GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Neighbors, community partners, stakeholders and area officialsgathered in the Boston Square neighborhood today to commemorate construction work on the $25 million Boston Square Community Hub. The two-story, 45,000 square foot multipurpose facility, located at 1534 Kalamazoo Avenue, will be dedicated to supporting the health and well-being of its neighbors. The event also celebrates a four-year community engagement process and a two-year design engagement process to capture the neighbor-voiced priorities for the Community Hub or “Hub.”
“For decades, neighbors have been seeking spaces to gather and increased access to services and resources. The genesis of the community hub is from Boston Square area neighbors – a tremendous manifestation of those community conversations and desires,” said Jon Ippel, Amplify GR executive director. “It is with their passion and excitement the Boston Square Community Hub will become that desired space. We are incredibly grateful to this community for their help, a testament to their commitment to building a strong and healthy neighborhood.”
The Community Hub is supported by private and public contributions and is expected to open the first phase in early 2024 and be complete in early 2025. It’s anticipated that 40 to 50 full time staff will work at the Community Hub. Most of the amenities and services will occupy the first floor. The entire second floor of the Hub will be occupied by organizations that provide wrap-around services to increase access to resources and education in the neighborhood.
The Boston Square Community Hub will be co-managed by partners: Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative (ELNC) in partnership with IFF, Corewell Health and Amplify GR. The Hub will include a 5,500 square foot health center operated by Corewell Health; a 9,000 square foot early childhood center operated by ELNC; office and community programming space for Amplify GR; a coworking space; a 240-person community event and performance space; a community café; approximately 16,000 square feet of programming space and 8,000 square feet of wellness spaces (e.g., fitness classes, after school programming and arts enrichment) to be offered by tenants that are still being finalized.
The components of the Hub reflect several top priorities identified by the Boston Square and Oakdale area neighbors as being necessary for strengthening the community, including:
- Dependable, affordable childcare
- Access to health care and wellness resources
- Flexible special event space suitable for family and organizational use
- Coffee shop and community areas for neighbors to visit
- Co-working spaces
- Holistic community resources under one roof
The engagement process was led by Boston Square Together partners (Oakdale Neighbors, Boston Square Neighborhood Association, City of Grand Rapids and Amplify GR) with neighbors and stakeholders to create a collective community design for the facility.
Rockford Construction has been renovating an existing building, most recently used as a church, to transform the property into the Community Hub.
“Rockford is tremendously excited to be building in Boston Square and in alignment with neighborhood priorities, said Brad Mathis, Rockford Construction’s vice president of community development and inclusion. “Our construction efforts for the project are leading with a very intentional commitment of hiring local- and minority-owned contractors along with efforts focused on workforce development for historically underrepresented people in the construction industry. We are aiming for 30% of the project to be contracted with local and minority owned businesses.”
Corewell Health will operate a health center in 5,500 square feet of space on the main level. The center will offer primary care for both adult and pediatric patients. It will focus on value-based outcomes, reducing the burden of disease, and preventative tactics to improve the health of the area’s population.
“We are committed to community partnerships that help solve problems,” said Dr. Alejandro Quiroga, president of Corewell Health in West Michigan. “This neighborhood has lower health outcomes than people who live in surrounding neighborhoods. We aim to disrupt that pattern and help people here thrive.”
Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative (ELNC)
ELNC will be one of the first tenants to operate out of the space. They intend to operate a 9,000 square foot early childhood center beginning in January 2024. The space will initially accommodate 80 children between five weeks and 5 years old. IFF, a nonprofit lender and developer headquartered in Chicago with a Grand Rapids office, is providing funding for the ELNC space. IFF provides loans, real estate consulting, and development to support mission-driving nonprofits in the Midwest.
“Every community should have access to high-quality spaces designed specifically to help children learn, grow, and develop – and this early learning center will provide exactly that,” said Rick Raleigh, IFF senior project manager. “This new early learning center represents a significant investment not only in every child who has the opportunity to access quality education in the center, but in the future of the neighborhood itself. IFF is proud to have the opportunity to play a small role in helping bring this space to fruition and we’re excited for the work ahead.”
One space that is anticipated to see the most frequent use and was regularly identified as a priority need in community feedback sessions, is a multipurpose community room. During public input sessions, neighbors indicted that there wasn’t a clean, safe space to gather in the area. The Community Hub will have a 240-person multipurpose room that will accommodate neighborhood organization meetings, celebrations and private events.
“There are limited spaces in the community where neighbors can rent out and gather, so we hope this space, with affordable rates and flexible use, will add more opportunity to gather.” said Latesha Lipscomb, Amplify GR director of engagement and relationships. To help accommodate increased traffic, a former car wash space will become a 40-spot surface parking lot. As well, future developments surrounding the Community Hub will offer surface parking.
Every aspect of the Hub is a result of neighbor input, including a group that has been extremely helpful to Amplify GR: the Neighborhood Advisory Committee (NAC). This is a group of about 15 neighbors that offer input, feedback, and guidance on several areas of Amplify GR programs and services. For this project, they have worked diligently to bring neighbor insights and necessary changes to all stages of the design process, including brainstorming which neighbor-voiced priorities should be represented in each project. Project teams ranging from architects and construction managers have benefited from firsthand input from the NAC. They, along with all neighbors, are a trusted source that help guide and strengthen Boston Square!