GRAND RAPIDS, MI — A host of improvements throughout downtown Grand Rapids, from the renovation of Lyon Square to enhanced pedestrian street crossings, are included in the city’s $14.9 million downtown development authority budget.
Here’s a look at several projects included in the budget, which were approved this month.
Restoring the Grand River: $4.6 million
One major component of the improvements planned for the Grand River include the restoration of Lyon Square, a riverfront park located between Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and 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 adjacent property owners, including the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority, Amway Hotel Corporation, The Windquest Group and SIBSCO.
The overall cost of the project has not been finalized, but the DDA has budgeted $2.6 million for its fiscal year 2022.
“It’s a priority project right on the river,” 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 are repairs to trails along the Grand River in downtown, including sections at Fish Ladder Park and the base of the Blue Bridge. Kelly said the improvements are expected to cost roughly $1.3 million.
Having a quality and safe trail network along the Grand River is important because it provides recreational opportunities and aids in economic development, Kelly said.
“What we’ve seen locally and nationally is people want to be near trails,” he said. “They want to be near natural elements. And so for us, the river itself and the trail network are a focal point.”
Developing a true Downtown neighborhood home to a diverse population: $1.7 million
Funding in this pot of money is used in a host of areas, including DGRI’s Development Support Program. Dollars from that program help promote economic growth and development by funding eligible expenses in new construction projects with over $5 million in new investment and rehabilitation projects with over $1 million in new investment.
It also includes DGRI’s Downtown Enhancement Grant. That grant reimburses downtown business owners for eligible expenses such as the installation of “street furniture, snowmelt, and other public realm improvements,” according to DGRI. Last June, DGRI opened the funds to businesses owners whose property was damaged during rioting following the death of George Floyd.
Implementing a 21st-century mobility strategy: $2.3 million
A host of improvements designed to make downtown streets more friendly for bicyclists and pedestrians was included in this pot of money. Some of those include rapid flashing beacons at Weston Street at Market Avenue, Cherry Street at U.S.-131and Crescent Street at Division Avenue.
Also included is the DDA’s share of the resurfacing of a stretch of Ottawa Avenue that runs through downtown. The DDA is contributing $581,800 to the estimated $2.25 million project. In addition to resurfacing the road, the project includes decorative streetlights, trees, landscaping, and infrastructure for future traffic signals. The signals would be needed to accommodate the goal of eventually opening Ottawa, which is now a one-way street, to two-way traffic.
Growing more and better jobs and ensuring the continued vitality of the local economy: $535,000
This pool of money is used to fund programs such as DGRI’s retail innovation and incubation grant, which provides funding to small retailers looking to open in downtown. The idea is to activate vacant retail space in downtown Grand Rapids and expand the number of women- and minority-owned businesses.
Reinvesting in public space, culture and inclusive programming: $3.8 million
This investment includes planting trees downtown, renovations on property in and around Van Andel Arena, the installation of a public toilet on Ionia Street near the arena, as well as the DDA’s share of the reconstruction of the Ecliptic at Rosa Parks Circle, a $2.8 million project.
The project is a partnership between the city of Grand Rapids and the DDA, which is contributing $550,000. The “Ecliptic” is the concrete gathering area/sculpture located within Rosa Parks Circle.