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Uptown Guide Cover
Aug 30, 2016

Uptown Guide

Straight up: We love our neighborhood.

The Image Shoppe has been lucky enough to call the Uptown district our home since 2006. When we moved into our first brick and mortar at 368 Diamond, the Wealthy St. Business District (and Uptown in its entirety) still needed quite a bit of TLC. There were far less thriving and diverse businesses, fewer people living in its neighborhoods, and it was a rarity to see families or groups of friends walking through the area just for fun. But you would never guess this about Uptown today.

Uptown is thriving and growing!

The Uptown commercial district—comprised of East Fulton, East Hills, Eastown, and Wealthy St.—has seen an incredible boom in development and popularity since its establishment in 2003. Only one year after being founded, Uptown was already selected as one of the first Michigan Cool Cities: Neighborhoods in Progress. Today, Uptown has its own Business Improvement District (BID) and Corridor Improvement Districts (CID) and is one of the most thriving communities in Grand Rapids.

Our dedication to Uptown.

If you haven't guessed it by now, we are totally invested in our home turf of Wealthy St. and the Uptown district overall. And we want to spread our love and appreciation for where (many of us) live, work and play with a comprehensive guide to some of Uptown's key businesses that have made this place so great over the years. Without these awesome establishments—restaurants, coffee shops, retail, bars, businesses—Uptown would not be as incredible of a place as it is today.

In the making of this Uptown Guide, we met with and had engaging conversations with these key stakeholders and learned more from their perspective about why Uptown (and their specific business district) is so special. As you go through this guide, you'll see some familiar faces, meet some new ones, and feel a connection with Uptown like you've never felt with any other neighborhood. Welcome to Uptown!

Photography by Matt Oberski Photography

Uptown Map download

Uptown Map

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Brewery Vivant: Brewers committed to download

Brewery Vivant: Brewers committed to "Beer the Change"

925 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Coined as Beer City USA, it's no surprise that breweries populate the streets of Grand Rapids wherever you go. With 40+ breweries in greater GR, differentiating craft brews can become a bit hazy—especially after a pint or two. But you won't have a problem deciphering the Belgian- and French-inspired ales, IPAs, and wood-aged deliciousness from Brewery Vivant.

Quick Facts

  • Opened by Jason and Kris Spaulding in 2010
  • First LEED-Certified, certified B Corporation commercial microbrewery in the world
  • It took 5 years for Jason and Kris to acquire their dream building
  • 1% of total sales are donated to local charities

Brewery Vivant signageBrewery Vivant Patrons

Interview with Jason Spaulding:

Q: Why did you choose to set up shop in Uptown, and what drew you to this building in particular?

A: We had always planned on this type of brewery... when we saw this building, we knew it was the one. The neighborhood was the perfect fit with its walkability, proximity to public transit, and size.

Q: What is your first priority as a business owner in the Uptown neighborhood?

A: To operate as sustainably as possible (planet) with significant charitable giving, and happy, well-taken-care-of employees (people), and to be a destination brewery in the state of Michigan and beyond (profit).

Q: What should newcomers know about the area before moving to or visiting Uptown?

A: The best way to get a feel for the personality of a city is to visit its neighborhood pubs, restaurants and shops. Our people have an insurmountable amount of pride in where we live.

Q: What do you envision for the future of Uptown?

A: We have dozens of local businesses with owners who live and invest in their neighborhoods, but we have to encourage residents to buy local and remain loyal to the places they've supported for years and have come to love.

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Curry Kitchen: Spicing up the Neighborhood Since 2013 download

Curry Kitchen: Spicing up the Neighborhood Since 2013

961 Fulton St. E, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

One of the best ways to experience a culture different than yours (without having to travel out of the country) is by seeking out traditional, ethnic cuisine from that culture. Thankfully, we have quite an eclectic mix of authentic cuisine in the city of Grand Rapids, especially in Uptown. Dishing up authentic Indian cuisine on E. Fulton, Curry Kitchen is one of Uptown's most popular spots to grab a bite.

