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

Supported New Residential High-Rise

The DDA Board agreed to the use of a PILOT incentive to help finance the development of a 14-story tower near the corner of Fulton St. and Division Ave. The building, proposed by Brookstone Capital, LLC, will add 108 new housing units in downtown – 54 market-rate units and 54 units of affordable housing. The proposed project, located at 20 E. Fulton, also includes 9,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space and a parking ramp to serve the building’s need.

The estimated construction cost is $35–$40 million. The PILOT, or Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, effectively helps finance the project by reducing for a limited period of time the amount of property taxes on the affordable housing portion of the building that would have been captured by the DDA. The project also requires approval of the Planning Commission, and final approval from the City Commission.

Incentivized Parklets

The Board moved to include parklets as an eligible expense under the DDA’s Streetscape Improvement Incentive Program. A parklet generally is a small space – typically an on-street parking spot – redesigned to provide amenities such as additional green space, an art installation, or places for people to stop, sit, and relax while taking in downtown activities. Several downtown business owners have expressed interest in parklets as a way to expand outdoor café space or otherwise energize downtown sidewalks and street life.

Under the revised incentive program, the DDA will cover up to 50 percent, or up to $35,000, whichever is less, in the form of a matching grant to help offset the costs associated with designing, constructing, and installing parklets. Eligible expenses also now include any fees associated with reserving parking spaces, as well as benches, trash cans, plants, and other basic sidewalk features.

Approved Building Reuse Incentive to Establish New Business

The Board approved a grant to renovate the ground floor space located at 15 Ionia SW. The grant will provide up to $10,000 to improve building accessibility, install modern fire protection equipment, and renew the storefront façade. The renovated space will house JuiceBlendz and YoBlendz, a combined smoothie bar and frozen yogurt shop. The total estimated renovation cost is approximately $358,000.

Authorized Contract to Redevelop Monument Park

The Board approved a construction contract with Grand Rapids-based Lodestar to redevelop Monument Park, bounded by Fulton, Division, and Sheldon. The project, which includes rehabilitation of the Monroe Center sidewalk and public realm, will cost approximately $547,600. The DDA’s share of the cost is $478,600. Funds from the City Water and Sewer Systems – $46,000 and $23,000, respectively – will cover the balance of the project cost. Reconstruction of the park 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.

Adopted the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget

The Board formally adopted the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget and 5-year Priority Plan. The $8.1 million budget prioritizes investment in projects and programs that rebuild and maintain public infrastructure, promote business development in the urban core, and enhance the overall experience for people living, working, and visiting in our downtown. The budget also includes funding for several new initiatives that aim to ensure downtown Grand Rapids continues to grow and emerge as a strong and competitive mid-sized American city. This includes but is not limited to developing a new downtown master plan to guide coming development, launching a new program to more vigorously respond to rising transportation demand, and establishing a new Downtown Ambassador Program to enhance public safety, information, and comfort.