Amplify GR is committed to collaborating with residents and local organizations to find sustainable solutions that support stronger, more equitable neighborhoods. Here are answers to some questions we have heard to provide greater insight on past, current and upcoming projects within the Boston Square, Madison Square and Cottage Grove neighborhoods. We appreciate that you may have additional questions and would encourage you to connect with us for more information as we continue to work together to expand opportunities for neighborhood growth.
What is Amplify GR?
Amplify GR is a nonprofit organization with a mission to support strong Grand Rapids communities in the Boston Square, Cottage Grove and Madison Square neighborhoods by focusing on education, housing, jobs, entrepreneurship and community well-being. We partner with residents, businesses and community organizations to promote additional opportunities for residents to participate in and benefit from community growth. We exist to help build a community in which everyone has ample access to self-sufficient income, a safe home, a well-rounded education, a healthy community and economic opportunities to create wealth. We are here to support equitable neighborhood growth, where all children grow-up with hope and return as adults with joy.
We are working hand-in-hand with residents and community partners to:
- Bring good paying jobs to the neighborhood and connect existing and emerging entrepreneurs with solutions, like office space and opportunities for funding
- Provide residents the resources needed to stay in their homes and in their neighborhood while bringing additional quality and affordable housing opportunities to the community
- Support powerful outcomes at neighborhood schools, including programs like Scholar Strong, an initiative that provides grants to teachers and staff for creative learning opportunities
- Build a safe and healthy community where all residents can prosper and have access to a well-rounded education
There are great things happening in our community, and we want to amplify what’s already working. We believe everyone deserves:
- To earn a living that allows them to support their families
- To choose where they live and feel safe in their neighborhood
- To have opportunities to learn and grow
- To participate in and benefit from neighborhood growth
Our approach has been influenced by the Purpose Built Communities model, which is a coordinated approach of community partnership and development focused on breaking the cycle of poverty. This model has seen tremendous success in major U.S. cities, including Atlanta, New Orleans, and Birmingham, Alabama, and we’re confident that in time we will see similar success in Grand Rapids.
What type of properties does Amplify GR own and how do you partner with Rockford Construction?
Amplify GR has purchased approximately 32 properties on 35 acres in the Boston Square, Cottage Grove and along Madison Avenue in Madison Square. Our priority is to focus on underutilized or vacant commercial and industrial corridors—properties that in many cases have been vacant for several years. These properties were purchased in anticipation of bringing jobs and housing to the neighborhood, supporting existing businesses and local ownership, and providing workforce development opportunities as the neighborhood grows.
Rockford Construction was chosen to serve as a lead development partner with Amplify GR and will focus on attracting new businesses to vacant properties while expanding contracting opportunities for small and diverse construction companies.
What are the goals for the properties that Amplify GR owns?
Over the last decade, the community has provided tremendous input into what they would like to see in their neighborhood. Past examples include the 2019 Southtown Area Specific Plan, the 2009 Boston Square Area Specific Plan, and Amplify GR surveys. Residents have consistently shared the desire for more stable, quality and affordable housing; greater commerce and business ownership opportunities, good paying jobs; open space; improvement in public health and educational outcomes; and strong concerns over issues associated with gentrification and displacement.
Amplify GR is committed to supporting these community-voiced outcomes with a blend of uses that allow for the needed mix of new employment, entrepreneurial opportunity and a variety of housing options to appropriately widen pathways for community-wide success. Grand Rapids’ strong economy is spurring increased real estate investments in neighborhoods across Grand Rapids, which often leads to the displacement of families and locally owned businesses. We are committed to working with the local community to prevent such displacement from taking place.
Our goal is to work with residents to ensure future opportunities align with community priorities for the neighborhood, whether it be employment or business ownership opportunities, or providing greater affordable housing options. Our vision is to ensure that other components of neighborhood vitality, such as schools—including expanded early childhood education—and open space, are also considered.
How does Amplify GR interact with other local groups that have served this neighborhood for a long time?
We are committed to building and maintaining strong partnerships with local community groups who work closely with other nonprofit organizations in the area. Since May 2017, we have had over 2,500 conversations with the community – from large meetings to individual discussions – because we want residents and other stakeholders to have a strong voice in this process. To that end, the Amplify GR team regularly meets with residents, business owners, existing nonprofits, and community groups to identify ways we can work together. We are committed to connecting and amplifying the mission of nonprofits and groups on behalf of the community. Our collaborations include supporting teacher projects at three neighborhood schools through Scholar Strong, expanding summer learning, repairing homes with Home Repair Services, preserving affordability with ICCF, and increasing access to fresh local food with Urban Roots. These are just a few of the partnerships that have ensued from conversations with you!
