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East Side, west side, all around the town……….

Old and new together


by Peggy DePersia, Guest Blogger

“East side, west side, all around the town”……………”Stop, hey, what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down”.

Song lyrics have a way of revisiting new eras, often unpredictably. As my husband, Jerry, and I drove around the streets of the city in which we have lived for many, many years, Grand Rapids, Michigan, we realized that everywhere we looked, new construction was “going down” or as my husband corrected me, “going up”.

The words to the above songs, songs with a ‘legacy’ immediately sprung to mind. I asked myself what all had been happening while I was not paying the closest of attention; just going about daily life somewhat routinely despite all of the road cones, detour signs, cranes, and fabulous construction vehicles that are the fantasy life of my three year old grandson.


I suggested to my husband that we take a closer look. A drive around the city confirmed that a lot has been happening since 2008 and we’ve been somewhat distracted. Having downsized to a downtown condo in 2008 from the homes in which we’d raised our two children, we’re sort of in the hub of a kind of urban renewal connected with, what, for lack of a better term, I would call a ‘renaissance’, one that began in the early 1970’s.

I recall attending a meeting where planners were considering the benefits of turning the main drag of Monroe Street into a pedestrian mall….been there, now, done that! Hmmm, what could be done to revitalize our urban landscape?






We’ve been fortunate in Grand Rapids. We’ve had wonderfully forward thinking and altruistic leaders as well as an extraordinary caliber of benefactors who have offered as much as they’ve received or more…..that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.


It is one of the benefits of having a history with a city; you get to watch it all unfold and boy, is it unfolding now.

As the result of a recent zoning meeting in our new neighborhood, we got to hear an excited young developer from Atlanta tell us, in case we didn’t yet realize it, that Grand Rapids was ‘boom town’, a place in which to invest and be.


Old's Manor reborn

It is very exciting to be part of the energy of urban revitalization.

When I decided to check out the lyrics of East side, West side, all around the town, I discovered that it is regarded as an urban-centric ‘tune’…what a coincidence; how fitting. It is a private hope of mine that urban revitalization is more than a dream. It’s certainly happening here in Grand Rapids, Michigan and lots of folks are taking notice…Art Prize, research facilities, progressive roadways with bike lanes and rapid transit opportunities, cultural venues and, as I tell everyone who will listen, Grand Rapids has a wide array of wonderful restaurants that are adding some kick to our many well established neighborhoods.




West Side Near Douglas Park

New Development in Grand Rapids

Repurposing a building
Repurposing a building

And, hey, what about all of those breweries. Beer city; who knew? I say, check us out.

Check out:
Goodrich and Commerce
Ionia and Cherry
Seward and Douglas
Michigan and Monroe
and don’t forget about the new Midtowne neighborhood near our historic Heritage Hill…didn’t I say this started in the ’70’s.

Yeah Baby

Yeah! Baby!


Photo1Peggy DePersia recently retired as a high school art teacher and now devotes her time to teaching at Kendall College of Art and Design and living creatively.

They both enjoy travel and time with their darling grand son Oliver.

Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.


  1. posted by
    ann cabezas creed
    Jul 26, 2015 Reply

    Great to read about innovative urban development . Nice photos!

    Ann Cabezas creed “costa rica learn adventure travel agency”

  2. posted by
    Barbara Rohwer
    Jul 27, 2015 Reply

    Peggy – this is great!! Many of these buildings are on our walking route aka “construction tour” that we often take when we’re in town. Such a wonderful city!

  3. posted by
    Ann Stevenson
    Aug 3, 2015 Reply

    Peggy—-thanks for the great photo tour, we will be in GR this September and looking forward to taking in the changes and Art Prize too!

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