The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Board of Directors today sent the City Commission a $12.5 million Fiscal Year 2018 budget recommendation that directs 95% of planned DDA expenditures to advance implementation of GR Forward, the community plan of action to transform the Grand River into a distinct amenity and support the next generation of growth in Downtown.
Citizens, working through a participatory budget process, identified and prioritized 99 percent of the approximately $9.9 million in proposed discretionary investments.
“This budget represents the ideas, insights and priorities of hundreds of citizens involved in our organization,” said Kristopher Larson, President and CEO of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. “We are excited to align our investments to help Downtown realize the community’s vision.”
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 commits more than $12.5 million to support the plan’s implementation. Specifically, the GR Forward-recommended actions supported by the budget include but are not limited to:
- Designing a trail segment along the west side of Belknap Hill to better connect the Belknap neighborhood with Monroe North and the Grand River.
- Daytime activation of public spaces to enhance Downtown as a great place to work.
- Establishing new tools to support the development of affordable housing.
- Improving pedestrian safety at the Michigan Street river trail crossing.
- Installing festoon lighting above Ionia Avenue.
- Streetscape and public realm improvements to support implementation of the Grandville Avenue Area Specific Plan.
- Temporary improvements – seating, shading, greenery and games – at Calder Plaza.
- Expanding winter programming and activities.
- Streetscape improvements along Michigan Street near Butterworth Hospital.
- Growing the Downtown tree canopy by planting more than 200 trees.
- Installing more public art on blank walls.
- Installing improved bus shelters for people who ride DASH.
- Installing outdoor exercise equipment at Canal Street Park in Monroe North.
More generally, the proposed FY 2018 expenditures organize approximately in the following priority areas:
- $1.3 million (11 projects) to advance on GR Forward Goal 1 – Restoring the Grand River as the draw to the city, county and region.
- $4.1 million (12 projects) to advance on GR Forward Goal 2 – Developing a true Downtown neighborhood home to a diverse population.
- $2.1 million (16 projects) to advance on GR Forward Goal 3 – Implementing a 21st century mobility strategy.
- $125,000 (2 programs) to support GR Forward Goal 4 – Growing more and better jobs and ensuring continued vitality of the local economy.
- $2.8 million (33 projects) to advance on GR Forward Goal 5 – Reinvesting in public space, culture and inclusive programming.
- $250,000 (1 project) to support GR Forward Goal 6 – Retaining and attracting families, talent and job providers with high quality public schools.
DGRI staff will present the proposed budget for City Commission consideration on June 13, 2017. If approved, the budget will come back to the DDA Board for final adoption in July.