South West Area Neighbors (SWAN)
Originally settled by Polish immigrants, the South West Area Neighbors (SWAN) neighborhood has roots that can be traced back to the 1820’s. When the Polish people first established the community, they were responsible for the construction of the Polish Falcon building. To this day, the building can still be found in the neighborhood and is located on Fulton Street. Over the years, this community has become a very diverse neighborhood that is home to more than 6,500 people.
The biggest feature in the SWAN neighborhood is the Grand Valley State University (GVSU) Pew Campus. GVSU has a main campus in Allendale but decided to expand their campus to the downtown Grand Rapids area by constructing more buildings that students can utilize. Much of the downtown Pew campus is used by students majoring in business, medical, and engineering degrees.
Located near the Grand River, there are two museums located in the SWAN neighborhood that bring visitors from all over the state of Michigan. The Grand Rapids Public Museum is a great way for residents from all over Grand Rapids to learn about the history of the city. Much of this museum space is dedicated to the history of how Grand Rapids has grown since it was first founded. Often times, there will be a featured exhibit that changes every few months and allows visitors to learn about things like the Titanic or King Tut. Further north up the river you can find the Gerald R. Ford museum which is also a display location for the annual Art Prize. This museum allows you to walk through the life of Michigan president Gerald R. Ford as well as the life of his wife. As you walk through the exhibits, you will be amazed at the number of items that have been saved and can be remembered for years to come.
The SWAN neighborhood is home to Sibley Elementary, a LEED-certified building built in 2007. Another great place for children to learn is the YMCA of Grand Rapids located across the street from Ferris Coffee. This facility hosts a number of events, provides a gym and workout area, and swimming pool for members to use. In addition to providing a safe and welcoming environment for people to exercise in, they offer childcare services and camps for members to attend.
The SWAN neighborhood has a number of parks that reside within the boundaries of the neighborhood. Classified as a mini-park, Douglas Park is less than one-acre in size and has a basketball court and playground for residents to enjoy.
Located near the Gerald R. Ford museum, Ah-Nab-Awen Park is nearly 7-acres in size and sits on the Grand River. You can see gorgeous views of the Grand River as you walk down the paved trail that runs along the river.
Just over an acre in size, Westown Commons is a small park in the SWAN neighborhood. This park has a basketball court and playground for residents to enjoy. Most of the time, you can find kids and their friends from the surrounding blocks utilizing this park.
EATING OUT IN SWAN
Being such a large neighborhood, SWAN has a variety of restaurants to dine at. The Bitter End Coffeehouse is a 24-hour cafe that offers a number of specialty coffee drinks, smoothies, and teas to their patrons. Not only do they provide delicious beverages, they also have free wi-fi for people to use. Along Fulton Street is Rise Authentic Baking Company with a vegan and gluten-free bakery and coffee shop. Further north in the neighborhood is Ferris Coffee & Nut, a family owned and operated facility.
Another family owned restaurant in the SWAN neighborhood is Vito’s Pizza which was originally established in 1973 as Steve’s Pizza. When the current owner purchased the restaurant, he changed the name and did the remodeling himself. They are pleased to offer pizza for dine-in, carry out, and delivery to their patrons. However, if staying in and preparing a home-cooked meal is more your style, stop by Bridge Street Market for a great selection of foods and drinks.