GR Forward, unanimously approved by the Grand Rapids City Commission in December 2015, is a community plan and investment strategy to transform the Grand River into a distinct asset and support the next generation of growth in Downtown Grand Rapids.

Developed through one of the most inclusive public engagement efforts in the city's history, GR Forward clearly defines the community's priorities for city building in Downtown Grand Rapids. That means we're well-positioned to act with speed and confidence to implement the community's vision.

This report - updated quarterly - summarizes and tracks a sampling of key current efforts underway to translate the community's GR Forward vision into reality.

GR Forward Goal 1: Re-establish the Grand River as the draw to the city & region

Action: Enhance Lyon Square opportunity site

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc in partnership with the City of Grand Rapids, Convention/Arena Authority and Amway Grand Plaza Hotel
  • Finalizing construction documents
  • Coordinating construction timing with Hotel renovations, anticipated completion Spring 2021
  • Issuing bid for construction services in Q4 2019

Action: Restore the whitewater rapids in the Grand River

  • Lead: Grand Rapids Whitewater in partnership with the City of Grand Rapids
  • Environmental Assessment continues generally from I196 to Fulton Street
  • Project 80 percent funded
  • GRWW continues to organize for permit filing with environmental regulatory authorities

Action: Improve safety at river trail crossings for people walking and bicycling

Action: Amenitize existing riverfront parks to make the river a real draw

  • Lead: City of Grand Rapids and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.
  • Evaluating opportunities test new furniture amenities in Canal Park consistent with River for All design guidelines
  • Deployment anticipated Q2 2020

Action: Determine long-term governance strategy to develop, manage, activate and sustain the future revitalized Grand River corridor

Action: Evaluate the broader economic and social benefits of restoring and revitalizing the river’s edge

GR Forward Goal 2: Develop a true Downtown neighborhood home to a diverse population

Action: Establish a Downtown resident organization

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.
  • Downtown Neighbor Network Advisory Committee established Q1 2019
  • Launched neighbor-focused newsletter and Facebook group
  • Hosted Studio Park sneak peek and 5th Annual Mix, Mingle & Share in Q3 2019
  • Deployed e-survey to collect neighbor perspective and insights
  • Hosting Civicize.Me for Downtown neighbors in November 2019
  • Hosting 2nd Annual Holiday Happy Hour in November 2019

Action: Expand Fresh Food Access Downtown

Action: Grow and secure Downtown’s overall supply of “affordable” housing

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., City of Grand Rapids and numerous community partners
  • DGRI issued a call for new housing initiatives in Q2 2019
  • Goal 2 Alliance evaluated proposals in Q3 2019
  • GR Downtown Development Authority will consider funding for two proposals in November 2019:
    • One to support the formation of a community land trust that promotes home ownership
    • One to evaluate the FUSE model as a potential strategy to help stabilize homeless frequent users of criminal justice and health services.

Action: Expand public restroom options to ensure a clean and safe neighborhood

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. in partnership with City of Grand Rapids
  • Portland Loo identified as a solution to pilot in Heartside Neighborhood at the corner of Weston/Division
  • DGRI hosted Open House in October 2019 to review the concept with stakeholders
  • GR DDA will consider project funding in November 2019

GR Forward Goal 3: Implement a 21st-century mobility strategy

Action: Pilot Bus Bulb to speed transit service and avoid congestion

  • Lead: City of Grand Rapids, the Rapid transit agency and DGRI
  • GR DDA approved funding in August 2019
  • Procuring bus bulb manufactured by Zicla
  • Installation expected November 2019

Action: Deploy transit shelters to enhance the experience for people who ride buses

  • Lead: City of Grand Rapids, the Rapid transit agency and DGRI
  • DDA approved funding in January 2019
  • Initial installations will begin in November 2019 at the following locations:
    • Hyatt Place on Pearl Street
    • Embassy Suites in Monroe North
    • Mercy Health on Jefferson
    • Wealthy & Grandville intersection (NW corner)
    • State & Lafayette intersection (SW corner)

Action: Create a more walkable Division Avenue South

  • Lead: City of Grand Rapids with support from DGRI
  • Reconstruction from Wealthy to Cherry streets anticipated beginning in April 2020
  • GR DDA approved funding share in August 2019
  • Coordination underway with Heartside Business Association to prepare a mitigation plan for businesses in the construction zone
  • Specific improvements include:
    • New median, wider sidewalks
    • More street trees
    • Planters and landscaping
    • Public seating
    • Transit shelters

Action: Establish Sheldon Avenue linear park

Action: Evaluate the potential of converting Ottawa and Ionia to two-way streets

  • Lead: City of Grand Rapids
  • GR DDA and City approved funding
  • Engaged Moore & Bruggink, Toole Design Group to consult on the evaluation
  • Study commencing, preliminary findings and recommendations anticipated Q2 2020

Action: Provide new and enhanced mobility options

Action: Provide additional automobile parking supply

GR Forward Goal 4: Grow more & better jobs & ensure the continued vitality of the local economy

Action: Recruit major office anchors to Downtown

Action: Foster ground-floor businesses to close retail gaps and diversify the mix of Downtown retail offerings

GR Forward Goal 5: Reinvest in public space, culture & inclusive programming

Action: Rehabilitate VandenBerg/Calder Plaza

Action: Rehabilitate Ecliptic/Rosa Parks Circle

Action: Enhance Van Andel Arena Plaza

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention Arena Authority
  • Design complete and currently coursing through permit process
  • Issuing bid for construction in Q1 2020
  • Improvements include:
    • New public seating amenities
    • Trees and planters to green the plaza
    • Enhanced public safety for event goers and people lingering on the plaza

Action: Expand winter recreational programming in Downtown parks and public spaces

Action: Grow the Downtown tree canopy

  • Lead: City of Grand Rapids in partnership with Friends of Grand Rapids Parks and DGRI
  • GR DDA renewed planting partnership with FGRP
  • Planting of 50 new trees underway in Q4 2019
  • Organizing to plant an additional 50 trees in Q2 2020

Action: Continue to ensure the cleanliness of Downtown

  • Developed a stakeholder-driven streetscape assessment tool
  • DGRI staff-led walking audit utilizing the new tool
  • Downtown Improvement District will receive the first report in November 2019

Action: Continue turning up the volume on public art

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and City of Grand Rapids
  • Celebrating Diversity alley mural by Erick Picardo completed on City Cherry/Commerce parking garage
  • Organizing gateway mural at I196/Ottawa Ave exit. Work could commence in November 2019
  • Organizing public mural installation on City Pearl/Ionia parking garage in collaboration with artist Reb Roberts
  • Organizing the city’s first bike corral street mural in collaboration with Pyramid Scheme. Installation anticipated Q2 2020

Action: Develop streetspace guidelines to upgrade key streets

Action: Establish new (non-riverfront) public space assets

  • Lead: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.
  • Exploring alley activation options in collaboration with Grand Rapids Community Foundation and Latino Community Coalition