Grand Rapids shows us how economic development is done right… home-grown food entrepreneurship over dollar stores

    A few months ago, when I was in Grand Rapids, attending the annual BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) conference, I had the occasion to hear a speech given by the city’s Mayor, George Heartwell. I can’t find my notes at the moment, but I seem to recall that, buried somewhere in the long list of impressive facts that he reeled off about the city, he noted that, of the 100+ restaurants they have downtown, fewer than 5 of them are national chains. Anyway, I was reminded of this yesterday, as I was working on my post about how I’d prefer not to have a third Family Dollar store erected in Ypsilanti. And, after I completed my post, I began thinking about why it is that some cities are able to fend off the creeping corporate homogeneity that’s so prevalent in modern America, while others aren’t. Or, to be more specific, I began to wonder why it is that the folks in Grand Rapids have a brand new, year-round market facility to look forward to, while those of us in Ypsilanti are stuck debating whether or not Family Dollar is the kind of anchor that we want for the 38-acre development project that we’ve been told would redefine our city and put us on a path toward prosperity.

    Let me start by saying that I know that it’s not a fair comparison. I know that Grand Rapids has the good fortune of having a few extraordinarily wealthy patrons, thanks primarily to the success of the international network marketing firm Amway, that are dedicated to making sure that their city is well-positioned for the future, whereas our only fantastically wealthy potential benefactor, after losing a bitter fight to legally enshrine gay discrimination in Ypsilanti, chose to move to the swamps of Florida, and build a new, ultra-conservative city in accordance with his far right religious beliefs. And I know that things are possible in a city of 190,000 that just aren’t possible in a city of 20,000, especially when those 190,000 individuals are, on average, a lot better off financially than their Ypsilanti counterparts. Furthermore, I also seem to recall having heard Heartwell say that Grand Rapids was number two in the nation when it came to per-capita charitable giving, which certainly helps.

    As someone who hasn’t spent much time there, I can’t say definitively, but I get the sense that folks in Grand Rapids, in spite of their religious conservatism, actually believe in the concept of the greater good. For instance, they’re not just talking about sustainability, but they’re actually addressing carbon emissions, rapidly expanding bike paths, and implementing ‘pay as you throw’ garbage collection. And, as I mentioned above, they’re presently building an incredible year-round market facility which will not only serve to support regional growers, but also provide the infrastructure necessary to nurture a generation of budding food entrepreneurs. The following comes by way of the New York Times.

    Next year… Grand Rapids is scheduled to open the $30 million, 130,000-square-foot Downtown Market, a destination that is expected to attract 500,000 visitors a year. The three-story brick and glass building, under construction in a neighborhood of vacant turn-of-the-20th century warehouses, is intended by its developers to be a state-of-the art center of commerce for the culinary arts and fresh local foods.

    It is also seen as having the potential to accomplish much more.

    “This project fills a variety of needs,” said David Frey, chairman of the Frey Foundation and co-chairman of Grand Action, a nonprofit group of local business leaders that joined the city’s Downtown Development Authority to raise money for the market and to build it. “It creates a lot of synergy for the development that’s been happening in Grand Rapids for some time now.”

    The Downtown Market, in effect, is the newest piece of civic equipment built here since the mid-1990s to leverage the same urban economic trends of the 21st century — higher education, hospitals and health care, housing, entertainment, transit, and cleaner air and water — that are reviving most large American cities….

    The design plan for the Downtown Market includes space for food production and processing, a commercial kitchen to provide an incubator for new businesses and another to educate students in food preparation and healthful eating. A greenhouse will occupy the roof and two restaurants are planned. Enough space is available indoors and out for banquets, civic events and more than 60 vendors. The market was built with nontoxic materials, and has advanced systems for energy efficiency, natural lighting, waste management, recycling and water conservation.

    A feasibility study, completed in March 2010 by Market Ventures of Portland, Me., found ample reason for Grand Rapids to pursue the project. Some 12,220 farms in the 11-county agricultural region that surrounds Grand Rapids bring in a total of $2 billion in annual revenue. Many of the growers produce fruits and vegetables, including specialty crops, for sale at a public market.

    The study forecast that the Downtown Market, which occupies a 3.5-acre site close to highway exits and the Grand River, would achieve gross annual sales around $25 million, and generate more than 600 jobs. A small staff could manage the market, and its annual income is expected to total $2 million, with expenses reaching $1.5 million…

    Is it impossible to think that something like this would work in Ypsilanti? Probably. I would argue, however, that there are a lot of possibilities along the continuum which has, at one end, a $30 million downtown market facility, and, at the other, a Family Dollar store.

