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Grand Rapids’ oldest neighborhood listed in top ten national “Great Neighborhoods”

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio

A national planning organization has named Grand Rapids' oldest neighborhood as one of the top ten in the United States.

Homes in the Heritage Hill neighborhood were built mostly in the late 1800s. The homes are carefully preserved, making the Grand Rapids neighborhood one of the largest historic districts in the United States.

Jan Earl is Executive Director of the Heritage Hill Neighborhood Association.

“A lot of folks talk about the invisible screen that surrounds Heritage Hill that once you get caught in that invisible screen you never leave; as I can say 28 years later,” Earl said with a laugh.

“We have short, small front yards. We have big porches. Everything is directed to a street interaction. And that is just a very nice, comforting, safe feel if you’re walking and there’s a lot of people around,” Earl said.

The American Planning Association recognized the Grand Rapids neighborhood for its unique architecture, community engagement, and availability of both home ownership and rental units.

“Heritage Hill is a great neighborhood not only to Grand Rapids, but to the country given the national precedent for historic preservation residents set in 1970,” said APA Chief Executive Officer Paul Farmer.

“Because citizens here were engaged, the neighborhood’s exquisite 19th and early-20th century homes still stand today. I can think of no better proof of how planning and citizen participation help bring lasting value to communities,” Farmer said in a written statement.

This story has been updated to better reflect the age of the majority of the homes in the neighborhood.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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