Quick Facts

  • Owned by Raj Grewal, managed by Bhimlal Basel
  • Opened on E. Fulton in 2013, original location in Muskegon
  • Authentic Indian cuisine with a daily lunch buffet and separate dinner menu

Curry Kitchen SignageCurry Kitchen Food

Interview with Bhimlal Basel:

Q: Why did you choose to set up shop in Uptown, and what drew you to this building in particular?

A: We loved that there is so much life in the Uptown area, both during the daytime and nightlife. There is a lot of energy on E. Fulton, at our neighboring businesses and nearby business districts and neighborhoods as well. This particular building was a perfect fit for us because the previous occupancy was also an Indian restaurant, so it was set up well for us to occupy the space. We love how safe, walkable and active Uptown is!

Q: What are the major differences between the area now and when you first moved in?

A: I'm so happy to see Uptown growing every day, even in the few years we've been here. It's good for us, our neighboring businesses, and the community as a whole.

Q: What is your first priority as a business in Uptown?

A: Our first priority is to serve the people of Grand Rapids real, delicious cuisine that we make in India. We love being able to spread our love of Indian culture to West Michigan, and a big part of that is our food. That's why we love to cater events as well. It is a big part of our business; the larger the party, the better!

Q: What should newcomers know about the area before moving to or visiting Uptown?

A: This area is very safe and energetic, it feels great to be here whether you're just visiting or a new resident. If you plan on moving here or starting a business here, you are guaranteed to have a great future!

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Funky Buddha Yoga Hothouse: Bringing the Funk to Uptown download

Funky Buddha Yoga Hothouse: Bringing the Funk to Uptown

Photo by Glerum Photography

1331 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Grand Rapids may be home to craft beer, local food and talented artisans, but we're also home to some killer boutique workout studios—like Funky Buddha Yoga Hothouse. Funky Buddha takes hot yoga to a whole new level, with a variety of classes, special events, live musical guests and more. This is not your mama's yoga studio! Get ready to move, sweat, breathe, and find a new passion for working out in a 95-degree studio in Eastown. Check out their schedule to get started on your journey as a yogi!

Quick Facts

  • Chris and Kerri Reinbold opened Funky Buddha in 2010
  • Three locations: Eastown, Forest Hills and Holland
  • Built with a sustainable focus, including cork floors and a fresh-air exchange system
  • Offering over 100 classes weekly

Funky Buddha Wall of FameFunky Buddha Studio

Interview with Chris Reinbold:

Q: What is your first priority as a business owner in Uptown?

A: Continuing to strengthen our culture for our employees and infrastructure, focusing on the quality of our services and maintaining the atmosphere that resonates with thousands of our members. We're now deepening our roots in the community by partnering with local workout studios, musicians, and artists.

Q: What are the major differences between the area now and when you first moved in?

A: When we opened, we were coming out of the recession, and Eastown was struggling. We were the first high-profile business to open once the recession hit. Today, Eastown and the entire Uptown area is thriving. It's an awesome feeling to be part of the revitalization of the neighborhood.

Q: Why did you choose to open Funky Buddha in Uptown?

A: We chose it for the location. With Lake Dr. connecting downtown and East Grand Rapids, we are highly accessible. The Uptown and specifically Eastown neighborhood fit with our vision.

Q: What do you envision for the future of Uptown?

A: I see more prosperity, continued growth and evolution. A lot of the growth that's already been made is because of the local, small businesses, entrepreneurs and creatives who thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if..." and then pursued their vision.

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Chez Olga: Can you Handle the Caribbean Heat? download

Chez Olga: Can you Handle the Caribbean Heat?

