Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some questions we have heard to provide greater insight on past, current and upcoming projects within the Boston Square, Madison Square and Cottage Grove neighborhoods. We appreciate that you may have additional questions and would encourage you to connect with us for more information as we continue to work together to expand opportunities for neighborhood growth.

Amplify GR is a nonprofit organization that believes everyone deserves to live in a strong neighborhood that widens pathways to prosperity for all neighbors. We are rooted in Boston Square and Madison Square in Southeast Grand Rapids and proudly work collaboratively with neighbors every day at the intersection of economic opportunity, mixed-income housing, birth-to-career education and community wellness.

Our mission is to preserve and widen pathways that create greater opportunity for neighbors to participate in and benefit from community growth. We work to support neighborhoods through access to good-paying jobs, affordable housing, high-quality education, healthcare and access to greenspaces.

Amplify GR is rooted in the local community.

The drivers of our work come from community-voiced priorities. As an organization, we spent an initial 2,000+ hours talking with neighbors – the experts of a neighborhood – about what they want in their communities. We continuously work with neighbors to seek feedback and community alignment in every area of our organization.

We are also a leader in the national Purpose Built Communities movement, a network of 28 communities around the country committed to making holistic investments in defined neighborhoods. We take the best of national research and learnings and empower local leaders to create thriving neighborhoods here in Southeast Grand Rapids.

There are great things happening in the community, and we want to amplify what’s already working. We believe everyone deserves:

  • To earn a living that allows them to support their families
  • To choose where they live and feel safe
  • To have greater opportunities to learn and grow
  • To live in a place that reflects the diverse spirit of the community

Some of our current major initiatives and projects:

Founded in 2009, Purpose Built Communities supports more than 25 Network Members across the country and dozens of prospects with pro bono consulting services. Our multi-disciplinary team has the combination of expertise, experience, and partnerships to support holistic, long-term neighborhood efforts.

Amplify GR is one of the network members and the only in Michigan.

Through deep collaboration and strong investments, with the vision of neighbors at the center, Purpose Built Communities and the Purpose Built Network ensure prosperity starts with place.

Purpose Built Communities believes that every neighborhood should have the resources and amenities it needs to be worthy of the people who live there.

Learn more about Purpose Built Communities here.

A holistic approach to supporting and strengthening a neighborhood includes the spaces in which community happens every day. Neighbors have shared their priorities for their community and physical space is a part of making those priorities a reality.

Whether that is a community space like HUB 07 or a commercial kitchen + incubator program to help grow small businesses like Kzoo Station, this is part of how community happens – in the physical space. We’ve also partnered to bring businesses to the community, like MCPC, which is committed to providing good-paying jobs to those in 49507 and contributing to the community as a whole.

In 2024, we will break ground on a building we call “F2” Family Housing + Retail. This will bring:

  • 57 units for families: 17 one-bedroom, 30 two-bedroom, and 10 three-bedroom apartments
  • 80% are reserved for affordable housing for families earning between 20 and 60 percent AMI
  • 20% are reserved for “missing middle” housing between 80 and 100 percent AMI
  • 4, 684 sq ft of commercial retail space with access to the commercial corridor of Kalamazoo Ave. We envision this space for local retail entrepreneurs who are looking for high visibility in a collective environment adjacent to housing and traffic patterns in the Boston Square Business District
  • AGR is exploring a community ownership pilot for the commercial space

Learn more about the Boston Square Together site plan here.

Learn more about the employers, small businesses and entrepreneurs working in the Boston Square and Madison Square neighborhoods here.

Learn more about the approach to holistic neighborhood support and community growth from our national network organization, Purpose Built Communities, here.

Amplify GR has purchased approximately 32 properties on 35 acres in the Boston Square, Cottage Grove and along Madison Avenue in Madison Square. Our priority is to focus on underutilized or vacant commercial and industrial corridors—properties that in many cases have been vacant for several years. These properties were purchased in anticipation of bringing jobs and housing to the neighborhood, supporting existing businesses and local ownership, and providing workforce development opportunities as the neighborhood grows.

Rockford Construction was chosen to serve as a lead development partner with Amplify GR and will focus on attracting new businesses to vacant properties while expanding contracting opportunities for small and diverse construction companies.

Over the last decade, the community has provided tremendous input into what they would like to see in their neighborhood. Past examples include the 2019 Southtown Area Specific Plan, the 2009 Boston Square Area Specific Plan, and Amplify GR surveys. Residents have consistently shared the desire for more stable, quality and affordable housing; greater commerce and business ownership opportunities, good paying jobs; open space; improvement in public health and educational outcomes; and strong concerns over issues associated with gentrification and displacement.

Amplify GR is committed to supporting these community-voiced outcomes with a blend of uses that allow for the needed mix of new employment, entrepreneurial opportunity and a variety of housing options to appropriately widen pathways for community-wide success.  Grand Rapids’ strong economy is spurring increased real estate investments in neighborhoods across Grand Rapids, which often leads to the displacement of families and locally owned businesses. We are committed to working with the local community to prevent such displacement from taking place.

