By: Tom Lambert

After years of living a hustle-bustle lifestyle in Chicago, Tina Barile was ready to move back home to Michigan.

Barile considered different Michigan cities where she could begin the next chapter of her life. She was looking for a midsized city that had the same big-city options, but also a place where family and friends wanted to visit – and come back.

She decided to move to The Hendrik on Grand Rapids’ West Side – located within Consumers Energy’s Circuit West neighborhood, completed in 2018 with Rockford Construction acting as a key partner in the construction logistics.

In 2015, Rockford partnered with Consumers Energy, government officials and local businesses to create an electric grid of the future that balances traditional neighborhood features with cutting-edge clean energy offerings.

“It had everything I was looking for,” said Barile, a lawyer at a Chicago-based health tech startup company that offers remote work options. “I love the walkability, whether I am going to an appointment or to meet a friend or family member. The West Side really feels like home, and I really love it here.”

Circuit West comprises more than $12 million in technology investments. Its underground electric distribution system decreases the volume and length of power outages.

The development also features a 500-kilowatt (kW) battery storage system that works in concert with 1,795 solar panels that produce renewable energy to customers spanning 13 blocks in Michigan’s second largest city.

“This is the future,” said Mike VanGessel, founder and CEO of Rockford Construction, who said teaming with Consumers Energy to make Circuit West a reality has been great for the region. “Where we are at with this project is a sample size of what we can continue to do more of.”

For decades, dilapidated buildings on Grand Rapids’ West Side have been a reminder of a bygone past. With Circuit West, the area now models the future for communities around Michigan and nationally.

 “Rockford and Consumers (Energy) and Circuit West coming together to make an intentional decision to create an innovative development, really in the heart of the West Side, has acted as a catalyst for this entire area,” said Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. “We had our first grocery store open right here on the West Side, Bridge Street Market, which has really been an anchor for not just for the West Side but the entire downtown.”

Circuit West features a next-generation energy infrastructure that community members are proud to call home. The development has created a green, energy-efficient community in a neighborhood rich in heritage.

Circuit West’s focus is on a smarter grid incorporating renewable energy and battery storage, which aligns with Consumers Energy’s Clean Energy Plan.

The cutting-edge technologies installed at Circuit West and lessons learned since the project’s launch will help Consumers Energy deploy the technology statewide to support the energy provider’s clean energy transformation.

“This is a great way to see the art of possibility and we know how to do it,” said Lauren Youngdahl Snyder, Consumers Energy’s vice president of customer experience. “To me (the question now is) where is the next Circuit West?”