Heartside Quality of Life Study

PNG image of Heartside neighborhood logo


The Heartside Quality of Life study is a resident-driven initiative. We started this work in September 2017. Our goals:

  • Hear from a wide variety of stakeholders and expand neighborhood voice
  • Develop mutual understanding and create a vision for the future
  • Identify collaborative, community-based solutions
  • Foster community ownership of the process and implementation
  • Improve Quality of Life for ALL who live, work, and play in Heartside

Heartside Quality of Life Final Report(PDF, 11MB)

The Work

Phase 1

More than 200 people attended our Quality of Life Listening Tour. Here, residents voiced their hopes for the neighborhood.

Phase 2

Staff presented the early results from the listening tour at the Neighbor Knowledge Exchange. The group refined priorities, and staff listened to more feedback from the community. This led to key focus areas for work groups.

Phase 3

We formed seven work groups, broken down by topic areas voted on by neighbors.

Working Groups

  1. At Home in Heartside
  2. Public Restrooms
  3. Neighborhood Building and Activation
  4. Engaged and Employed
  5. Substance Abuse Support, Recovery, and Mental Health Advocacy
  6. Fresh Food Access
  7. Areas of Improvement (Pekich Park and Lucky’s Liquor)

Theme Based Working Group Implementation

We started with a 2-day event of Panel Discussions in Heartside where we invited neighbors and experts to converse and complete activities together based on each work group theme.

Work Group Orientation

We hosted a Work Group Orientation at the Herkimer Community Space to engage neighbors and stakeholders to introduce them to the process and give them a chance to finalize work group selections.

Work Group Meetings

Meetings began in May. We schedule a total of six Bi-weekly meetings that would run through the end of July 2018. All work group meetings are hosted at the Avenue for the Arts space in Heartside on the south division corridor.

Progress Reports

The City hosted a Heartside Work Group Progress Report Luncheon that had about 60 attendees.

Work Assignments

Each group is currently working on 5 final recommendations for the Planning Dept. and other collaborative partners to consider and execute that will improve quality of life in Heartside. Some of the groups have already produced measurable outcomes, but there is a wide variety of both short term and long term goals per group.


Work Groups celebrated their accomplishments on August 8th, 2018.

Continuing Work

Some work groups will continue meeting through 2019.

Final Report

Heartside Quality of Life


Overall Participation

203 Total Participants

104 Residents

51 Non-Residents

55 Employees in the Area

Heartside Neighborhood Collaboration Project (hncp) Session

6 Attendees

Full Details

Diagram showing the level of participation in the Heartside Quality of Life Survey sessions

Photo of neighbors in Grand Rapids' Heartside Neighborhood participating in community building events

 “A lot of residents showed up and were interested in learning about our services. The staff were also very friendly and engaging with both community partners and residents.”

Dwelling Place hosted a free open house style event on January 30th. 85 Dwelling Place residents and 16 Heartside Residents attended. Mel Trotter and Degage clients attended as well. Attendees were connected directly to resources in West Michigan while learning directly from peers about getting involved in the community.

13 organizations including the City Planning department participated sharing resources from 3:00 pm - 7:00 pm. Engagement activities included on-site childcare. Residents were invited to complete a “passport” card, which vendors stamped and could be submitted to register for a prize drawing. The first 80 people through the door received a tote bag from either Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. or the Rapid.

The following day from 9:30 am - 7:30 pm, the City of Grand Rapids Planning department used the same location to engage all Heartside residents and community stakeholders. This engagement was a full day of programming, including a report back to the community from the information gathered during the Heartside Listening Session series. Sessions were both an opportunity for reporting out to the community and obtaining additional feedback from new participants. Sessions were free with meals provided at 9:30 am, 12:00 pm and 6:00 pm. Childcare was available to remove any barriers to participation.

Participating Organizations

  • Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.
  • Heartside Neighborhood Association
  • The City of Grand Rapids
  • Downtown Ambassadors
  • Recovery Academy
  • Grand Rapids Public Library
  • The Rapidian and Grand Rapids Community Media Center
  • Grand Rapids Red Project
  • Dégagé Ministries
  • The Rapid
  • Kent County Tax Coalition
  • Heartside Ministries
  • Disability Advocates
  • 70x7 Ministries
  • Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts

Study Feedback

Participating organizations and Dwelling Place staff were asked to complete a study to evaluate event success. 11 persons responded to the study. Of those:

  • 100% Said they would participate in similar events in the future
  • 100% Scored the event as Extremely or Very Well organized
  • 90.91 Scored the event as Excellent or Very Good

Community Voices

  • “It was a chance for us as an organization to talk with Heartside residents from a variety of different parts of the city and share what we do and the opportunities that are available. Many residents seemed to attend with resources they were looking for and it was fun to help direct them. I was impressed that they recruited so many awesome organizations and resources for residents. It was also a great way to meet other organizations. Big rush early on.”
  • “The setup and flow of the service table lay out worked very well. Folks did not seem overwhelmed or confused when they walked in, instead got right down to business. Everyone who presented information appeared professional and engaged with the residents who attended.”
  • “We should do this every year! What a wonderful event!!”

Study Information and Distribution

We know that Pekich Park is not functioning as intended and has become a source of stress rather than a place of enjoyment for surrounding neighbors.


We distributed surveys to get community input on the park and received more than 300 responses. We held a public meeting in October 2017. From the surveys and meetings, we have identified short-term and long-term efforts to address issues surround Pekich Park.

Initial Potential Solutions


Activate use of the park space in a way that serves resident and business owners. The goal is to begin to build a greater sense of community ownership over the space. Change the narrative...

Flexible Design Seating

This minor physical improvement could allow for greater activation of the space. Existing fixed seating has been identified as a potential limitation on space activation.

Creating a more flexible design where seating locations can be shifted or temporarily removed for an event would allow more creative utilization of the limited park footprint. Movable seating could also work to support other temporary uses, such as a neighborhood food truck festival or sporting game event. Over time, activities like these could change both behavior within the park as well as community perception of the space.

Community Info Board

This would help identify nearby community resources as well as to promote upcoming events within the community. Increased education and resources awareness is imperative in Heartside. A prime location for this board could be under the existing Pavillion, but the actual location would need to be further vetted.

Important Notes

Electrical service extension would likely be required to facilitate these improvements. With your support we would like to take this idea from concept into a more formalized design and cost estimate.

Engagement Timeline

July 2016

Call to Action received from Heartside residents and stakeholders. 

April 2017

Began formal outreach and engagement efforts related to Quality of Life in the Heartside district, including Pekich Park. 

Summer 2017

Pekich Park Survey Creation & Dissemination ( Hardcopy and Electronic) 

August 2017

Community Stakeholder Meeting hosted at Parks & Recreation Facility 

September 2017

Community Stakeholder Meeting hosted at Parks & Recreation Facility 

October 2017

Public Meeting with residents and community stakeholders at the Herkimer Community Space. The agenda for this meeting included a report back on the study, update from the police and facilitated community discussion.