I’m a native of Grand Rapids, MI and still live near there today. I’ve always enjoyed the energy of the downtown area and am impressed with all the city has to offer even with its small-town feel. So when Grand Rapids was ranked on Newsweek’s list of the top ten dying cities, I wondered how in the world it ended up there. And judging by the comment section after the article, I wasn’t alone.
According to Newsweek’s research, based mostly on population statistics, Grand Rapids is dying because its population declined 2.1% during the time period from 2000 to 2009 with a significant number of those who left being residents under the age of 18. This data causes some concern over the future of the city, which like the rest of Michigan, has experienced high unemployment and home foreclosure rates. Although in some parts of the city these challenges are apparent, you’d never guess that Grand Rapids was “dying” while walking through the thriving downtown area.
For the past two years, the annual ArtPrize festival has drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors, giving a boost to local restaurants, nightclubs, hotels, and retail shops. The city has become the destination for many university campuses and hotel chains as well as health science businesses as billions of dollars have been invested in Grand Rapids’ “Medical Mile”. The city boasts several museums, performing arts and conference centers, a zoo, and abundant shopping, eating, and entertainment places all within a short walk or bike ride. All through the warm summer months and into the fall, crowds draw to the numerous festivals and events that offer free concerts, amazing food, fireworks, and fun! Grand Rapids is far from a dying city!
The Newsweek article struck a chord with a lot of Grand Rapids area residents so much that the mayor, George Heartwell, wrote a letter to Newsweek’s editor informing her that Grand Rapids is very much alive. I wonder if any other of the “dying” cities had the same reaction as Grand Rapids when they saw their city on the list.
To see which cities rounded out Newsweek’s list of top ten dying cities, visit: http://www.newsweek.com/2011/01/21/america-s-dying-cities.html
To see the letter Grand Rapids mayor, George Heartwell, wrote to Newsweek, visit: http://www.grnow.com/mayorheartwellletter.pdf