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. Wenk Associates serves as lead consultant
  • Project involves defining a "playbook" to guide construction of the proposed recreation trail on the banks of the Grand River. This includes:
    • Establishing an overall character and identity for the trail
    • Defining unique themes and amenities at different points along the trail
    • Ensuring improvements along the river edges are integrated with and support whitewater rapids restoration
  • Community outreach and ideation underway, including a presentation of draft concepts to GR Forward Goal 1 Alliance and DGRI Board of Advisors.
  • Goal is to “test” potential material schemes in Monroe North in Spring 2018

Action: Restore the whitewater rapids in the Grand River

  • Lead: Grand Rapids Whitewater
  • GRWW organizing to file in Summer 2018 for state permits and initiate environmental review of the river restoration project

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

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.
  • Contracted Grand Valley State University to conduct analysis
  • Preliminary findings anticipated in Summer 2018

Action: Enhance Lyon Square Opportunity Site

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and City of Grand Rapids 
  • Design Development documents nearing completion. Next step is Construction Documents.
  • Coordination with surrounding stakeholders in process

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

  • Lead: City of Grand Rapids
  • Construction anticipated to begin Spring 2018
  • Changes include flood protection improvements, 15-foot trail section, enhanced public seating and new 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. 
  • Contracted Steve Faber of Byrum Fisk to facilitate a process with Downtown residents to define the purpose and structure for a resident organization
  • Planning committee began exploring potential mission, vision and goals.
  • Surveyed Downtown resident ideas and perspectives. Compiling results
  • 4th Annual Mix, Mingle and Share event with Downtown neighbors scheduled the evening of April 25

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

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

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

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc and City of Grand Rapids
  • Design work in progress for enhancements at 4 key intersections:
    • Michigan Street & Bridge
    • 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 piloting a designated bike lane along Division Avenue.
  • The City and DGRI aspire to implement improvements in Summer 2018.

Action: Evaluate feasibility of bike share service

Action: Recruit car share service provider

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

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.
  • Disability Advocates delivered draft recommendations and report
  • GR DDA will receive a presentation of draft recommendations in April 2017

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

  • Lead: City of Grand Rapids
  • Completed 7,620 sq ft of new space for trees, landscaping and pedestrians in front of main entrance to Spectrum Health

Action: Update Downtown streetscape guidelines

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
  • DGRI, City and Right Place exploring more concerted and intentional recruitment strategy to attract larger office tenants

Action: Foster ground-floor businesses to diversify the mix of Downtown retail offerings

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. 
  • GR Forward Goal 4 Alliance reviewed draft framework for new Retail Business Recruitment and Incubation Program
  • Launch of new program anticipate in Q2 2018
  • One community goal is to increase # of ground floor businesses owned by women, people of color and other underserved communities 50% by 2025

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 in collaboration with GR Forward Goal 5 Alliance
  • Defining potential/preferred Downtown areas for activation in collaboration with GR Forward Goal 5 Alliance
  • Goal is to launch program Summer 2018

Action: Enhance VandenBerg Plaza/Calder Plaza

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and City of Grand Rapids
  • Organizing to deploy short-term activation tactics for Summer 2018 including furniture, shade umbrellas and various entertainment options
  • Parks Dept. preparing to issue Request for Qualifications to design the proposed pavilion at SE corner of plaza
  • June 2019 is the 50th anniversary of the plaza's opening in 1968 and a key organizing point for a celebratory moment

Action: Expand winter recreational programming in Downtown parks

Action: Promote food truck businesses in public places

Action: Renovate Veteran’s Park

  • Lead: City of Grand Rapids
  • Completed reconstruction
  • Opened Veterans Day
  • Parks Department exploring formal ribbon cutting event

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 FY2019

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: City of Grand Rapids and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.
    • City currently designing new public facilities to be installed in Cherry / Commerce and/or Weston / Commerce parking ramps
    • Working to determine a sustainable facility management protocol for the new facilities. 

Action: Continue turning up the volume on public art

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.  
  • Painted murals on 20 Monroe
  • Collaborating with UICA Exit Space to paint riverfront mural down the stairwell near the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Painting anticipated to begin in Spring 2018 as weather permits
  • Exploring mural opportunities at Fulton/131 overpass

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