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Old 03-26-2010, 10:10 AM
 
1 posts, read 3,831 times
Reputation: 10

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My wife and I are considering relocating from Chicago to either Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor or Minneapolis. I am from southern Michigan, and she is from Minneapolis. We're both familiar with Minneapolis and know what to expect if we move there (we like it). I've spent some time in Ann Arbor, but not much. Both of us are clueless about Grand Rapids, but we're interested because I've heard that it's a fun city with a relatively robust economy.

I'm posting this mostly for information about Grand Rapids, but any comparisons or comments re: Ann Arbor or Minneapolis would be appreciated as well.

Our concerns and curiosities are:

1. Jobs / Economy - I am a recently laid off lawyer with two years of litigation experience and a degree from a national law school. My wife is an artist. I would like to get a job as an attorney. Ideally, my wife would like to get a job in the arts, but would take other work if necessary. We are planning to make the move from Chicago in a couple months, and it is likely that neither of us will have a job at our destination city. Would it be crazy to move to Grand Rapids? Ann Arbor? We have savings and could pretty comfortably go for six months or so without work. Probably longer than that.

2. The Arts - Even if she didn't get a job in the arts, it is important that where we move have a thriving contemporary arts community that my wife could get involved in. We know Ann Arbor and Minneapolis have this. Grand Rapids?

3. Neighborhoods - Our ideal living situation is an urban residential neighborhood that falls somewhere between "downtown" and "the suburbs." Someplace with single family houses and small apartment buildings on blocks, but bars / restaurants / shops within a short walk. Again, we know Ann Arbor and Minneapolis have such neighborhoods. What about Grand Rapids?

4. Culture - I grew up in Michigan but spent almost no time in GR. One of the prejudices I have about the city (which is not founded on any actual experience) is that it is conservative and its residents keep to themselves. My wife and I are looking for "a nice place to settle down and raise a family." However, we're in our late 20s / early 30s and the ability to make new friends and have a options to get a beer and a nice meal is important. In Chicago, we have lots of friends and dining / going out options. How is Grand Rapids on that front? Are people our age outgoing? What is the nightlife like? NB: the only time I have been to Grand Rapids in the last 10 years was a trip to the Founders Brewery for a quick beer, which I loved. If Grand Rapids has a few similar places, I think we'd be ok.

5. Politics - Another preconception I have about GR is that it's conservative. My wife and I are both fairly liberal. We're not loud-mouthed about it, and have friends and family with whom we disagree, but people would figure it out eventually. Is GR so conservative that this would be an impediment to making friends or advancing our careers?

Thanks for the help! Any advice is appreciated.
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Old 03-27-2010, 09:35 AM
 
5,845 posts, read 11,135,413 times
Reputation: 4499
Quote:
Originally Posted by wblackst View Post
My wife and I are considering relocating from Chicago to either Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor or Minneapolis. I am from southern Michigan, and she is from Minneapolis. We're both familiar with Minneapolis and know what to expect if we move there (we like it). I've spent some time in Ann Arbor, but not much. Both of us are clueless about Grand Rapids, but we're interested because I've heard that it's a fun city with a relatively robust economy.

I'm posting this mostly for information about Grand Rapids, but any comparisons or comments re: Ann Arbor or Minneapolis would be appreciated as well.

Our concerns and curiosities are:

1. Jobs / Economy - I am a recently laid off lawyer with two years of litigation experience and a degree from a national law school. My wife is an artist. I would like to get a job as an attorney. Ideally, my wife would like to get a job in the arts, but would take other work if necessary. We are planning to make the move from Chicago in a couple months, and it is likely that neither of us will have a job at our destination city. Would it be crazy to move to Grand Rapids? Ann Arbor? We have savings and could pretty comfortably go for six months or so without work. Probably longer than that.

2. The Arts - Even if she didn't get a job in the arts, it is important that where we move have a thriving contemporary arts community that my wife could get involved in. We know Ann Arbor and Minneapolis have this. Grand Rapids?