    And, yes, I know that we’re talking about apples and oranges, here. But I’m not trying to make the case that we should have an indoor market on Water Street. I’m only saying that, when assessing projects, we should keep in mind that some will move us in the direction of sustainability, growth, and self-sufficiency, while others will move us away from those shared objectives. And I’d put Family Dollar in the latter category.

    I know that some of you believe that Family Dollar is “our only hope,” as someone expressed in the comments sections today. I would argue, however, that Family Dollar actually represents the ceding of hope.

    And, here, now that I’ve got that off my chest, are some sketches showing what the Downtown Market will look like.

    FIRST FLOOR:

    SECOND FLOOR:

    This is what the future looks like, folks.

    This entry was posted in Economics, entrepreneurism, Environment, Michigan, Sustainability, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

      40 Comments

      1. Jean Henry
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 7:45 am | Permalink

        On a very basic level I love this plan. My understanding, right now, is that we are maxed out on farmer’s markets. There simply aren’t enough farmers to supply any more markets. They are spread thin. Farmer’s can’t farm and simultaneously be at 5 markets a week. To do so would mean they need to hire someone to tend the stand and then everyone complains about pricing. That said, from what I understand they like the big markets, so if this one were to intentionally take the place of existing Ypsi markets, and maybe house the food hub for distribution, then it could work. I suppose a feasibility study would bring all this to light. I think in general proposing something grand and inspiring and forward thinking and then asking the question “Do we need it?” in a studies (not anecdotal) way via a feasibility study, will bring you the solution you seek. I’m pretty sure you don’t need a dollar store. Those giant businesses have a high margin model where mistakes can be afforded. (ie they can open and close and the brand keeps going.) Food does not. Almost anything you would want there does not. And so it will be hard to pull off. It will be very hard to fund. But the chances of it sticking around and working for the good of Ypsi for the long haul are much greater. Even if you didn’t pull it off, the process of the city (by which I mean its citizens) visioning what it wants, determining what it needs, and trying to pull it off would be a really useful for Ypsi. At minimum you all would learn a lot. The future of Ypsi is really up to the citizens. If you all could get something bigger scale started, maybe the city and groups like Eastern leaders could follow (rather than trying to lead) and assist and then you’d really be on your way to the city you all deserve. Water Street is a really great piece of property. Despite the troubles, it has incredible potential. As does all of downtown Ypsi.

      2. Edward
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:00 am | Permalink

        As miserable as it makes me walking by a vacant Water Street, at least there’s potential. Once the strip malls start going up, though, it’s all over. I hear Brian Robb is suggesting that being against Family Dollar makes one racist. I cannot express to you how angry that made me. This is about the future of our community – white, black, hispanic and asian. For him to say that opposition to his plan is based on a desire to keep non-whites out of the city is beyond disgusting.

      3. alan2102
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 8:10 am | Permalink

        “I get the sense that folks in Grand Rapids, in spite of the religious conservatism, actually believe in the concept of the greater good.”

        In SPITE of?!

        Your ignorance never ceases to amaze, Mark. Typical insular smug ignorant “progressive”.

        Ever hear of the Catholic social teaching? Rerum Novarum (encyclical)? Quadragesimo Anno (another encyclical)? Check ‘em out. They’re further left than you. MUCH further. They insist in no uncertain terms on social justice, particularly for the impoverished and the working class. They denounce the greed and acquisitiveness that suffuses society. They actually oppose and denounce capitalism… while you continue to slavishly support it. You never had a clue as to what “conservative” originally meant. But then, I can’t blame you too much. Most people don’t. I am not a conservative. But I respect authentic conservatives. If you think that the Limbaugh(limpballs)/Hannity(vanity)/Beck(wreck)/etc. axis is “conservative” in any authentic sense, then you’re ignorant. Authentic conservatives, like America’s “first conservative”, Viereck, oppose capitalism.

        Of course, the anti-capitalism and communitarianism of the Catholics, the Southern agrarians, and other traditional conservatives can be critiqued from the left — and have been (to my mind, effectively). But before it can be critiqued, you at least have to know that it exists. “In spite of the religious conservatism, actually believe in the concept of the greater good”… sheesh!

      4. Emma
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:02 am | Permalink

        Maybe if everyone in Ypsilanti agreed to be Amway distributors you could get that funded.Currently though, the money just isn’t here. Even though there are a handful of people with the best intentions, at this point we should be taking what we can get. The parcel they’re wanting is on the corner across from the cell phone store right? In the car wash / liquor store / paint store / rent to own / Midas area. I seriously do not understand how it is going to negatively affect anything. Let them build it and see what happens. No one else is offering and last I heard we need more tax income around here.

