MEET YOUR NEIGHBORS: James Zwier

In an effort to connect with our neighbors and to help them connect with one another, our team is working to collect neighbor stories.  Whether measuring time in the neighborhood in months or decades every neighbor has a story worth telling. As we listen to and share those stories we hope that our neighbors will form deeper connections as they share their experiences and hopes for their place in the neighborhood. 

  • How long have you lived in the neighborhood?

    I lived in this house (Harambee House) for one year when I was a student at Calvin and then after several years away I moved back four years ago to be a mentor in Calvin College’s Project Neighborhood program.  

    WHAT APPEALED TO YOU ABOUT THIS AREA?

    I’M FINISHING UP AT CALVIN SEMINARY AND LIVING HERE WAS A BETTER ALTERNATIVE THAN SEMINARY HOUSING.  BEING IN A NEIGHBORHOOD INSTEAD OF CAMPUS HOUSING REALLY APPEALED TO ME AND THIS PARTICULAR LOCATION IS VERY BIKEABLE.  


  • WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE MEMORIES IN THIS COMMUNITY?

    MY BEST MEMORIES MOSTLY HAVE TO DO WITH THE RELATIONSHIPS I’VE BUILT WITH PEOPLE HERE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. THERE HAVE ALSO BEEN PIG ROASTS AND OTHER EVENTS THAT WERE A LOT OF FUN.

    WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT THIS NEIGHBORHOOD?

    I REALLY ENJOY PLEASANT PARK.  WHEN I FIRST LIVED HERE AS A STUDENT IT WAS A PARKING LOT, SO TO SEE WHAT IT’S BECOME IS REALLY GREAT.  THE CEMETERY IS ALSO A GREAT PLACE TO GO ON A QUIET WALK. THERE ARE ALSO A LOT OF GREAT SHOPS CLOSE BY, ART OF THE TABLE, CHERRY HILL MARKET, AND OTHERS ARE GREAT PLACES TO GRAB A SNACK OR A BOTTLE OF WINE.  


  • Are there any people or organizations in the neighborhood who contribute to your sense of appreciation for this place?

    John and Tammy down the street are great neighbors.  They have a big extended family who are always around and they’re great to visit with.  St. Philip’s Episcopal does a Eucharist service if there is a 5th Saturday in a particular month.  That’s been a great service to attend.

    WHAT CONCERNS DO YOU HAVE ABOUT LIFE IN THIS NEIGHBORHOOD?  ARE THERE ANY CHALLENGES OR ISSUES THAT NEED TO BE ADDRESSED?

    ONE CHALLENGE IS THE TRANSIENCE OF SOME RESIDENTS.  IT’S HARD TO GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS IF THEY’RE NOT AROUND FOR VERY LONG.  IT ALSO SEEMS THAT IF THEY’RE NOT AROUND FOR LONG THEY DON’T HAVE ANY INTEREST IN INVESTING IN THE COMMUNITY.  THERE’S ALSO THE OCCASIONAL PARTY THAT GOES A LITTLE TOO FAR. THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH HAVING A PARTY BUT WHEN THINGS ESCALATE PEOPLE START TO LOSE CONTROL.  GENERALLY, THOUGH, I FEEL PRETTY SAFE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD AND I THINK THE NEIGHBORHOOD HAS GOTTEN SAFER IN THE LAST FEW YEARS.


  • Are there any issues that aren’t a big problem now but might become a big problem down the road if something isn’t done?

    Affordable housing.  It’s already a problem and left unchecked it’ll only get worse.  House maintenance. A lot of houses in the neighborhood are showing their age and if they’re not taken care of issues like lead based paint could become more of a problem.

    WHAT CHANGES OR IMPROVEMENTS WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD?

    I’D LIKE BETTER BIKE LANES ALONG MAIN TRAFFIC CORRIDORS.


  • What are some ways you’ve gotten involved in supporting your neighbors?  What are some ways you plan to be involved in the future?

    I’ve helped maintain Pleasant Park during the annual spring cleanup.  I think it’s important to be out and about, to show your face in the neighborhood, to be present and to be known by your neighbors.  I’ve also helped neighbors move and have been (and will continue to be) involved in the work that is happening out of Bates Place.