The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Board of Directors today sent the City Commission an $8.6 million Fiscal Year 2017 budget recommendation that directs 82 percent of planned DDA expenditures to advance implementation of GR Forward, the community plan of action to transform the Grand River and support the next generation of growth in Downtown.
Citizens, working through a participatory budget process, identified and prioritized 98 percent of the approximately $5.7 million in proposed discretionary investments.
“This proposed budget matches the DDA’s dollars with the community’s vision for Downtown,” said Kristopher Larson, the president and CEO of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI). “The budget recommends investment in 103 unique capital projects, programs, events and other initiatives. 92 of those action items are specifically recommended in the GR Forward plan.”
DGRI is the organization responsible for city building and place management in Downtown Grand Rapids, which anchors one of the fastest growing regions in the nation. DGRI manages several economic development tools in the urban core, including the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority, which leverages public and private investment in the central city.
Working in partnership with the City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Public Schools, DGRI engaged thousands of citizens to define GR Forward, a 10-year growth strategy that outlines the city building goals and investment priorities for Downtown Grand Rapids. The City Commission unanimously adopted GR Forward as an amendment to the City Master Plan in December 2015.
The DDA’s proposed FY 2017 budget commits more than $7 million to support the plan’s implementation. Specifically, the GR Forward-recommended actions supported by the budget include but are not limited to:
- Advancing designs to rebuild Lyon Square at the river’s edge.
- Assessing the feasibility of a bike share system serving Downtown and the near neighborhoods.
- Growing the Downtown tree canopy by planting 200 trees.
- Rebooting the Downtown shuttle system to better connect people to Downtown destinations.
- Expanding programs and activities that appeal to increasingly diverse audiences.
- Developing a conceptual design to refresh Calder Plaza.
- Rebuilding Veteran’s Park.
- Enhancing 131 overpass lighting at Cherry, Pearl and Bridge Streets.
- Installing more public art on blank walls and utility boxes.
- Starting up a Downtown residents’ network.
More generally, the proposed FY 2017 expenditures organize approximately in the following priority areas:
- $3.2 million dedicated to public realm and infrastructure improvements.
- $1.7 million for Downtown beautification, safety and mobility.
- $1.1 million in administration, police services and City costs.
- $1.1 million in real estate incentives.
- $750,000 in special events, workforce support initiatives and community engagement.
- $669,000 in debt service obligations.
DGRI staff will present the proposed budget for City Commission consideration on June 7, 2016. If approved, the budget will come back to the DDA Board for final adoption in July.