      5. Mr. Y
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:15 am | Permalink

        I’m predisposed to disliking Grand Rapids. I know it’s an oversimplification, but I tend to think of the city as the boring, white, conservative, Christian home of Amway. With that said, though, I respect them for having a vision and working toward it collaboratively. While there’s a lot to be enthusiastic about in Michigan, I think that Grand Rapids is the best situated to take advantage of future trends. They’re investing, building consensus, and getting things done. Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti could learn a lot from them. As has already been mentioned, though, a lot of this can be attributed to the Van Andel and DeVos families. It’s really amazing what wealthy people can do when they put their minds to it, and decide to invest in their cities. Instead of Amway, though, we got Tom Monaghan.

      6. Mr. X
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:22 am | Permalink

        Alan, I think what Mark was trying to say is that the people of Grand Rapids embody all that’s good about Christianity, which, at least from my perspective, is something of a rarity these days. Instead of pumping all of their money into candidates like Rick Santorum, and fighting the culture wars, the people of Grand Rapids are dedicating themselves to good works. They’re building hospitals, supporting the arts, encouraging healthy food access, and working together to cut carbon emissions. It’s the opposite of what you hear from so-called Christian leaders, like Mike Huckabee, and Billy Graham.

      7. Meta
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:38 am | Permalink

        An article on the $17 million Baker Lofts project next door to the market.

        http://www.mlive.com/business/west-michigan/index.ssf/2012/09/baker_lofts_brings_affordable.html

      8. DanL
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

        A few things:

        I grew up in Grand Rapids and in the 1980′s Amway money was the only thing that was driving development. Those initial investments created something much bigger, and the energy driving development and community building now is not a function of Amway. If the DeVos and VanAndel families went away now Grand Rapids would continue to grow.

        Many of the faith based organizations in the city were organizations that decided to stay downtown and invest in their communities back in the late 60s and early 70s and their commitment is now paying off.

        I also would say that most republicans within the city itself are classic main street republicans that see the benefits of building up heir community, since this investment helps their neighborhoods and businesses. There is a big contrast between these people and the republicans in the GR suburbs/exurbs. For example, the person who led the charge on the anti public transit millage last year didn’t even live in the service area and wouldn’t be taxed since he lived in an exurb. He opposed it on philosophical grounds.

      9. Jean Henry
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

        Waiting for offers is almost always a bad idea. Maybe Ypsi just needs to try a little harder on its own behalf. I don’t mean just the government, I mean all of you. Funding IS possible. It just would require a lot of work. A public/private partnership, all stakeholders engaged, outside investors… even tax breaks in the short term for a larger tax base in the long term. There are lots of progressive redevelopment models out there, but none are easy and local models are almost non-existent. The major stakeholders and an active citizenry need to be on board. And to get to that you need a great vision– which I think Mark has begun here. Rather than assume what is and isn’t possible (which I also did in my earlier comment, admittedly), I think its would be great if people could start to weigh in on what they CAN do. What alliances can be formed? What funding mechanisms exist? What are Ypsi’s strengths rather than its limitations? You actually have tremendous capacity in terms of an engaged (if somewhat cynical) citizenry, progressive thinkers, people that understand city planning and hybrid corporate structures, a major university, a predominantly thriving (by MI standards) county, AND a really beautiful piece of property on a riverfront downtown with a Olmsted designed park corridor, within a mile of a major freeway and rail lines. I don’t know if you all realize what an unusual municipal asset that is. There are so many people at the universities, in county govt and in economic development in the wider metro area who could help you all realize a great vision.

        But first you all need to stand tall and say we have something of value and we want to work hard collectively to make the most of it. A great model for sustainable development (and the hurdles one faces– the path has not been at all easy and the formerly giant project has scaled down considerably) is the North Charleston Noisette project. I spoke to the developer John Knott a few years ago about Water Street and he was interested in talking to someone in Ypsi about it. (I don’t think that ever happened) I think the scale of it was appealing to him, relative to the behemoth he took on. Also I know at one point, Eastern Leaders was looking at the whole corridor behind Water Street to 1-94 for economic development, so there really is a bigger potential package than just Water Street. There are people out there who know how to do this work. They can tell you what is possible. Your sense of constriction originates, at least in part, in a tiny tax base. The city lines are simply drawn to tightly around downtown. I really believe to overcome that sense of constriction you need to look to the surrounding area for help and be prepared to believe and demonstrate that you are worthy of investment. You will also need to be very clear about what you want. Ypsi potential is so obvious to me. I really hope you guys take another stab at the Water Street windmill. Don’t know if this link will work on this site but here is some Noisette info.
        http://www.citycraftventures.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Noisette-Cut-Sheet.pdf

      10. Knox
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        As Jean mentions, we may be reaching the saturation point with farmer’s markets. I just saw the following headline today.

