The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Board today approved a package of simple, short-term and low-cost solutions to help make VandenBerg (Calder) Plaza a more inviting and comfortable place for people.

The interventions, anticipated for deployment beginning late May, include but are not limited to:

  • An urban living room environment with cushioned seating and hammocks.
  • Landscaped planters and sun umbrellas.
  • A pop-up stage for music and artistic performances.
  • A large chess set, shuffleboard and other games.
  • Expanded presence of food trucks and dining options throughout the summer.

The ideas stem from two community-led efforts - GR Forward in 2015 and Reimagining Calder Plaza in 2017 - both of which prioritized more places to sit, shade, greenery and activities for people while respecting the Plaza's cultural heritage and traditional role in the community. Each of the recommended interventions is easily movable and flexible to accommodate the Plaza's constantly changing needs for special events. 

"The community has a clear vision for re-establishing VandenBerg Plaza as vital and attractive civic center," said Andy Guy, chief outcomes officer for Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. "These lighter, quicker, cheaper enhancements will help us experiment with and better understand what really works on the Plaza as we continue to plan and position for more permanent improvements."

The DDA Board approved expenditures not to exceed $50,000 to support the enhancements. Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. will deploy the interventions in partnership with the City of Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department, the Office of Special EventsMiCandy the Grand Rapids Food Truck Association and others. 

The DDA Board today also approved: 

  • Purchasing and installing 6 fitness stations along the Grand River trail in North Monroe.
  • Additional funding to, among other things, include Fish Ladder Park in the current effort to define the playbook for riverside trail construction. 
  • Support for developing final design and construction documents to guide the renovation of Lyon Square.
  • A grant to support reconstruction of the condemned sidewalks around the Keeler Building in Downtown Grand Rapids. 

The DDA is a funding tool that helps catalyze public and private investment in Downtown Grand Rapids. 

Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. administers the tool on behalf of the people of the City of Grand Rapids.