The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority (DDA) today approved funding for a skate and bike facility on city-owned land in the Monroe North neighborhood.

The ambitious 14,000 sq ft facility was designed in partnership with the City of Grand Rapids and AGA Nation, which specializes in designing and building mobile action sports facilities. The facility will feature a diverse array of structures, including banked ramps, concrete slabs and rails for grinding at 555 Monroe Ave NW.

This particular location will serve as an important construction staging area for the Grand Rapids Whitewater restoration project in the coming years - so any programming and placemaking measures on the site must be temporary in nature. This creates an opportunity for the City, DDA and others to test different activation interventions along the river to inform more permanent, future investments.

The skate and bike facility will be designed and constructed to last approximately 3 years. The facility comes in direct response to several years of community discussion and planning around the need for expanding skate and bicycle facilities, including the City’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan, GR Forward and most recently the River for All initiative, which envisions a skate park under the highway adjacent to the 555 Monroe Ave property.

The project partners anticipate the facility will deliver multiple positive benefits to the Downtown neighborhood:

  • The facility will provide a safe, off-street environment for skateboarding and bike tricks and expand free recreational opportunities for young people.
  • Well-designed, neighborhood-scale public skate and bike facilities are a proven strategy to reduce damage to private property.
  • Participating in action sports such as skating and bicycling also delivers significant physical and mental benefits, as the activities combine physical exertion with precise muscle coordination and balance.

The DDA Board approved funding not to exceed $200,000 to design, build and maintain the facility. Construction will begin in spring 2020, as weather permits, and the goal is to open the facility in early summer.

The City of Grand Rapids Parks & Recreation Department also is currently organizing additional pop-up amenities to further activate the Monroe North property this summer such as a potential dog park and bouldering wall. More information will be available at a later date.


The DDA Board also took the additional following actions:

Approved Funding for Grand River Governance Consultant Services

The Board approved funding for consultant services with Public Agency and Aligned Planning to support Grand River engagement and activation planning. The goal is to obtain valuable insights and outcomes in support of the community’s vision for a restored and revitalized Grand River corridor. Work will begin in March 2020 and culminate in a public presentation of outcomes in summer 2020. The Board approved funding not to exceed $30,000 for the project.

Assigned Tax Increment Revenues for Arena Place

The Board authorized the assignment of DDA tax increment revenues to support the financing of the Arena Place development. The DDA in 2014 entered into an agreement with the Arena Place developer to facilitate the construction of the project on the previously DDA-owned Area 1 parking lot. The completed 11-story project delivered 376,000 square feet of Class A office, apartment and retail space, as well as 280 parking spaces.

Pursuant to the agreement, the developer has the ability – with DDA approval – to assign tax increment revenues to a third party, in this case, a bank, to help finance the project. The assignment does not change the obligations of either the developer or the DDA as outlined in the original agreement.

Supported a Property Tax Exemption to Redevelop 470 Market Ave.

The Board supported an Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Exemption Certificate for the redevelopment of the property at 470 Market Ave. SW. The applicant requested a 10-year exemption on real property taxes to help facilitate the redevelopment of a vacant commercial building on the property into 167 market-rate apartments and converting the basement into a 106-space parking garage. The estimated total investment currently is estimated at $26 million. With the DDA recommendation, the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority will consider the project on March 25, 2020.

Approved Development Agreement for 158 Oakes Street SW

The Board approved a purchase and development agreement with Loeks Theater, Inc. for DDA-owned land at 158 Oakes Street SW. The 40,000 sq ft property sits immediately adjacent to the Studio Park.

The DDA in May 2019 issued a Request for Proposals to solicit and identify interest in the property. Three proposals were received and considered. The Loeks proposal includes 175,000 square feet of Class A office building and a new parking supply that support the move of several hundred new jobs from outside the City into Downtown Grand Rapids.

With the DDA’s approval, the Executive Director and DDA legal counsel will work to finalize closing the deal for the property in March 2020.