The area that is today known as the Southwest Area Neighborhood was originally a village of about 300 people established by the Ottawa Indians in 1833. In 1850 the area became a part of the city of Grand Rapids, but because of the difficulty of crossing the Grand River, it remained isolated. German settlers were followed by a Polish community and improvements in transportation and utilities made this area more appealing to live and work in. Despite this, the expressways that run through Grand Rapids separated the neighborhoods and hurt many homes and businesses by blocking walking traffic.
“The Other Way” Ministries unified the church and gained its place in the neighborhood by offering more resources to the people who lived there. During the 1970’s integration was a key factor, especially at Union High School. The growing diversity of the neighborhood added to its rich history.
Today, diversity continues to be celebrated in the JBAN neighborhood. The population of the John Ball Area Neighborhood is nearly 7,000. With the college nearby much of the residential homes are renter occupied. For more information about the specific demographics of the neighborhood visit the Community Research Institute by clicking here.