Grand Rapids, Michigan

From Academic Kids

Template:US City infobox Grand Rapids is a city in the United States. It is the county seat of Kent County, Michigan. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 197,800. It is the second largest city in the state and the anchor of a metropolitan area of nearly a million people. It is the principal city in the region of West Michigan.



The Grand Rapids area was first settled in the 1820s by missionaries and fur traders, who generally lived in reasonable peace alongside the Ottawa tribespeople who had their settlements near the Grand River.

The official founder of Grand Rapids itself was Louis Campau, who arrived in November 1826 to trade with the Indians. Yankee immigrants and others began immigrating from New York and New England in the 1830s.

The city of Grand Rapids was officially created on May 1, 1850, when the village of Grand Rapids voted to accept the proposed city charter. The population at the time was 2,686.

During the second half of the 19th century the city became a major lumbering center and the premier furniture manufacturing city of the United States. For this reason it was nicknamed "Furniture City". The city also became a center of Dutch immigration in the 19th century.

In 1881, the country's first hydro-electric plant was put to use on the city's west side. Grand Rapids was home to the first regularly scheduled passenger airline in the United States when Stout Air Services began Grand Rapids to Detroit service on July 31, 1926. In 1945, Grand Rapids became the first city in the United States to add fluoride to its drinking water.

Grand Rapids has several large ethnic communities. It is home to the headquarters of the Christian Reformed Church and is a center of the Reformed Church in America, both because of the presence of a large group of Dutch Americans. Grand Rapids is also home to a large Polish American and African American communities and a growing Hispanic community.

Law and government

The Commission-Manager plan

Grand Rapids voters adopted the Commission-Manager form of municipal government in 1916. Under this system, the political reponsibilities are divided between an elected City Commission and a hired City Manager. Two Commissioners are elected to four-year terms from each of three wards, with half of these seats up for election every two years. The Mayor is elected every four years, by the city at large, and serves as chair of the Commission. The races - held in odd-numbered years - are formally non-partisan, although the party affiliations of candidates do sometimes come up during the campaign period. The Commission sets policy for the city, and is responsible for hiring the City Manager and other appointed officials [1] (

George Heartwell, current mayor

George Heartwell was elected mayor of Grand Rapids after long-serving mayor John H. Logie declined to run for re-election in 2003. Logie felt the position should be made full-time, but to avoid the question becoming a referendum on whether he should hold the job full-time, he announced that he would not run for re-election. The voters decided to keep the position part-time, and Heartwell was elected.

Heartwell assumed office on January 1, 2004. Prior to being mayor, Heartwell was a City Commissioner for the third ward, 1992-1999. He is Director of the Community Leadership Institute at Aquinas College, where he is also a professor in the Community Leadership undergraduate study program. Mayor Heartwell is an ordained minister, for the United Church of Christ, and served for 14 years at Heartside Ministry, a program for the homeless in Grand Rapids. He was previously the president of Heartwell Mortgage Corporation [2] (

See also: List of mayors of Grand Rapids, Michigan


Grand Rapids sits on the banks of the Grand River, where there was once a set of rapids, at an altitude of 610 feet above sea level. It is approximately 30 miles east of Lake Michigan. The state capital of Lansing lies about 60 miles to the east-by-southeast, and Kalamazoo is about 50 miles to the south.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 117.4 km² (45.3 mi²). 115.6 km² (44.6 mi²) of it is land and 1.8 km² (0.7 mi², 1.50%) of it is water (primarily the Grand River).


As of the census of 2000, there are 197,800 people, 73,217 households, and 44,369 families residing in the city. The population density is 1,710.8/km² (4,431.2/mi²). There are 77,960 housing units at an average density of 674.3/km² (1,746.5/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 67.30% White, 20.41% African American, 0.74% Native American, 1.62% Asian, 0.12% Pacific Islander, 6.63% from other races, and 3.19% from two or more races. 13.05% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 73,217 households out of which 32.0% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.3% are married couples living together, 15.8% have a female householder with no husband present, and 39.4% are non-families. 30.8% of all households are made up of individuals and 10.0% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.57 and the average family size is 3.24.

In the city the population is spread out with 27.0% under the age of 18, 13.1% from 18 to 24, 31.5% from 25 to 44, 16.7% from 45 to 64, and 11.6% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 30 years. For every 100 females there are 95.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 92.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $37,224, and the median income for a family is $44,224. Males have a median income of $33,050 versus $26,382 for females. The per capita income for the city is $17,661. 15.7% of the population and 11.9% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 19.4% are under the age of 18 and 10.4% are 65 or older.


Grand Rapids has long been a center for furniture and automobile manufacturing. More recently the city has attracted more bio-tech companies to the city with the addition of the Van Andel Research Institute, which is primarily focused on cancer research, and the new Cook-DeVos Medical Training Facility, which is a part of Grand Valley State University, along with a new medical school in association with Michigan State University which is slated to arrive in West Michigan in the next three to five years.

The new DeVos Place is expected to continue the growth of the city, which has seen a significant increase recently. Other future projects in the city include a new art museum.

Commercial air service to Grand Rapids is provided by Gerald R. Ford International Airport.


Since 1970, Grand Rapids has been host to an annual festival of the arts downtown, known to locals simply as "Festival (insert year here)". The first weekend in June, several blocks of downtown surrounding the Calder stabile next to City Hall are closed to traffic. Festival ( features several stages with free live performances, food booths selling a variety of ethnic cuisine, art demonstrations and sales, and other arts-related activities. Organizers bill it as the largest all-volunteer arts festival in the United States. Also in Calder Plaza, Grand Rapids hosts a variety of country-specific ethnic festivals throughout the summer season.

In mid-2004, Grand Rapids began construction on a new, larger building for its art museum collection. The new building site is several blocks from the present museum, facing downtown's Rosa Parks Circle.

Grand Rapids is home to several colleges and universities. Aquinas College, Calvin College, Reformed Bible College and Cornerstone University are private, religious schools, each with a campus on the east side of the city. Grand Rapids Community College maintains an extensive campus downtown and facilities in other parts of the city and surrounding region. Grand Valley State University continues to develop its presence in the city with an expanding downtown campus, begun in the late 1990s on the west bank of the Grand River. Ferris State University has a growing campus downtown, including Kendall College of Art and Design and the Applied Technology Center (operated with GRCC). Davenport University, a state-wide educational institution, has one of its main campuses in downtown Grand Rapids.

Other cultural links

Sites of interest

Notable current/former residents

Local sports teams

External links



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