The first set of renderings of Grand Rapids’ flagship Black Wall Street neighborhood have been released.

Black Wallstreet Grand Rapids (BWSGR) co-founder and president Preston Sain shared renderings of the $15 million project exclusively with GRBJ Thursday night. The 35,000-square-foot East & Burton Village District building will be the first of a series of projects for BWSGR.

“Black Wallstreet Development is a breath of fresh air, apart from great relationships, it’s a decision, a project and a vision,” Sain told GRBJ. “It’s an alternative to gentrification because if we don’t come up with an agenda, someone else will.”

The project includes 11,000 square feet of commercial space and 34 apartments.

Demolition could be completed by early 2023, and Sain hopes construction will begin in early spring 2023, with construction completed by late fall 2023. The new building will be a multifunctional development. Businesses in the development may include a coffee shop/brewery, hair salon, beauty salon, ice cream shop, small restaurants, fitness studio, flower shop, bookstore and event center.

Sain said there will be equity opportunities in Grand Rapids.

BWSGR is a collaboration between Sain, co-founder Mary Malone, and 10 entrepreneurs from Grand Rapids’ Southeast Third Ward. Malone was initially looking for a partner to help develop the Eastern & Burton property, which it owns and is 90% vacant.

BWSGR aims to develop eight business districts in the Third Ward with a 16-year capital campaign of $100 million. The remaining seven business districts are located:

  • Oakdale Street in the southeast
  • Madison Square
  • Madison Avenue and Hall Street
  • Neland Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Street
  • Eastern Avenue and Martin Luther King Street
  • Boston Square
  • Grandville Avenue (in the first district)

The locations are the historically black neighborhoods of Grand Rapids; however, Sein hopes that the whole city will benefit from the events.

Sain said the organization is targeting 100 companies that pledge $1 million each over the next 16 years. His first pledge came in August 2022 from ChoiceOne Bank. BWSGR’s trusted partner, the AQUME Foundation, will host a fundraising gala on Nov. 3 at 1530 Madison Ave. SE.

The organization also has an offer from the federal government for $6 million in funding for the American Rescue Plan of Kent County.

Sain hopes BWSGR’s developments can help change the common narrative that Grand Rapids is a bad place for black businesses. This opinion first emerged with a Forbes article in 2015 that named the city as the second worst city economically for the black population. Then, last year, Grand Rapids city officials declared racism a public health crisis.

Rather than intentional racism, Sain said he believes much of the disadvantage comes from different communities being bound together in their daily lives and not looking beyond their immediate families, businesses and neighbors.

“We have to see ourselves as one team, one family, and that will lead us to the championship,” Sain said. “If we can reverse that narrative and change the trajectory so that our brand value shines on the national stage, we can become a world-class city and a national model. People can say we have a minor league sports league, great nonprofits, a thriving business community, and beautiful neighborhoods. We should be a model for the country as a city.”

Other BWSGR Founders:

  • Taj Gillespie, Owner of Generation Wealthy Unity & Faith
  • Sian Gillespie, Head of Business Operations, Gillespie Memorial Chapel
  • Dalshawn Tyler, owner of Elegance Shipping and Elegance Auto Detailing
  • Michael Buxton, franchise owner of Load-A-Spud Potato Bar
  • Abdus Muhammad, Minister of Religion of the Nation of Islam with the Second North American Ministry of Prison Rehabilitation
  • Victor Williams, CEO of Grand Stand Pictures
  • Rodney Brown, Grand Rapids Public Schools administrator
  • Sinia Gantt-Jordan, owner of Samaria J’s Salon Suite at 701 Grandville/Cesar E. Chavez Ave. SW