Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI) today launched a major overhaul of prime waterfront property in an effort to better activate underused public spaces along the Grand River. The first wave of changes on the site, located in the Monroe North neighborhood immediately north of Interstate I-196, will be completed by Friday June 8 in time to host the kick off of the outdoor summer film series Movies on Monroe.

"This work marks the beginning of a new chapter for this former riverfront parking lot property," said DGRI Chief Outcomes Officer Andy Guy.  "Our goal is to take this underutilized space we have in Downtown and use it better. The incremental changes we make and experiment with this summer ultimately will help us better understand how we can design a great riverfront space at this location for people in the future." 

Reestablishing the Grand River as the central amenity anchoring Downtown is the top priority identified in GR Forward, the community plan to guide the next generation growth in Downtown Grand Rapids. The plan calls for, among other things, supporting the campaign to restore the city's namesake whitewater rapids, expanding public access to the waterway, building a continuous recreational trail along the Downtown waterfront and offering more people-centric activities at key waterfront destinations.

The changes underway this week at 555 Monroe Ave mark the very first preliminary and experimental steps toward the future evolution of a space that ultimately will serve as a central waterfront gathering space for Grand Rapidians.

After a week of power cleaning, the DGRI team, Downtown Ambassadors and numerous community partners this week will tackle a list of chores and projects to change the space. These projects include but are not limited to:

  • Installing additional electrical capacity and stringing festoon lighting over the northern end of the property.
  • Painting the ~40,000 sq ft southern end of the property to soften and help cool the space. 
  • Building gazebos, seating areas and planter benches.
  • Planting trees and greenery.
  • Yarn bombing light poles, bollards and other features around the public space.
  • Throwing an artist painting party.
  • Planting trees and greenery.
  • Installing glow-in-the-dark features

Partners in this work include but are not limited to the City of Grand Rapids, Local First of West Michigan, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, MiCandy Gardens, Meijer, Michigan State University and the Monroe North Business Association.

This first wave of improvements will be completed by June 8 for the kickoff Movies on Monroe and a double feature showing of the Greatest Showman and Big.

Follow Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. on social media to watch the progress.