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 September 9, 2020, is available on Facebook Live and YouTube.

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

Authorized Funding for Downtown Tree Plantings

The Board renewed its partnership with Friends of Grand Rapids Parks (FGRP) to continue planting and maintaining trees in public spaces within the DDA boundary.

The City Master Plan, via the GR Forward amendment, established the goal of doubling the Downtown tree canopy from 5 to 10 percent. “Tree canopy” is the proportion of land area covered by trees as viewed with satellite imagery. Since establishing the canopy goal in 2015, the DDA, City, FGRP and DGRI have planted more than a thousand trees in Downtown.

FGRP supports this important work by organizing volunteers to plant trees, as well as watering and supporting the maintenance of new trees. The Board approved an amount not to exceed $134,750 to plant 250 new trees between Fall 2020 and Spring 2021. The work also includes a count and in-depth analysis of all existing trees within the DDA Boundaries.

Authorized Funding for Winter Lighting and Decor

The Board approved funding to dress up Downtown for the holidays. Seasonal lighting and decorations will be deployed to enhance public spaces around Monroe Center, South Division Ave, Monroe North, Rosa Parks Circle, Ionia Ave and Bridge Street. The decorations will complement the existing year-around lighting installations along Monroe Center.

Christmas Decor by DeVries will manage the installation, de-installation and storage of the decorations at a project cost not to exceed $75,000. The Board also authorized the negotiation of a 3-year contract with DeVries.

The decorations and light will be hung and turned on no later than December 1, 2020, to help kick off the holiday season.

Authorized Funds to Repair the Blue Bridge Lighting System

The Board agreed to contribute funds to repair and upgrade the Blue Bridge’s lighting system. The work includes replacing and repairing 53 decorative fixtures and 11 pedestrian walkway lights.

The enhanced lighting allows the City of Grand Rapids to again offer programmed customized lighting schemes at night.

This project is estimated to extend the working life of the lighting system for an additional 5 years.

The total project cost is $80,000. The DDA Board authorized a contribution of $30,000.

Approved Downtown Enhancement Grant for 86 Monroe Center

The Board approved the use of the Downtown Enhancement Grant to support improvements to the facade of the building at 86 Monroe Center commonly known today as the Blue Cross Blue Shield Building. The grant will support the removal of the entryway canopy to enhance the pedestrian experience, provide a more consistent street wall along the block and help resolve drainage backup in the building.

Work is expected to begin in October 2020 and be completed by December 2020.

The Board approved a contribution not to exceed $56,767.

Authorized Funding for the Wealthy/Division Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Pilot Project

The Board authorized funding to support the Rapid transit agency’s Division United project which aims to promote more transit-oriented development along the Silver Line BRT route on Division Avenue.

The goal of the overall project is to integrate land use and transportation planning with transit capital investments, thereby improving the environment for economic development, accessibility and convenience for people who ride the bus and ultimately overall neighborhood vitality. These goals are entirely consistent with the Downtown Master Plan, specifically GR Forward’s Goal 3.

The Division/Wealthy portion of the project is within the DDA boundary. DDA funds specifically will support activation efforts and analysis in the area near Logan St and the McConnell BRT stops. This will include, but not be limited to, deploying pavement paint to mark dedicated bus lanes, pop-up vending to test retail service potential and public art interventions to improve the overall feeling of safety and comfort at this key transit node.

The Board approved funding for the project not to exceed $50,000 - which will cover consultant fees and all materials and labor to install the temporary, tactical interventions.

Approved a Continued Partnership with Disability Advocates of Kent County

The Board approved continued collaboration with Disability Advocates of Kent County (DAKC) to further advance the work of building an accessible Downtown. More specifically, this work includes:

    • A comprehensive assessment of all critical Downtown pathways used by visitors, building owners, businesses, and other Downtown stakeholders to better inform decision-making during the design of future public realm improvements.
    • A comprehensive assessment of Downtown’s accessible parking inventory, and the pathways that connect that parking supply to Downtown destinations.
    • An Adaptive Strategic Plan that establishes a set of values and design principles that serve as an alignment, communication, and accountability tool for five agencies interdependently building a more accessible Grand Rapids. These agencies include DGRI, City of Grand Rapids, Kent County, The Rapid, and Mobile GR.

The Board approved a contribution in an amount not to exceed $150,000 to support these efforts.