        “Michigan leads country in growth of farmers markets”

        Excerpt:

        “Michigan is at the forefront of this trend, according to a new study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

        The study found that Michigan led the country in the percentage growth of farmers markets in the past two years. There were 322 markets in the state last year, nearly double the 163 markets operating in 2009.

        Michigan ranks fourth among the states in the number of farmers markets, according to the Chicago Fed study.

        Many of these markets are seasonal. But some, including the Lansing City Market, the Flint Farmers Market and Detroit’s Eastern Market, have expansive buildings and operate year-round.

        Nationally, the number of farmers markets has grown by nearly 500 percent over the past 20 years to 7,684 markets. That number has grown by 10 percent just in the past year.”

        It does seem, however, that there may be an opportunity to combine some smaller ones, and create a larger regional facility which incorporates a commercial kitchen and the other things that a food entrepreneur might need. It’s definitely worth looking into.

        Here’s the link to the article.

        http://www.mlive.com/business/index.ssf/2012/11/rick_haglund_michigan_leads_co.html

      11. alan2102
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

        Mr. X
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 9:22 am
        “Alan, I think what Mark was trying to say is that the people of Grand Rapids embody all that’s good about Christianity, which, at least from my perspective, is something of a rarity these days. Instead of pumping all of their money into candidates like Rick Santorum, and fighting the culture wars, the people of Grand Rapids are dedicating themselves to good works.”

        I agree. Three cheers for the people of Grand Rapids!

        So why the slur? “IN SPITE of the religious conservatism”, Mark says, as though religious conservatism were somehow antithetical to the doing of those good works. If anything, the opposite is true. Maybe it is BECAUSE of their religious conservatism that they’re doing what they’re doing. There’s certainly plenty of precedent for that, going all the way back to JC himself. Why do you, and apparently Mark, take high-profile “religious” “conservative” pop hucksters (typically greedy sanctimonious hypocritical bastards) to represent religion and conservatism? You can do vastly, immeasurably better with the Popes — the encyclicals I mentioned. (No, I am not a Catholic, or even a Christian. I read and think. That’s all.)

      12. ypsijav
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

        I’m confused. Were all the pyramid-schemes and tax evasion IN SPITE of or BECAUSE of the AMWAY job creators’ religious conservativism? Awesome shit is happening in GR, in part because of those dudes, but I think they are cleaning up dirty money. Bill Gates is doing some awesome shit too, but Microsoft made him rich by being evil and anti-competitive. I like Mark’s comment that they, “in spite of their religious conservatism, actually believe in the concept of the greater good.” The 2006 GOP nominee for Governor of Michigan has done some good things for his city for sure, but it would have been disastrous had he been elected.

      13. Posted November 19, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

        I have no problem with Christians who focus on good works, Alan. I actually respect the hell out of them, and I’ve said so here on many occasions. What I have a problem with are those who hide behind Christianity, using it as a shield to protect them from accusations of being bigots. I have a problem with people who disregard the numerous parts of the Bible about serving the poor and loving your neighbor, and cherry pick phrases to justify their desire not to pay taxes, fund social security, provide public education, etc. And that’s what I meant by the phrase “religious conservatism.” It was just shorthand, and I apologize that it wasn’t clear. Religion can be a wonderful thing.

      14. kjc
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

        Eh, you made Alan’s day. He jumped on that phrase like flies on shit.

        Personally, all my Christian friends are on FB and are from my hometown. They’re always liking memes that refer to other human beings as parasites and freeloaders. I guess that’s just when they’re not going to church and/or helping others. Usually they’re just going to football games.

        I guarantee you that none of them have heard of the Catholic social teaching (they don’t like Catholics too much),or Rerum Novarum (encyclical) or Quadragesimo Anno (another encyclical).

        they don’t know what an encyclical is either.

      15. Amanda
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

        A few comments on both farmers’ markets– and saturation points– and a public market on Water Street. I’ve spent considerable time thinking and working on both!

