Our goal is to reconnect 415 Franklin to its Christian beginnings and to equitably seek its redevelopment. 415 Franklin is at the cross-roads of residential affluence and economic scarcity. It’s positioned well to foster a mixed income neighborhood, provides one of the greatest pathways out of poverty. However, mixed neighborhoods don’t necessarily ensure upward mobility. Equally critical is the opportunity to form relationships across socioeconomic and racial divides. Through worship where all are welcome, quality early childhood education, affordable housing and a venue for community events, we hope to promote diverse relationships and a broad sense of community. Our vision of using the first floor for community and church and providing housing on the second and third floor is becoming a reality by partnering with Inner City Christian Federation and the Refugee Education Center.
Where we have been.
Madison Church is a multi-site church with a mission of ministering within the city. Serving in the South East Side of Grand Rapids for over a century, Madison has seen the transitions and challenges the community has faced. We have heard many stories of pain and shame as businesses and schools closed and as the economic health of the neighborhood deteriorated due to decades of disinvestment. At the same time Madison can also attest to the communities’ vibrant families, enduring small businesses and their commitment to the neighborhood. Madison Church: Ford campus launched 10 years ago and meets in the Gerald R Ford Academic Center a Grand Rapids Public School. Our values include a Prayerful Dependence On God, Authentic Community, Diversity With Justice, Gi -Based Serving, Kingdom Impact and Local-Global Outreach.
415 Franklin St SE is a 65,000 square foot school building located just south of Heritage Hill. It is situated on land that has been used to glorify God since the 1890s when it was the location of Calvin Seminary and its early Junior College, Holland Theology School. In 1920 Grand Rapids Christian High organized and purchased the land to start a high school. It had an initial enrollment of 260 students which steadily increased to over 1000 students in 1950.
In 1964, growth led Grand Rapids Christian High School to split into two high schools, and the Franklin Campus was renamed Central Christian. Central Christian High School at 415 Franklin St SE was a formative place for thousands of students as evidenced by its consistent growth over the decades and by its alumni. Many students went on to be distinguished leaders and philanthropists, a legacy that continues to positively impact the Grand Rapids community today.
In 1972 Grand Rapids Christian decided to recombine high schools and sell the Franklin St SE property to Kent County. Kent County Department of Social Services used the building until 2009. In 2009 Ed DeVries, a Grand Rapids Central Christian Alum and local developer, acquired the building and associated parking lot. Not long a er, Madison Church: Ford Campus began talking to Mr. DeVries about using the chapel space. In February 2015, DeVries Companies gifted the building and associated parking lot to Madison Church entrusting us to organize a coalition to redevelop the property to honor God and invest in the community.
When the school departed in 1972 many in the community felt it le an empty seat at the table. It is time to reclaim that seat and reestablish 415 Franklin St SE as a place where young minds flourish, where the leaders of tomorrow get their beginning, where this diverse community can come, sit and stand together again.
Where we are going.
The sound of Praise and Worship in a space that has been silent far too long. The renovated chapel will serve 350 adults of Madison Church: Ford Campus for Sunday worship. First floor renovation will include space for children’s ministry, youth group, staff, and many other flexible gathering spaces for bible studies and other Christ-based groups. As it has hosted high school students in the past, bringing them into the presence of God, it will now host students of all ages in worship and the instruction of His Word. Throughout the week it will serve as a venue for the community for speaking engagements, the arts, music, drama, weddings and funerals. And it will serve our very young as a licensed early childhood development center.
The continuing work of reconciliation in a vital southeast side neighborhood. We recognize the changing dynamics of our community. While we are encouraged by its growth and vitality we also see the damage this rapid growth has caused creating vulnerable neighborhoods and forcing those on the margins to relocate outside the city and creating a scarcity of quality early childhood programs. That is why we are intentional about providing affordable housing in a neighborhood, why we are intentional about increasing early development opportunities in the community, and finally why we are intentional about setting a table where all are welcome: where together we can look at the hurt and mistakes of the past and celebrate together what God is doing now and what he has promised yet to do.
The holistic partnership of church, home and school.
So 415 Franklin, a 65,000 square foot building, will host Madison Church: Ford Campus, 40 beautiful, new, affordable apartments and an early childhood learning center operated by the Refugee Education Center serving refugees and the economically vulnerable. On Sundays the early childhood learning space will be used for our church’s growing children’s ministry.
Who is going with us.
Inner City Christian Federation
ICCF is a nonprofit housing corporation founded in 1974 whose leadership is motivated by, and programs shaped by, its belief that all people deserve safe, clean, affordable housing. Learn more at iccf.org
Madison Church & the Community at Franklin & Madison
Madison Square Church has been ministering to Southeast Grand Rapids for over a century and our congregation, Madison Church: Ford Campus, has been a part of the Madison and Franklin neighborhood for the last ten years. Learn more at www.madisonsquarechurch.org.