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Neighborhoods of GR: Welcome to Creston—Be an active citizen

Welcome to Neighborhoods of GR, an informal series for Grand Rapidians, its visitors, and those considering calling the river city home. Each article in the series will covering a particular GR neighborhood will be covered by a resident writer, and showcase the charm, the history, and diversity of our fair city.
Creston residents enjoy a neighborhood picnic and puppet show.

Creston is a vibrant corridor filled with engaged residents, parks, bustling businesses, and ongoing growth. Celebrate your Creston pride in this month's Neighborhoods of GR article.
“The location of the neighborhood is great as well being so close to the river, great parks, and it's very accessible to downtown,” says local resident Max Dillivan.

“We wanted to be close to downtown, but it was important to be a part of a smaller community,” shares another local resident Collin Bailey Jonkman.

These are some of the highlights of the Creston neighborhood that help attract and retain residents. According to the local Destination Marketing Organization, Experience Grand Rapids, the Creston district, which is located in Grand Rapids’ Second Ward, showcases “strong, stable residential areas, thriving business districts, and the largest green space within the city of Grand Rapids.” Its local businesses include: Creston Brewery, Rezervoir Lounge, Kingma’s Market, and the Cheshire Kitchen.

Creston Brewery

Many do not realize the amount of area that Creston occupies. “Creston sort of fascinates me as the neighborhood association encompasses everything north of Leonard to the city boundary. This includes very distinct sections like Creston, Creston Heights, Cheshire, Riverside Gardens, and North Park, which are all very different in character and demographic makeup,” says Dillivan.

Residents are supported by the Creston Neighborhood Association (CNA). According to their website, their mission is “to organize neighborhood residents and resources to promote the social, economic and environmental health of the Creston community.” Their vision is to create “a beautiful and diverse community where neighbors feel safe and proud, and businesses, housing, schools, and parks thrive.”

Megan Kruis

Established in 1979, the CNA will be celebrating its 40-year anniversary in 2019, shares Executive Director Megan Kruis. Joining the CNA in her current role approximately one month ago, Kruis has a love of the neighborhood where she is also a resident.

“What I’ve always loved about Creston is that neighbors recognize that there is work to do here and they do it. You can see around the neighborhood so much good and interesting work that’s happening and that’s really motivated by, led by, and stewarded by neighbors,” she says.

Though her tenure may be short in her current role, Kruis is well versed in the initiatives and involvement of the Neighborhood Association over its almost 40-year history. The Neighborhood Association has been involved in a variety of initiatives including keeping Briggs pool open, working to maintain the neighborhood library, advocating to keep a local bank. and helping to start Catherine’s Health Center, Kruis shares.

Catherine's Health Center

As can be seen in other areas of Grand Rapids, development is continuing to take place within the Creston neighborhood. “Most recently we have an urban farm back behind Fourth Reformed Church with New City Neighbors. So now you can get your fresh produce there throughout the year,” says Kruis.

The New City Farm provides community-supported agriculture. It allows customers to invest by purchasing a share of the farm, versus in individual produce. New City Neighbor’s website states that “purchasing a share in [the] farm means you get great local produce, and you help provide employment and job skills training for 10 high school students. As a co-owner in the farm, shareholders take on both the risk and the reward of each unique growing season.”

Rez Lounge

During his two-year residency, Dillivan has witnessed this growth firsthand. “Plainfield Avenue has been really revitalizing. The corridor has some great restaurants—like Graydon's Crossing, Rez Lounge, and Little Lucy’s—shops and places to hang out. The area has only continued to improve since we've moved in,” he shares.

Despite the continued growth, there are still challenges to be addressed. One of the current concerns of the Neighborhood Association is affordable housing. “There is definitely anxiety among residents about housing affordability. We hope that residents who have been here for a long time continue to make their home here,” says Kruis.

Graydon's Crossing

It is not a challenge to find people with a long-standing connection to the neighborhood, either.

“I grew up on the northeast side of Grand Rapids and I've always loved the Creston neighborhood,” says Bailey Jonkman. “My family has a lot of history here. My mother moved to the neighborhood when she was a little girl and graduated from Creston High School. My father lived in the neighborhood when he began his teaching career at Riverside Elementary, which is just a few blocks from my house. When I began looking for a home, Creston was at the top of my list.”

She elaborates, “Creston is the type of community where the business owners know your name and you bring up your neighbor’s trash barrels or shovel their walkways. Children walk to school and swim in the public pool in the summer. The sense of community keeps us in the area.”
Kids get their faces painted at a neighborhood event in Creston.

This sense of community can be seen in both Bailey Jonkman and Dillivan who have found opportunities to get involved.
“I reached out to the Creston Neighborhood Association when we became residents and have spent time volunteering at the Art Battle, Neighborhood Night Out, and other neighborhood events,” says Jonkman.

Dillivan adds, “I run a soccer team in the Grand Rapids Champions League, which is a non-profit, community-oriented neighborhood soccer league. I'm the proud captain of the Creston FC Polar Bears [and our] home games are at Briggs Park.”

“Part of the mission of the league is each team is required to raise money for charitable donations. Last year we donated $100 to the Wildlife Rehab Center, and while this year we have yet to choose our donation recipient, we've raised close to $300! We realize these are relatively small donations, but any way we can give back to our community, we will,” says Dillivan.

Creston Market

“One of the great things about the Creston neighborhood is how easy it is to get involved,” says Bailey Jonkman. “We are lucky to have such an active and welcoming neighborhood association and I encourage anyone in the community to reach out and see how you can volunteer time.”

Kruis challenges other residents to take charge and make their presence known. She encourages residents to “get involved. Be an active citizen. Especially if you are a resident that feels anxiety about any changes that are coming. We have power—to put our voices together and define what we want our neighborhood to be.”

About Leandra Nisbet: Leandra Nisbet, Owner of Stingray Advisory Group LLC and Co-Owner of Gold Leaf Designs LLC, has over 12 years of experience in leadership, sales & marketing and graphic design. Through these organizations, she assists businesses with creating strategies for growth and sustainability through: strategic planning, marketing concept development/implementation, risk management solutions and financial organization. She is actively involved in the community, sitting on several Boards and committees.

Contact Leandra Nisbet by email at leandra@stingrayadvisorygroup.com!


Photography by Adam Bird of Bird + Bird Studio.
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