GR Forward, unanimously approved by the Grand Rapids City Commission in December 2015, is a community plan and investment strategy to transform the Grand River into a distinct asset and support the next generation of growth in Downtown Grand Rapids.

Developed through one of the most inclusive public engagement efforts in the city's history, GR Forward clearly defines the community's priorities for city building in Downtown Grand Rapids. That means we're well positioned to act with speed and confidence to implement the community's vision.

This report - updated quarterly - summarizes and tracks a sampling of current efforts underway to translate the community's GR Forward vision into reality. 

GR Forward Goal 1 - Reestablish the Grand River as the draw to the city & region

Action: Develop riverfront trail design guidelines

  • Lead: City of Grand Rapids
  • Selected Wenk Associates as lead consultant
  • Goal is to “test” potential material schemes in Monroe North in Spring 2018
  • Planning engagement process to name the trail

Action: Evaluate economic impact of improving and expanding the riverfront trail

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.
  • Developing Request for Qualifications to inform consultant selection (in process)
  • Evaluating local assets to support reliable analysis

Action: Enhance Lyon Square Opportunity Site

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and City of Grand Rapids 
  • GR DDA approved funding to generate Design Development documents
  • Coordination with surrounding stakeholders in process

Action: Enhance Ah-Nab-Awen / Indian Mounds Park

  • Lead: City of Grand Rapids
  • GR DDA approved funding to support construction of 15-foot trail section, improved lighting from Pearl Street to Gillett Bridge
  • Remains an opportunity to create ceremonial space for native Americans

GR Forward Goal 2 - Develop a true Downtown neighborhood home to a diverse population

Action: Establish Downtown resident organization

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. 
  • Held coordination mtg with City staff and adjacent neighborhood orgs
  • Organizing citizen planning committee to define group’s mission, vision and goals
  • Developing survey of Downtown residents for distribution in Q1 2018

GR Forward Goal 3 – Implement a 21st century mobility strategy

Action: Deploy bus shelters to enhance experience for people who ride public transit

  • Lead: The Rapid transit agency and City of Grand Rapids
  • Surveyed public opinion of important/preferred bus stop features (Completed September 2017)
  • Project partners developing bus shelter deployment plan
  • Presentation of bus shelter deployment plan to City Commission planned in Q1 2018

Action: Enhance safety for people who walk and bicycle at key Downtown locations

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc and City of Grand Rapids
  • DDA/Mobile GR funding approved to complete design work for enhancements at 4 key intersections
    • Fulton & Ottawa 
    • Fulton & Ionia 
    • Fulton & Monroe/Market 
    • Monroe & Campau
  • Specific improvements for evaluation include but are not limited to the installation of pedestrian medians, changes to crosswalks, pedestrian county-down signals and a pedestrian scramble.
  • The project also includes designing a protected bike lane along Division Avenue.
  • The City and DGRI aspire to implement improvements in Summer 2018.

Action: Evaluate feasibility of bike share service

  • Lead: City of Grand Rapids
  • City Commission and GR DDA approved funding and consultant
  • Evaluating local challenges/opportunities, defining key objectives and assessing range of costs/benefits
  • Presentation of findings to Goal 4 Alliance, GR DDA and City Commission in Q1 2018

Action: Recruit car share service provider

  • Lead: City of Grand Rapids
  • Developing Request for Information to understand the capabilities of various service providers

Action: Complete audit of Downtown’s accessibility for people with differing abilities

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.
  • Disability Advocates developing draft recommendations and report
  • Goal 3 Alliance will review in Q1 2018

Action: Redesign Michigan Street to improve safety, comfort and clarity for all users

  • Lead: City of Grand Rapids
  • 7,620 sq ft of new space for trees and pedestrians under construction in front of Spectrum
  • Landscaping and tree planting underway

Action: Update Downtown streetscape guidelines

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. 
  • GR DDA approved project funding
  • Selected consultant team of Nederveld and Williams & Works
  • Kickoff meeting with Goal 4 Alliance in December 2018

GR Forward Goal 4 – Grow more & better jobs & ensure continued vitality of the local economy

Action: Recruit a major office tenant to Downtown

  • Right Place, City of Grand Rapids, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., MI Department of Transportation and MI Economic Development Corporation collaborated to develop pitch for Amazon HQ2
  • Debrief revealed areas of opportunity for improving collaborative Downtown recruitment efforts

Action: Foster ground-floor business ownership among women and people of color

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. 
  • Goal is to increase # of ground floor businesses owned by women/people of color 50% by 2025
  • MWBE recruitment RFP in development with Goal 4 Alliance and partners

Action: Develop recommendations to advance an equity-driven growth model for future development

  • Lead: Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalyn Bliss
  • Presented final recommendations to City Commission at November 14 Special Briefing

GR Forward Goal 5 – Reinvest in public space, culture & inclusive programming

Action: Establish Public Space Activation Grant Program

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.
  • Designing program criteria and application process
  • Defining potential/preferred Downtown areas for activation
  • Goal is to launch program Summer 2018

Action: Enhance VandenBerg Plaza/Calder Plaza

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and City of Grand Rapids
  • Presented final conceptual plan to City Commission
  • Presented final conceptual plan to Kent Co. Board of Commissioners Executive Committee
  • Parks Dept reviewing RFQ to design the proposed pavilion at SE corner of plaza 

Action: Expand winter recreational programming in Downtown parks

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. 
  • Evaluating ice rink options and recreational opportunities in Heartside Park for winter 2018
  • Organizing 10-day winter festival in February 2018
  • Working to pilot winter warming hut in Heartside Park

Action: Pilot new rules to promote food truck businesses in public places

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. 
  • Ordinance calls for Year One progress report to City Commission in January 2018
  • Food Truck Policy Work Group surveying vendors and compiling policy performance data

Action: Renovate Veteran’s Park

  • Lead: City of Grand Rapids
  • Completing construction
  • Opened Veterans Day

Action: Explore opportunities to beautify public plaza at Van Andel Arena

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. 
  • Developing preliminary conceptual designs
  • Exploring partnership/funding opportunities for FY19

Action: Improve safety and cleanliness on Division Avenue

  • Improve lighting
    • Lead: City of Grand Rapids
    • Identified community supported solution
    • Working to determine implementation costs
  • Add public restrooms
    • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and City of Grand Rapids
    • Exploring installation of public facilities in Cherry / Commerce and/or Weston / Commerce parking ramps
    • Evaluating complementary “Friendly Loo” Program

Action: Continue turning up the volume on public art

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.  
  • Painted mural on Ambassadors headquarters at 301 Winter Ave
  • Painting murals on 20 Monroe
  • Exploring mural opportunities at Fulton/131 overpass  
  • Exploring mural opportunities along the Grand Riverfront

GR Forward Goal 6 - Retain & attract families, talent & job providers with high quality public schools

Action: Transform the old public museum at 54 Jefferson into the new Grand Rapids Public Museum School

  • Lead: Grand Rapids Public Schools and Grand Rapids Public Museum
  • Designs completed to guide full renovation of the building
  • Renovation work began in summer 2017
  • The building will reopen as a high school in September 2018