3. Neighborhoods - Our ideal living situation is an urban residential neighborhood that falls somewhere between "downtown" and "the suburbs." Someplace with single family houses and small apartment buildings on blocks, but bars / restaurants / shops within a short walk. Again, we know Ann Arbor and Minneapolis have such neighborhoods. What about Grand Rapids?

4. Culture - I grew up in Michigan but spent almost no time in GR. One of the prejudices I have about the city (which is not founded on any actual experience) is that it is conservative and its residents keep to themselves. My wife and I are looking for "a nice place to settle down and raise a family." However, we're in our late 20s / early 30s and the ability to make new friends and have a options to get a beer and a nice meal is important. In Chicago, we have lots of friends and dining / going out options. How is Grand Rapids on that front? Are people our age outgoing? What is the nightlife like? NB: the only time I have been to Grand Rapids in the last 10 years was a trip to the Founders Brewery for a quick beer, which I loved. If Grand Rapids has a few similar places, I think we'd be ok.

5. Politics - Another preconception I have about GR is that it's conservative. My wife and I are both fairly liberal. We're not loud-mouthed about it, and have friends and family with whom we disagree, but people would figure it out eventually. Is GR so conservative that this would be an impediment to making friends or advancing our careers?

Thanks for the help! Any advice is appreciated.
I'm not sure how much real help I can be. However, I've been there a couple brief times and know people from the area.

Bottom line is, since Grand Rapids is the economic bright spot in Michigan (it has the most diversified economy in the state) it retains more young people, and even attracts some people from outside the area.

With that, the area is slowly changing from what I can tell, and the downtown area is become more vibrant with more arts, and less conservative culture. The outlying suburban areas maybe a different however. One neighborhood that is seemed to a be a bit funky (reminded me a bit of Oak Park outside Chicago) is Heritage Hill.

Still, hopefully some people who actually live in the area can help you out better.

Good luck.
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Old 03-28-2010, 01:26 PM
 
Location: Grand Rapids Metro
8,872 posts, read 17,744,725 times
Reputation: 3833
There's no beer, no arts community and no night-life in Grand Rapids.
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Old 03-28-2010, 06:52 PM
 
Location: East Grand Rapids, MI
845 posts, read 3,018,657 times
Reputation: 236
Quote:
Originally Posted by wblackst View Post
My wife and I are considering relocating from Chicago to either Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor or Minneapolis. I am from southern Michigan, and she is from Minneapolis. We're both familiar with Minneapolis and know what to expect if we move there (we like it). I've spent some time in Ann Arbor, but not much. Both of us are clueless about Grand Rapids, but we're interested because I've heard that it's a fun city with a relatively robust economy.

I'm posting this mostly for information about Grand Rapids, but any comparisons or comments re: Ann Arbor or Minneapolis would be appreciated as well.

Our concerns and curiosities are:

1. Jobs / Economy - I am a recently laid off lawyer with two years of litigation experience and a degree from a national law school. My wife is an artist. I would like to get a job as an attorney. Ideally, my wife would like to get a job in the arts, but would take other work if necessary. We are planning to make the move from Chicago in a couple months, and it is likely that neither of us will have a job at our destination city. Would it be crazy to move to Grand Rapids? Ann Arbor? We have savings and could pretty comfortably go for six months or so without work. Probably longer than that.

2. The Arts - Even if she didn't get a job in the arts, it is important that where we move have a thriving contemporary arts community that my wife could get involved in. We know Ann Arbor and Minneapolis have this. Grand Rapids?

3. Neighborhoods - Our ideal living situation is an urban residential neighborhood that falls somewhere between "downtown" and "the suburbs." Someplace with single family houses and small apartment buildings on blocks, but bars / restaurants / shops within a short walk. Again, we know Ann Arbor and Minneapolis have such neighborhoods. What about Grand Rapids?

