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Old 02-17-2010, 09:58 PM
 
Location: Los Angeles
8 posts, read 14,298 times
Reputation: 10

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I say that somewhat tongue in cheek but seriously, anyone out there who is familiar with both the West Coast and GR that can advise about such things as neighborhoods, availability of local and/or organic food (particularly produce), cultural resources (outside of the major and/or well-publicized museums and such)?

Here's the deal: My wife and I are in our early-30's and have spent the duration of our adult lives split between San Francisco and Los Angeles. We like it out here quite a bit but she's been recently offered a pretty unique job opportunity in GR. She's an artist, I'm in the green building field; we are into the outdoors, gardening, cooking, art, traveling, among other things, and our politics lean pretty left.

We've done a fair amount of internet research which has yielded equal measure of promise and uncertainty. My concern is the supposed conservative and possibly "sleepy" qualities of the area. Apologies if I am just propagating a tired cliche but I get the idea we'll be in for something of a culture shock. I have no illusion that it'll be SF-East but it would be nice to find some sense of community and not feel like fish out of water. I'd love hear from locals who could offer some perspective.

Thanks for reading
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Old 02-18-2010, 03:11 PM
 
Location: Niceville, FL
8,235 posts, read 16,834,326 times
Reputation: 8895
There's a noticeable difference between the city limits and adjacent eastern suburbs (generally slightly left-leaning, welcoming to transplants) and the I-196 suburbs to the west (decidedly more conservative, harder to get involved in things socially if you aren't West Michigan Dutch). Kent County actually voted Democrat in the 2008 presidential election, which is kind of unprecedented in modern politics.

It's sleepy by major metro standards, but there are also a fair and growing number of entertainment options, and those options are often far cheaper than what you'd pay in larger cities. Save for concert tickets (pretty much anyone who does 10-15K arena shows comes through the area) which are pretty much the same anywhere. If you need something from the Big City, both Chicago and Detroit are doable as long day trips or more thorough weekend escapes.

It's a city that's looked around and decided it's not going to go down without a fight like the Flints and Saginaws did, and is trying a whole bunch of different things from medical research to the arts to try to stay a relevant place. And so far, it seems like the area is managing to somewhat hold the line.
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Old 02-18-2010, 04:04 PM
 
Location: Hernando, FL
749 posts, read 2,152,930 times
Reputation: 539
Do yourself a huge favor and forget about it. First of all as an outsider, you'll be perceived and treated as a 3rd class citizen, anywhere in MI doesn't like competition so anyone relocating with a fraction of a brain is a threat. GR leans left?.......Didn't Sarah kick off her book tour in GR? It tries to act like some kind of utopia with the art prize hoax they did last year, but in fact it's just a miniaturized version of Detoilet.
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Old 02-18-2010, 05:15 PM
 
Location: West Michigan
12,083 posts, read 34,957,544 times
Reputation: 16907
Quote:
Originally Posted by 1coolcustomer View Post
Do yourself a huge favor and forget about it. First of all as an outsider, you'll be perceived and treated as a 3rd class citizen, anywhere in MI doesn't like competition so anyone relocating with a fraction of a brain is a threat. GR leans left?.......Didn't Sarah kick off her book tour in GR? It tries to act like some kind of utopia with the art prize hoax they did last year, but in fact it's just a miniaturized version of Detoilet.
Could have been your attitude that made you an outsider. If you think Grand Rapids is nothing more than a miniature Detroit, it really shows your lack of knowledge of the area.
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Old 02-18-2010, 07:23 PM
 
Location: Niceville, FL
8,235 posts, read 16,834,326 times
Reputation: 8895
2008 Official Michigan General Election Results - President of the United States 4 Year Term (1) Position

Kent County-
Barack Obama 149,909 votes
John McCain 148,336 votes

The city and a few core suburb areas went Obama; the outer burbs went McCain. As for Palin, I suspect she was there because the GR area is home to one of the biggest Christian publishers in the country. She is so not the local GOP's type- unpolished, anti-intellectual, and the Amway money that drives the party in the area would see her as an uncultured hick. (I've now got this mental picture of Betsy DeVos seated next to Palin at some theoretical fundraiser and Betsy would so see herself as eighteen steps above the hockey mom) The last two men to hold Gerry Ford's old congressional seat have had PhDs. I think she was the reason the county narrowly flipped to Obama.
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Old 02-18-2010, 07:56 PM
 
Location: Los Angeles
8 posts, read 14,298 times
Reputation: 10
Hi all, thanks for the replies. I was worried this might spin off into a political discussion, which was certainly not my intent. Probably shouldn't have included the left-leaning statement as it's not really material. I find myself a little disillusioned with politics at the federal level and for the most part avoid what seems a fruitless debate.

I'm not too worried about being accepted by others; it seems people are people anywhere you go and as long as you're genuine and tolerant, you tend to get the same in return.

That said, maybe I'll alter my original tack and just ask:

1. Where can you find good produce (preferably organic) and other food items during winter?

2. What do early-30's "tweeners" like us do around town? (tweeners meaning no longer that interested in the regular bar scene but not quite yet in kiddie-mode) I don't know... galleries, places to see live music, great one-of-a-kind restaurants, festivals, stuff like that...

