A new downtown apartment complex called Metropolitan Park Apartments is being proposed in the Heartside neighborhood. The 24 apartment building would offer two and three bedroom apartments between $549 and $749. The apartment complex would be built across Ionia Street from the new Heartside Park, a park that gained media attention recently back in September 2004 for its housing of many local homeless people.
While a new apartment complex targeting people working in the downtown service industry as a part of the “Cool Cities” initiative dubbed “Avenue of the Arts” may sound like another “hip” project that will usher in changing neighborhood dynamics and possibly gentrification, the proposed apartment complex is a vast improvement over much of the recent development in the downtown area. Over the past year development plans have consisted largely of projects aimed at the wealthy, including the renovation of formerly low-income housing at the YMCA into “upscale condominiums,” the proposed construction of a new luxury hotel by Amway (Alticor), the opening of several upscale restaurants targeting suburbanites that come to the downtown area for entertainment, and “sexploitation clubs” such as Showgirl Galleria and Tini Bikinis. These development projects have been largely endorsed by the city and the local media as harbingers of a new downtown–awarding developers with tax breaks and laudatory coverage, while there has been little serious discussion about how development in the downtown area and its impact on existing residents, both those with homes and those without. Proposed development plans offer little low-income housing and no space has been formally set aside for those without homes, demonstrating that much remains to be done before development projects cater to the needs of all city residents.