The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority – a leading partner in the development and growth of the city’s central business district – will publicly present a new Framework to guide future planning and investment in downtown Grand Rapids. The DDA will present the Framework, the product of extensive public input and ideas captured during the past six months, at two public open houses on January 11, 2010 for a final community review.

“I believe the Grand Rapids community has the real potential to build one of the more vibrant downtowns of any mid-sized American city,” said Kayem Dunn, chair of the DDA Board of Directors. “The Framework provides the blueprint for near-term action to help catalyze revitalization and enhance downtown’s overall competitiveness and quality of life. The DDA stands ready to work with the community to get this plan done.”

The DDA last published a downtown plan in 1993. That plan, Voices and Visions, helped stimulate and guide more than $3 billion in public, private, philanthropic and institutional investment in downtown. After nearly two decades of such intense reinvestment, the DDA Board determined in 2010 the time was ripe to affirm the community vision for downtown and ensure relevant action-oriented priorities to maintain the momentum.

The new Framework is based on input from more than 1,400 civic leaders and citizens who completed surveys, attended open houses and participated in focus groups. The planning process was led by a 22-member steering committee comprised of broad community representation. A full version of the plan, along with an assessment of economic conditions, an analysis of global trends influencing downtowns and other supporting documents, is available online at

Key accomplishments of the Framework include:

  • Revised vision for downtown. Participants defined a vital downtown district as prosperous, livable, walkable, inclusive, green, connected and distinctive.
  • Defined strategic areas of focus. The Framework prioritizes three key areas of focus where the DDA, working in collaboration with community partners, intends to make a significant difference in the next several years: Economy, Environment and Experience.
  • Blueprint for pro-active, near-term investment. The Framework recommends focused near-term investment priorities to, among other things, spur innovative retail business ventures, restore the Grand River and better connect downtown to adjacent neighborhoods.
  • Statement of investment criteria. The Framework recommends criteria to guide DDA decision-making and investment in a way that aligns with the community vision for a vital downtown.

“The next several years are critical to the growth of downtown as we all adjust to new realities emerging out of national recession,” said Brad Segal, president of Denver-based Progressive Urban Management Associates, the firm that led the community planning initiative. “Our hope is that the Framework will serve the DDA and the broader community well by guiding strategic investment in improvements, amenities and programs that support downtown’s evolution as a vibrant neighborhood.”

Continued collaboration and partnership, a hallmark of downtown Grand Rapids’ revitalization movement, remain critically important to Framework implementation. The Framework recommends a variety of improvement projects and initiatives, many of which require a coordinated community response to plan, fund and execute.

“The Framework affirms a cohesive view of our future, which can help to guide and inform decision making and resource allocation for both the DDA and all stakeholders whose actions shape our urban neighborhood,” said Brian Harris, the DDA Board Member who chaired the Framework Steering Committee. “Additional work begins now to establish the most fertile and efficient means of collaboration to translate the Framework into measurable results.”

The DDA will present final draft Framework at two open houses – one from 8-9:30AM and another from 5:30-7PM – in the Ford Ballroom of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel on Tuesday, January 11, 2011. Both events are open to the public. RSVP to

The DDA Board of Directors will review the final draft Framework at their regularly scheduled monthly meeting at 8:30AM on January 12, 2011 in room 601 of Grand Rapids City Hall.