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East Hills Council of Neighbors to unveil public space strategy

The East Hills Council of Neighbors will unveil how it is planning for people- instead of cars- when they present their public space strategy at a public meeting on Monday, June 23.
The Green Well patio

The Green Well patio /Eric Tank

Underwriting support from:
In front of Brewery Vivant

In front of Brewery Vivant /Eric Tank

Grove Restaurant outdoor seating

Grove Restaurant outdoor seating /Eric Tank

Join the East Hills Council of Neighbors as they present their Public Space Strategy at a free public meeting on June 23 from 6-8 p.m. at the Inner City Christian Federation. The strategy is broken down into four parts; Neighborhood Parks and Greenspaces, Streets as Public Space, Adaptive Reuse and New Construction and East Hills Loves Congress.

Since its start in the 1980’s, East Hills Council of Neighbors (EHCN) has worked endlessly to ignite tools of placemaking, declaring East Hills as the most desirable neighborhood in Grand Rapids. An walkable urban space with three healthy business districts, variety of residential options, preservation of historic buildings and a streetscape safe for every pedestrian, East Hills makes it a point to plan for people first.

In a year long process that was generously funded by the Dyer-Ives Foundation, EHCN brought together more than 100 residents to develop its Public Space Strategy. The beginning stages called for a round of meetings with three EHCN committees: Greenspace, Complete Streets and East Hills Loves Congress. The second stage involved two public input meetings focusing on parks greenspace and one regarding Complete Streets, followed by one public meeting at which Mark Miller of Nederveld and Ted Lott of Lott3Metz presented the first draft of the document.

After integrating feedback from these meetings, EHCN presented the strategy to Wealthy Street Business District, East Hills Business District, East Fulton Business District, Grand Rapids Public Schools and Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.

“We’re actively showcasing simple tools for making our community better. The idea is to make placemaking that much more accessible - cultivating a ‘Do-It-Together’ culture that makes good things happen today – not 10 or 20 years from now,” says Rachel Lee, Director of EHCN.

In terms of neighborhood parks and greenspace, East Hills hopes to expand recreational activities and to program parks for active use during every season. Emphasis will be placed on making Congress School Park a destination for the entire community to use.

The strategy also calls for increasing the tree canopy in conjuction with Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.

“We are a compact community and we have to make the most of the greenspace that we have. Parks, yes, but also the streets and public spaces throughout the neighborhood, “ says Lee.

As a part of its Complete Streets efforts, East Hills aims to be the most walkable, pedestrian/bicycle friendly and environmentally friendly neighborhood in Michigan.

The strategy places pedestrians at the top of the transportation hierarchy. Design decisions will work to slow traffic down and increase pedestrian movement and safety. Increased pedestrian traffic will promote commerce in East Hills’ business districts as well. East Hills will also collaborate with The Rapid on increasing ridership and marketing routes 4, 5, 6 and 14 that run throughout the neighborhood.

East Hills promotes adaptive reuse and new construction that are contextual with the scale and character of existing buildings. New projects in East Hills' three historic districts must follow the standards and guidelines set forth by the Secretary of the Interior and the Grand Rapids Historic Preservation Commission.

“The strategy seeks to accentuate the historic character and public spaces of East Hills while balancing growth and development opportunities that will further invigorate the community,” says Mark Miller, Senior architect and planner at Nederveld.

Finally, the East Hills Loves Congress initiative envisions a first rate neighborhood school that also serves as a seven-day-a-week community center. Plans include expanding the school from K-5 to pre-K through eighth grade and building a soccer field and track on the grounds at Congress School. 

“This neighborhood is beautiful, romantic. People fall in love with this neighborhood; they want to be a part of this community. We get emails and calls every week from people who want to buy here, rent here [or] start a business here,” explains Lee.

For EHCN, the goal is to celebrate the success that the community has experienced over the last decade while also effectively addressing issues relating to growth. The work of EHCN increases public safety while building a community-driven vision for the neighborhood: slowing cars down to make the streets safer for pedestrians; preserving the character of historical districts; increasing the passive and active recreational opportunities in parks and greenspaces; keeping families in the neighborhood by working towards a first rate neighborhood school.

All of this work is about promoting an active, healthy community - for people first.

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