1441 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Every neighborhood needs a little spice to liven things up now and then—and there's no better way to spice things up than with Caribbean flair. Thankfully, Uptown is home to one of Grand Rapids' only Caribbean restaurants, Chez Olga. Located on Wealthy St., Chez Olga was opened by Olga Benoit, a native of Haiti and one of the sweetest personalities you'll meet in Uptown. If you think you can handle spicy food, you may want to reconsider your spice tolerance before dining at Chez Olga because their spice level is seriously hot. Try it if you dare!

Quick Facts

  • Owned by Olga Benoit, who moved from Haiti to Grand Rapids in 1993
  • Opened on Wealthy St. on July 9, 2010
  • Serves fresh, scratch-made Caribbean cuisine
  • Uptown's one and only Caribbean restaurant

Chez Olga BuildingChez Olga Restaurant

Interview with Olga Benoit:

Q: Why did you choose to set up shop in Uptown, and what drew you to this building in particular?

A: I looked for a building in Uptown for over 2.5 years, and worked tirelessly with the Uptown Business Association to find the perfect spot. I was lucky enough to get this building once it became available, and I think it's the absolute perfect fit. I love how unique it looks from the street—it's both intriguing and unforgettable!

Q: What are the major differences between the area now and when you first moved in?

A: When I first moved to Grand Rapids in the early 90s and even when my restaurant first opened in 2012, there weren't nearly as many people walking around, experiencing what Uptown has to offer—probably because we have so much more to offer today than we did just a few years ago.

Q: What's unique about Uptown as compared to other neighborhoods in Grand Rapids?

A: There're so many different kinds of people here, especially during the summertime when there are more visitors. Some dress very classic while others are covered in tattoos and piercings. But everyone is very nice and all make up this community I love. My way of giving back to this community is with my cooking, and I hope it makes people as happy as it makes me!

Q: What do you envision for the future of Uptown?

A: The more small, local businesses that move into Uptown, the better! I love the character that each business adds to the neighborhood. Each business is unique in its own way and I want us to always stand out as one of the most special neighborhoods in Grand Rapids and any other city.

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Urban Exchange: Urban. Fashionable. Sustainable. download

Urban Exchange: Urban. Fashionable. Sustainable.

926 Fulton St. E, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

You may think that staying up-to-date on the latest fashions has to be expensive or wasteful, but Urban Exchange Consignment Boutique will show you otherwise. Located on E. Fulton, Urban Exchange carries an impressive collection of softly-worn, hip women's clothing for all shapes and sizes. There's something for every kind of fashionista in this cute shop in Uptown.

Quick Facts

  • Opened on October 26, 2009
  • Owned and operated by Stephanie Johnson
  • Carries lightly worn, name-brand clothing from popular designers and retailers
  • Dogs are welcome!

Urban Exchange Exterior SignageUrban Exchange Clothing Racks

Interview with Stephanie Johnson:

Q: Why did you choose to set up shop in Uptown, and what drew you to this building in particular?

A: I knew I wanted to open Urban Exchange (UE) in the Uptown neighborhood because it's where I live and love to be! When Neighborhood Ventures showed me this building I had "that feeling" right away—I knew it was the one! It had great potential for beautiful curb appeal, a great layout for clothing retail and lots of street parking—perfect for consignment.

Q: What is your first priority as a business owner in the Uptown neighborhood?

A: My main priority is to set the bar for the standard of business in Uptown. Staying ahead of the game on our inventory, curb appeal, and customer service is critical. I don't want UE to feel boring just because I'm comfortable as a business owner, or because what we're currently doing is easy and convenient. I always want to push the bar!

Q: What's unique about Uptown as compared to other neighborhoods in Grand Rapids?

A: We have a very walkable, condensed shopping district here on the East Fulton side of Uptown. In general, Uptown has a much more eclectic mix of businesses compared to the other districts in Grand Rapids. East Hills and Wealthy are packed with unique restaurants, Eastown has a little bit of everything, and East Fulton has much of the retail in the Uptown area. We have a lot to offer here!

