The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Board of Directors today took the following action:

Received Final Arena South Visioning Report

The Board received the final Arena South Visioning Plan, which will guide the potential future disposition of DDA-owned land south of Van Andel Arena. The plan for the first time defines a common, community-driven vision for how best to develop the properties, which currently serve as surface parking. To achieve the community vision, the plan describes a series of redevelopment principles for placemaking, land use, architecture, and urban design the DDA Board will utilize to evaluate future development proposals.

The plan also defines two conceptual redevelopment scenarios that anticipate the DDA-owned property could accommodate between 1.6 and 2.8 million square feet of new residential, commercial, and retail space. The plan estimates investment in new construction on the property could range from $350 - $675 million and ultimately annually generate tens of millions new dollars in leasing revenue, retail sales, and tax revenues to the City of Grand Rapids.

To maximize the development of the area, the plan also recommends a variety of community-endorsed city building actions. They include but are not limited to restoration of the historic street grid, enhancement of neighborhood parks, and establishment of new incentives to promote market-rate housing.

Awarded a Development Option on Land Near Arena

The Board approved a one-year option agreement with Arena Place Development, LLC for the sale of Parking Area One, a DDA-owned surface parking lot located immediately southwest of Van Andel Arena. In what could be a key step toward starting implementation of the Arena South Visioning Plan, the developer proposes to construct one multi-story building with a minimum of 50,000 square feet of retail, commercial, and office space. The developer also proposes to construct a second multi-story building with 80 market-rate apartments. The estimated cost of construction is $24-26 million. The agreement includes a $50,000 non-refundable fee to cover the DDA’s and City’s costs related to reviewing the development plans, issuing building permits and zoning approvals, and other pre-construction activity. The next step is to define a development agreement, upon completion of which the DDA anticipates Arena Place Development will provide a comprehensive presentation of the proposed project.

Approved Incentive to Support Renovation of the Federal Square Building

The Board approved financial incentives to refurbish the ground floor space located at 29 Pearl Street NW. Two grants will provide up to $12,000 to improve building accessibility, install modern fire protection equipment, and renew the storefront façade. The renovated space will house the recently established Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc., a new partnership organized to combine and streamline the operations of the DDA, the Downtown Alliance, and the Grand Rapids Office of Special Events. The estimated cost to renovate the space, which has stood vacant for approximately 8 years, is $245,000.

Retained Professional Services to Start Restoration of Monument Park

The Board approved partnering with the City of Grand Rapids to retain the architectural and engineering services necessary to begin the renovation of Monument Park. The agreement extends the contract of O’Boyle, Cowell, Blalock, and Associates, the landscape architecture and land planning firm originally engaged in September 2012 to guide the master planning of Monument and Veteran’s Memorial Parks. OCBA will manage pre-construction activities for a contract not to exceed $69,500.

The restoration of Monument Park, which includes rehabilitation of the Monroe Center sidewalk and public realm, is estimated to cost approximately $864,000 and will be completed in 2013. These reconstruction activities are one component of the larger Monument and Veteran’s Memorial parks restoration plan, subsequent phases of which are scheduled for implementation in 2014 and 2015.

Authorized Funding for Restoration of the Blue Bridge

The Board authorized an investment of $716,952 to renovate the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad Bridge, commonly known as the Blue Bridge. The project, which includes repainting the entire structure, replacing decorative lights, and rebuilding sections of the walking deck, is estimated to cost approximately $1.3 million. The DDA grant leverages an additional $606, 048 in federal transportation funds. Renovation of the bridge, the oldest railroad bridge and one of only two remaining trestle bridges in Grand Rapids, will be completed in summer 2013.

Authorized Funding to Rebuild Streetscapes in Heartside

The Board authorized an investment of $325,000 to reconstruct Ionia Avenue, Logan Street, and McConnell Street in the general vicinity of the Downtown Market. The project, among other improvements, includes rebuilt sidewalks, tree plantings, bicycle lane markings and racks, ornamental street lighting, and upgraded storm water management infrastructure. DDA funds leverage approximately $498,000 in federal transportation funds and approximately $377,000 in Brownfield Redevelopment Authority funds. The total estimated cost of the project is approximately $1.2 million.

Authorized DDA Staff to Promote Improved Bicycle Infrastructure

The Board authorized an expenditure not to exceed $10,000 to develop a public information campaign that raises awareness of bike friendly upgrades in downtown, including the location of new bicycle lanes, parking, and other facilities. Plenty Creative, a branding, graphic, and interactive design studio located in downtown Grand Rapids, will lead the development of the marketing campaign elements, which will include a map, enhanced signage, and other communications tool. The DDA aims to roll-out the new public information campaign in summer 2013.

Approved DDA Bidding and Purchasing Policy

The Board approved a new policy to avoid unnecessary delays in the future pursuit of DDA priorities and projects. The policy formalizes the following limits of authority for the DDA Executive Director:

  • All purchases of materials, supplies, or services exceeding $15,000 must be competitively bid and approved by the DDA Board of Directors.
  • All purchases of budgeted materials, supplies, or services between $2,500 - $15,000 may be made without competitive bids, but shall made upon 1) obtaining at least three vendor quotes and 2) approval of the Executive Director.
  • All purchases of budgeted materials, supplies, or services less than $2,500 may be made without competitive bids or quotes upon approval of the Executive Director. However, every effort must be made to obtain the best price.
  • All purchases of unbudgeted materials, supplies, or services may be made by the DDA Executive Director upon approval of the Board of Directors.

Initiated Discussion of the FY2014 Preliminary Budget Priorities

The Board heard a presentation of fresh budget ideas emerging from a wide spectrum of community sources, including social media input, DDA partner feedback, stakeholder groups, and other public forums. Potential city building investments the Board will consider in addition to ongoing activities include, but are not limited to, stronger emphasis on serving and managing rising transportation demand, expanding urban recreation amenities, producing a new downtown plan for growth, and launching a downtown ambassador program to continue enhancing safety and cleanliness in the central business district. The Board will consider the full draft Fiscal Year 2014 budget at the DDA’s June 2013 meeting.