Happy birthday Grand Rapids. The city turns 164 Friday.
In 1831, Louis Campau bought the property of what is now the entire downtown business district from the federal government for $90.
Grand Rapids city historian Dick Harms says Grand Rapids has seen many ups and downs over the generations. First, as a trading post and agriculture hub, then the furniture capital, a manufacturing center, and today as a medical and education desitnation, downtown Grand Rapids is seeing a resurgence in growth and popularity -- rivaling the boom period of the 1920's furniture era and the mid 50's postwar era
"This was where the big stores were, the quality stores. Today people are returning, I'd say downtown is in the best period since 1960."
Harms tells WOOD Radio Grand Rapids owes its legacy to many of the well-known, well-heeled benefactors who have invested their money into public buildings -- the arena, schools, hospitals, -- leaders who are following an example set in Grand Rapids generations ago.
"They ( DeVos, Van Andel, Meijer, etc ) are just carrying this tradition forward. They were the next generation doing what had already been done before by names like, Keeler, Butterworth, Blodgett and the like."
Unlike many communities that build sports arenas in hopes of spurring growth, the plan worked in Grand Rapids. Harms says downtown's growth is due in part to Grand Valley's downtown campus, the growth of the medical mile -- and in no small part, the Van Andel Arena.
"You can safely say the arena is the spark for all that. There was some growth, but the arena really changed all that. You begin to see development on Ionia and Grandville Avenues where abandoned buildings once stood."