The makeover of Ada Village
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Ada Village, an iconic part of our community, is getting a face-lift. 4 years ago when Amway announced its purchase of a substantial portion of the Ada area, the village was thrust into a planning frenzy.
“I am very supportive of the changes that are being made with the Envision Ada project,” said the owner of local Ada business Scoopers, Tom Cooper. “I think there will be just enough construction so that we can all benefit in downtown Ada. As they say, a tide will rise all boats.”
However, Tom doesn’t think that he will be the only one to prosper from the project.
“All in all it will be great for most of the businesses and the people who live in Ada,” Cooper said.
Although the village will be going through many changes, the township has a clear image, based off of what the citizens have been telling them, of what they want the village to be like for our community.
“In a nutshell, our goal is to redevelop the shopping center so that it has the same character and form as the traditional core of the Village on Ada Drive, which residents told us they prefer,” planning director Jim Ferro said. “There are other local examples of this type of ‘downtown’, such as Rockford or Gaslight Village in East Grand Rapids.”
A lot has happened in the four years of planning, and a lot is going to be changing. But the township and the people involved in the Ada renovations have a beautiful vision for our community.
“We envision attractive, comfortable green space where people are drawn to relax, play, or attend outdoor events, such as concerts,” Ferro says. “We [picture] streets with generous sidewalks lined by storefront windows and restaurants with outdoor seating, a short walk from nearby public parking tucked behind buildings.”
Like the township, many of the business owners and resident in the Ada area have high hopes and expectations.
“The effects on my business can only be increased sales,” Cooper said. “With new housing on the Ada drive hill along with the housing that will come later by the post office and where we shoot off the fireworks that will bring a lot of new people into town on a daily basis especially in the evening.”
With all the changes that are coming to Ada, it is understandable that there will be some people who are nervous about the effects this will have on our community.
“There are some existing residents who are somewhat apprehensive about the change that is occurring in the Village,” Ferro said. “There is concern over the loss of existing trees in the Village that has occurred as a result of new street construction and new development, for example. We need to be sensitive to these concerns, and try to minimize tree removal. Where loss of trees is unavoidable, we need to include replacement trees in our plans, even though they will not fully replace what has been lost for many years.”
Even people like Tom Cooper, who are supportive of the changes in downtown Ada, have their reservations.
“What does worry me is, with all of the new spaces, there’s bound to be another ice cream shop going in,” Cooper said, “but there’s nothing I can do about that. Hopefully, there will be enough business increase so we can absorb one more competitor. What you will hear is a lot of the business complaining about is the lack of parking and that will be a problem. The Township is working on providing more spaces.”
The most recent changes to Ada village are a part of the more recent plans but there was an attempt to make changes in 2006.
The idea was first brought up in 2006 to recreate the shopping center to give it more the “village” feel, but the plans fell through due to uninterested business owners. Then in 2012, after Amway’s announcement of their purchase of the shopping center, they came to the township to ask them to organize another planning process. So in 2013, the Envision Ada planning process was created to hear from the citizens in Ada and to develop a plan for how to proceed.
Although the first set of plans didn’t come to fulfillment the most recent plans have people like Jim Ferro to keep them going.
“My connection is both professional and personal,” Ferro said. “I have been a resident of the township for almost 30 years, and have worked for the township as either a consultant or an employee for this entire time period. The desire of my wife and I to live in a community with an attractive, small downtown was partly responsible for our moving to Ada.”
Through it all, the construction, the changes, and the inevitable period of transition, our community has a desire to see our village prosper.
“Township residents place a high value on the Village,” Ferro said, “and I believe that a successful, attractive and vibrant village center will draw more people to live in the Ada area.”