Tag Archives: City of Grand Rapids

City of Grand Rapids and community partners aim to make 50 homes lead-safe this summer


By Molly Klimas


People wearing bright red t-shirts are canvasing some of the neighborhoods and festivals in Grand Rapids starting this June – but they’re not stumping for a political candidate: They’re hoping that homes in the city will Get the Lead Out!

Armed with free lead-testing kits and brochures, these team members from the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan are letting people know about federal funds available to make lead abatement possible.

“Lead lurks in the paint of homes built before 1978 – and most houses in the City of Grand Rapids were built before that year. Paint flakes and peels, and when improperly scraped or sanded off, dangerous lead dust can be kicked up,” said Paul Haan, executive director of the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan and gubernatorial appointee to the State of Michigan’s Child Lead Exposure Elimination Commission.

That flaking, peeling lead paint and dust — ingested or breathed in — can be dangerous to anyone. But lead is especially toxic to babies, children and pregnant women. Lead poisoning can cause permanent brain damage and other health issues. (See GTLO 2017 Fact Sheet for more information on the dangers of lead.)

It doesn’t take much lead to create a toxic situation. One gram of lead dust is enough to make 25,000 square feet of flooring hazardous for young children, according to Haan.

“We’re talking an amount as small as the equivalent of a packet of Sweet’N Low — just that small amount is enough to contaminate a dozen homes in Grand Rapids,” said  Haan. “The good news is that lead poisoning can be prevented, and there’s funding to help people get the lead out safely with professionals trained in lead abatement.”

The funding is through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The City of Grand Rapids administers the grant locally and partners with the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan, the Kent County Health Department, LINC, and the Rental Property Owners Association to facilitate the Get the Lead out! program. June has been designated “Healthy Homes Month” by HUD but team members will be encouraging applications as long as funding lasts.

The most common types of work done to remove lead hazards from homes are repairing or replacing windows, and re-painting or replacing siding.

Funding is available for eligible homeowners and landlords. Anyone living in the City of Grand Rapids in a home built before 1978 is encouraged to contact the Healthy Homes Coalition to learn about eligibility. For more information, please call the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan at 616.241.3300 or visit www.GetTheLeadOutGR.org. Or, contact the City of Grand Rapids Community Development Department at 616.456.3030 or Doug Stek, Housing Rehabilitation Supervisor, 616.456.3672.



Local international market Russo’s to return ‘home’ downtown, open 2nd location

Kentwood area’s Russo’s market — shown in 1949 at it original downtown Division Street block, plans to open a second market. (Supplied)

By K.D. Norris



Russo’s International Market, located on 29th Street in Grand Rapids but right on the City of Kentwood border, has announced plans to open a second location in downtown Grand Rapids — a return home, of sorts, according to the company’s president.


“Since opening in 1905, my grandfather made it his mission to serve the Grand Rapids community. Our first location was on Division in what was known as ‘Little Italy’,” Phil Russo, president of Russo’s International Market, said in supplied material. “When we needed more room, we opened up on 29th Street. … We always knew we would return to our roots and this second location will allow us to serve the downtown community as we once did 112 years ago.”


Russo’s International Market, located on 29th Street on the City of Kentwood border, has not plans to close its current location. (Supplied)

The new location is planned for the former Bagger Dave’s location at 241 W. Fulton St. The new location is in the city planning and approval stage at this time. According to a company spokesperson, “there are no plans to close the 29th Street location” with the opening of the downtown location.


The market is also plans to expand its offerings with the new location by adding a restaurant, coffee bar and a gelato bar in addition to the market, deli and beverage products currently available at the 29th Street store.


Russo’s is a family-owned business — for many years it was named “G.B. Russo & Son” — and the family plans to host a ribbon-cutting ceremony and community celebration once approval and construction is finished. Russo’s International Market is currently run by the 3rd and 4th generation of the Russo family.


A big reason for the decision to expand back into downtown, according to a release from the company, is the expansion of residential offerings in the area and other economic factors.


According to the Russo’s release, “with the growing number of downtown residents, the need for retail options within the downtown area is evident.”


According to Downtown Grand Rapids, 183 residential units were added to the downtown Grand Rapids area in 2015, with an additional 1,437 proposed units to be developed shortly after. With the addition of the proposed units, downtown Grand Rapids would house 5,201 residential units. Downtown Grand Rapids’ goal is to reach 10,000 residential units within the downtown area by 2025.


“The Grand Rapids community has been so devoted to our family-business throughout the years, and our goal is to continue to serve the community to the best of our ability, Russo said. “We realized the lack of offerings for downtown residents, and this gave us the opportunity to return to downtown Grand Rapids and serve the growing residential population,” said Russo.


The Fulton Street location is in addition to the store’s existing 18,000 sq. ft. location on 29th Street, which was purchased in 1976, and expanded in 2008. The expansion comes nearly two months after a rebrand to commemorate the company’s historic 112 years in Grand Rapids. For more information visit russosgr.com .


6th Annual GRandJazzFest announces 2017 dates


By Molly Klimas


GRandJazzFest presented by DTE Energy Foundation returns to Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids, Mich., this Aug. 19 and 20, for the sixth annual festival. The popular family-friendly festival is West Michigan’s only free, weekend-long jazz festival.


At the 2017 festival in August, 11 diverse jazz artists and bands will perform, including a student jazz band and two major headline acts. Free face painting by Fancy Faces will be available for kids and, if lines aren’t too long, for “kids at heart.”


The two-day festival will again be free thanks to Presenting Sponsor DTE Energy Foundation, the City of Grand Rapids and other sponsoring organizations, individuals and volunteers.


“There’s something special about jazz that brings people together like no other art form. It’s because jazz is so diverse – it has so many styles, from Big Band to Latin to Contemporary, and I’m just naming a few,” GRandJazzFest Founder Audrey Sundstrom said. “GRandJazzFest is what community is all about.”


GRandJazzFest typically draws thousands to the heart of downtown Grand Rapids for the two-day, outdoor event always held the third weekend in August.


Holding the festival in the center city is by design, to enable festival-goers to take in all that downtown has to offer: restaurants, clubs, museums, microbreweries and shops. The festival typically occurs during Restaurant Week in Grand Rapids. The festival’s location provides easy access to those who ride the bus, walk or bike, and is also close to parking.


The 2017 festival lineup will be announced on April 26 at the House of Entertainment and Music (H.O.M.E.) at The B.O.B.