Q: What do you envision for the future of Uptown?

A: I envision unity amongst businesses and our community as a whole. I want to see business owners work together (even more than we already do) to create a fun, safe environment and a positive experience for residents and visitors alike.

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Gallery 154 download

Gallery 154

1456 Lake Dr. SE Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Quick Facts: Gallery 154

  • Art, Craft and Gift Gallery
  • Several decades of business
  • Opened by Kris Lichtenstein, operated by her husband Ron Lichtenstein
  • Originally opened at 154 Louis St. downtown as an old print shop

Gallery 154Gallery 154 Magnets

How has the establishment of Uptown benefitted Gallery 154?

Eastown has always been one of the most balanced neighborhoods in Grand Rapids, with both a vibrant daytime and nightlife. When Uptown came to be, it gave us more opportunities to network with other businesses in the area. Now, we can connect our customers to even more shops and resources in Eastown, East Hills, Wealthy St., and vice versa. The Uptown community creates mutually beneficial relationships unlike any other place.

-Ron Lichtenstein

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Harmony Brewing Co. download

Harmony Brewing Co.

1551 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

​​Quick Facts: Harmony Brewing Co.

  • Opened in 2012 by Heather Van Dyke-Titus and her brothers Barry and Jackson Van Dyke
  • The building used to be Little Jack's Liquor Store
  • Also the owners of Bear Manor Properties

Harmony Brewing Co. SignageHarmony Brewing Co.

What is your number one priority as a business in Uptown?

As a small business owner, your culture helps create a neighborhood's culture, and ultimately the city's culture. It’s up to me and other business owners in the area to enact thoughtful business practices to make positive strides in our community, like hiring a diverse group of people from surrounding neighborhoods, supporting and contributing to community events and fundraisers, and resourcing locally and responsibly.

-Heather Van Dyke-Titus

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Rebel Reclaimed download

Rebel Reclaimed

1555 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Quick Facts: Rebel GR

  • Opened up in Eastown in 2012
  • Owned by partners Chip Minor & Dann Boyles
  • Opened the store upon moving back to Eastown from Nashville for 4 years 
  • Offer fun and unique gifts including jewelry, accessories, cards, handmade goods, and Michigan-themed items

Rebel Reclaimed exteriorRebel Reclaimed

What is your first priority as a business in the Uptown neighborhood?

For years, Uptown has seen some wonderful neighborhood caretakers—the people who have been here for nearly a decade or longer. Specifically in Eastown, Spirit Dreams, Gallery 154, Argos Book Shop and Redux Books have been the caretakers in this part of Uptown for years. It's now our turn to carry on that tradition into the future as the younger generation of caretakers in Eastown.

-Chip Minor

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The Pita House download

The Pita House

1508 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Quick Facts: The Pita House

  • Owned by friends Marwan Kayyali and Basel Shatara
  • Opened in 1995
  • Three Grand Rapids locations: Wealthy St., 28th St. & Ivanrest
  • Serving Mediterranean cuisine

The Pita House signagePita House Platter

What are the major differences between the area now and when you first moved in?

There are a lot more businesses in the area now and a lot of beautification projects have been made to Eastown since we opened. Today, Eastown is a multicultural area with different ethnic restaurants and residents—all who come from different backgrounds.

-Marwan Kayyali and Basel Shatara

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Bazzani Associates Inc. download

Bazzani Associates Inc.

959 Wealthy St. SE #1, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Quick Facts: Bazzani

Bazzani AssociatesBazzani Roof Garden

Why did you choose Uptown?

I moved here before the establishment of Uptown. The neighborhood desperately needed to be rebuilt. Not many saw the potential here, but I did, and wanted to make it a reality. Thankfully, there were enough people who saw the same potential, so we used that momentum and took the risk. We made sure the process was community-involved, digging deep with local input to build the neighborhood up to a place everyone wanted to be. And I think we did pretty well.