4. Culture - I grew up in Michigan but spent almost no time in GR. One of the prejudices I have about the city (which is not founded on any actual experience) is that it is conservative and its residents keep to themselves. My wife and I are looking for "a nice place to settle down and raise a family." However, we're in our late 20s / early 30s and the ability to make new friends and have a options to get a beer and a nice meal is important. In Chicago, we have lots of friends and dining / going out options. How is Grand Rapids on that front? Are people our age outgoing? What is the nightlife like? NB: the only time I have been to Grand Rapids in the last 10 years was a trip to the Founders Brewery for a quick beer, which I loved. If Grand Rapids has a few similar places, I think we'd be ok.

5. Politics - Another preconception I have about GR is that it's conservative. My wife and I are both fairly liberal. We're not loud-mouthed about it, and have friends and family with whom we disagree, but people would figure it out eventually. Is GR so conservative that this would be an impediment to making friends or advancing our careers?

Thanks for the help! Any advice is appreciated.
1. Minneapolis is one of the most affluent and growing areas in the Midwest. Jobs should be more plentiful there, but I've never stopped to look before. That said, GR is not going to hold a candle to MSP in that regard. On the other hand, West Michigan is the economic bright spot in Michigan (though Ann Arbor isn't exactly dim).

2. G.R. has an arts scene. The biggest construction project going on right now is the UICA's new home. We also boast the first (and for a time only) LEED-certified art museum in the world, Michigan's only professional ballet company, and a host of other options. Is it Minneapolis? Of course not, the metro area around Minneapolis is more than twice as big as GR... consequently you'll have twice as much in terms of art. Compared to Ann Arbor, I think GR also falls short. It's not that we don't have options, it's just that we don't have a world famous university in town (we have GVSU, which is known state-wide but certainly not in the same league of UofM).

3. There are great urban neighborhoods in GR. I also think you'd find housing more affordable than AA or MSP.

4. I think GR is a fantastic place to be in your 20s/30s and married. You don't need to worry about meeting people, there are plenty of us. I wouldn't worry about this at all.

5. The city is fairly progressive. The inner suburbs are a mix. The outer suburbs are very conservative. The County voted Obama in 2008 and Bush in 2004. Ann Arbor is liberal. Grand Rapids is not Ann Arbor, but it's not too intolerant one way or the other.

At the end of the day, some of what GR has over AA (two cities I had to choose between about 5 years ago) is proximity to the outdoors, world class beaches 35 miles from downtown and of course a river right in the middle of the city.

Good luck. I hope you choose GR of course (we did!).
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Old 03-29-2010, 07:49 PM
 
Location: Wyoming, MI
47 posts, read 87,431 times
Reputation: 18
I would agree that I like GR's location better than AA's, being close to Lake Michigan and a 2.5 hour drive to Chicago.

The almost singular concern I would have with raising a family in the city is Grand Rapids Public Schools. I would recommend spending a good amount of time looking at the schools in the area and trying to find the right fit of being near great schools without sacrificing the walkable/urban neighborhood that you desire as well. I think GRPS is at a very important point right now. They're talking about some pretty significant reforms, closing/consolidating schools. It will hopefully result in improvement over time, but there's just too much uncertainty right now for my comfort.
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Old 03-30-2010, 07:55 PM
 
Location: East Grand Rapids, MI
845 posts, read 3,018,657 times
Reputation: 236
Quote:
Originally Posted by francishsu View Post
I would agree that I like GR's location better than AA's, being close to Lake Michigan and a 2.5 hour drive to Chicago.

The almost singular concern I would have with raising a family in the city is Grand Rapids Public Schools. I would recommend spending a good amount of time looking at the schools in the area and trying to find the right fit of being near great schools without sacrificing the walkable/urban neighborhood that you desire as well. I think GRPS is at a very important point right now. They're talking about some pretty significant reforms, closing/consolidating schools. It will hopefully result in improvement over time, but there's just too much uncertainty right now for my comfort.
If you're ok being in a walkable, older neighborhood outside of the city by several blocks, East Grand Rapids provides a great alternative with fantastic schools.

We choose it for that reason. We wanted to be in the city, wanted to walk places, wanted our kids to know their neighbors (i.e. smaller lots) and wanted great public schools.
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