American Planning Association Designates Heritage Hill a Top 10 Great Neighborhood for 2012

The American Planning Association (APA) today announced

the designation of Heritage Hill as one of 10 Great Neighborhoods for 2012 under

the organization's Great Places in America program. APA Great Places exemplify

exceptional character and highlight the role planning and planners play in adding value

to communities, including fostering economic growth and jobs.

APA singled out Heritage Hill for its vast array of architectural styles, community

engagement, rental and ownership options, and character. Heritage Hill, founded in the

1840s, is not only Grand Rapids' oldest neighborhood, it is the city's first preservation

district and one of the largest historic districts in the nation.

"Heritage Hill exemplifies the importance of a sense of place and how preservation and

incorporation of our heritage in community planning can create a desirable atmosphere

and vibrant community. Heritage Hill is the back bone to the revitalization of Grand

Rapids, something that would not have been possible without the hard work and grass

roots advocacy of the residents of Heritage Hill." Mayor George K. Heartwell

Through Great Places in America, APA recognizes streets, neighborhoods, and public

spaces featuring unique and authentic characteristics that have evolved from years of

thoughtful and deliberate planning by residents, community leaders and planners. The

2012 Great Places have many of the features Americans say are important to their "ideal

community" including locally owned businesses, transit, neighborhood parks, and

sidewalks. They illustrate how the foresight of planning fosters tomorrow's communities.

Since APA began Great Places in America in 2007, 60 neighborhoods, 60 streets and

50 public spaces have been designated in 50 states and the District of Columbia.

"Heritage Hill is a great neighborhood not only to Grand Rapids, but to the country

given the national precedent for historic preservation residents set in 1970," said APA

Chief Executive Officer Paul Farmer, FAICP. "Because citizens here were engaged, the

neighborhood's exquisite 19th and early-20th century homes still stand today. I can think

of no better proof of how planning and citizen participation help bring lasting value to

communities," he said.

While the character of this initially affluent neighborhood began to change in the 1940s

grand homes were divided into apartments to accommodate a post-World War II

population surge it was an urban renewal proposal, a plan to raze three quarters of

the neighborhood that galvanized residents and led to the formation of the Heritage Hill

Association (HHA) in 1968. The group successfully lobbied for a city moratorium on

construction and demolition projects on the hill and then turned its attention to securing

historic district status. Three days after being listed on the National Register, the U.S.

Department of Housing and Urban Development approved a plan that would have

changed the face of Heritage Hill.

HHA used the district's new status to invoke a section of the National Historic

Preservation Act of 1966 prohibiting federal funds from being used to the detriment of

any site, landmark or district listed on the National Register. The subsequent compliance

conference stopped the urban renewal project at the district's door and established a

new legal standard.

As the redlining by banks abated and land speculators began looking elsewhere, HHA

instituted several programs including a home tour, which dates to 1969 to raise

its profile. Revitalization began in earnest when Heritage Hill started its own urban

homesteading project and wrote a citywide urban homesteading ordinance. Slowly, new

residents both renters and homeowners moved to the area, fixing up properties. Still,

the neighborhood suffered from a high rate of absentee landlords.

To stem neglect, the city's 1992 plan for the area offered guidance and helped establish

a grant/loan program for property improvements. It built upon the residents' own 1988

master plan. While Heritage Hill still has one of the lowest percentages of owner-

occupied houses in Grand Rapids and several homes in need of some TLC, it contains

some of the most stunning and well-preserved architectural treasures in Michigan. The

meticulously restored Meyer May House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1909, is

known as "Michigan's prairie masterpiece."

More than 60 architectural styles are represented among the neighborhood's 1,300

houses, many featuring well-manicured lawns and gardens. A lack of public green space

on the hill has residents engaged in an effort to convert a 2.3-acre parking lot into a

sustainable park.

This pedestrian-friendly neighborhood, replete with sidewalks, features bike lanes on

several main roadways. Bus service will be enhanced when the new Silver Line bus

rapid transit begins operations along the neighborhood's western boundary, which sits

adjacent to Grand Rapids' downtown. The city also is studying streetcar options.

For more information about these public spaces, as well as APA's top 10 Great

Streets and top 10 Great Places for 2012 and previous years, visit www.planning.org/

greatplaces. This year's Great Places in America are being celebrated as part of APA's

National Community Planning Month during October; for more about the special month,

visit www.planning.org/ncpm.

The City of Grand Rapids Planning Department invites to join Mayor Heartwell

and other dignitaries in celebrating the NATIONAL RECOGNTION of HERITAGE HILL.

This is an invitation-only event to celebrate a special announcement (the details

of which will be announced on October 3rd).

Location:

Grand Rapids Community College

White Hall Fulton Street Campus

Wednesday, October 3, 2012 2pm to 3pm

Wednesday, October 03, 2012
02:00 PM
 - 
03:00 PM

Categories:

Location:
 
GRCC White Hall Fulton Street Campus
433 East Fulton Street
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

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