Grandville mall’s past remembered

Nov. 09, 2009

GRANDVILLE, Mich. — When people hear the RiverTown Crossings mall has been around for ten years, they may think of shopping they have done in that year.

For Mayor James Buck, the anniversary means much more than that. It marks the end of a years-long struggle to bring the mall into existence.

“We had zoned that property in 1982,” Buck said. The property was about 100 acres and was zoned for shopping.

General Growth Properties approached the City of Grandville in the 1990s about building a mall on the property. A plan that ran into a complication when they realized they needed about 30 more acres zones for a shopping center to make their plans works.

Management over at Woodland Mall started to protest General Growth from coming in, Buck said. He said they funded the Concerned Citizens of Grandville, an advocacy group dedicated to protesting the building of the mall.

“There were so many fears,” said Buck. “I think the anti-mall people really were the ones that said you were going to change the complexion of our city. It’d be terribly busy, it’ll be this, it’ll be that.”

“There was a good deal of planning that went into it, and we never ever got the problems they said we were going to get,” Buck said.

One concern mall protestors had is that by introducing a mall to the community, that it would increase the crime in the area, a charge Buck said has not been proven true.

In 1996, members of the Grandville Police Department traveled to malls in across Michigan, including malls in Southfield and Dearborn, to survey the crime in the community since malls opened in the areas.

“We drove all over the State of Michigan to the different malls because people were so in arms about crime going up and things like that and we did our own study, and crime didn’t go up,” said Rhonda Johnson, who worked as the Administrative Officer for the Grandville Chief of Police during the time the mall was being protested.

“If you go back and take a look at the police records, it’ll indicate that there has been very little change at all,” he said. “It hasn’t been any problem.”

Another concern voices by citizens opposed to the mall was the possibility of having gangs attracted to Grandville, another concern that the Grandville Mayor said has not come to pass.

“We really have not had the gang activity here,” Buck added.

The additional thirty acres was eventually put to a vote, and the citizens of Grandville voted to allow the extra land be zoned for the mall.

“It took two or three days and the bulldozers were there and the project started,” Buck said.

After the mall was built, it helped usher in even more businesses into the area.

“From it came all the other, smaller mini-malls and certainly the influx of restaurants,” Buck said.

“It’s brings people to that area, and that’s prosperous,” he said.

According to Buck, the mall has maintained a good working relationship with the city. He said that even when they had a disagreement, they have been able to work well together.

“You’ve got to be able to seek the middle ground, and we’ve been able to do that with them,” he said.

In a troubled economy, Buck says that the mall and surrounding businesses have still done well, and that RiverTown Crossings’ General Manager, Randy Zimmerman, was still optimistic about the mall’s business.

“Last time I talked to Randy, he was still quite positive,” Buck said of the mall’s ability to retain stores in a downwards economy.

Throughout the changes the two-story shopping center has brought the city, Buck said that throughout both good and bad, they have been one thing in particular to the community.

“They’ve been a good neighbor,” Buck said.

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