GRAND RAPIDS – Executives of La Diatribe Inc. are planning a mixed-use building that would house the association’s offices as well as retail storefronts, apartments and a performing arts hall.
The association, which uses the performing arts to enable young people to share their stories and raise awareness of social issues, signed an option and purchase agreement for an 18,338 square foot building at 2040 S. Division Ave . The Diatribe works with around 5,000 students per year in 20 to 30 schools.
PURE Architects designs the project which provides for a complete renovation of the building. Plans include the creation of offices for The Diatribe staff, a downstairs programming space for around 30 students at a time, a basement location for students and artists to perform, two storefronts of stores for local black and brown entrepreneurs, as well as eight apartment units to house the creations.
The building would likely qualify for the brownfield tax credits the organization is seeking, said The Diatribe executive director Marcel “Fable” Price.
The association works with Kennari Consulting to plan a fundraising campaign to raise money for the project, which could pave the way in 2023, Price said. Organizers plan to prioritize working with minority subcontractors for the renovation project, Price added.
The new building would allow the nonprofit to expand its programming and host events for the first time at its own venue, said Gleason, who is a teaching artist and director of education at The Diatribe. The current offices of the association are located in the Garfield Neighborhood Park Association building. The group used to host a weekly open mic, poetry slam and feature film presentation at Stella’s Lounge called The Drunken Retort before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
âThis building will be a beacon for a lot of what The Diatribe stands for, which goes against the grain,â Price said. “This is being done by us for people like us and will hopefully serve as an example as well that you can do it here – there aren’t many creatives who can build to this capacity.”
The location matters because it’s close to several schools The Diatribe works with on the south side of Grand Rapids, Price said.
âThe south side is where we want to put our roots and we’ve put a lot of energy into it through Project 49507,â Price said.
The Diatribe launched Project 49507 in May 2021 to invest in local artists and businesses through public murals while raising awareness of social issues, including gentrification and redlining, which have disproportionately affected communities of color. in postal code 49507.
“This project will develop the business district and make us more transparent,” said G. Foster, who is a teaching artist and senior manager at The Diatribe. âWe are the premier black, brown, and gay nonprofit in West Michigan focused on the arts. We are trying to beautify the neighborhood and we already have a reputation for going into this area and having relationships in this area.
As the pandemic continues to affect in-person learning opportunities in schools, Gleason said the new building offers students another reliable place to congregate.
âThe visibility and that physical space is so important, and people will be able to go out and work on poetry, but also have a safe space,â Gleason said.
La Diatribe also plans to host local and external artists in eight apartments planned for the building.
âWe have creative and inventive ideas that are really going to flourish economically in creatives and not only serve the creatives but give them opportunities to earn capital,â Price said. “Seven of the apartments will be for rent, and one will be used much like an Airbnb to bring in artists from out of town.”
The building also contains two retail storefronts varying in size from 1,000 to 1,400 square feet. The Diatribe plans to partner with black and brown contractors to get them into the building affordably, Price said.
âWe know we will bring a certain amount of traffic to the region, but we also don’t want to add competition to existing businesses,â Price said. âWe are talking to black women who are creative entrepreneurs about the possibility of moving here. These will be hyper-affordable to ensure the success of their businesses. ”