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 October 9, 2019, and took the following action:

Authorized Funding for Holiday Lighting and Decor

The Board approved funding to dress up Downtown for the holidays. Seasonal lighting and decorations will be deployed to enhance public spaces around Rosa Parks Circle, DeVos Place Convention Center, along Division Avenue South and Bridge Street. The decorations will complement existing year-around lighting installations along Monroe Center. Christmas Decor by DeVries will manage the installation, de-installation and storage of the decorations for a project cost not to exceed $32,000. The decorations and light will be hung and turned on December 1, 2019, to help kick off the holiday season.

Approved Support for New Locally-Owned Menswear Store

The Board accepted the staff recommendation to support the establishment of Mel Styles’ retail storefront at 315 S. Division Ave. in Downtown Grand Rapids using the DDA’s Retail Incubation Program.

Mel Styles, LLC launched in September 2016 when Archie Sudue noticed a lack of access to affordable tailored suits for young professionals. He then utilized the tailoring skills he developed while living in his home country of Liberia, combined it with his management experience from working at Men’s Warehouse and Macy’s, to establish Mel Styles and create unique offerings for the Grand Rapids fashion scene.

Since formalizing his business in 2017, Sudue has quickly become a staple within Grand Rapids fashion circles and beyond. He has organized and led numerous fashion shows, including an open house supporting community engagement around the South Division Area, A Glimpse of Africa festival, and his first annual Passion for Fashion charity event. As a result, Sudue has outgrown his current space.

The Retail Incubation Program, launched in 2018, is designed to help advance on numerous Downtown goals, including:

  • Supporting entrepreneurship and small business growth
  • Supporting the activation of vacant retail space.
  • Diversifying the mix of Downtown retail offerings

The program supports creative strategies and partnerships that effectively and measurably advance on the community’s goal of growing a thriving Downtown retail market. Past recipients of funding include Tamales Mary, Ambiance GR Kitchen & Lounge, and Mosby’s Popcorn, which is currently under construction.

The DDA Board approved the resolution authorizing staff to prepare a written contract with Mel Styles for an amount not to exceed $10,908 and a period of time not to exceed 18 months.