Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. Planning Manager Tim Kelly emails a weekly GR Forward update to the project Steering Committee. Here's this week's communication:

Happy Friday Everyone:

Hope you are all finishing up a great week.

This week was largely devoted to mapping out our engagement process during the review and comment period, which will begin after the City Commission recommends release of the draft, which we hope will happen at the meeting on August 11 We will have our additional activities scheduled out by the end of next week, and we look forward to sharing it with all of you. At the moment, we are looking at an additional 10 + meetings to review GR Forward with neighborhoods and other interested organizations, an open house at DGRI with copies of the document and exhibits explaining the what is included in the draft plan, and some other events and exhibits throughout the City. If anyone has suggestions for opportunities we can explore please let me know.

On a related note, and in recognition that not everyone will have the time to devote to reading the entire draft plan, we are trying to provide a variety of methods for people to get an idea of what is being addressed in the GR Forward effort. Below is a list of resources we have compiled (organized from shortest to longest), and we hope the range will give everyone a chance to interact with the process and gain a deeper understanding of the vision and goals developed by the community.

  1. This 2-minute video was produced and designed to help people understand GR Forward from the highest elevations
  2. This public engagement summary will provide an understanding on the depth and commitment of the process to date. This is a 4-minute read.
  3. This article in the Rapidian provides an understanding of the upcoming public review period. This is a 5-minute read.
  4. The announcement/media release contains more context and some deeper summary explanation of strategy sets. This is a 6-minute read.
  5. The GR Forward Executive Summary is a 15-minute read. It is not exhaustive of the detail included in the full plan, but you can find most of the high-level strategies proposed to implement the goals / vision.
  6. This 50-minute video is a presentation on GR Forward by our two consulting team leads. This was recorded at the July 9 DGRI Board of Advisors meeting.
  7. The project page on our website includes links to all of the chapters of the full DRAFT plan. It is probably a 3-hour read cover-to-cover.

Web Numbers

The latest web and social media numbers are below. Be sure to continue to share the links below in your network so everyone can stay up to date with our GR Forward activities.


This article from Metropolis on the most livable cities in the world has some good information. I particularly enjoyed the profile of Toronto, and their work on transit, housing, public spaces and waterfront initiatives that have spurred the city to become a leader around the world in urban development. We were fortunate to have Toronto’s Planning Director, Jennifer Keesmaat, visit Grand Rapids last November for our GR Forward Thinking Speaker Series. If you are interested in seeing that presentation again you can find it here:

I also enjoyed this article from City Lab on how urban design can influence walkability. The article was based on a recent study analyzing streetscape designs in New York City. However, because New York is unique in terms of its density and scale, researchers from Salt Lake City, UT wanted to see if the same methodology applied in on a smaller scale would reveal the same results. Their findings revealed that of the five characteristics identified in New York as influencing pedestrian activity, two were identified as having a statistically significant relationship to the number of people on foot in Salt Lake City. They are transparency, or “the degree to which people can see or perceive what lies beyond the edge of a street and what human acidity is contained there”, and imageability, defined as elements that make places distinctive and memorable. As we think about improvements to our public spaces, and begin to welcome new development in Downtown and around the City, these are interesting items to consider.

As always, let me know if you have any questions. Otherwise, have a great weekend.