Neighborhood Spotlight: West Side / West Grand

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This post is sponsored by Greenridge Realty, West Michigan’s go-to organization for those looking to buy or sell. Have Real Estate questions? Contact Greenridge Realty

While on the West Side there a huge chance that you’ll here the famous phrase “West Side, Best Side”.  And after spending time on the West Side, you’ll start to understand why this phrase even exists.

Between the proximity to the heart of downtown, diversity of food options, and the everlasting culture. This unique area of Grand Rapids was populated by Polish, German, and Irish immigrants and, even now, you can sense the different cultures all around the community. Not only are these cultures represented but also a growing Latino population which adds to the local fare and diversity of the people. You’ll also hear the buzz word “revitalization” being mentioned and it’s apparent with the new found vibrancy of businesses, eateries, and of course, all the pedestrians walking Bridge Street.

Location 

Looking for a neighborhood with a great location? Look no further. Right next door to the Grand River and situated only a few miles from downtown Grand Rapids, West Grand and West Side have become the places to be. The neighborhood’s boundaries include the Grand River to the east, Bridge Street to the south, and the city limits to the north (see image below).

Living in the neighborhood

“The West Side is a newly vibrant segment of the Grand Rapids market that is expected to keep on the rise. With the Medical Mile and Grand Valley all having campuses on the other side of the river, the need for housing continues for a younger audience and the rental market remains strong for students, lovers of walkability and nightlife, as well as, younger professionals. Years ago, Union Square and American Seating condos were the first developments to take up residency on the West Side. That trend has continued with restaurants, breweries, and retail also investing in the neighborhood through Rockford Construction.  The recent addition of New Holland Brewery’s “Knickerbocker” has cemented the West Side as the new place to be and has extended the walking boundaries of Grand Rapids. ” Via Greenridge Realtor, Kevin McCarty and officemate, Katie Stein.

The neighborhood is home to two business districts: West Leonard and Stockbridge. With these distinct neighborhoods comes a wide-range of things to do and sites to see:

Food + Beverage 

The westside is booming with new places to drink, eat, and relax. Fairly new to the neighborhood is Long Road Distillers and they’re already a fan favorite, with their quality cocktails and simply delicious snacks and foods. Also new is The Sovengard, a biergarten and kitchen that revitalizes Midwestern food while embracing westside’s history and growth (see image below) and Butchers Union, a bourbon bar with one of the best burgers called “The Village Burger” (our opinion).

Photo credit: The Sovengard

Other favorites? Westsider Cafe is a hidden gem. It not only has breakfast and lunch options, but it embraces diversity with polish and Cuban foods as well. Or if you’re looking to indulge your sweet tooth, head to Sandy’s Donuts for some of the best donuts, cookies, and breads in the city. Grab a coffee at Ferris Coffee & Nut know for delicious drinks, nuts, and chocolates, Roots for coffee and live music, or visit Sparrows when it opens…soon! Frank’s Market and Lewandoski’s Market offer a huge selection of authentic German and Polish foods, including fresh and smoked kielbasa, metwurst, German wieners and more. 

Also, explore authentic Mexican cuisine at El Granjero Mexican Grill, Tacos El Cunado, and Maggie’s Kitchen! Sweet tooth’s rejoice, Scrumptious Cupcakes and Sweetery serves up gourmet and cocktail cupcakes plus a variety of other goodies. Or grab breakfast at a westside favorite, Arnie’s Bakery. A healthy choice bringing in delicious food and a bit of history that goes back 100 years! 

Looking for drinks? Check out the brewery that helped kickoff the opening of a number of other breweries in the area: Mitten Brewing Company, who took over the historic Engine House No. 9 in 2012. 2 years later, more breweries announced their plans to join the neighborhood, such as Harmony Brewing Company (who built their second location, Harmony Hall, by restoring the former Little Mexico Restaurant building to its original style). Also check out New Holland Brewing on the corner of Bridge St. and Broadway Ave. What are some others? Steel Cat Bar, with live music and drinks that will satisfy, or check out the Anchor Bar which is a great place to hang out and drink with friends (and is a big attraction for people who say “West Side, Best Side”)! And one of our favorites (since GRNow’s office is located on the West Side), Holiday Bar. With the newly renovated interior and patio, this establishment is a fun year round destination. Other great places to eat and drink: One Bourbon and Otooles.

Shopping + Fashion

With a number of different shopping places, the westside has everything you could wish for. In need of an upscale clothing boutique? Denym, set up on Bridge Street, is the place for you. In need of fresh-cut flowers, arrangements and gifts that work for every occasion? Head to Ball Park Floral & GiftsThe Conscious Collective Consignment offers gently used men’s and women’s fashions, plus home decor items and new products handmade by local artisans. Or sport your love for Michigan by heading to The Mitten State for all your clothing needs, from t-shirts to sweatshirts. 

Westside is a harbor of fun shops, including Archery Unlimited, the one-stop-shop for all your archery accessories and needs, or Dodds Record Store, a store dedicated to nostalgia and preserving cultural history, and is one of the oldest record stores in Michigan. This is a place where you can get lost for hours looking for through all the classics (see image below).

Photo credit: Rapid Growth Media

Like to spend your free time perusing fresh, local markets? Westside is great for you then, with lots of markets, including Frank’s Market, who has been serving the westside since 1933 with quality meats: ranging from Chairmans Reserve beef, custom cut steaks and roasts to homemade items including polish fresh and smoked kielbasa, brats, and breakfast sausage. 

Things to do + Greenspace to explore

Get the golf clubs out for the Mines Golf Club, an 18-hole course right around the corner from John Ball Zoo! It is built atop old gypsum mines, the rolling terrain makes it a joy to play. It was voted one of Golf Digest’s “Best New Public Courses Under $75” in 2006 (see images below). 

Photo credit: Mines Golf Club
Photo credit: Mines Golf Club

Get active and walk, hike, or bike the Kent Trails, a 15-mile paved pathway that follows abandoned rail lines through wetlands, forests, meadows and city neighborhoods. John Ball Park is an access point. Or gather your friends and head to Wengers Bowling Center for a fun night out!

Try out other fun things like the Grand Rapids Glassblowing Studio, where you can check out John Riepma’s glasswork or attend events where you can blow your own glass! Check out more here. The Grand River Wood Turners Guild is also a fun place to go if you’re looking to learn how to wood turn. Interested in other kinds of art? New murals will be making an appearance soon…

Enjoy the outdoors at the John Ball Zoo, Richmond Park, or along the Grand River. This neighborhood has greenspace that everyone can enjoy: be it through a picnic, staying active, or for a nice sunset.

Fun events to do in the neighborhood? Check out LaughFest at Gilda’s Club (or West Side Walk for Gilda’s in September) or head to Hearts for the Arts and get your crafts on! (see image below)

Photo credit: Hearts for the Arts

Growth and improvement

The westside has been growing exponentially in the past few years. A big reason behind the growth happened in 2013/2014 when Rockford Construction and Colliers International both moved their headquarters to the West Side. They are both major players in the development of the city and the commercial real estate markets. Both of them have made it clear they are moving to preserve the neighborhood’s history and authentic feel by restoring historical buildings and creating new businesses that fit in with the existing style.

Coming soon 

BRIDGE. STREET. MARKET! Can you tell how excited we are over this? Opening early fall of 2018, the nearly 40,000 square-foot store, will offer a smaller scale Meijer feel with a focus on local food. Stalls, located on the outside of the building, will house fresh produce and food in an open atmosphere.


Did we miss your favorite West Side location or activity? Let us know!

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