The West Side of Grand Rapids is undergoing a transformation.
For a long time, the saying among West Siders has been “The West Side is the best side,” and now it seems others outside the area are taking notice.
“I’m really, really excited about all the new things that are happening; the new developments that are going on, this is just wonderful,” said Nola Steketee, the executive director of the West Grand Neighborhood Organization.
Thursday, the Grand Rapids Planning Commission approved plans for the latest development: A new brewery along Alpine Avenue called Grey Line Brewing Co.
Steketee said the area from Bridge Street to Leonard Street used to get only three or four businesses per year looking to move into the area. Now, she says, they get three to four per month.
The transformation has been years in the making.
“There was a tad bit of hesitation at first,” Steketee said. “But everybody realizes that we have to shake it off and go to the next level, and the next level would be all the new things that are happening. We have to give this all to the youth; we have to give this all to the next generation that is coming though.”
One of the new businesses is Long Road Distillers, which is going in along Leonard Street.
“For us, it’s really exciting to invest money and our heart and soul into this neighborhood now,” Kyle Van Strien, co-owner of Long Road Distillers, said.
Van Strien and his co-owner have lived on the West Side for the past decade. He said he couldn’t imagine opening the distillery anywhere else.
“Part of it is a lot of investment from outside groups or new business in the neighborhood. Places like Rockford Construction and the Mitten Brewing Company — they are great additions to the west side. But it’s also these business that have been here decades, a hundred years,” he said.
Long Road Distillers is joined by a host of other new businesses: The Mitten Brewing Company across the street opened a few years back; Two Scotts Barbecue hopes to open later this month; over on Bridge Street the fences are up where ground will soon be broken on New Holland Brewing Company; down the road, the old Little Mexico building is being transformed into Harmony Hall; and not too far away on Alpine is the latest project to get approval, Grey Line Brewing.
“This little corner here has seen a ton of investment over the past two years and I think it’s only going to continue,” Van Strein said. “You’ve seen a ton of stuff on Bridge Street, Fulton and coming up Seward and I think really it’s going to continue in all of our business district on the west side.”
The West side is an area steeped in tradition; but also an area Van Strien sees as growing in diversity. Just one of the reasons so many are setting up shop.
“You go into the Mitten on any given weeknight and you don’t feel like you necessarily walked into a pretentious craft brewery. It’s like anybody walked in. It’s not white collar, it’s not blue collar. It’s everybody together enjoying a beer together,” he said. “That’s what we really enjoy about the West Side. Everybody is welcome. You come as you are. You just show up. You are who you are.”
Tom Hillen, March 13, 2015