The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Board of Directors today authorized its staff to convene a community conversation and define a redevelopment strategy for several publicly-owned properties in a multi-block area immediately south of Van Andel Arena. The Board also approved funding to implement phase one of a Winter Service Plan for the sidewalk snow melt system.

South Arena Area Visioning and Development Strategy
The DDA and City of Grand Rapids currently control several key properties in the so-called Arena District, an area that continues to experience tremendous revitalization. But as redevelopment interest and investment intensifies in the area, the community has yet to define a common vision and plan of action for how best to develop the publicly-owned property at the heart of the district.

Thoughtful new development on the sites is key to strengthening the area’s identity as a premier downtown district, catalyze new business and housing opportunities, and extend the revitalization. Quality urban infill also provides a real opportunity to help improve the connectivity of several important downtown activity centers, including the rising Downtown Market, the increasingly busy Rapid transit hub, and numerous entertainment and residential destinations in the vicinity.

“These properties have remarkable potential and they are tremendously valuable to our city building movement,” said DDA Executive Director Kristopher Larson. “Our goal is to engage the community in a conversation about our strategic priorities for these sites and the critical role they will play in the future of the district. We also aim to proactively define a strategy that allows the DDA and its partners to focus our redevelopment efforts on forward-looking goals that spur economic growth, maximize place-making opportunities, and enhance downtown’s quality of life.”

With Board approval, DDA staff next will organize a project steering committee and solicit proposals from qualified urban design consultants to support the initiative. The project is estimated to cost no more than $50,000 and be completed by the beginning of the next construction season. The final South Arena Area Visioning and Development Strategy could be offered as an amendment to the City the Grand Rapids Master Plan which, like the DDA’s 2011 Framework, envisions a prosperous, livable, walkable, inclusive, green, connected, and distinctive central business district.

Sidewalk Snow Melt System Maintenance

The DDA Board also approved funding to implement phase one of a Winter Service Plan for the 15-year-old Monroe Center sidewalk snow melt system. The work, scheduled to begin in October and wrap up in December, includes routine maintenance and basic repairs to prepare the system for the upcoming winter season. More specifically, the Board approved up to $75,000 to repair leaks, bleed air from the water pipes that warm the sidewalk, and identify additional maintenance needs. The Board will consider funding phase two of the Winter Service Plan, tentatively scheduled to occur between December and April, at a future meeting.

“This snow melt system is a strategic advantage for downtown Grand Rapids,” said Experience Grand Rapids President Doug Small. “It supports a year-round shopping season, enhances pedestrian safety, and enables us to compete effectively with other winter climate cities for convention business. Just like seasonal home maintenance, regularly scheduled maintenance and repairs help identify, fix, and avoid the most common – and costly – problems with this important and aging system.”

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