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.

To maintain a high level of openness and transparency during the COVID-19 pandemic, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI) will host all meetings on the virtual platform Microsoft Teams. This includes all DDA Board Meetings for the foreseeable future.

The full recording of the DDA Board meeting on May 13, 2020, is available on YouTube.

The Board met on this agenda and took the following action:

Adopted the FY2021 Budget

The DDA Board adopted the Fiscal Year 2021 budget, that among other things, includes $1,000,000 to support economic recovery after the pandemic. The budget organizes around the five goals of the GR Forward plan of action for Downtown and breaks down generally as follows:

  • Goal 1 - Restore the Grand River as the Draw: $1,775,000
  • Goal 2 - Create a True Downtown Neighborhood Home to a Diverse Population: $1,615,000
  • Goal 3 - Adopt a 21st Century Mobility Strategy: $2,880,000
  • Goal 4 - Ensure Job Opportunities and Ensure Vitality of the Local Economy: $1,485,000
  • Goal 5 - Reinvest in Public Space, Culture and Inclusive Programming: $3,540,000

Some key specific investments include but are not limited to support for:

  • Developing a strategic plan for the redevelopment of Westside parking areas 7, 8 and 9
  • Rehabilitation of the Ecliptic at Rosa Parks Circle public space
  • Renovation of the Van Andel Arena plaza
  • Incubating a new organizational strategy to support Grand River corridor revitalization
  • Implementing accessibility improvements as recommended by the Disability Advocates/Common Notice report
  • Installation of a stand-alone public restroom in Heartside
  • Repairs to the existing riverwalk along the east bank from Michigan Street to the Blue Bridge
  • Continued deployment of new shelters at Downtown transit stops

The DDA Board in April 2020 initially recommended the budget to Grand Rapids City Commission, who unanimously approved the recommendation without adjustment on April 28, 2020. The 2021 Fiscal Year begins on July 1, 2020, and runs through June 30, 2021.

Extended DASH Transit Partnership

The Board approved extending for one-year a partnership to support the DASH transit service in the Downtown District. Supporting partners include the City of Grand Rapids and the Monroe North Tax Increment Finance Authority. The City and DDA will revisit their agreement and assess any need for adjustments in summer 2021.

Approved Revised Payment Schedule for Gallery on Fulton

The Board approved a revised payment schedule for Two West Fulton, LLC (TWF). The DDA in 2008 executed an agreement with TWF that included a Promissory Note TWF used to finance a portion of the land acquisition costs for the Gallery on Fulton project. The revised payment schedule better aligns with the project’s current and projected cash flow.

Deferred Property Tax Capture on 12 Weston Project

The Board voluntarily deferred the collection of new property tax revenue generated by the redevelopment of the 12 Weston property to the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (BRA). The move enables the project developer Division and Weston, LLC to seek support for eligible activities and costs from the BRA.

Approved Financial Support for ArtPrize & Project 2

The DDA approved a 3-year sponsorship package with ArtPrize. In addition to showcasing the creative arts and promoting public space activation, ArtPrize delivers a significant economic benefit to Downtown businesses. ArtPrize will utilize DDA sponsorship funds to support ambitious public art projects, add a new set of grants that will welcome more diverse participants, and train the Downtown ambassadors to help attendees navigate the event. The sponsorship agreement provides $50,000 per year from 2020-2022 for ArtPrize 11 and 12 and Project 2.

Authorized Funding for Pedestrian Improvements on Jefferson Avenue

The Board approved funding for pedestrian safety improvements along Jefferson Avenue adjacent to the Mercy Health/St. Mary’s campus. This project, initiated by St. Mary’s/Mercy Health in collaboration with The City of Grand Rapids, DGRI and Progressive AE, was identified to better and more safely connect people using sidewalks in the neighborhood to the main hospital campus.

The project includes safety improvements at two key locations:

  • Jefferson Ave and Maple St. Improvements will include installation of two Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon signs, a continental striped crosswalk and new curb cuts with tactile warning surfaces.
  • Jefferson at the Silver Line BRT stops. The existing brick crosswalk will be improved by installing a removable center median. This median will provide pedestrians a refuge while they cross the street. The refuge will also act as a traffic calming device to reduce traffic speeds. The median is a removable structure to provide quick deployment and allow for future removals if the street is reconfigured for additional bike lanes or other improvements

The DDA approved funding not to exceed $46,000 to fully implement the project. Implementation work is anticipated to begin in late May 2020.

Authorized Funding to Improve Bicycle-Friendly Infrastructure in Downtown

The Board approved funding for a package of bicycle infrastructure improvements across the Downtown neighborhood. These include but are not limited to:

  • Adding 233 new bike parking spaces (104 standing racks, 25 mounted on parking meter posts)
  • Deploying 2 new bike repair stations
    • Commerce near Oakes
    • Wealthy/Butterworth area
  • Enhancing the River Edges trail crossing at 6th Street
  • New on-street shared lane markings
    • 4th Street, Front to Scribner
    • 6th Street, Monroe to Front
  • Expanded green bike lane markings
    • Division Avenue, North of Michigan overpass
    • Division Avenue, Crescent Street
  • Install green bike boxes at the intersection of Division and Fulton

The package also includes funding support for professional design services to further enhance bicycle facilities along Division, Ionia, Century and Turner/Mount Vernon/Front Avenues.

Design services will commence immediately and the physical infrastructure improvements will be implemented in the spring and summer of 2020. The DDA approved funding not exceed $125,000 to support this package of bicycle-friendly improvements, all of which advance on the recommendations of GR Forward, the City of Grand Rapids Bicycle Action Plan and the City Strategic Plan.