Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI) today announces the launch of a grant program focused on animating and energizing underutilized public spaces in the Downtown neighborhood.

The program aspires to incentivize and support creative interventions such as permanent public artwork, window displays that add energy to empty storefronts, pop-up parklets that enhance street life and other "placemaking" initiatives.

The level of funding available depends on the nature of the proposed project.

"Ramping up the effort to make our streets and public spaces evermore inviting and attractive is a key community goal for Downtown," said Kim Van Driel, DGRI's Director of Public Space Management. "More animated public space helps attract more people, create the critical mass of activity that supports retail and restaurants, foster healthy social connections and support a high-quality experience for Downtown residents, workers and visitors."

"With this grant program, we aim to provide a platform for creativity that supports citizens and business owners who aspire to contribute to Downtown's placemaking movement."

A formerly lifeless parking lot turned riverfront community gathering place in the Monroe North neighborhood.
A formerly lifeless parking lot turned riverfront community gathering place in the Monroe North neighborhood.

Types of Grants Available

So what is "placemaking"?

“Placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community," according to Project for Public Spaces.

MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning defines "placemaking" as “the deliberate shaping of an environment to facilitate social interaction and improve a community’s quality of life.”

Towards these goals, DGRI's Activate this Space Grant Program organizes around three key areas:

  • Public art installations, programming, and interactive initiatives through the Placemaking Grant;
  • Art installations through the Window Activation Grant; and
  • Expanding public space and amenities for people through the Parklet Grant.

Placemaking Grant

The Placemaking Grant provides funding for temporary and semi-permanent installations outdoors on public and private property that help activate the public realm it surrounds. This program offers flexibility for creativity in unique spaces throughout the Downtown that is in need of some public space activation intervention. Funding available up to $5,000.

Window Activation Grant

The Window Activation Grant provides funding for temporary installations of artwork that activate Downtown’s street space by showcasing vacant storefront(s). Renting the space can be included as part of the funded grant. The program can engage available storefronts as retail business opportunities by spotlighting the talents of local artists. Engaging the right tenant will be critical for the success of this placemaking project. Funding available up to $5,000.

Parklet Grant

A parklet repurposes part of the street into a public space for people. Parklets are intended as aesthetic enhancements to the streetspace, providing an economical solution to the need for increased public open space. They offer amenities like seating, outdoor dining, planting, bike parking, and art. While parklets are funded and maintained by neighboring businesses, residents, and community organizations, they are intended to provide benefits to all users of the public rights-of-way. Funding available up to 50% of the total cost.

Learn More & Apply

Applications to the Activate This Place grant program will be received by DGRI staff and evaluated by the GR Forward Goal 5 Alliance - and perhaps other partners as necessary - based on the following criteria:

  • Creativity
  • Uniqueness
  • Artistic diversity and representation
  • Materials
  • Plan for installation and implementation
  • Interactiveness
  • Maintenance needs and strategy
  • Quality of the overall proposal