The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority (DDA) today approved funding for a complete renovation of the expansive public plaza in front of the main entrance to Van Andel Arena, which consistently ranks among the busiest venues of its size in the United States.

The project, organized in partnership with the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority (CAA), will include the full demolition of the existing plaza and construction of an enhanced public space featuring seating, new trees and landscaping.

The renovated plaza – approximately three-quarters of an acre in size – also will feature a snow-melt system, improved lighting and other design adaptations that make the plaza more inviting, comfortable and safe for Arena goers as well as Downtown workers and residents.

“Our vision is to transform the plaza into a more welcoming front yard for the Arena and Heartside neighborhood,” said Mark Miller, Managing Director of Planning & Design at Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.

“The changes will significantly enhance the safety and overall experience of people attending shows and events at the Arena while better integrating the facility into the growing neighborhood and supporting the continued evolution of Downtown’s premier entertainment district.”

Opened in 1996, Van Andel Arena catalyzed a transformative revitalization movement in Downtown Grand Rapids that continues to this day. Since 2017 in the immediate vicinity of the Arena, more than $300 million in new hotels, offices, entertainment, and residential space has opened, is currently under construction or is in the development pipeline.

As the urban context and standards for public safety and security have changed, the CAA and DDA partnered with MKSK and FTCH to redesign the plaza, draw up construction documents and, in December 2019, bid the project for construction.

The project partners received four construction bids and recommended hiring Pioneer Construction.

The total project cost is approximately $2.1 million. The DDA today approved $1,666,111.50 towards the public space project and the CAA recently approved $440,148.50.

Construction is scheduled to begin in Spring 2020 and finish in Fall 2020.


    Other Action

    The DDA Board also acted on two additional items:

    • The Board recommended approval of a development area liquor license for the new Morning Belle restaurant opening at 434 Bridge St. NW. The liquor license request now moves to the City Commission for consideration.
    • The Board also approved a Downtown Enhancement Grant to support the conversion of the currently vacant lower level at 65 Monroe Center NW into a micro-boutique hotel. The total project investment is an estimated $730,000. The Board approved a grant not to exceed $25,000 to support, among other eligible activities, barrier-free access improvement and public art installation. The developer anticipates the project will be completed in 2020.