How the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority will spend its $14.9M budget

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A number of improvements across downtown Grand Rapids, from renovating Lyon Square to improving pedestrian crossings, are included in the Urban Development Agency’s $ 14.9 million budget.

Here are some projects in the budget that were approved this month.

Grand River Restoration: $ 4.6 million

A key part of the improvements planned for the Grand River is the restoration of Lyon Square, a riverside park between the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and the DeVos Place convention center on Lyon Street NW.

Planned improvements include landscaping, walkways, new lighting, and more. The project is a partnership between the DDA, the City of Grand Rapids, and neighboring owners including the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention / Arena Authority, Amway Hotel Corporation, Windquest Group and SIBSCO.

The total cost of the project has not yet been determined, but DDA has estimated $ 2.6 million for fiscal 2022.

“It’s a priority riverside project,” said Tim Kelly, president and CEO of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI), which manages the DDA’s funding. “We’re all working to make it happen.”

Also included in the pot of money is repairs to downtown trails along the Grand River, including sections in Fish Ladder Park and at the foot of the Blue Bridge. Kelly said the improvements are expected to cost around $ 1.3 million.

Having a quality, safe network of trails along the Grand River is important as it provides recreational opportunities and supports economic development, Kelly said.

“What we have seen locally and nationally is that people want to be close to hiking trails,” he said. “You want to be close to natural elements. For us, the focus is on the river itself and the network of trails. “

Developing a true downtown neighborhood with a diverse population: $ 1.7 million

The funds for this cash pool will be used in a variety of areas, including the DGRI’s development aid program. Dollars from this program help fuel economic growth and development by funding eligible expenses for new construction projects with new investments of over $ 5 million and rehabilitation projects with new investments of over $ 1 million.

This also includes the DGRI’s Downtown Enhancement Grant. With this grant, downtown business owners will be reimbursed for reimbursable costs such as installing “street furniture, snowmelt and other improvements in public areas,” according to DGRI. In June last year, the DGRI opened up the funds to entrepreneurs whose property was damaged in riots following the death of George Floyd.

Implementing a 21st Century Mobility Strategy: $ 2.3M

This pot of money contained numerous improvements aimed at making the streets in the city center friendlier for cyclists and pedestrians. Some of these are fast flashing beacons on Weston Street on Market Avenue, Cherry Street on US-131, and Crescent Street on Division Avenue.

Also included is DDA’s stake in the renewal of a section of Ottawa Avenue that runs through downtown. The DDA is contributing $ 581,800 to the estimated $ 2.25 million project. In addition to the renewal of the road, the project includes decorative street lights, trees, landscaping and infrastructure for future traffic signals. The signals would be required to achieve the goal of opening up Ottawa, which is now a one-way street, to two-way traffic.

Create more and better jobs and ensure the continued vitality of the local economy: $ 535,000

This cash pool will be used to fund programs such as the DGRI Retail Innovation and Incubation Grant, which is used to fund small retailers looking to open in the city center. The idea is to activate free retail space in downtown Grand Rapids and increase the number of women and minority owned businesses.

Previous awards went to GR Noir, a wine and jazz bar on 35 S. Division Ave., Mosby’s Popcorn, 15 Ionia Ave. SW and Ambiance GR Kitchen and Lounge.

Reinvestment in public space, culture and inclusive programming: US $ 3.8 million

This investment includes planting trees in the city center, renovating land in and around Van Andel Arena, installing a public toilet on Ionia Street near the arena, and DDA’s share in rebuilding the ecliptic at Rosa Parks Circle $ 2.8 million project.

The project is a partnership between the City of Grand Rapids and the DDA, contributing $ 550,000. The “ecliptic” is the concrete collecting area / the sculpture within the Rosa Parks Circle.

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