Despite recent closures, downtown Grand Rapids positioned to ‘thrive’ in 2022

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan – A recent report said more businesses in downtown Grand Rapids closed in 2019 than in the following two years, despite the closings and restrictions caused by the pandemic.

It is a reality that is different from what so many people hold to be true. In December, two popular city center attractions, The BOB and Osteria Rossa, announced their closure plans.

However, in an interview with FOX 17 Thursday, Richard App, the city’s retail and attractions specialist, offered a simpler answer to why restaurants and stores might close at the end of the year.

Rather than blaming COVID-19, App said taxes could explain the decisions. He explained that if a facility were open for even a day in 2022, they would still be held liable for things like personal property taxes.

Heading into 2022, App says the city’s pandemic is in a good position.

“We are very conscious of the companies coming downtown and I think this will result in a better shopping, dining and walking experience for our inner city,” said App.

A COVID-19 recovery report issued by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. in December found that 32 stores opened in the immediate downtown area over the past year, compared to just 21 in 2020.

In the same period before the pandemic, 46 stores were opened. Shops opened 1.5 times faster than they closed.

The report went on to say that 23 companies closed in 2019, up from 19 in 2020 and 15 in 2021.

Shops fill 79 percent of the storefronts on the first floor, which the app called “pretty great.”

“While we’ve definitely lost some good business in the past year and a half, two years, it’s really exciting to see that the existing restaurants I’ve spoken to over the past three days have really positive vacation experiences,” said App. “Our soft good dealers are also talking about better numbers than since 2018.”

James Berg, managing partner of Essence Restaurant Group, believes in the city’s recovery.

“Downtown Grand Rapids is ready to grow and prosper,” said Berg.

The pandemic “devastated” Essence’s three restaurants, but Berg says things have normalized a bit.

Their restaurants are still struggling to hire people, so they recently increased their salary and benefit packages.

In February, Berg says they intend to reopen the grove, which has been closed since the pandemic began.

“The business is – it’s mean,” said Berg. “It’s like you have to fight and do it with your values ​​and you win every day.”

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