The International Downtown Association (IDA) recognized the work of the Grand Rapids community to build racial equity and opportunity in Downtown Grand Rapids with a Pinnacle Award - the industry's highest honor.

The award for leadership and management, presented in September 2017 at the IDA's Annual Conference, recognizes the racial equity, inclusion and prosperity framework at the center of GR Forward, the growth strategy for Downtown Grand Rapids, which anchors one of the fastest growing regions in the United States. 

GR Forward defines an equity-driven growth model for Downtown Grand Rapids (PDF) that - for the first time in an American Downtown planning document that Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. is aware of - frames the compelling case that stemming widening inequality and achieving greater equity and inclusion are fundamental to the future health and success of the Downtown neighborhood, as well as the broader city and region. 

The plan prioritizes such strategies as expanding access to high quality public education, more intentionally recruiting marginalized communities into the public decision-making process, diversifying the Downtown workforce and other important determinants of equity.

"The process of developing the GR Forward strategy revealed truths about our community which inspired our community leadership and citizens to address racial equity head on and define a meaningful agenda for change," said DGRI President & CEO Kris Larson. "What’s more, the plan is oriented for action – defining a series of specific racial equity goals, with related strategies, timelines for implementation and measurable accountability targets - that ultimately frame a collective, partner-driven approach designed to yield significant results."

Based on the community alignment and genuine partnerships seeded and strengthened through the community collaboration process, GR Forward’s equity agenda has nurtured more focused leadership for translating ideas into action. 

Fiscal Year 2017 Action and Outcomes

Working in partnership with the City of Grand Rapids, and community assets such as LINC, the Latino Community Coalition, Disability Advocates and others, implementation success in 2016-2017 included, but was not limited to, the following outcomes: 

  • Polled public opinion and established first-ever baseline measure of how people perceive Downtown as a welcoming and inclusive place.
  • Attracted the Grand Rapids African-American Museum and Archives to Downtown.
  • Changed zoning policy to better promote a range of housing options that serve a diverse range of people and families.
  • Enabled the Downtown Development Authority to support minority- and women-owned business development.
  • Achieved an 80% increase in nonwhite attendance at Movies in the Park through community partnership and more inclusive programming.
  • Further diversified DGRI citizen Leadership Network to better reflect community’s diversity of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, expertise and geographic residence.
  • Produced Downtown walking tour of African-American history.
  • Partnered with Government Alliance on Race and Equity to develop strategies for transforming City government operations to help achieve racial equity.
  • Passed Pilot Food Truck Ordinance to expand opportunities for culinary entrepreneurs.
  • Elevated equity conversations in partnership with LINC, Latino Community Coalition, Well House and Disability Advocates.
  • Supported organization of Grand Rapids’ first annual Asian Festival.
  • Produced GR Forward Together video celebrating the city’s rich diversity of people.
  • Trained 220+ event producers to help expand the range of Downtown events appealing to diverse audiences.
  • Partnered with Rose Center for Public Leadership to develop strategies for achieving equity goals through new development projects. 

“These innovative projects set an outstanding example for cities around the world,” said David Downey, IDA President and CEO. “IDA members continue to champion livable, vital and thriving urban centers. Each of these projects has made its particular city a better place for the people who live and work there.”

IDA is the leading organization of urban place professionals working to shape and activate dynamic city center districts. Every year, IDA recognizes outstanding improvements to Downtown by the work of dedicated individuals around the globe through the Downtown Achievement Awards. The DGRI-awarded category of Leadership & Management consists of unique organizational approaches, projects, etc. that improve the effectiveness of Downtown management organizations.

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