the downtown area, but we also recognize that, that success has been uneven,” said Amplify executive director Jon Ippel.

Ippel, a former city planner in Orlando, says Amplify GR wants to change that.

“The hope is that we really begin working with residents to figure out what should happen on these properties moving forward,” he added.

Ippel says that could mean more parks, affordable housing or job opportunities. He says fears of gentrification are unwarranted.

The city commissioners for these neighborhoods are keeping a close eye on the plans.

“(Aplify GR) is asking us to hold them accountable and they are asking us to join them on their journey. So that’s a good start in my book,” said Third Ward City Commissioner David Allen.

Third Ward commissioners Allen and Senita Lenear have stressed that pushing residents and minority owned business out will not be tolerated.

“I can’t predict the future, but I would say all the indicators right now there is this big developer that say we bought this land, help us develop it. There are no plans,” said Allen.

Amplify GR says the reason the nonprofit was created is simple.

“We strongly believe strong neighborhoods are a key part of the success story of this community,” said Ippel.

On June 29, Amplify GR will be holding a meeting with the neighbors to provide more details about plans and get feedback. The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. at Living Word Church located at 1534 Kalamazoo Avenue SE.

**Correction: An earlier version of this article said the June 29 meeting would start at 6:30 p.m. It will actually start at 6 p.m. We regret the error.