Our goal is to work with neighbors to ensure future opportunities align with community priorities for the neighborhood, whether it be employment or business ownership opportunities, or providing greater affordable housing options. Our vision is to ensure that other components of neighborhood vitality, such as schools—including expanded early childhood education—and open space, are also considered.

We are committed to building and maintaining strong partnerships with local community groups who work closely with other nonprofit organizations in the area. Since May 2017, we have had over 2,500 conversations with the community – from large meetings to individual discussions – because we want neighbors and other stakeholders to have a strong voice in this process. To that end, the Amplify GR team regularly meets with neighbors, business owners, existing nonprofits, and community groups to identify ways we can work together. We are committed to connecting and amplifying the mission of nonprofits and groups on behalf of the community.

In Michigan, the Headlee Amendment capped property taxes at the lesser of inflation or 5% as long as that property isn’t sold and would only increase marginally as property values increase.

For example, if your house is valued at $100,000, your property taxes under current law will not go up higher than approximately $20 per year as long as you own it. We believe homeownership is one of the greatest means of increasing household wealth. We’re committed to developing partnerships that support homeowners on a tight budget by decreasing maintenance and utility costs as an effective strategy for saving homeowners money through collaborative partnerships, such as Neighborhood Strong.

We believe that neighborhoods are healthiest when they provide quality housing options for a mixture of income levels.  Through our conversations within the community, we’ve heard that stable, quality, long-term affordable rental housing and homeownership are top priorities for the neighborhood. We’re continuously working with the community to identify what types of housing would allow residents to choose where they live.

Amplify GR aligns with the City of Grand Rapids’ definition of affordability, which states that a family should spend 30 percent or less of a household’s gross income on rent / mortgage and utilities. Households that spend more than 30 percent of income on housing-related costs are considered “cost burdened” and may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care.

Long-term, Amplify GR is committed to creating, preserving and/or renovating housing options designated for low and moderate-income families. Specifically, Amplify GR has developed a three-prong housing strategy that:

  • Supports existing low- and moderate-income homeowners maintaining their homes through the Neighborhood Strong program in partnership with Home Repair Services.
  • Preserves and protects long-term affordability within existing residential neighborhoods through partnerships with ICCF and other housing nonprofits.
  • Will develop new housing choices that have a broad mixture of affordability levels. Specifically, Amplify GR is committed to ensuring that at least 60% of new units are protected as affordable for those making 60 percent or less of the Area’s Median Income.

Yes, there will be expanded opportunities for homeownership and business ownership. Amplify GR is committed to creating spaces for 50+ new businesses, with hopes to ensure that business ownership is reflective of the communities we serve.

There also should be opportunities to invest in real estate or businesses that grow in the neighborhood. Amplify GR is committed to creating pathways so that future investment opportunities exist, but also ensuring that neighbors can participate in and benefit from neighborhood growth.

Yes, Amplify GR is focused on job creation in the two neighborhoods.

We are actively working to attract businesses to the area that are committed to hiring local talent at a fair wage with defined pathways for employee development.  Our goal is to add 1,000 positions.  There are already opportunities with Gentex, MCPC, SKG Manufacturing and more. Even more are planned for the future. Read the latest facts and figures in our 2023 Impact Report.

We are asking partner employers to ensure a minimum 30% of hired employees come from the neighborhood. We are also committed to ensuring that minimally 30% of construction contracts go to minority, women, and/or 49507-headquartered businesses. Additionally, we are putting plans in place to ensure that a minimum 30% of construction work goes to people living in 49507.

Amplify GR is an independent nonprofit organization focused entirely on building and sustaining growth in the Boston Square and Madison Square neighborhoods. The organization has eight full-time staff members, and its strategic direction is developed in partnership with a board of directors (see the Team page on the website).

In partnership with a group of dedicated neighbors and community members, a Neighborhood Advisory Committee was formed to provide greater input into future projects, programs and processes. This group was instrumental in forming programs such as Neighborhood Strong and the Amp the Good Grant program, which many neighbors have already received.

Through intentional and coordinated investments, we are eager to partner with neighborhood members to continue the momentum in Boston Square and Madison Square.

In addition to strong neighborhood and neighbor partnerships, Amplify GR relies on generous donors to make its work possible. Funding for Amplify GR comes from donations made by individuals and nonprofit groups, and have included partners like The Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation, CDV5 Foundation, and many others.

The Amplify GR team is always looking for feedback and opportunities to connect with residents and community members. We truly want you to participate in this process and share your vision for the community.

Neighborhood planning never stops, which is why we encourage residents to get involved. We’ve assembled a Neighborhood Advisory Committee to ensure we are aligning with what community members want and need. If you’re interested in learning more, please stop by our office at 1480 Kalamazoo Ave. SE, give us a call at 616-279-3936 or attend one of our frequent community meetings.