NOBL's voices need to be heard in health campus expansion

By Lanthorn Editorial Board | 2/17/16 11:24pm


On Feb. 12, the Grand Valley State University Board of Trustees approved a construction plan for GVSU's Medical Mile expansion on the property that falls in the Grand Rapids neighborhood called Belknap Lookout. In Drew Howard's article, "New health campus plans approved amid controversy," the article elaborates on the deal reached between GVSU, the city of Grand Rapids and the neighborhood itself.

The neighborhood association for Belknap Lookout, Neighbors of Belknap Lookout (NOBL), had expressed concerns in the past about the project, saying that GVSU was unclear about its plan with residents of the neighborhood. Since then, GVSU has taken strides to increase communication with the neighborhood association and the groups have worked together to reach an amicable deal.

While the neighborhood association and residents may have reached an agreement with GVSU, the seemingly now-open lines of communication should have been there since the start.

GVSU is the party involved that moved in on this property and bought it from the neighborhood in the first place. Taking that property and then not telling residents what they plan to do with it does not a good neighbor make.

If Lakers are going to move in, demolish 100 homes and then try to outsource construction to people from other communities, GVSU should be letting our new neighbors know. We know we'd be likely to have a few questions. Having large academic buildings with heavy traffic next to a residential area is challenging, and GVSU should have been more transparent from the beginning of the process. Shuttering residents out of their homes and the process is only going to disintegrate the relationships that then needed to be repaired.

One of NOBL's main concerns is gentrification — the displacement of residents and jobs by incoming populations. Gentrification is an issue that GVSU should take seriously. For as long as the university has been established, GVSU — in the form of buildings, parking lots and students — has been gentrifying any and all of the communities around it.

Whether it means to or not, GVSU is pushing out long-standing businesses and houses in order to build and expand more. The university needs to be aware of not just what benefits Lakers, but of our impact on the communities that surround us. We need to work with these communities and be an asset to them, not an eyesore.

Being a good neighbor goes far beyond communication. Involving the community, asking for opinions and overall strengthening the neighborhood is what GVSU needs to do to ensure good relations between all of its community neighbors. The Lanthorn commends the university for its efforts to increase NOBL's input on the health campus project, and encourage administrators to continue that practice.

The GVSU community expands far beyond the gates of the main Allendale Campus, yet we often forget to involve people who are indirectly or even directly influenced by the university's decisions. To maintain a healthy relationship with communities beyond GVSU, there needs to be careful consideration of others and stronger communication with small businesses or neighborhoods nearby.

Expanding the university has many costs and benefits, but those critical conversations should include the perspectives of those around us. Students need more resources, space and quality education, yes, but it is critical to establish these developments while addressing concerns representative of all community members.

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