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 Everyone:

I hope you are enjoying your Friday.

Work is progressing on development of the draft plan, and in the meantime we are continuing to get the word out in the community about GR Forward. This week we gave presentations to the groups listed below.

  • Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce’s Inside Grand Rapids program
  • Lunch and Learn Presentation with Varnum, LLP
  • Downtown Kalamazoo Inc.

Next week we are looking forward to visiting the GRPS Center for Economicology, as well as the Mayflower Explorers Group at Mayflower Congregational Church. Again, if anyone has suggestions for additional groups we can meet with please let me know.

One additional note, I’ve included below an updated public engagement summary, which outlines all of the work we have done for GR Forward over the past 12 months. With all the activity in April, we are now over 3,300 total people engaged. As we move to completion of the project, we look for that number to continue to grow.

Web Numbers

The latest web and social media numbers are below. Things have slowed a bit since our last public forum, so be sure to continue to share the links below in your network so everyone can stay up to date with GR Forward activities.


Maybe it’s the spring weather and the joy of being outside, but the two resources I want to share are both from Next City, and both are related to public spaces.

First is an overview of an analysis done by the City Parks Alliance, which talks about the value derived from urban parks. To highlight this point, in Washington, D.C., the value of residential properties within 500 feet of a park is almost $24 billion, with $1.2 billion of that figure credited to parks.

That said, and as the article points out, parks provide many other benefits outside of rising property values. For example, the analysis identified the health savings from parks in the 85 largest US cities at over $3 billion. The article goes on to describe some of the creative ways parks have been funded around the country, typically with a mix of public, private, and fee based revenue. Though they are frequently costly to build and maintain, parks are crucial to the vibrancy of communities, and frequently generate value well beyond their costs.

In addition, this article on the revitalization of Fort Wayne, the 96 acre site on the Detroit River, is also interesting. The site, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was built between 1843 and 1851 on the point in America that was closest to British Canada. Now, in light of the looming construction of a second international bridge from Detroit to Windsor, Ontario it is set to receive a major upgrade. The project, which has the support of Governor Snyder and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, will help preserve and enhance the site for the neighborhoods in southwest Detroit, which are typically noted for their industrial character. HR&A advisors, who helped lead the development of the High Line in Manhattan, will help create the vision for the site’s future, which will balance the opportunities to become a tourist destination, commercial development site, connection to the river, and green amenity for neighbors.

In the context of GR Forward, it is exciting to see the urban park and public space concepts that have emerged, and as demonstrated in cities across the country, think about the transformative impact they can have on our community.

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

GR Forward Public Engagement Summary May 2015