        So, as for farmers’ markets, my view is that we are at a saturation point for small neighborhood or small-community markets in Washtenaw County, particularly in places where food access and transportation aren’t big barriers for people. I wouldn’t say we’re at a saturation point nation-wide– there are many communities where there’s no good access to a market, or other fresh healthy local food options– and I’m really pleased with where we are in Michigan overall, mostly because we are a leader in the country in markets who accept EBT/SNAP. I’m proud that our Downtown Ypsilanti Farmers’ Market was the third in Michigan to accept EBT (back in 2006 when we started– and props to the Ypsi Food Co-op for helping provide the capacity to make that happen), and that this year 103 markets across the state accepted EBT. Many of the markets across the state doing EBT spent the day together last Monday in Turkeysville, MI reflecting and figuring out what’s next– all thanks to the amazing leadership of MIFMA (the Michigan Farmers’ Market Association) which is a lean organization who deserves much of the credit for markets rocking out in MI). The total season EBT sales for markets across the state may top $1 million this year– which is only a small percentage of overall EBT sales, but is growing at an amazing rate. The DYFM topped $18,000 in EBT sales alone in 2012– and that’s just during a four hour block on Tuesday afternoons in downtown Ypsi from May-October… So, the fact that more markets are, particularly, being supported in areas where food access is difficult, is amazing. And, that communities are creating markets as central squares and community gathering spaces is great.

        The challenge is in what it takes to sustain a market– it costs us a lot of money we fundraise for to make our market what it is. Markets are not financially self-sustaining, particularly when they, like the DYFM, offer EBT and other programs/incentives that support food access, healthy eating education, support for small business development, et al. We’re going to see– and already are, in some ways– a boom and bust in markets who don’t have the capacity– or ability to raised the funds to build capacity– to keep afloat. A lot of market managers are volunteers, and that becomes challenging when you’re running basically a bank on the back end (via token systems), and you thus have a lot of turnover, which makes it hard to provide consistency to the many small businesses (farms, bakers, et al) who are relying on you for their income, and to the customers relying on you for their food. So, one thing I think we need and are going to start seeing is some consolidation of markets so that we can have well-run farmers’ markets with the efficiencies that come from that. Not one mammoth market monopoly, but just thinking about how to clump some markets under single entities that can provide shared marketing, vendor coordination, etc etc…

        The thing we need re: markets, too, is opportunities for winter markets. We go inside the Corner Brewery in November and December (hope to see you all tomorrow- 3-7 pm!) and have long waiting lists for vendors in this smaller space. As more growers are doing season extension, and there are more cottage food vendors, etc, we need opportunities for more permanent market space and indoor opportunities for all or part of the winter.

        And, that leads me to Water Street… Since some of us were at the International Public Markets Conference (put on by Project for Public Spaces) in Cleveland in September, I’ve started thinking more about a public market on Water Street. While I’ve dreamed for years of Smith Furniture building for such a space (something like North Market in Columbus, OH), that seems not to be available any time soon and, well, Water Street is available…. and, a public market adjacent to the Rec Center would be a nice adjacent use. The Royal Oak market is a pretty simple structure– a giant pole barn, really. It doesn’t have to be as fancy as the GR market, but it could be built out in stages, so we can develop our local kitchen incubator (still in the works) after we move out what could be a more likely smaller phase 1 site. We could host our farmers’ markets there as well as have permanent stalls… And, it can be event space.

        I’ve been working through how and when to facilitate community visioning around this and other food-system-based economic development in Ypsi– if people want to be involved they can get in touch with me… Look also for an open house info session for people interested in being involved in an Ypsi Kitchen Incubator that Growing Hope will be hosting in December on behalf of Wash County Community & Economic Development…

      16. Jean Henry
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 8:10 am | Permalink

        Amanda rocks.

      17. anon
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 8:26 am | Permalink

        what an awesome idea. thanks amanda.

        i would want it community or worker owned, not an offshoot of growing hope.

        i would help fund such an initiative.

      18. Andy
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 11:30 am | Permalink

        Speaking of Christian organizations doing good deeds, we have a great organization here in Ypsilanti.

        http://www.thehopeclinic.org/

        Hope Clinic, an interdenominational Christian organization, provides compassionate and practical help to those in need, ministering to the whole person with dignity and respect. We provide a broad range of services:

        Ypsilanti and Wayne Hope Medical Clinics provide free medical care to low income children and adults without medical insurance. Over 200 volunteer medical professionals conduct more than 7,800 patient visits and provide access to more than $2.5 Million in prescription medications each year.

        Hope Dental Clinic provides preventative and restorative dental care to low income children and adults without dental insurance. More than 4,000 patient visits occur each year – that’s a lot of smiles.

        Hope Social Services provides other basic services including 8,000 hot meals and groceries to more than 1,700 households a year.

        Please take the time to learn more about Hope Clinic. There are a lot of needs in our community and we are always in need of support, whether it be volunteering, donating gas cards, diapers, food, and financial support.