-Guy Bazzani

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The Winchester download

The Winchester

648 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

​​Quick Facts: The Winchester

  • Owned & Operated by Paul Lee
  • Sister restaurant: Donkey Taqueria
  • Grow some of their own produce in the Winchester Garden across the street

The Winchester The Winchester Beer and Menu What is the major difference in Uptown today as compared to when you first moved in?

Today, you see residents and business owners actually investing in residential and commercial properties. What it really took was more investment into the area for the positive changes and growth to happen. When commercial areas improve, residents are encouraged to improve their homes as well. The boom of downtown Grand Rapids has also been a strong influence; downtown areas thrive when their neighborhoods thrive.

-Paul Lee

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Atomic Object download

Atomic Object

1034 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Quick Facts: Atomic Object

Atomic ObjectAtomic Object interior

What is your first priority as a business in Uptown?

What matters most to me about keeping Atomic Object in Uptown is the human scale and connectivity of the place. My employees diffuse out from our building for walks, coffee, lunch, drinks and shopping. We use the sidewalks and neighborhood businesses as part of our office. We can practice our very high-tech craft in a 100-year-old building where they used to shoe horses. We don’t need our cars during the day. We know and care about our neighbors. We’re connected.

-Carl Erickson

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Little Africa Ethiopian Cuisine download

Little Africa Ethiopian Cuisine

956 Fulton St. E, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Quick Facts: Little Africa Ethiopian Cuisine

  • Owned by Loul Negash
  • Opened in 2001 on E. Fulton
  • Ethiopian, all-vegetarian cuisine served with injera bread and spice tea
  • Little Africa's Facebook page is fan-operated

Little Africa interior detailLittle Africa seating

Q: What is your first priority as a business in the Uptown neighborhood?

A: Being a friendly, helpful person to my community is always my first and biggest priority. I want to serve my community as best as I can, from providing a unique cultural experience to just being a good neighbor. Being community-focused will forever be important to me.

-Loul Negash

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Elk Brewing download

Elk Brewing

700 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Quick Facts: Elk Brewing

  • Founded in May 2014 by Eric and Lisa Karns
  • A "rustic-industrial brew pub" offering 11 rotating taps and 6 mainstays
  • Dog-friendly patio
  • Opening a second location on Plainfield

Elk Brewing Co.Elk Brewing Interior

Right Photo from the Elk Brewing Facebook page

What is unique about Uptown compared to other neighborhoods in Grand Rapids?

There really isn’t anything you can’t find here. Uptown has a large variety of food, from hot dogs at Yesterdog to Indian cuisine at Bombay Cuisine. You can visit a handful of coffee shops, bakeries, specialty retail stores, clothing stores, and of course, breweries, and so much more. We’re all very similar people that offer different goods and services.

-Eric Karns

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East Hills Council of Neighbors download

East Hills Council of Neighbors

131 Eastern Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

​​Quick Facts: East Hills Council of Neighbors

  • Currently directed by Rachel Lee
  • Founded in 1987
  • Launched several successful neighborhood campaigns, such as Center of the Universe
  • Partners with prominent community members like Congress School

East Hills Council Cherry Park

What should newcomers know about the area before moving to or visiting Uptown?

Simply put, take a walk. The neighborhood is beautiful and the best way to familiarize yourself with Uptown is by walking down Wealthy, Cherry, Lake, and the side streets. Stop into any and all stores, restaurants, and bars that pique your interest. Chances are you’ll be busy all day!

-Rachel Lee

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Spirit Dreams download

Spirit Dreams

1430 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Quick Facts: Spirit Dreams

  • Founded by Jaye Van Lenten in 1994
  • Specializes in crystals, aromatherapy, natural body care, jewelry, and more
  • Psychic readings and other special events available

Spirit Dreams interior Spirit Dreams products What is your first priority as a business in Uptown?

