Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. Planning Manager Tim Kelly emails a weekly GR Forward update to the project Steering Committee. Here's this week's communication:

Good afternoon Downtown Plan Steering Committee and Community Partners:

I hope you are finishing up a great week.


Our second Steering Committee meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 8 at 9:00a. Once again the meeting will occur at Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. office (29 Pearl Street NW, Suite 1). The agenda is still being finalized, but amongst other things we will be discussing project branding, outreach strategies, and the community-wide launch during the first week of June.

In addition to these weekly emails, and the work our consultant team is doing, DGRI is also getting the word out on the Downtown Plan by going to various neighborhood and community organizations to provide an introduction to the project. Over the past two weeks presentations were made to:

  • Heartside Business Association
  • Building Owners and Management Association (BOMA)
  • GR Business Breakfast

The presentations are another way to let the community know about the importance of this project, and to identify ways for people to be involved. In addition, by going to existing events we are demonstrating our intent to be proactive in our outreach efforts. We are seeking ways to “go to where the people are” to broaden our reach, and these presentations are just the first step in what will be a comprehensive outreach approach over the next 12 months.


In the spirit of community outreach, I thought I would share two examples of initiatives that received national awards from the American Planning Association this year.

First is a Budget Czar game from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority ( The game is designed to get citizen input on countywide transportation investment priorities from today through 2040. The multilingual, interactive website enabled citizens to select from a menu of transportation programs, operations, and maintenance funding levels and capital projects within the projected $64.3 billion (!!) available during the transportation plan’s lifetime. If users surpassed their budget, they were instructed to reduce their spending or find additional revenue. The website solicited input but also helped educate citizens on the complexities of local transportation funding. More than 900 responses were received, a higher level of engagement than previous outreach efforts from public meetings and surveys.

Second is a Pop Up City from Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC) ( Pop Up City develops temporary interventions to gauge community support for new projects and policies before making significant political or financial commitments. It also enables citizens to envision future development alternatives based on actual experiences. In the past three years, temporary interventions have explored alternatives for public space design and highlighted some of Cleveland's underutilized properties in an entertaining manner.

While outreach strategies need to be customized to communities and desired outcomes, these award-winning examples provide insight into what has worked in other cities, and can perhaps provide lessons for our efforts in Grand Rapids.

As always, if you have any questions on anything Downtown Plan related please let me know. Otherwise, have a great weekend!