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Old 04-29-2009, 06:03 AM
 
60 posts, read 110,839 times
Reputation: 43

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I have been scoping this blog out recently (is this a blog?), and have read some wonderful things about East Grand Rapids. It sounds perfect. ...But no town is perfect! At the risk of perpetuating awful stereotypes (but let's face it: they're true!), I was hoping to dig a little further into some brutal truths about the charming town. Don't be afraid to scare me away; I already love it, just want a better idea of what we're getting into. Here are some things I love, and some things I hate, about suburbia. Now let me know which hold true in EGR, and to what extent! Thank you!

NIMBY's (Not In My Back Yard): people who think it would be wonderful to renovate the hospital, or put in a park, as long as the construction and noise doesn't bother them!

Diversity: Suburbia often has young couples, married with children's, and older citizens, as well as a mix of different religions and a roughly 50/50 split of political preference.

Lack of Diversity: They are often relatively homogenous in terms of racial diversity and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Taxes: Are they bad in general, or just for the state of Michigan? Can anyone here compare them to what you might find in Fairfield County, CT? Or better yet, do you have numbers?!

Gossip: Who is worst? Moms? Is it impossible to escape?

Competitive Parents: ugh... on that note: what are most parents like? Overbearing? Lax to a fault? Over-involved? Under-involved? Are they nanny types?

Teens: Drinking? Drugs? Sex? Parties? Skipping class? It happens everywhere but, how bad is it here?

Keeping Up with the Jones's: Neighbors in unspoken competition about who has the nicest car, biggest addition, smartest kids...is this very prevalent in the area? Does it depend what neighborhood you're in? Are some places more "neighborly" and laid back than others?

Spirit: How big are football games? Baseball? Lacrosse? Any girl's teams popular? What are the biggest festivals/celebrations?

Exclusiveness: Is it hard to fit in if you're not a native? Are social circles well defined? Do they have strong boundaries? Are the kids exclusive as well?

Thanks for all the help.
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Old 04-29-2009, 09:25 AM
 
Location: East Grand Rapids, MI
845 posts, read 2,929,144 times
Reputation: 236
No place is perfect. That's for sure.
Here are a few things you didn't touch on that I perceive as negatives with EGR:
1 - Housing stock is extremely expensive compared to surrounding towns. This is fine (you get what you pay for) but it may slow down appreciation (in good times) of the value of homes in EGR.
2 - It's small. There aren't TONS of houses for sale at any given time... especially if you're picky about what you like. We had a rough time finding a house we liked 4 years ago. in the end, we don't really like the exterior of our house even now. It's great inside, the street/neighborhood is great but the house is just so-so from the street.
3 - Your co-workers will instantly judge you for living in EGR. If they're here too, they'll pat you on the back. If they grew up in GR but don't live in EGR you will find yourself apologizing. It's a very interesting dynamic that I still experience to some degree after living here 4 years.
4 - It's small. You will know people... lot's of people. I have a friend who is a widower. He complains that dating is difficult because even years after her death, people want to talk about her everywhere he goes (grocery shopping, school events, restaurants). Overall, privacy suffers in small towns. This isn't EGR's fault, but it's a truism that holds here.

Regarding your questions, here are my thoughts. Remember, they're just opinions. I also don't think EGR is all that different from FH in many of the criteria you've laid out. Thing is, I don't live in FH, so it's difficult to comment.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pooches9 View Post
NIMBY's (Not In My Back Yard): people who think it would be wonderful to renovate the hospital, or put in a park, as long as the construction and noise doesn't bother them!
This is true everywhere. EGR's downtown has a plan for 7-story condos. That had to go to a public vote to be approved. People didn't think it fit the character of the city. This is really a NIMBY thing I think. In the end it was approved, but it was a big deal.

Quote:

Diversity: Suburbia often has young couples, married with children's, and older citizens, as well as a mix of different religions and a roughly 50/50 split of political preference.

Lack of Diversity: They are often relatively homogenous in terms of racial diversity and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Racial/Economic/Age/Gender diversity is publically available: http://www.city-data.com/city/East-G...-Michigan.html

Politically, GR City is more liberal than EGR. Western suburbs are more conservative. EGR voted for Obama and Levin (democrats) and Ehlers (Republican) and GWB (Republican). Generally I'd say it's closest to 55/45 Republican (based on GWB term2 voting).

Quote:

Taxes: Are they bad in general, or just for the state of Michigan? Can anyone here compare them to what you might find in Fairfield County, CT? Or better yet, do you have numbers?!
They are higher in Michigan than some places.
They are higher in EGR than anywhere in Kent County.
They are higher in Kalamazoo than in EGR (i.e. EGR is incorrectly rumored to be the highest in the state).

Quick formula for EGR: 44.236 mills
Take the value of your house (e.g. $200k) and cut it in half ($100k) divide by 1,000 (e.g. 100) and then multiply by mills (44.236) means that a $200k house pays $4,423.60 in annual taxes.

You can get area millage rates here: Grand Rapids Property Taxes and Millage Rates

I don't know anything about Fairfield, CT... that your job.


Quote:

Gossip: Who is worst? Moms? Is it impossible to escape?
It takes 2 to gossip. If you're not into it, it won't bother you. If you're into it, then life can be like Desperate Housewives.

