GR Forward Wins American Planning Excellence Award

GR Forward, the community plan and investment strategy to guide the next generation of growth in Downtown Grand Rapids, will receive the Daniel Burnham Award from the Michigan Association Planning (MAP).

The prestigious award – named for one of the greatest architects and city planners in American history – recognizes excellence in the science and art of comprehensive community planning.

GR Forward exemplifies the strong and diverse community partnerships required to envision a great city in the 21st century,” said Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. “We are honored to receive this award for planning excellence and we are passionate about the work of building an ever more beautiful, prosperous, fun and equitable city.”

Thousands of Grand Rapidians shaped GR Forward through a process facilitated by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., the City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Public Schools. Community conversations began in February 2014 and, after one of the most inclusive public engagement initiatives in the city’s history, the City Commission in December 2015 formally adopted GR Forward as an amendment to the City Master Plan.

The community transitioned swiftly from planning conversations to implementation action. GR Forward project partners already have executed several recommendations including but not limited to:

  • Establishing Mobile GR to better manage growing transportation demand,
  • Rebooting the Downtown Area Shuttle system,
  • Adopting a new food truck ordinance to support culinary entrepreneurs,
  • Removing the obsolete City High building, and
  • Starting up a Downtown resident’s network.

Several Year One initiatives currently in process also include but not limited to:

  • Planting 200 trees,
  • Constructing the Coldbrook Edge, a new segment of riverfront trail,
  • Redesigning Calder Plaza and Lyon Square,
  • Launching a bike-share feasibility analysis,
  • Enhancing 131 overpass lighting at Cherry, Pearl and Bridge Streets, and
  • Changing public policy to increase allowable building heights and maximize Downtown development potential.

What’s more, the Grand Rapids Public Museum School remains one of 50 finalists in the XQ Super School Project. Retaining and attracting families, talent and job providers with high quality public schools is a top GR Forward priority. More specifically, implementing GRPS’ new Museum School model, including the renovation of the long vacant 54 Jefferson building in Downtown, is a key recommendation.

GRPS will learn the outcome of the $50 million competition on September 14, 2016.

The independent jury of planning professionals who evaluated GR Forward seized on such strong cross-sector collaboration and community inclusion as a distinguishing feature of the initiative. “This is a real community plan,” they wrote, “this project pulled together all sectors of the community and took great care to include everyone. It truly recognizes the value of a diverse population and culture.”

The GR Forward partners will officially receive the award on October 26, 2016 at Planning Michigan, MAP's annual conference.