GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Diatribe is going full speed ahead with its vision of building an arts and culture hub and transforming the Burton Heights neighborhood.

“It’s really important that you drive through our neighborhood,” said Marcel Price, The Diatribe’s executive director. “It’s really important that you see how disproportionately invested in that the Burton Heights community has been.”

The Diatribe plans to tear down a building at 2040 Division Avenue South near Burton Street that Price said needs to be “completely gutted” because of environmental issues. In its place would be the Emory Arts & Culture Hub.

“This is something that’s going to bring a significant amount of attention, a significant amount of foot traffic,” Price said. “This is something that’s going to be able to (be) used as an anchor to invest in other businesses.”

A rendering from the Diatribe of an arts and culture hub in the Burton Heights neighborhood. (Courtesy Marcel Price)
A rendering from the Diatribe of an arts and culture hub in the Burton Heights neighborhood. (Courtesy Marcel Price)

Price said the hub would bring more traffic to long-standing small businesses in the area.

“We want to show our community that you’re deserving of a space like this,” Price added. “That it’s long overdue. Really what we want to do is we want to create an anchor that will pour into all the other businesses and bring a sense of importance and added identity to a neighborhood that is already so rich with it.”

Affordable housing would cover the top floor.

“These studios are going to start off around $600 a month,” Price said. “Two-bedrooms are going to be around $800 a month.”

The first floor would include retail spaces, with a coffee shop and bookstore, design studio and printing press, visual arts and recording studios and more. On top of that, there would be an open workspace on the first floor.

“A creative working space for community advocates, change-makers and neighbors,” Price explained. “If people want to slow down their street, we can show them how to petition the city to add speed bumps. If people want to just come and hang out and learn and see where different resources there are in the city they can tap into, they can do that there.”

Price said that during after-school hours the workspace would be a “hangout space” for people between the ages of 20 and 30.

“We serve the entirety of their needs,” Price said. “Not only do they come here to do programming, but we focus on the entirety of their lives. Did their parents want to see a therapist? Do they want to see a therapist? How can we get them connected to primary health care doctors and really measure how we can impact young people.”

Down in the basement would be a venue dedicated to performing arts.

“We’ve been wanting to create a space, an after-school space for young people, a place where artists and creatives can live, a place where people can start retail businesses and have storefronts for a number of years,” Price said.

Price said The Diatribe is making progress on making the $5.6 million project a reality, despite a December setback at the Kent County Board of Commissioners meeting.

The Diatribe had requested $2 million in American Rescue Plan funding for the arts and culture hub. The board of commissioners declined to include the organization among the 30 projects that received part of $108 million in ARPA funding.

Now, Price said they’re seeing growing support from the community for the project. Steelcase recently gave The Diatribe $375,000, Price said.

So far, The Diatribe has raised $1.5 million, receiving donations from The Wege Foundation, The National Poetry Foundation, Hank and Lisa Meijer and more smaller contributors.

The group still needs another $4.1 million to make the project happen and plans on launching a capital campaign soon. The effort will be aiming at bringing in donors large and small.

Price also said he hopes the county commission “makes it right” by donating. He hopes the city takes part as well. The Diatribe is also targeting state and federal funds for the project as well as the “public and private sector.”

“The fact we’re at $1.5 million and we haven’t even publicly launched the capital campaign is huge,” Price said.

The group aims to break ground later this year and finish the building by late 2024. Price said the group will get the funding they need in time.

“This is something that is going to truly transform and add to our neighborhood unlike anything (that has come) into our neighborhood and added to it before,” Price said.