WILTSE: City should just leave well-enough alone

Some 50 years ago, I was a graduate student at Wayne State University. I lived in the middle of the worst slum imaginable.
Jan 24, 2013


I had an apartment overlooking the Edsel Ford expressway, in the only one I could afford. It was awful.

I was offered a job at Grand Valley State College, which I eagerly accepted.

When I came, I looked in Grand Rapids, Jenison, Holland, Muskegon and Grand Haven for a place to live. Each of the first four reminded me too much of my former place of residence, which I most desired to forget.

Grand Haven seemed to me to be ideal. It was all I wished for. It was rustic, friendly and clean, beautiful and quaint. It suited me to a tee. I never regretted moving here, and I don’t think I ever shall.

Now the city planners are trying to turn what was once an ugly mess into a beautiful area, then into an instant slum. I think it is going to work.

Can’t they take a hint from the condominiums already built? After five or six years, less than half of them are occupied. Yet, they want a hotel built. Supposedly, it will attract big conventions. What evidence is there that that is the case? Have market studies been done? If so, why has this evidence not been presented to the public?

I think the city fathers (or mothers) have been sold a bill of goods by some slick developers who want to make a buck somehow. I don’t know how, but they seem to be working on it and will probably succeed.          

Why couldn’t the city planners just leave things alone. As far as I’m concerned, they are damned if they succeed and damned if they don’t. If they succeed, who wants hundreds or perhaps thousands of drunken conventioneers in our city?

But personally, I don’t think they will succeed. I don’t see the need for a hotel without conventions and I don’t see a need for conventions.

As for the apartments, they won’t sell if they are expensive (take a hint from those expensive condos that didn’t sell). And if they are inexpensive, all that they will do is attract undesirables from other cities and no one wants them.

As for the two or three restaurants, do we really need them? A restaurant is a very tricky business and very risky.

Up in restaurant row on Harvey Street in Muskegon, one or two restaurants fail every year, and one or two open up and try to make a go of it. Right now, at least two are vacant: Perkins on Harvey and Sternberg, and Garfield’s in The Lakes Mall.

When a chain as large and popular as Perkins can’t make it in an ideal location such as Harvey and Sternberg, you know the competition must be brutal. Yet, they claim to want to build as many as three of them close to Jackson and Beacon. If they do, you can bet that at least two of them will soon be boarded up.          

Why can’t they just let things be and develop naturally? Why force the issue? Have they already committed tax dollars and now feel the need for reimbursement?

I’m afraid that they are taking risks that need not be taken. But then who am I to complain? I’m just an old fuddy-duddy who dislikes change. 

I hate to see our quaint little town turned into a metropolis or, worse yet, a slum. Also, I’m not a resident of Grand Haven, rather Ferrysburg. As a mere onlooker, perhaps I’m just howling at the moon.

In any case, I’m glad that Ferrysburg has no such grandiose plans.

— By Ralph Wiltse, Tribune community columnist


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