Quote:
Competitive Parents: ugh... on that note: what are most parents like? Overbearing? Lax to a fault? Over-involved? Under-involved? Are they nanny types?
EGR likes to say that parents are "involved." That means over-involved to some. Grand Rapids magazine reports PTA attendance at over 90% for parents in EGR schools. That is unheard of elsewhere to the best of my knowledge. I read an article from a few years ago claiming over 75% of families sent both parents to PTA meetings regularly.

EGR is a competitive town. I would say more so than economic status, people here seek status through success at whatever they're doing. This week alone I read the following articles:
GO FIGURE: EGR Lakeside elementary scores big on online math competition - Cadence - MLive.com

We The People team from East Grand Rapids High School competes at national finals in Washington, D.C. - Grand Rapids News - The Latest News, Blogs, Photos & Videos – MLive.com

The town is just as proud of those types of things as they are about their consecutive football state championships. It doesn't matter what it is, they just want to be GOOD at it.

I'm not sure how I feel about this yet... (my kids are young) but it is what it is.

Quote:
Teens: Drinking? Drugs? Sex? Parties? Skipping class? It happens everywhere but, how bad is it here?
It's the same as every other affluent suburb.
Kids do dumb things and post pictures on Facebook and get in trouble.
Parents do dumb things are insist their kids aren't at fault.
It's no worse (or better) than anywhere else from what I can see.

Quote:
Keeping Up with the Jones's: Neighbors in unspoken competition about who has the nicest car, biggest addition, smartest kids...is this very prevalent in the area? Does it depend what neighborhood you're in? Are some places more "neighborly" and laid back than others?
It's there, but I haven't experienced it too much with regard to cars/houses. See my comments about success above. Being the best teacher in West Michigan (with a salary of $50,000 and a used car) is better than being a disgraced doctor with a Lexus (Dr. Stokes!).

There are homes from 900 sq. ft. to 9,000 sq. ft.

I don't know about neighborliness in areas other than the areas we frequent. They are all very nice in terms of block parties and get-togethers. I've cycled past the neighborhood Easter picnic on Bonnell (home of the largest homes) so I know they're doing that stuff too but I don't hang out there, so who knows.
Quote:
Spirit: How big are football games? Baseball? Lacrosse? Any girl's teams popular? What are the biggest festivals/celebrations?
Football is a town-wide event. There are 10,500 residents and probably 4,000 people attending weekly football games. Families without kids in high school go to the games (we walk with 5 or 6 families from our street so we can sit together... none of us have kids over 8). Baseball is not as big. Girls swimming is a big sport (with multiple state championships to its credit). Girls field hockey is fun to watch (I have daughters) and is played at the field overlooking the lake. I was one of 100 people there last time we watch a game... so it's not popular but my girls loved it. Tennis is a big sport too... again, not sure about spectators, but in terms of excellence it's big.
Quote:

Exclusiveness: Is it hard to fit in if you're not a native? Are social circles well defined? Do they have strong boundaries? Are the kids exclusive as well?
It's not hard to fit in. I'm not a native. My friends are a mix. The city is a mix of natives and non-GR transplants.

There is a noticeable dislike of EGR from many GR-area natives. I haven't figured it out (FH is wealthier and larger, but gets less of the ire) but I have theories. That dislike seems to really limit the number of GR-area natives who move into EGR after growing up outside EGR. I liken it to Grosse Pointe near Detroit. I don't have analogies for your area near Connecticut, sorry.

Social circles are prevalent but not exclusive outside of the upper-upper crust which happens to be extremely well defined in the entire metro-area.

I don't know about kids. I know that the high school kids living nextdoor are from outside of the GR-area but absolutely loved EGR by the end of their first year here. I think, again, that you have to be good at something to fit in. Our neighbor kids are very athletic... that obviously makes you fit in.

Enjoy... and please remember, these are opinions.

You should visit. Visit the schools. Visit the neighborhoods. Visit downtown. Go out to dinner 2 or 3 times during the week (when most diners are locals) and see what you see. Attend a sporting event in your child's preferred sport.

Finally... visit somewhere else too (FH? Rockford?). There are lots of great areas around GR. You should give a few of them a chance to see what you really like.

We did that, and it ended up being EGR. Obviously others choose other places. It helps prevent buyer's remorse. :-)

Good luck with your move! You'll love Grand Rapids. It's a great area.

Last edited by suydam; 04-29-2009 at 09:36 AM..
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Old 04-29-2009, 09:38 AM
 
Location: Grand Rapids Metro
8,754 posts, read 16,854,608 times
Reputation: 3619
That's a big list of questions. I would answer yes to everything, good and bad.

We go out to eat about once a week in EGR, even though we live in FH. We do it for a couple of reasons: locally owned restaurants, a great vibe when the weather is warm with people running and walking everywhere, boats on the lake, the fountains at Gaslight Village, Jersey Junction ice cream!

One observation that my wife makes every time we go, is that there are a lot of people in EGR that appear to be physically active, which is great in our opinion. If it's not people running, it's people who look like they just came from the gym or from a sporting event. And people run/jog in groups, which she thinks is strange. I tell her it's a combination of the walkability of EGR, Reeds Lake trail that passes "downtown" Gaslight Village, and the demographics.

We've actually contemplated moving from FH to EGR, but we don't need to move, so we're afraid we'd not get the price we want out of our current house right now.

Property taxes are high in EGR. No idea what they are in CT, but EGR's are about 2.2% of your market value/year. They're high because East never turns down an opportunity to invest in the schools, parks and infrastructure.
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