Where to get your board game:
Grand Rapids Planning Department
1120 Monroe NW
Call 616-456-3031 or send an email for more information
Open Monday thru Friday until 4pm
Quantities are limited & game results are due back to the department by March 2, 2012
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The Grand Rapids Planning Department is hoping to spark some community conversation about what needs to be done to improve the Michigan Street Corridor. Instead of just holding meetings and forums, the planning department is trying something new: distributing a recreated version of "The Game of LIFE" board game, turning it into the "Quality of Life" on Michigan Street Corridor. The corridor, by definition, runs from the Grand River all the way to the East Beltline and is currently being studied to decide what developments need to be made to the four mile long vein of the city. The game also considers 20,000 residents of seven surrounding neighborhoods to be included in the corridor.
Intrigued, I picked up my own copy. There are different reasons I personally use the corridor: my dog's vet is located right on Michigan Street, as is my doctor's office and the shop I frequent for all my indoor garden needs. I was also excited to play the game with my dad, who works in the corridor at Spectrum Health Hospital. My dad is the man who is not a huge fan of large crowds or bad drivers in congested areas, so I thought he would be a good perspective for the game.
We decided to head to the corridor itself to play the game. We landed at Biggby Coffee on the corner of Michigan and Fuller and started the first part of the game. The rules were straightforward: roll a die, move your game piece, and stop at red lights. If you stopped at a stoplight, you had to answer a STOP card which included questions of economy, housing, infrastructure, and transportation. The answers to those questions were recorded in a booklet that is returned to the planning department.
When we finished the first part of the game, we headed down Michigan to Plymouth, and then turned around, driving the entire length of the corridor to the river. There was a lot to the corridor that neither of us had noticed until we actually played the first part of the game and had all of those questions looming in our minds: rundown, vacant buildings; industrial buildings in use, but not well maintained; the lack of greenery; the traffic lights that could be timed differently or accommodate those turning to jump on the highway; or the random cars parked on the road that may be obstacles for people.
My favorite part of the game came a little later and required some creativity and imagination. You were given different colored stickers that correlated with the big cards of the same color that dealt with different parts of the improvement plan: economy, infrastructure, and housing. On the reverse side of those cards were different options associated with a letter. You put the colored sticker on the game board, and use the provided Sharpie to write the letter of what you think should go there. For example, on the infrastructure card were options like trees, wider sidewalks, waste receptacles, benches, or marking somewhere on the corridor where street parking should or should not be allowed.
The last part of the game was an alter ego section where you had to roll the die, and put yourself in the shoes of the profile in the numbered square you rolled. People like a college student, an elderly woman, and a business owner all had different agendas for their use to the corridor, and you had to problem solve based on what they needed (like someone getting from the East Beltine to the Walgreens). The obvious point to this was to consider the many uses of the corridor of people who do not use the corridor like I do.
If I'm being honest, without this game I would not have become involved in the planning to improve the Michigan Street Corridor. It's not that I don't care or don't pay attention, it's just that hearing about a Grand Rapids board game is a bit more exciting to me than attending a meeting where I feel like my voice is too small to matter. It was a great experience, especially enjoying a leisurely Saturday afternoon with my dad on Michigan Street, relearning a piece of Grand Rapids in a new way and brainstorming just what would make it an improved part of our city.
I'm excited to check in later and see what other people decided to be the best plan for the corridor through playing the game. The discussion is already happening, and will probably gain speed as more people play the game. Anyone interested in taking part in the process and playing the "Quality of LIFE" game can pick it up at the Grand Rapids Planning Department's office which is located on the 3rd floor of 1120 Monroe NW.
I am a graduate of Grand Valley State University, holding a degree in English Language and Literature with a minor in History. I love writing stories that share the special or creative moments of our city. I am a mentor to other reporters as well. I am inspired by author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. for his words, sarcasm, perspective and legacy.