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 Morning All:

Friday is here, the sun is shining, and at least for now, the snow has relented. That can only mean one thing. It is time for your 36th installment of the GR Forward update.


A lot of news this week. First up, as most of you on this email are aware, yesterday we held a joint meeting of the Downtown, River Corridor, and River Restoration Steering Committees. We heard updates from each committee, and had an intentional discussion about integration of all elements of the Plan. There was a lot of content covered, but the meeting was productive and served the purpose of making sure all of the committees know what the others are working on. It was important for us to do this as we move into the visioning phase of the project schedule. If anyone is interested in seeing the presentation from yesterday, it will be posted to our project Basecamp site next week.

Speaking of the project schedule, one of the other items we covered yesterday was an overview of all of the work to be completed between now and completion of the Plan. Below are the highlights and the main themes we will be working on each month:

  • December: Continued Vision Development
  • January: Development of Initial Concepts / Strategies
  • February: Refinement of Strategies
  • March: Refinement of Strategies
  • April: Prioritize Strategies / Implementation Approach
  • May: Draft Plans
  • June / July: Final Plans

Last night we also hosted the first installment of our GR Forward Thinking Speaker Series. Jen Keesmaat, the Planning Director for the City of Toronto, gave an inspiring speech about planning with bold vision and discussed a lot of the amazing things going on in Toronto. Jen had a lot of great things to say about Grand Rapids, and it was great to have her in town for a day of knowledge sharing. We will have a video of the presentation available in the near future, and I will be sure to share that once it is ready. As a reminder, our next speaker will be Don Edwards, on Thursday, December 4 at 6pm. Don is the CEO of Justice & Sustainability Associates in Washington, DC, and will be discussing economic development and equity. Again, the event is free and will be held at Kendall College’s Federal Building. Be sure to share the attached flyer among your networks.

This week we also continued our neighborhood meetings. On Monday, we met with our neighbors in West Grand at Harrison Park Elementary. Tuesday and Wednesday were supposed to be our first two sub-region meetings with residents in the northwest and southeast neighborhoods of the City. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas for us, so both of the meetings are now being rescheduled.

Related to the Open House, today was supposed to be our closing day, however we have decided to extend our use of the space. With the exception of next week, which is Thanksgiving, we will be maintaining regular hours from 3p – 7p every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday until December 19. If you have not had a chance to stop down, we would love to see you. Also, if you have any upcoming meetings that you would like to use the space for, please let me know.

Lastly, although our outreach is going very well and providing us with a lot of meaningful feedback, one area where we are lagging is with survey responses. As such, if everyone on this email could help circulate the surveys using the links below, that would be immensely helpful (note: both surveys are also available on the GR Forward website). Also, if you live or work within Downtown and have not completed the surveys, please take a few minutes to do so. The feedback is extremely important to the work we are doing.

Live Downtown (Resident):

Work Downtown (Business):


Another good week of getting out to give presentations in the community. Again, if anyone has suggestions for meetings that we can attend please let me know.

  • Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce
  • West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Grand Rapids Smart Zone

Web Numbers

As with the previous weeks, the website and our Facebook account continue to get heavy traffic. Instagram and Twitter also saw good spikes this week. As always, be sure to share the links below with anyone that might be interested so we can continue to promote GR Forward.

Facebook -

Twitter -

Instagram -

Website Views

Facebook Likes

Instagram Followers

Twitter Followers

20,729 (+2,316)

738 (+40)

166 (+7)

177 (+21)


Two quick resources for you this week.

First is a conceptual plan for repurposing pay phones in New York City to provide fast and free internet access:

Second is an overview from Business Insider on the “hottest” US Cities: While it is obviously a subjective poll, I found the details on the work other cities are doing to attract talent, create jobs, and become tourists destinations to be really interesting.

As always, if you have any questions let me know. Otherwise, have a great weekend.