Aren’t property taxes going to rise substantially with all this new development?
In Michigan, the Headlee Amendment capped property taxes at the lesser of inflation or 5% as long as that property isn’t sold and would only increase marginally as property values increase.
For example, if your house is valued at $100,000, your property taxes under current law will not go up higher than approximately $20 per year as long as you own it. We believe homeownership is one of the greatest means of increasing household wealth. We’re committed to developing partnerships that support homeowners on a tight budget by decreasing maintenance and utility costs as an effective strategy for saving homeowners money through collaborative partnerships, such as Neighborhood Strong.
How does Amplify GR define affordable housing?
We believe that neighborhoods are healthiest when they provide quality housing options for a mixture of income levels. Through our conversations within the community, we’ve heard that stable, quality, long-term affordable rental housing and homeownership are top priorities for the neighborhood. We’re continuously working with the community to identify what types of housing would allow residents to choose where they live.
Amplify GR aligns with the City of Grand Rapids’ definition of affordability, which states that a family should spend 30 percent or less of a household’s gross income on rent / mortgage and utilities. Households that spend more than 30 percent of income on housing-related costs are considered “cost burdened” and may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care.
Long-term, Amplify GR is committed to creating, preserving and/or renovating housing options designated for low and moderate-income families. Specifically, Amplify GR has developed a three-prong housing strategy that:
- Supports existing low- and moderate-income homeowners maintaining their homes through the Neighborhood Strong program in partnership with Home Repair Services.
- Preserves and protects long-term affordability within existing residential neighborhoods through partnerships with ICCF and other housing nonprofits.
- Will develop new housing choices that have a broad mixture of affordability levels. Specifically, Amplify GR is committed to ensuring that at least 60% of new units are protected as affordable for those making 60 percent or less of the Area’s Median Income.
Will there be ownership opportunities for residents?
Yes, there will be expanded opportunities for homeownership and business ownership. Amplify GR is committed to creating spaces for 50+ new businesses, with hopes to ensure that business ownership is reflective of the communities we serve.
There also should be opportunities to invest in the real estate or businesses that grow in the neighborhood. Amplify GR is committed to creating pathways so that future investment opportunities exist, but also ensuring that residents can participate in and benefit from neighborhood growth.
Is Amplify GR helping to create jobs in the area?
Yes, Amplify GR is focused on job creation in the three neighborhoods.
We are actively working to attract businesses to the area that are committed to hiring local talent at a fair wage with defined pathways for employee development. Our goal is to add 1,000 positions. We have already begun to see such opportunities with R&R Mechanical, Advanced Technology Recovery, and several others that are planned to open in 2019.
We are asking partner employers to ensure a minimum 30% of hired employees come from the neighborhood. We are also committed to ensure that minimally 30% of construction contracts go to minority, woman, and/or 49507-headquartered businesses. Additionally, we are putting plans in place to ensure that a minimum 30% of construction work goes to people living in 49507.
How does Amplify GR work with the communities it serves?
Amplify GR is an independent nonprofit organization that is focused entirely on building and sustaining growth in the Boston Square, Cottage Grove and Madison Square neighborhoods. The nonprofit organization has five full-time staff members and its strategic direction is developed in partnership with a board of directors. (see Staff and Board page on the website).
In partnership with a group of dedicated residents and community members, a Resident Advisory Committee was formed to provide greater input into future projects, programs and processes. This group was instrumental in forming programs such as Neighborhood Strong and the Amp the Good Mini-Grant program, which many residents have already received.
Through intentional and coordinated investments, we are eager to partner with neighborhood members to continue the momentum in Boston Square, Madison Square and Cottage Grove.
How is Amplify GR funded?
In addition to strong neighborhood and resident partnerships, Amplify GR relies on generous donors to make its work possible. Funding for Amplify GR comes from donations made by individuals and nonprofit groups, and have included partners like The Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation, CDV5 Foundation, and many others.
How can the community get involved?
The Amplify GR team is always looking for feedback and opportunities to connect with residents and community members. We truly want you to participate in this process and share your vision for the community.
Neighborhood planning never stops, which is why we encourage residents to get involved. We’ve assembled a Resident Advisory Committee to ensure we are aligning with what community members want and need. If you’re interested in learning more, please stop by our office at 1480 Kalamazoo Ave. SE, give us a call at 616-279-3936 or attend one of our frequent community meetings.