The Rapidian

Heartside meeting to revitalize neighborhood association

Residents and community members in Heartside meeting monthly to reform neighborhood association and address concerns together.
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Residents and concerned stakeholders in Heartside are revitalizing their neighborhood association after the area has gone without one for several years.

Artists Reb Roberts and Carmel Loftis of Sanctuary Folk Art (140 Division Ave. S) and Danielle Alexander, co-owner of Bombadil Books (315 Division Ave. S) are behind the revitalization. The group has already had two meetings, beginning with a community gathering on June 1, 2016.

“We were interested to know what neighbors in Heartside felt like were important issues and passionate about creating a place for everyone at the table,” Alexander said.

“Having a neighborhood association in Heartside can give us the collective strength to advocate for necessary, positive social and physical improvements needed for our neighborhood,” Roberts added. “We as a group can do as other neighborhoods do, which is to be instrumental in looking out for each other and helping to make political changes that will address common concerns and immediate emergencies."

The community gathering on June 1 attracted a diverse group of more than 40 neighbors, including business and property owners, nonprofit managers, and neighborhood residents, who worked together to brainstorm a list of issues they felt were most important. The list included:

  • Safety
  • Infrastructure
  • Inclusion
  • Being Good Neighbors/Working Together
  • Growth & Development
  • Access to Basic Needs

“The ideal purpose of having a neighborhood association in Heartside is to facilitate the unified voice of residents, merchants, and property owners in order to create and uphold a crime-free and vibrant area for ourselves, our families, our friends, our customers and the entire community to live safely and feel welcome,” Roberts, owner of Sanctuary Folk Art, said. Roberts has owned and operated Sanctuary Folk Art in Heartside for over 15 years. Many know him from his urban revitalization art across Grand Rapids

“We’re excited to have a diverse group of neighbors getting together,” Alexander said. Alexander opened Bombadil Books, a used bookstore that also features the work of local writers who self-publish, with her partner Tim Albon last November.

“We have a great business association in Heartside, as well as an association of nonprofit social service agencies that meets (Heartside Neighborhood Collaborative Project). But we didn’t have a group where residents were meeting, and meeting with business and property owners, and nonprofit managers. I think that’s so important right now, especially as the neighborhood, and city, is growing,” Alexander said.

“It has been far too long in this neighborhood since an association was in place to help represent the common good of Heartside. Many groups meet to highlight their own specific agendas but rarely move forward toward a "pro bono publico"  approach to Heartside,” Roberts agreed.

The group will now be meeting the third Tuesday of every month from 6:00-7:30 p.m. in the Community Room at the Herkimer (309 Division Ave. S, basement level). The meetings will be informal potlucks where solutions and strategies to address the issues listed will be created, acted on, and evaluated. For more information or to connect, please email [email protected]l.com or call 616-288-7165.

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