The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is a funding tool Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. administers to help catalyze public and private investment in Grand Rapids' urban core.The DDA Board of Directors today took action on the following measures:

Recommended Liquor License for Brush! GR

The Board recommended approval of a liquor license for Brush! GR, a new art studio opening at 50 Louis Street NW. If approved by the City Commission and the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, the license will enable studio patrons to enjoy beer and wine while leisurely exploring the creative arts and making pieces of their own.

Approved Funding to Pilot a New Public Realm Improvement Initiative

The Board authorized $35,000 to install 33 new moveable planter pots and plantings to enhance the 100 block of Monroe Center and Ottawa Avenue. Downtown planters typically are poured permanently in place. But moveable pots are a good solution in areas where underground snow melt system, private utilities and other subsurface conditions prevent permanent landscape solutions. The goal of the new program, designed in consultation with Downtown Grand Rapids Inc’s Alliance for Livability, is to help beautify the streetscape, improve the experience for people who walk and help to accentuate business entries, outdoor dining areas and other public spaces.

Approved Funding to Support New ‘Iron at 25’ Restaurant

The Board authorized $12,000 to support storefront improvements and new commercial signage for the forthcoming Iron at 25 restaurant at 25 Ottawa Avenue SW. The DDA contribution will leverage a private investment of $355,000 in accessible bathrooms, a new fire suppression system and other building improvements.

Amended the Event Sponsorship Program and Application

The Board adjusted the Event Sponsorship Program (PDF) to enable support for more Downtown events, give event producers more flexibility to solicit DDA sponsorship support and simplify the decision making process. The overarching goal of the program refinement is to ensure DDA-supported events are consistent with the community’s preferences for Downtown programming. Attracting increasingly diverse audiences, expanding the Downtown events calendar into the winter months and activating the Grand River remain key program priorities.

Approved Funding to Support Public Art Repair

The Board authorized up to $5,000 to repair Lorrie’s Button, a popular sculpture located in Ah-Nab-Awen Park. A former winner of a playground sculpture contest, the piece was installed in 1976. Decades of wear and tear – coupled with the lack of a maintenance endowment – now raise the need of immediate repairs to prevent further deterioration and ensure safe play for kids. With the DDA Board’s approval, restoration of the sculpture will begin and be completed as soon as weather allows.

Supported an Agreement with Lansing-Based Consulting Firm

The Board authorized the Executive Director to retain the services of McCalvey, Merchant & Associates, a Lansing-based consulting firm, to help Downtown Grand Rapids strengthen relationships with state leaders.

Authorize Support for the Historic Preservation Streamline Initiative

The Board supported a City of Grand Rapids-led effort to increase the number of buildings eligible for federal historic preservation incentives, streamline the application process for building owners and support future building renovation and adaptive reuse projects. The DDA Board also authorized $10,000 to support the initiative, which will also help lower barriers to private investment and reduce pre-development timelines for some 135 buildings in the Downtown area.

Appointed a Citizen Steering Committee to Guide Calder Plaza Optimization

The Board appointed a 17-member citizen steering to develop conceptual plans for improving Calder Plaza, a community priority affirmed throughout the GR Forward process. The committee will work collaboratively with Downtown Grand Rapids Inc, the City of Grand Rapids and Kent County to shape and implement a design process that optimizes public use of Calder Plaza while respecting the history of the space and the important architectural elements of it. More specifically, the committee will advise on design consultant selection, public participation strategies and final project recommendations. The committee also will help promote the process within the community and inform citizens about potential options for action. The committee will begin its work in January 2016 and could present draft recommendations as early as fall 2016.

Authorized a Contract to Complete Designs for Lyon Square

The Board approved funding not to exceed $20,000 to retain the services of Bishop Land Design (BLD). The firm will work to refine the preliminary conceptual redesign of Lyon Square initially presented in GR Forward. Specifically, the work among other activities will include development of a grading and landscaping plan for the area, identification of river trail features and the selection of lighting elements and public furniture. Scott Bishop, principal of BLD, was instrumental in the work of rethinking the Grand River corridor through the GR Forward process, making BLD uniquely suited to support this next phase of work.

Approved Liquor License Request by Essence Restaurant Group

The Board supported the idea of legally transferring liquor licenses among three Downtown locations to facilitate a new restaurant in the Monroe North neighborhood. The new restaurant will be owned and operated by Essence Restaurant Group, which currently operates Bistro Bella Vita, Grove and the Green Well. If approved by the City Commission and the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, the yet-to-be-named restaurant is anticipated open in the fall of 2016.

Received a Report on the Results of the 2015 Movies in the Park

Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. staff presented the performance results of the 2015 Movies in the Park event. The report, based on surveys administered at each of six event nights, presents an overview of the audience demographics, economic activity and attendee satisfaction associated with Movies in the Park, an event organized by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. in partnership with Friends of Grand Rapids Parks and the City of Grand Rapids. The principal finding is that the 2015 series drove $664,000 into the Downtown economy and generated a return of $441 for every DGRI-managed dollar invested to produce the series. Click here for the full summary of the 2015 Movies in the Park Performance Results. (PDF)