Oh, and just a shot in the dark but if anyone has any resources for me in the local green building scene I'm all ears. I currently work in the building material reuse realm but have dabbled in alternative energy and some passive solar design. Anyone doing deconstruction around there (i.e. take the building apart carefully and reuse the material rather than traditional demolition)? If not, do you think the area would be receptive to such a thing?

Thanks again my maybe neighbors...
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Old 02-18-2010, 08:56 PM
 
Location: Somewhere below Mason/Dixon
7,156 posts, read 7,954,010 times
Reputation: 11864
Quote:
Originally Posted by fourthpost View Post
Hi all, thanks for the replies. I was worried this might spin off into a political discussion, which was certainly not my intent. Probably shouldn't have included the left-leaning statement as it's not really material. I find myself a little disillusioned with politics at the federal level and for the most part avoid what seems a fruitless debate.

I'm not too worried about being accepted by others; it seems people are people anywhere you go and as long as you're genuine and tolerant, you tend to get the same in return.

That said, maybe I'll alter my original tack and just ask:

1. Where can you find good produce (preferably organic) and other food items during winter?

2. What do early-30's "tweeners" like us do around town? (tweeners meaning no longer that interested in the regular bar scene but not quite yet in kiddie-mode) I don't know... galleries, places to see live music, great one-of-a-kind restaurants, festivals, stuff like that...

Oh, and just a shot in the dark but if anyone has any resources for me in the local green building scene I'm all ears. I currently work in the building material reuse realm but have dabbled in alternative energy and some passive solar design. Anyone doing deconstruction around there (i.e. take the building apart carefully and reuse the material rather than traditional demolition)? If not, do you think the area would be receptive to such a thing?

Thanks again my maybe neighbors...

It sounds like you may be in for some culture shock. By Michigan standards Grand Rapids does have alot of restaurants and bars. Van Andel arena brings in live acts, there are festivals in lots of michigans towns. There is always something going on in downtown GR. If you are expecting west coast sophistication then you will be disapointed, after all this is the midwest. People here are more into traditional values, and a slower paced life. The average michigan resident knows more about deer hunting than art galleries. We are more likely to be able to tell you how much horsepower our gas guzzler four wheel drive has than discuss with you how alternative energy is going to save the planet. As far as a green building scene, well we do not have one. However we are thrifty people and if you find a way to salvage anything of value and resell it you will do fine with that. Are we friendly and welcoming to outsiders, yes we are. Learn to do some fishing, spend time down on Lake Michigan. Buy a snowmachine, maybe a travel trailer too because we love the outdoors here. Lots of us hunt, buy a gun spend some time in the woods. Leave California ideas behind, slow down and live the midwest lifestyle. You will enjoy your time here much more if you do that. Welcome to Michigan.
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Old 02-18-2010, 09:14 PM
 
1,012 posts, read 2,292,512 times
Reputation: 455
Wow. Based on your profile, Grand Rapids will be a different planet. The area of GR and West Michigan, in particular, leans politically right by a long margin and has many evangelical Christian churches and faith-based institutions of higher learning. GR is probably the epitome of a family-friendly area. Dont set your expectations too high in finding things to do. But GR is not far from Lake MI and outdoor recreational opportunities to the north. Skiing and ice fishing is big in the winter. MI is blessed with state parks too. Chicago and Detroit are maybe 3-hours by car for big-city ammenities.
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Old 02-18-2010, 09:58 PM
 
Location: Niceville, FL
8,235 posts, read 16,834,326 times
Reputation: 8895
There is very much a green building scene there:

America's Greenest City - New Urban Eco-nomics - Steelcase - LEED-certified buildings | Fast Company

Quote:
Grand Rapids leads the nation in the number of LEED-certified buildings per capita. In 2005, Mayor George Heartwell pledged that more than 20% of the city's power would come from renewable sources by 2008; it hit that target a year early, and Heartwell upped the target to 100% by 2020. The municipal government's energy use has been cut by more than 10%. The public-transit fleet features hybrid buses. And here, in the heart of the Rust Belt, manufacturers are leading the greenification charge. Office-furniture heavyweights Herman Miller and Steelcase both have LEED-certified buildings in the area, as do industrial firms such as Cascade Engineering.
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Old 02-19-2010, 12:59 PM
 
Location: Grand Rapids Metro
8,872 posts, read 17,746,616 times
Reputation: 3833
fourthpost, your wife got a "pretty unique job opportunity", enough to make such a big move? Sounds pretty cool.

You'll find a pretty active, but small, arts scene here for a city our size. Most people, probably like krock, daniel and 1coolcustomer don't hear about it because they're not tapped into it (you won't hear about anything hanging out at Monte's or The BOB).

There are a lot of great indie events going on at Wealthy Theatre, UICA, DAAC, etc..

Check out these GR resources:

Home
REVUE
Recoil | News Satire You Can Trust
Division Avenue Arts Collective of Grand Rapids, Mi.

You might get frustrated occasionally here with some of the uber-conservatives, but overall people are pretty decent.

Getting good organics will require multiple stops and multiple places, but they're available (farmers markets, specialty shops, some grocery stores).

No Whole Foods or Trader Joe's.

If you make the leap, welcome to Grand Rapids!
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