The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is a funding tool Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI) administers to help catalyze public and private investment in Grand Rapids’ urban core. The DDA Board met June 12, 2019 and took the following action:
Adopted the FY2020 DDA Budget
The DDA Board approved the $11.2 million Fiscal Year 2020 budget outlining planned investments to, among other actions, strengthen the Downtown retail sector, enhance a variety of underutilized public spaces, and continue to evolve the transportation network to support the freedom of movement for people around Downtown and near neighborhoods. The Grand Rapids City Commission approved the DDA budget recommendation on May 14, 2019. The FY2020 budget begins on July 1, 2020 and runs through June 30, 2021.
Authorized funding for Downtown Ambassador Program
The DDA Board approved funding for the Downtown Ambassador Program for Fiscal Year 2020. The Ambassadors are the helping hands that keep Downtown clean, beautiful and friendly. Originally established in 2013, the Ambassador team play a key role stewarding Downtown Grand Rapids.
Highlights of their 2018 work include planting 21,000 plants and flowers, cleaning up and recycling more than 411,000 cigarette butts off of Downtown streets and removing more than 544,000 pounds of trash from the Downtown district. Click here to read the full annual report (PDF).
The Board also approved a $0.50 hourly raise to keep wages for the Program competitive with similar jobs across the region and support talent retention. The DDA’s overall contribution to the Program is $222,000 in FY20.
Approved Partnership with Disability Advocates of Kent County
The Board approved a new collaboration with Disability Advocates of Kent County (DAKC) to continue advancing the work of building an accessible Downtown. With support from the DDA, DAKC will organize and host an Accessibility Charrette to help community leaders, planners and event producers utilize universal design principles to create accessible spaces and experiences.
The charrette builds on the awareness and momentum of the 2017 Downtown Accessibility Audit, as well as ongoing projects to improve the accessibility of public spaces such as Calder Plaza and the public space around the Van Andel Arena.
Expected key outcomes of this initiative include:
- Filling out the definitions and realities of “accessibility” and “inclusive design” more fully with the lived experiences of persons with disabilities Downtown.
- Developing the “next set” of design principles that incorporate inclusive design so that when barriers identified in the DDA audit are removed, there are design solutions that can be selected.
- Developing an informed and purposeful framework for various prototypes (urban design, policies, resources, community event production, etc.) and a process for future engagement with businesses and venues.
- Designing the framework for DAKC’s site and plan review work for individual projects within the DDA boundary (and through further collaboration with the City, expanding this work to the entire city).
- Elevating accessible and inclusive design within the planning and design processes of DGRI and the City of Grand Rapids through professional facilitation and supportive research by Common Notice.
The DDA Board approved a contribution of $72,700 to fund the project.
Received Retail Incubation Grantee Performance Report
The DDA Board received a report from Raul Alvarez, an advisor to Tamales Mary. Tamales Mary is the first applicant to the DDA’s pilot retail incubation program. With support from DGRI, Tamales Mary partnered with local food cart entrepreneur Move Systems to introduce fresh, authentic tamales to the street food scene in Downtown Grand Rapids in July 2018.
Mr. Alvarez reported the partnership last summer was a big success. Tamales Mary not only established a mobile extension of their existing restaurant, but the increased exposure of doing business in highly visible Downtown public places also led to many unexpected additional opportunities. Mr. Alvarez for example reported 30% overall growth in the business for 2018.
The Hispanic Chamber of West Michigan also recently named Tamales Mary the Most Promising Hispanic Business locally.