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Investing in the Future of Communities: Amplify GR’s HUB 07

Investing in the Future of Communities: Amplify GR’s HUB 07

By Luke Carothers

Based in Southeast Grand Rapids, Michigan, Amplify GR is a place-based nonprofit that combines hyper-local community growth and prosperity strategies with a nation framework from Purpose Built Communities.  Amplify GR uses a multi-generational lens to perform community development differently–working with neighbors, community partners, and businesses to preserve and widen pathways that create greater opportunity for neighbors to participate in and benefit from community growth.  This practice is founded in the belief that the people who are most invested in- and knowledgeable about a neighborhood’s growth and development are its citizens.  Their goal is to create environments and ecosystems for neighbors to prosper from the benefits of a thriving neighborhood.

The Amplify GR Community Hub (HUB 07 or Community HUB) is a $26 million 45,000 square-foot project rebuilt from an abandoned religious facility.  Located in the heart of a historic Grand Rapids, Michigan neighborhood, every facet of this new facility–from the design, architecture, location, inside elements, color–was determined by resident feedback.  Even the project’s name, HUB 07, was decided via a community contest and small, neighborhood-led committee that worked with Amplify GR to help choose the final logo.  Southeast Grand Rapids, notably Boston Square and Madison Square, are among the most underinvested neighborhoods in the city.  These incredibly diverse communities have been subject to the results of redlining and disinvestment, which have left them behind in comparison to other areas in the city.  The HUB 07 represents a new investment in the future of these communities.  

HUB 07 is a culmination of dozens of these community-led discussions, resulting in a space meticulously-planned to provide services and amenities for the neighborhood’s residents.  These services and amenities are a result of priorities voiced by neighbors since Amplify GR opened its doors eight years ago.  The project is located in a neighborhood of Grand Rapids that has had several tenants over the last century, including Oakdale Coal and Wood Company around the early 1900s and later as a place of religious gathering, which was the site’s use when Amplify GR acquired the property.  When Amplify GR acquired the property, the main building on the site was a Pre-Engineered Metal Building (PEMB), which was left in place and modified to fit the current needs of the space, including the construction of an addition to the PEMB structure.

One of the teams working to bring the HUB 07 project completion is Rockford Construction, who is providing project management services including onsite day-to-day supervision, ensuring site safety, scheduling, and trade contractor activities.  In addition, Rockford Construction is also responsible for managing the project budget, design, and Owner/Architect/Contractor communication.  David Dahlquist, a Senior Project Manager with Rockford Construction, notes the particular challenges that can be associated with adaptive reuse projects and the emphasis that places on the building’s end-use as a means of getting the most out of the investment. For the HUB 07 project, the maximization of end-use is focused entirely on community.  The project is designed to provide services that are convenient for members of the community, which includes things like flexible work space, lounge areas, a childcare center, a cafe, healthcare services, and meeting spaces.

One of the biggest challenges in modifying the existing PEMB was the addition of a second floor.  Rockford Construction’s teams analyzed the possibility from multiple levels before ultimately deciding to raise the existing roof approximately five feet vertically.  To accomplish raising the existing roof vertically, teams installed a temporary shoring/jack post system to let them cut structural steel loose and jack up the roof.  The resulting raised gap space was infilled with new structural steel before removing the temporary shoring/jack post system.  To perform this complex process, a trade contractor from Toronto, Ontario was hired to help engineer, plan, and execute the entire process.  Dahlquist points out that this was a time-consuming process–most of which coming from a design, engineering, and planning perspective.  To ensure thorough process planning, Dahlquist says there were countless pre-planning discussions in “an attempt to leave no stone unturned prior to execution.”

Another major focus of the HUB 07 project was sustainability.  The project was designed to meet WELL Certification, and, according to Dahlquist, the design was “put together so that products and materials meet a level of sustainability and energy efficiency” and a consultant was hired to help review, manage, and verify the project is on track for WELL Certification.

The Amplify GR HUB 07 will be completed soon, opening in the Summer of 2024.  Once finished, this innovative reuse of an existing structure will provide its residents with services such as a childcare center able to accommodate up to 80 children, an early education collaborative, a health clinic, workspaces with free Wi-Fi, a lounge area, space for tenants committed to providing local services, and a host of other community-defined spaces and services.  The new space will represent a crucial “third space” for a community in which one previously didn’t exist.