        Thank you,

        Andy French

      19. alan2102
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        ypsijav
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:43 pm
        “I’m confused. Were all the pyramid-schemes and tax evasion IN SPITE of or BECAUSE of the AMWAY job creators’ religious conservativism?”

        In spite of. In terms of the Xtian tradition, there’s nothing admirable about pyramid schemes (false witness) or tax evasion (“render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”).

        “Awesome shit is happening in GR, in part because of those dudes, but I think they are cleaning up dirty money.”

        I’ll bet you’re right. Wouldn’t it be nice if historic (or even current!) white-collar crimes were prosecuted appropriately? But, alas, our President and his administration have set the opposite tone for the nation — quite aggressively.

      20. anonymous
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

        Alan, the way you structure your comments makes you appear psychotic. I don’t mean to discourage you from participating here, but I thought that someone should tell you.

      21. alan2102
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

        kjc
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 7:26 pm
        “Eh, you made Alan’s day. He jumped on that phrase like flies on shit.”

        Hey, it’s a dirty job, but some drosophilia’s got to do it.

        “Personally, all my Christian friends are on FB and are from my hometown. They’re always liking memes that refer to other human beings as parasites and freeloaders. I guess that’s just when they’re not going to church and/or helping others. Usually they’re just going to football games.”

        I don’t doubt it. A depressingly-large number of “christians” are ignorant and pathetic dupes of quasi-religious and morally degenerate (and often mean) poseurs, demogogues and hucksters — with viewpoints to match.

        “I guarantee you that none of them have heard of the Catholic social teaching (they don’t like Catholics too much),or Rerum Novarum (encyclical) or Quadragesimo Anno (another encyclical).”

        I don’t doubt it. So, maybe it is high time that you and I told ‘em about those documents, and about the whole fine Christian tradition of social justice… in which they could partake, if they choose, not IN SPITE of their religious sensibilities and conservatism, but BECAUSE of them.

      22. alan2102
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

        Anonymous: If you have a specific critique of anything I’ve said, go right ahead and toss it in here. Don’t be shy!

      23. anonymous
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

        It’s not what you say, but how you say it. The random cutting and pasting. The unattributed quotations. The words in ALL CAPS. I think you’re probably making points worthy of discussion, but I can’t follow your comments.

      24. alan2102
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

        Mark
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 7:18 pm
        “I have a problem with people who disregard the numerous parts of the Bible about serving the poor and loving your neighbor, and cherry pick phrases to justify their desire not to pay taxes, fund social security, provide public education, etc.”

        I do, too. Actually, it is not so much their desire to avoid taxes that bugs me, but their desire to avoid social responsibility (much more important than any willingness to pay taxes). I would be happy if they refused to pay taxes on ethical grounds, while doubling their efforts to achieve social justice in whatever local venue they find themselves.

        “And that’s what I meant by the phrase “religious conservatism.” It was just shorthand”

        I’m trying hard to accept that, but it is difficult. It does not take elaborate longhand to communicate what I now take you to have meant. Consider what you just wrote about “cherry picking”, etc. — very good. Or, consider these phrases/sentences:

        — faux “religious” “conservatism”
        — “religious” “conservative” pop hucksters
        — ignorant and pathetic dupes of quasi-religious and morally degenerate
        (and often mean) poseurs, demagogues and hucksters

        …. or, if you find that stuff to be verbose or awkward, consider simply using quotation marks, like: “religious conservative” vs. religious conservative. The first conveys, importantly, a distinction between that which purports or pretends — often in a way calculated to deceive — and that which is authentic (and good and true). That distinction is critical.

        Saying that their good works were performed IN SPITE of their religious conservatism (no quotation marks, no qualifying words/phrases) says or implies that their religious conservatism is fundamentally flawed and inconsistent with good works. This is wrong. They’re flawed, all right, but not on account of their most fundamental predispositions or identity.

      25. alan2102
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

        anonymous
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm
        “It’s not what you say, but how you say it. The random cutting and pasting. The unattributed quotations.”

        On almost every post (with a few exceptions) I directly attribute quotations, by placing the name/handle of the writer right at the top, followed by the precise date and time of their post — just like you see, above. You might even call me anal-retentive or obsessive in that regard. So, I’m sorry, but I find your complaint difficult to accept. I don’t know how to improve what I’m already doing in obsessive-compulsive fashion. As for the all caps: I think they’re OK as light seasoning, for emphasis when boldface or italic are not available (as they’re not on this forum).

      26. alan2102
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        Amanda: regarding community visioning and food-system-based economic development: could your public market idea be merged with the idea of a cooperative or publicly-owned grocery, as per:
        http://markmaynard.com/2012/11/ypsilanti-deserves-better-than-a-family-dollar-store-on-water-street/comment-page-2/#comment-420676 ?

