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Take a fresh look at Uptown

Walking through the Uptown business districts allows neighbors to see how much Eastown and its surrounding areas have changed and enjoy all that they have to offer.

Uptown /Eastown Community Association

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What business districts are a part of Uptown?

Uptown Business District is a collection of neighboring business districts:


East Hills

Wealthy Street

East Fulton

Keep track of what's happening in Uptown on their Facebook page.

See a full map of the Uptown districts here.

Last week I bumped into an old friend and his family in Eastown. It was somewhat shocking to both of us that it had been almost 10 years since we had last connected in person. We joked how typical it’s become for the gravity of work and kids to pull us in on a day to day basis. What was more shocking to me was how much his kids had grown. Have my kids grown that much too? Somehow it didn’t seem possible. So much can change in 10 years, and so much goes by unnoticed. Maybe it’s the day to day approach of sorting through everything that relentlessly bombards us.

After we covered the standard topics of school, kids’ sports, work and our parents’ health we agreed to try to get together soon, they moved on with their evening plans and walked down Wealthy. I stood there for a moment, and watched them go. Were those really the same kids? No more ice cream on their chins and ketchup on their shirts – and did the oldest really call me Mr.?

As I hustled to get to my car and my next scheduled appointment, I walked past the Eastown Flats. I had watched them being built over the previous months, but it was amazing that they were occupied and there was music coming from several of the balconies. Somewhere upstairs, I heard a group of people start laughing loudly. For a moment, it felt like a much larger city. The sound of the cars on the brick, the music, the laughter – it was a little like Brooklyn, only newer. Gone was the quarter car wash where I had been so many times. Gone was the parking lot at Atlas where you could usually find a late afternoon Hacky Sack circle in the shady part of the lot.

I usually think I’m pretty good at paying attention. I remember the seemingly endless boom, boom, boom of the soil being compacted at the Center of the Universe. At the time, I didn’t think they were ever going to get that hole filled. I was living on Cherry then, and while the district has had the benefit of long term, anchor businesses, you’ll agree it’s a bit more robust today. It’s not just Cherry Hill, the whole of Uptown seems to be changing. Conversations about where to eat in Uptown used to include the phrase ‘the new place on…’ and now most of them have been woven into our day to day lives.

The neighborhoods surrounding the Uptown business districts have changed as well. Real estate provides a unique, front row seat for me but you don’t need to be in real estate to experience it. Just take a walk. Walk to dinner, walk to a park or just walk around the block. Almost everywhere you’ll find fresh paint, new windows, flower gardens and people. Lots and lots of people. You’re thinking "of course there’s people," but I don’t remember it like this. I’ve lived in Uptown for 20 years, and it seems like the vibe has become a little more seasoned, a little more consistent. Every now and then I hear somebody prattling on about Grand Rapids neighborhoods and the old stigmas regarding good streets and bad streets, good blocks and bad blocks. That’s the stuff that holds us back. Those tired, old attitudes. If you’re laughing, then you know what I mean.  If you’re offended – maybe it’s time for a walk? You might be surprised.

I didn’t really take the time to connect with my friend in the past 10 years. He didn’t really try to connect with me either. Our lives had slowly changed, and we just didn’t put any effort into it. Sometimes I think we end up in the same spot with our relationship with Grand Rapids. We get busy, and we don’t take the time to notice it’s growing up. If you have a chance to get out into the neighborhoods of Uptown, I think you’ll find the ice cream and ketchup are gone.

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