Proposed Belknap Lookout plan addresses neighborhood's views on development

Just a block north of the billion-dollar-plus Medical Mile development on Grand Rapids' Michigan Street hill lays Belknap Lookout, a neighborhood that wants to reap some of the socioeconomic rewards of its proximity to the development.

At the same time, the neighborhood wants to preserve its traditional character while rebuilding its commercial areas, addressing housing needs and increasing homeownership.  

To that end, the Neighbors of Belknap Lookout (NOBL) recently presented a draft Area Specific Plan (ASP) to the Grand Rapids Planning Commission with a request to add it to the city's Master Plan. The proposal is the culmination of nearly two years of work.

"This plan is built on consensus," says Andy Guy, a Belknap homeowner and leader of the ASP steering committee. "This is a clear statement of how this neighborhood wants to redevelop. The plan creates spectacular redevelopment opportunities."

The NOBL plan centers on the region of the neighborhood atop Belknap Lookout Hill bounded by Michigan, College and Leonard streets. The plan suggests five Context Districts, that include:

  • Traditional family housing – single family, duplexes and triplexes, maintains the scale and character of residential areas, encourages rehabilitation of existing structures, sets guidelines for new infill.
  • Mixed housing – includes rowhouses, apartment houses and center hall apartment buildings. Intended to promote diversity and housing opportunities for a variety of income levels.
  • Cottage retail – a residential gateway to the neighborhood, opportunities for retail businesses. Incorporates mixed-use buildings with raised ground floors and front door access via a stoop or porch.
  • Neighborhood transitional – visible entrance to the neighborhood, provides connections to the medical community and I-196.
  • Neighborhood center – highest intensity of development to provide shopping, dining, pedestrian activity and access to public transit.

"We put a lot of energy into moving the conversation from how many people per square inch into what do the buildings look like and what is the overall character of the neighborhood," Guy says.

The proposed plan goes to the City Commission for review prior to the Planning Commission's vote on adoption.

Source: Andy Guy, Steering Committee, Neighbors of Belknap Lookout Area Specific Plan

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at [email protected].

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