GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Construction is well underway on a $25 million project at the heart of a multistep plan by nonprofit Amplify GR to reshape the Boston Square neighborhood in Grand Rapids.
The group says the project, the Boston Square Community Hub, will help transform the neighborhood for generations to come.
“What you see taking place is a representation of true transformational change,” said Latesha Lipscomb, the director of engagement and relationships for Amplify GR.
Rockford Construction has been renovating the old Revolution Church building on Kalamazoo Avenue for weeks. By late 2024 or early 2025, it’s expected to become the Community Hub, a two-story, 40,000-square-foot building.
“We coined the Community Hub as the community’s front porch and living room,” Lipscomb said. “This is such an important critical part of the transformation of Boston Square.”
Inside will be what Amplify GR says neighbors have long been asking for.
“What you see is what neighbors have said they’ve wanted and have been needing and desiring for decades,” Lipscomb said. “This is really their dreams and visions coming to life.”
An early childhood center is expected to open in January 2024, open to 80 children between 5 weeks and 5 years old. Amplify GR is teaming up with lender and developer IFF and the Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative for the center, which Lipscomb calls a “high-quality, state-of the-art facility.”
“To be quite honest with you, there is just not enough high-quality education opportunities for Black and brown babies in the neighborhoods we serve,” Lipscomb said. “This is just one way we can elevate that experience for families and create access to high-quality, affordable child care.”
The group is also looking to team up with a health care provider to open a clinic and wellness center inside in late 2024.
“Neighbors can actually potentially see a primary care physician just a block away from their home,” Lipscomb said.
Some neighbors reported not having a “safe, clean or vibrant” space to gather in the neighborhood, so there’s also going to be a multipurpose room for community events.
“The multipurpose room can be used for neighborhood organization celebrations or award ceremonies,” Lipscomb said. “Birthday parties or even celebrations of life. Unfortunately, there aren’t many places in the neighborhood where neighbors can rent out at an affordable price to have some of those celebrations.”
The Community Hub is part of the Boston Square Together development, a larger project to grow the neighborhood.
In addition to the hub, Lipscomb said Amplify GR is set to knock down the old Standard Kitchen Building at 1450 Kalamazoo Ave. SE south of Adams Street in September. In its place would be two four-story apartment buildings.
The Community Hub project has been at least five years in the making, Lipscomb said.
“We knew very early on through our engagement with neighbors this was a necessary component to really honor and uplift their priorities,” she said.
There will be parking near the Community Hub. A former car wash nearby is being torn down to create 43 spaces.
The hub is supported by private donors and Kent County, which contributed $4 million in federal American Rescue Plan coronavirus relief funds. Everything within the hub is expected to support 40 to 50 full-time workers.
“We envision this will have great generational impact for years to come,” Lipscomb said.
Amplify GR invited the community to come to the property on April 26 between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to celebrate the start of construction with an event the group calls a “sky breaking” rather than a groundbreaking. That’s because renovations will turn the structure into a two-story building.