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 July 8, 2020, is available on YouTube.

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

Authorized Funding for Enhanced Air Quality Monitoring

The Board agreed to partner in a pilot project that aims to deploy a network of neighborhood-level air quality sensors in Downtown and adjacent neighborhoods. The project, organized by Rapids Venture, aims to bring greater transparency to localized air quality conditions. The new data also will help to inform policy and other solutions that will protect against poor air quality conditions for children, the elderly, residents of low-income neighborhoods and other vulnerable groups.

The $90,000 pilot project envisions 15 sensors deployed in Downtown and adjacent neighborhoods. Sensor deployment in Downtown could organize around the 131 highway and the Grand River - two key corridors where air quality is a special concern. The Board agreed to support the project with an amount not to exceed $30,000, contingent on Rapid Ventures recruiting additional project partners.

Approved Reallocation of ArtPrize Sponsorship Funds

The Board authorized the use of the previously budgeted sponsorship funds for ArtPrize 2020 for a new under-development September event for the Downtown community.

The DDA Board in May 2020 authorized a three-year commitment to sponsor Art Prize 11, 12 and Project 2. However, the ArtPrize Board in June 2020 canceled the event due to complications from the pandemic, challenges with artist and tourist travel and uncertainty around venues and possible restrictions.

Given ArtPrize’s positive economic impact and the financial stress bearing down on local businesses, multiple organizations - including the CAA, City of Grand Rapids, DGRI, Experience Grand Rapids, GRAM, Grand Rapids Area Chamber, and Start Garden - convened to discuss the possibility of planning a different set of safe activities in September 2020.

While uncertainty remains amidst the pandemic, the partner organization agree planning a locally-focused event in Downtown - built upon previously planned and ongoing activities - could both help stimulate the economy and serve as a platform to amplify the important community conversations happening around racial justice and equity in the wake of the civil unrest.

The Board approved reallocating the previously authorized $50,000 for Art Prize to support the fall event organizing efforts. While details continue to come together, activities that incorporate social zones, public art, local music, cultural festivals and small businesses/entrepreneurs are all driving the conversation.

All partners recognize the continued challenges with large gatherings due to COVID-19 and will work with the Project Steering Committee, as well as the Kent County Health Department to adjust programming so that any activation and placemaking efforts prioritize community health and safety.