The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Board of Directors today approved financial support to expand public transit service and make it easier for people to move between the Monroe North neighborhood and downtown Grand Rapids. The Board also approved funding to support three new business startups in the central business district and a grant to better position the retail component of the Grand Rapids Art Museum for elevated performance through improved customer access.

Monroe North Pilot Transit Service

A steadily growing number of residents and employees continue to populate Monroe North, a revitalizing neighborhood and business district immediately north of downtown Grand Rapids. But this area on the north side of the central business district – unlike similarly adjacent areas to the south, east, and west – is not currently connected to downtown via the regional Rapid transit system or the Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH) service. The lack of DASH service limits the mobility of people in Monroe North and decreases the accessibility of restaurants, retail stores, residences, and other destinations for all downtown workers, residents, and visitors.

To boost the connectivity between the districts, as well as the greater transportation system serving downtown and metro Grand Rapids, the DDA Board authorized its staff to contribute up to $75,000 per year for two years to launch a pilot program and test the potential for expanded transit service in Monroe North. The project cost is estimated to range from $175,000 – $225,000 and DDA funds would cover the cost of purchasing the vehicles necessary to support the new service.

“Building a central city that’s easy to get around and connected to adjacent neighborhoods is one of the community’s top priorities,” said DDA Executive Director Kristopher Larson. “Ridership on the downtown DASH service exceeds 570,000 rides in 2012. Expanding the service will encourage new riders and better connect all riders to jobs, education, and other downtown opportunities.”

Building Reuse and Incentives Program Grants
The DDA Board approved several incentives to support the launch of three new businesses. The DDA’s Building Reuse Incentive Program (BRIP) will provide the following grants:

  • $1,775 to Two Beards Deli for commercial signage at 38 Commerce Avenue.
  • $2,000 to Grand Rapids Brewing Company for commercial signage at 1 and 7 Ionia Avenue.
  • $10,000 to Vue Design for commercial signage and renovation of a storefront at 150 East Fulton Street.

Taken together, the DDA investment in these projects will leverage an additional $16,445 in privately funded building improvements and support the attraction of some 70 new jobs to downtown Grand Rapids.

The DDA Board also approved a separate grant of up to $13,5000 to support the installation of two new guest entrances to Grand Rapids Art Museum. The new entrances, which will be located along the Monroe Center face of the building, will improve accessibility to museum’s guest lounge and retail store. The project partners also anticipate the new entrances will create a more dynamic museum façade that better engages the adjacent public realm. The total project is estimated to cost $54,855 and is expected to be completed in spring 2013.