The Board of Directors overseeing the newly-established Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. (DGRI) met yesterday for the first time. The 7-member Board appointed real estate broker Ray Kisor as chair and nonprofit consultant Kayem Dunn as vice chair. The Board also received a presentation on a supporting committee structure that would provide some 60 stakeholders direct opportunity to play a leadership role in key downtown activities.

“DGRI represents a new era in our movement to catalyze downtown’s improvement and growth,” said Ray Kisor, principal at Colliers International. “DGRI’s task is to enhance collaboration among multiple downtown-focused organizations, intentionally strengthen inclusivity and ensure robust public participation in downtown decision making, and ultimately maximize the return on the public’s investment in our central city.”

DGRI is the singular management entity for the combined operations of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), the Downtown Alliance (DA), the Downtown Improvement District (DID), the City of Grand Rapids Office of Special Events, and the Monroe North Tax Increment Finance Authority (MNTFA).

Under DGRI, the participating partner organizations will share board members, staff support, and office space. The partners will establish common performance metrics and standards of accountability. They will also unite behind a common marketing strategy for downtown Grand Rapids.

The idea of the new collaborative strategy was first recommended in the DDA’s 2010 Investment Framework. The DDA, DA, DID and the City in late 2011 convened a Partnership Committee to further explore and refine the concept. That committee in 2012 recommended the new organizational design for DGRI, which has since been unanimously supported by the Boards of all partnering organizations. Each individual Board also will play a specific and more clearly defined essential role.

The DDA, DID, and MNTIFA will continue to serve fiduciary and oversight roles over their respective funding mechanisms, as required by Michigan law.

DGRI, governed by representatives from each participating agency, will serve as the convening and coordinating agency. More specifically, it will be responsible for shaping and keeping the vision for downtown, providing the staff and management services for each partner agency, and directing all agency activities.

In their inaugural meeting the DGRI Board took the following action:

  • §Appointed a chair, vice chair, and secretary.
  • §Ratified the organizational by laws.
  • §Established a 2013 meeting schedule. DGRI will operate in full compliance with the Open Meetings and Freedom of Information Acts.
  • §Adopted the DGRI board conflict of interest policy.
  • §Appointed Kristopher Larson as President and CEO of DGRI.
  • §Approved the DGRI Employee Handbook.
  • §Authorized partnership agreements with the DDA, DID, and MNTFA.
  • §Received a presentation on a series of citizen committees – known as Alliances – that will guide DGRI’s engagement in downtown economic development, place making, and programming. Members will be seated in October.

“We intend to cultivate a core group of passionate and engaged thinkers and doers, drawn from a wide range of stakeholders, to reach for new ways of thinking and build a downtown that’s consistent with the community’s vision,” Kristopher Larson said. “Bottom line: We are more open, participatory, strategic, and united than ever in our campaign to build a vital, dynamic, competitive urban core.”

DGRI will open storefront office space in the Federal Square Building at 29 Pearl St. NW in October 2013.