        The public market (open-air, right?) would be more of a seasonal entity; the indoor grocery a year-round anchor.

        Further speculation/extension: would there be a place for a cooperative greenhouse or hydroponic facility at water street? That is, as an extension of the cooperative grocery/market. Focus perhaps on higher-value produce such as baby greens, arugula, edible flowers, colored peppers, etc., with sales to local restaurants and other outlets, as well as through the grocery. Offer premium, Whole-Foods-type organic produce at prices affordable for the 99%. (What a concept!) And make money in the process — money to be distributed to owner-workers.

        Don’t blame me. It’s just the operation of my pot-addled commie pinko tree-hugging godless socialist weasel brain.

      27. Anonymous Mike
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

        There are some groups that aren’t thrilled with the Downtown Market. Our Kitchen Table, a grassroots food justice group, had the following to say about the New York Times article:

        “While it’s nice to see Grand Rapids receive national recognition, access to fresh, nutritious food in Grand Rapids’ neighborhoods remains a privilege reserved for those who can afford higher prices and transportation outside of the city’s food desserts. Our Kitchen Table works to address this injustice through food gardening programs and the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market. However, as government policies do not favor the small farmer, we have a hard time finding vendors who can afford the small returns our market brings them. In addition, existing philanthropic efforts to feed the hungry more often fill bellies with low-nutrient, high sugar, processed foods that only exacerbate medical issues caused by malnutrition: obesity, asthma, diabetes, heart disease and behavioral problems. While food industry donors get write offs, lower income families are written off. Furthermore, we do not believe the new Downtown Market will do anything to improve access to healthy foods for the Grand Rapids families who need it most.”

        http://oktjustice.org/2012/11/14/new-york-times-article-giddy-over-downtown-gr-market/

      28. Dirtgrain
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

        Alan2101: “They denounce the greed and acquisitiveness that suffuses society.”

        So what? We have plenty of denouncing–it’s the follow-through that needs monitoring.

        Regarding your confusing posts, here is some advice: you ought to start with a claim. Follow that with relevant supporting examples. Make sure to establish this relevance (don’t leave it unspoken).

        Alan2012: “You never had a clue as to what “conservative” originally meant. But then, I can’t blame you too much. Most people don’t.”

        Maybe we’re the confederacy of dunces that surrounds your genius. Still, you might want to avoid the use of absolutes, assumptions and generalizations–they further cloud your message. The ad hominem attacks and labeling aren’t working too well for you, either.

      29. alan2102
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

        Anonymous Mike
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 4:29 pm
        quoting Our Kitchen Table, a grassroots food justice group

        … good points, but I wonder if Ypsilanti is big enough to have any area that is truly a “food desert”. GR is at least 10 times bigger; hence neighborhood access issues are more pressing. A downtown ypsi location is probably within easy walking or biking distance of 50% of the city’s population; that number might be too low (yes/no?).

      30. alan2102
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

        Dirtgrain: I’m no genius. But I do read now and then. It helps. As for ad hominem, labeling and scorn: they work just fine! Try them some time. Most Americans, including me, need and deserve to be insulted regularly. It would be a dereliction of duty, as well as boring, to refrain out of mere politeness, to maintain bourgeois decorum.

      31. alan2102
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

        Dirtgrain
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 5:16 pm
        Alan2101: “They denounce the greed and acquisitiveness that suffuses society.”
        Dirtgrain: “So what? We have plenty of denouncing–it’s the follow-through that needs monitoring.”

        I was referring to the papal encyclicals (“they denounce the greed…”).

        I disagree, dirtgrain. I don’t think we have plenty of denouncing — especially not from high places, from which it can have significant influence. I want the president, my senators and congresspeople, the local mayors and governors, etc., in addition to prominent members of the clergy, the bar, academics, and so on, to issue denunciations of like kind. I think that would be a very important step. That would be real leadership. It would set a social tone. It would put everyone on notice that they have serious social responsibilities, that are taken seriously by all of society’s leaders, that we are all in this together, and that we must all step up and do the right thing, and that doing evil is an abomination. Do not underestimate the power of this. If delivered with sincerity and passion, by enough figures of sufficient collective social influence, these would not be just empty words, but a powerful living force that would ramify deeply throughout society. Now, having said that, I don’t mean to say that the “follow through” to which you refer is unimportant. Of course it is important. But it must begin with clear, and repeated, STATEMENTS of conviction and values and morality (or axioms, if you prefer that to “morality”) — as illustrated so well by the popes who wrote the encyclicals that I mentioned. I have a lot of respect for these guys, in spite of not being a christian, and never being much of a fan (to say the least!) of catholicism, and in spite of disagreeing with them violently about some things. They took clear and ringing moral stands — very very good ones — about vital social justice issues, and I rarely hear anything like it anywhere else. I almost never hear it from society’s supposed “leaders” in any sphere — political, economic, academic, etc. Yes, there’s the rare exception — the Denny Kucinich here, the Bernie Sanders there, but they’re rare, and even they are not speaking up nearly as often and as clearly as needed. And it is important. No, we do NOT have nearly enough of such denouncing of manifestly evil behavior. On the contrary, evil behavior typically goes without mention, or perhaps even with acclaim and reward.

