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It Takes a Village

By Dana Kroll, Uptown Marketing and Communications Specialist

One of the coolest ways our organization, businesses and volunteers have worked together to engage the public during the 2020 pandemic, is by utilizing the great outdoors.

Many of our great eateries, coffee shops, bakeries, restaurants, and more, have maximized their outside spaces to the extent of their abilities. To aid in this, Uptown is very proud to be able to contribute towards the addition of four community social zones, to the mix. These zones were a massive effort to pull off and involved the collaborative efforts of quite a few parties. Luckily, Uptown is flush with team players, and the efforts of the following folks and groups are how we have come to have these zones that we are happy to see being utilized by all, on a daily basis!

First – location, location, location: We have one zone that is located in the midst of the Wealthy Street hustle and bustle (outside of the block that houses Zivio Restaurant, among others), while three more are located at various points along the East Fulton Street district. In one of the project’s very first steps, our business associations took on the task to identify businesses that were willing to offer their business fronts as a location for a zone. It was gracious of them to be accommodating to the concept – having never done anything like this before, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Here’s the good news: the zones have been wonderful for business. They’ve allowed the patrons to spread out and engage more safely. Lunches at The Schnitz Deli have been a lot of fun, and some of our businesses have gotten really creative with the zones by implementing them in special projects and events as well. One example of this would be the recent Epic Sale, an annual event hosted at Urban Exchange. The event always utilizes the sidewalks in front of the shop, but this year has been able to spread out into the social zone located there, to allow for the sale to still be epic, but to also be socially distanced and safe, as well. Per Stephanie Johnson, owner of Urban Exchange, “The Uptown and EFBA sponsored social zone gave us the opportunity to host our annual Epic Sale safely. We have been thrilled with the financial results, not to mention the opportunity to help draw more people to our neighborhood!”

Meanwhile, zone furnishings – aka, tables and seats – were provided in large part via a collaborative effort between Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, Kemp Pallet, Artisan Builders, and Orion Construction, who all came together to offer donations, supplies, furniture design, and volunteer hours to result in furnished zones.

Added color and fun has been added by enlisting the help of a favorite local artist, Reb Roberts, who hand painted sixteen unique custom creations on the umbrellas that deck the zones, and they couldn’t be more perfect. They punctuate the zones, helping them to stand out, and offer a cheery environment and shelter too.

Daily maintenance and upkeep of the zones is handled in part by the businesses themselves – keeping an eye on tidiness at all times.

We hope that you have had a chance to enjoy these additions made with you in mind already, but if you haven’t, consider heading our way soon and know that we’ve made space just for you, and look forward to seeing your friendly faces!

featured image by: Carbon Stories, 2020