The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Board of Directors today approved three investments to rehabilitate a key pedestrian corridor, advance river restoration, and support activities that bring more people to the central city.

“Our community aspires to build a downtown that is distinct, walkable, green, and prosperous,” said DDA Executive Director Kristopher Larson. “Investing to maintain our historic infrastructure, rightly positioning the Grand River to facilitate greater public access and enjoyment, supporting original events, and promoting all that downtown has to offer helps us achieve those goals.”

More specifically, the DDA Board today approved three investments totaling approximately $306,000. This includes a grant not to exceed $31,800 to cover the cost of design and engineering work required to prepare for the rehabilitation of the Indiana Railroad Bridge. The popular pedestrian bridge, commonly known as the Blue Bridge, was originally built in 1892 and is the oldest railroad bridge crossing the Grand River.

Rehabilitation of the bridge generally includes repainting the entire structure, replacing decorative lights and rebuilding sections of the walking deck. The estimated cost of the project is approximately $1.3 million. The DDA will leverage nearly 50 percent of its approximately $897,000 total committed project investment by partnering with the City of Grand Rapids to secure an additional $400,000 in state transportation enhancement funds. Project construction will occur during the 2013 construction season.

The DDA also approved a $175,000 grant to support the Downtown Alliance’s work to market downtown as a unique regional destination and provide tools to help people explore and engage with downtown. A key DDA partner, the Alliance provided assistance to more than 50 new and ongoing events that enhance the downtown experience, including ArtPrize, Laughfest, and Restaurant Week during the last fiscal year.

“This is a compelling, vibrant, and exciting downtown,” said Sharon Evoy, executive director of the Downtown Alliance. “We work through our marketing and event assistance to capture the attention of the community and invite people to explore the downtown. We thank the DDA for their continued support, and also for their continued work to enhance the central city.”

The DDA also approved a grant not to exceed $100,000 to support Phase 2 of Grand Rapids Whitewater’s feasibility study of restoring the rapids in the Grand River. Phase 1 of the study was completed in July 2012. It concluded that restoration of the Grand River and the recreation function of the historic rapids is feasible, and will return widespread social, economic and environmental benefits to the community. Phase 2, estimated to cost $215,000, includes additional engineering, project design, alternatives analysis and community outreach.

“We are excited by the opportunities we see in the Grand River,” said Chris Muller, co-founder of Grand Rapids Whitewater. “We aspire to reestablish the rapids as the namesake of our city and this next phase of study will help us determine the best design to achieve that goal.”

Each of these three investments is consistent with the priorities outlined in the DDA’s 2011 Framework, which provides the blueprint for near-term action to help catalyze revitalization and enhance downtown’s overall competitiveness and quality of life.

“The community-driven Framework strongly emphasized, among other things, a thriving retail scene, dynamic public space and specifically a more inviting and active Grand River corridor,” said DDA Board Chair Brian Harris. “The plan continues to guide DDA investment and we partner with Grand Rapids Whitewater, the Downtown Alliance, the City of Grand Rapids and other interested stakeholders because it makes good sense and achieves the best results.”

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