      32. Marie
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

        I’m also from Grand Rapids. The idea that Amway distributors are propping up the city is fairly silly. Yes, the principles at Amway had money and were able to spend it on large projects, but there were other philanthropists too, specifically associated with the furniture industry. Also, Grand Rapids tends to choose good mayors. I’m not sure how/why, but there was I think at least a decade with John Logie, who I believe was a republican, but it didn’t matter. I never got any sense that his political affiliation interfered with the running of the city. And George Heartwell now for many years. Before he was mayor, Mr. Heartwell had spent his life addressing the needs of the downtrodden (advocating for the homeless, insane, and such). It turns out he is a very effective and compassionate mayor. There are a lot of left wing, committed Christians in Grand Rapids. It’s a very ethical population. Even those who reject their Christian upbringings tend to be drawn toward other faiths, or at least the brotherly love ideals. So, it’s pretty normal to stumble across someone doing something really wonderful, interesting or creative who also as a matter of course goes to church every Sunday.

      33. Amanda
        Posted November 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        When I refer to public market, I’m talking not about open air, but about a year round space that can accommodate both seasonal farmers/markets, and be a place for some more permanent stalls… Royal Oak has a fairly simple version– a big pole barn, really. North Market in Columbus, OH is one of my inspirations– http://www.northmarket.com. A shared use or incubator kitchen could be a part of it. Community event and/or performance space could be accommodated… I’ve visited many of these types of markets at a variety of scales in a variety of size communities. I think it’s the next step for us. I think it– the property/building should be privately or community-owned, and then have nonprofit and community partners as users/tenants/etc… Or, it could be something like a CDC as an owner…

      34. ypsijav
        Posted November 22, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

        I think that an indoor multi-use Market/event space would be a great benefit to Ypsilanti, possibly set up with a cooperative business structure. I’m really wary of Growing Hope’s involvement in such a venture since they are not what they claim to be and are actively working against the international cooperative movement.

      35. Edward
        Posted November 22, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

        Can you explain your last comment, Jav?

      36. ypsijav
        Posted November 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

        Growing Hope started a group calling itself “the Ypsilanti Growers Cooperative” that is not a cooperative or run using cooperative principles. Other than that, they aren’t particularly good at running farmer’s markets or really anything besides getting grants, soliciting donations and bragging about how awesome Amanda is. Let me know if more explanation is needed, since I’m not sure what you’re referring to.

      37. alan2102
        Posted November 23, 2012 at 9:22 am | Permalink

        Ypsijav: “Let me know if more explanation is needed, since I’m not sure what you’re referring to.”

        I think he was referring to your statement that GH is “actively working against the international cooperative movement.” That’s a striking statement. It is one thing to fail to be what you appear to be (e.g. not being truly cooperative, etc.); it is quite another to be **actively working against** said ideals.

      38. ypsijav
        Posted November 23, 2012 at 9:40 am | Permalink

        I think that naming a group that is part of your hierarchical organization a “cooperative” for marketing reasons while ignoring the Rochdale cooperative principles qualifies as actively working against the cooperative movement.

      39. Cheapy
        Posted March 7, 2013 at 2:36 am | Permalink

        As evidenced by the fact that Vault of Midnight is looking to open a location there.

        http://markmaynard.com/2013/02/curtis-sullivan-on-operating-the-best-comic-book-store-in-the-world-ann-arbors-vault-of-midnight/

      40. air
        Posted July 8, 2013 at 9:44 am | Permalink

        And Ann Arbor’s Vault of Midnight has announced its location here. They’ll opening at 95 Monroe Center NW this September.

        http://www.mlive.com/business/west-michigan/index.ssf/2013/07/vault_of_midnight_grand_rapids.html

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        [...] seems more cutting-edge in certain practices than most other restaurant I’ve dined at. Mark Maynard’s post on Grand Rapids city development becoming progressively more innovative comes to [...]

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