GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Longtime community leader Reverend Kenneth Hoskins knows Boston Square about as well as anyone.

He was born here over 60 years ago. He grew up here and raised his family here.

The executive director of the Oakdale Neighborhood Association says Amplify GR’s plan to improve the neighborhood, has brought him renewed optimism.

“Years ago, as a child, we knew our neighbors. Three houses down we knew the neighbors. It’s not like that so much now. I see that coming back,” Hoskins said.

Amplify GR, a DeVos Foundation-backed effort to revitalize the Boston Square neighborhood on the city’s south east side, is set to present ideas to the city’s planning commission on Thursday.

A courtesy map showing the proposed redevelopment plan for Boston Square in Grand Rapids.

The plan involves a nine-acre area bordered by Hall Street to the north, Burton Street to the south, Eastern Avenue to the west and Sylvan Avenue to the east.

A courtesy rendering of the proposed development in Grand Rapids’ Boston Square neighborhood.
A courtesy rendering of the proposed development in Grand Rapids’ Boston Square neighborhood.

New retail space would bring jobs to the neighborhood. A park including an amphitheater would improve quality of life.

Affordable housing for several income levels, as well as ways to help low-income residents keep up with the value of their homes are also part of the plan. All of it based on neighborhood input.

“You will see a state-of-the-art early childhood development center because we heard from neighbors consistently that early childhood is important to them,” said Latesha Lipscomb, community engagement director with Amplify GR.

Organizers say the input will help avoid a problem that’s hit other inner-city neighborhoods that have seen a rebirth, like a section of Wealthy Street on the southeast side: gentrification.

“The G-word is something that we hear all the time, certainly with the housing shortage and crisis in Grand Rapids,” Lipscomb said.

Lipscomb says letting residents, not a developer, decide what needs to go into the neighborhood will help guard against gentrification.

Hoskins, who serves on one of the project’s committees says the plan was hard sell for some neighbors in the beginning, but he too believes the neighborhood can be improved without forcing people out.

“I don’t believe it has to happen,” Hoskins said. “And the process, the way they’ve included the community, the way they’ve looked at affordable housing and those type of things, I don’t think it has to happen. I don’t believe it will in this process.”