Focus Area 5 – Division & Burton

Focus Area 5 is located in and around the historic Burton Heights District. Burton Heights was a small hamlet established in 1833 and annexed into Grand Rapids in 1910. The area includes a wide variety of smaller one, two and three story buildings fronting South Division and Burton Street. Because of its fine-grained scale and character, the Focus area is prime for small-scale developer infill and adaptive reuse of its significant building stock. Focus Area 5 is envisioned as the vibrant heart of the South Division Corridor with thriving small businesses centered around a new community plaza.

Burton Heights currently includes popular restaurants, shops and services and is in close proximity to Garfield Park, the most significant public open space within the Corridor.  Any redevelopment in the Focus Area should respect the historic character and scale of the existing urban fabric, and should focus on adaptive reuse where at all possible. Currently, many of the existing buildings include vacant upper floor space, which could be converted to residential or small office uses. New affordable housing is under construction and planned for properties along Burton Street east of South Division by the non profit LINC-Up. The City-owned parking lot at the southwest corner of South Division and Burton presents a tremendous opportunity to create a community plaza space for gathering and events. Such a space could create a focal point and catalytic amenity to help spur investment in surrounding properties. Another catalytic opportunity includes the planned adaptive reuse of the vacant Four Star Theater just north of Burton Street. Conversion of this building into an active community use could create another anchor for the District. As redevelopment occurs, the Plan recommends preserving a significant portion of the large city-owned parking lots west of South Division to support the wide range of uses and activities that could occur in the area.

Additional enhancements include a focus on renovating the existing homes and yards on Burton Street west of South Division in order to create a welcoming gateway into the community from US-131. Other single-family homes in the area should be improved and maintained to preserve the character of the neighborhood while providing homeowner opportunities for residents. Lighting, landscape improvements and murals are recommended to add to the color, vibrancy and attractiveness of the Focus Area. Additional restaurants with cafes and outdoor seating should be recruited to create a critical mass for destination dining. Painting the Silver Line BRT lane, installing neighborhood banners, signage and wayfinding will help to create an attractive pedestrian environment while creating a buffer between the sidewalk and fast-moving vehicles in the center lanes. Existing buildings can be repurposed for a wide variety of uses including a potential financial institution. The alley to the west of South Division is heavily used by pedestrians and should be improved as an attractive walkway or paseo. Bicycles should be accommodated in front of businesses, and bike traffic should generally be routed on Horton Avenue and other side streets.