The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Board of Directors sent the Grand Rapids City Commission an $11.2 million budget recommendation for fiscal year 2020 that, among other actions, outlines investments to strengthen the Downtown retail sector, enhance a variety of underutilized public spaces and continue to evolve the transportation network to support the freedom of movement for people around Downtown and near neighborhoods. 

Citizens, working through a participatory budget process, identified and prioritized 93 percent of the approximately $7.9 million in proposed discretionary investment. 

"This budget marks another important step toward the implementation of GR Forward," said Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. President/CEO Tim Kelly. "The community has clearly articulated our priorities for Downtown, which includes creating a place for people from all walks of life to enjoy and thrive in. One critical element of that is creating public spaces that are active and inviting, and this budget helps to further that goal.” 

Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI) is the organization responsible for city building and place management in Downtown Grand Rapids, which anchors one of the fastest growing regions in the nation. DGRI manages several economic development tools in the urban core, including the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority, which leverages public and private investment in the central city. 

Working in partnership with the City of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Public Schools and dozens of other partners, DGRI engaged thousands of citizens to define GR Forward, a 10-year growth strategy that outlines the city building goals and investment priorities for Downtown Grand Rapids. The City Commission in 2015 unanimously adopted GR Forward as an amendment to the City Master Plan. 

The DDA’s recommended FY20 budget commits approximately $11.2 million to support the plan’s implementation. 

Specifically, the GR Forward-recommended actions supported by the budget include, but are not limited to: 

  • Develop a marketing strategy for Downtown retail
  • Beautify the public plaza in front of the Van Andel Arena
  • Construct the first phase of physical improvements on Calder Plaza
  • Pilot an enhanced transit stop near the intersection of Fulton and Sheldon
  • Develop a governance and management framework for the revitalized Grand River corridor
  • Updating the Downtown census to track the changing dynamics of the Downtown resident, employee and visitor populations
  • Support the launch of a public bike share system
  • Deploy “Gateway” improvements at the intersection of Michigan and Ottawa
  • Master planning for the future redevelopment of parking areas 7, 8 and 9 on the Westside

The budget also continues investment in several initiatives started up during the previous year, including the installation of transit shelters to improve the transit rider experience in Downtown, funding to grow the affordable housing supply and the effort to deploy a public restroom in the Heartside neighborhood.

More generally, the proposed FY20 expenditures organize approximately in the following priority areas:

  •  $1.5 million (8 projects) to advance on GR Forward Goal 1 - Restoring the Grand River as the draw to the city, county and region.
  • $2.1 million (8 projects) to advance on GR Forward Goal 2 - Developing a true Downtown neighborhood home to a diverse population.
  • $1.9 million (12 projects) to advance on GR Forward Goal 3 - Implementing a 21st century mobility strategy.
  • $500,000 (6 projects) to advance on GR Forward Goal 4 - Growing more and better jobs and ensuring continued vitality of the local economy. 
  • $5.1 million (48 projects) to advance on GR Forward Goal 5 - Reinvesting in public space, culture and inclusive programming.

The budget also continues to pay down debt on Van Andel Arena, DeVos Place Convention Center and flood protection enhancements.

DGRI staff will present the proposed budget for City Commission on May 14, 2019. If approved, the budget will come back to the DDA Board for final adoption in June.