I want to remain a viable small business so I can participate and contribute as much as I can in the community. It’s very important to my staff and me to be community-driven and neighborhood-based; we never want to lose that!

-Jaye Van Lenten

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The Green Well Gastro Pub download

The Green Well Gastro Pub

924 Cherry St. SE Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Quick facts: The Green Well

  • Opened in 2007, the second Essence Restaurant Group location
  • Housed in a LEED-Certified building
  • Sources ingredients from local farmers

The Green Well ServerThe Green Well Food Left Photo by Whitman Photography

What is your first priority as a business in the Uptown neighborhood?

Having a positive impact on our guests, vendors and community is a non-negotiable priority for us. The associates at The Green Well and Essence Restaurant Group aspire daily to help foster the growth of the West Michigan local food systems. The work of our local farmers is at the core of what creates outstanding experiences for our guests. Without them, we could not fulfill our purpose in the community.

-James Berg

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Art of the Table download

Art of the Table

606 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Quick Facts: Art of the Table

  • Opened on October 21, 2003
  • Owned by Amy Ruis, active community member in Wealthy Street Business Alliance and Local First
  • Building was originally owned by Mr. & Mrs. William Rice Foster in 1876
  • One of the first renovated retail spaces on Wealthy St.

Art of the Table interiorArt of the Table Product

What should newcomers know about the area before moving in or visiting Uptown?

Uptown is an incredibly social and homey place to be. There’s so much going on here—we have restaurants, breweries, retail, specialty shops, local artisans, not to mention it’s a walkable, friendly and welcoming community. Several people from big cities who moved here are absolutely floored by what Grand Rapids has to offer. They’ll say, “It feels just like home! I never thought I’d find anything like it!” That’s what makes Uptown so unique.

-Amy Ruis

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The Meanwhile download

The Meanwhile

1005 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Quick Facts: The Meanwhile

  • Co-owned by Tami and Jeff VandenBerg
  • They purchased the property in 2002 and opened The Meanwhile in 2008
  • Sister bar: The Pyramid Scheme
  • Actively sought out a diverse staff

The Meanwhile The Meanwhile Staff Photos from The Meanwhile Facebook page

What do you envision for the future of Uptown?

I would like to see continuing work on inclusion, bringing more people from diverse backgrounds to the table and encouraging them to voice their opinions. There has been a ton of progress thanks to the work of Grand Rapids activists, who made sure nobody in the neighborhood felt left out of the conversation. We have been intentional about how we’ve worked to grow the Uptown district, and would like to keep that intention moving forward.

-Tami VanDenBerg

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Wealthy Market download

Wealthy Market

1012 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Quick Facts: Wealthy Market

  • Managed by Aman Ghotra
  • Opened in 2012
  • Offers a wide selection of snacks, beer and wine, household necessities, and fresh produce
  • Can and bottle return station available

Wealthy Market entranceWealthy Market alcohol

What is your first priority as a business in Uptown?

We strive to provide great customer service to each and every customer, whether they're a regular or walking in for the first time. There's a lot of diversity in Grand Rapids—especially in Uptown—and I want everyone to feel welcome and find what they need every time they stop in.

-Aman Ghotra

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Uptown Resources download

Uptown Resources

Community Resources

Uptown District

Fulton Heights Neighborhood Association
P.O. Box 1590

Midtown Neighborhood Association
1147 E. Fulton St.

East Hills Council of Neighbors / East Hills Business Association
131 Eastern Ave. SE

Baxter Neighborhood Association
813 Franklin St. SE

Neighborhood Ventures
1514 Wealthy St. SE, Ste. 214

Wealthy Street Business Association
1514 Wealthy St. SE

Eastown Business Association

Heritage Hill Neighborhood Association
126 College Ave. SE

Fulton Street Farmers Market
1147 E. Fulton St.

Wealthy Theatre
1130 Wealthy St. SE
616.459.4788 ext. 130

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Uptown Is... download

Uptown Is...

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