The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority (DDA) today established the Winter Ready Grant Program designed to help Downtown businesses continue outdoor commercial activities through the winter months.

The grant program comes after the Grand Rapids City Commission extended to May 2021 the use of “social zones” to help promote the stability and recovery of the local economy amidst the ongoing pandemic and related health guidelines compelling more outdoor activity.

The Winter Ready Program will provide funding to Downtown restaurants, bars and other retail establishments for cold weather adaptations and activation measures in established “social zones.”

More specifically, the program will support equipment, tools and other enhancements that help make outdoor commercial activities more comfortable for people thru the winter season, including but not limited to:

  • Tents, canopies or other structures that block precipitation and wind
  • Outdoor heating devices and necessary fuel
  • Lighting
  • Advertising and marketing
  • Other outdoor commercial activity operational costs that businesses may identify

The DDA seeded the new grant program with $200,000. Relevant projects are eligible for grants up to $10,000. Project proposals above $10,000 may be considered with a 50 percent cost-sharing commitment from the Downtown business. Only businesses with the Downtown Development Authority are eligible to apply.

Click here for a report on the social zone initiative in Summer 2020.

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The DDA Board also took the additional following actions:

Approved Purchasing Concrete Barriers

The Board approved the purchase of 164 concrete barricades to maintain some “social zones,” adjust others and support future anticipated efforts to stabilize and promote Downtown’s economic recovery. The barriers are key tools to help establish safe, outdoor commercial spaces for people in the public right of way. They also happen to be a high-quality solution to stand up to the rigors of snow, frigid weather and snowplows.

Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.(DGRI) initially rented the barricades in June 2020 with the intent to return them in October. Anticipating the long-term economic recovery needs, purchasing the barriers becomes the more economical solution. With all rental fees applied to the full purchase price, the DDA approved funds not to exceed $43,000 to purchase the concrete barricades.

Approved Upgrading Downtown Trash Cans

The Board approved the purchase of new trash cans to improve the streetscape on the West Side and along South Ionia Ave. The current trash cans in these areas are predominantly “temporary” wire mesh cans that are not visually compelling. They also do not work to enhance the streetscape beyond the one-dimensional purpose of providing a place to put trash. The new cans will help increase the perception of beauty and cleanliness where they’re installed. The Board approved funding not to exceed $85,864 for 45 new trash cans and 10 replacement can inserts (in the event existing liners are damaged or lost).

Approved Funding for Three Winter Art Installations

The Board approved funds for three interactive art installations to activate Downtown public spaces during the winter season. Installations include Winter Tumbleweeds by The Department, Hybycozo’s by HYBYCOZO and Impulse by CREOS. Each installation will bring unique opportunities for interaction, programming and activities to help enliven Downtown during the cold weather months. The Board approved funding not to exceed $150,000 to support the installations.

Authorized Funds to Revitalize the Grand River Corridor

The Board authorized funding for several projects to rehabilitate and redesign several targeted locations on and adjacent to the Downtown riverwalk adjacent to the Grand River. These projects include:

  • Designing improvements to the Riverwalk and public access point in Fish Ladder Park ($19,000).
  • Designing, engineering and permitting for repairs to the concrete section of Riverwalk from the Blue Bridge to Louis Street ($50,000).
  • Replacing sections of boardwalk and otherwise improving public safety along the section of Riverwalk from Louis to Michigan Streets $33,000).
  • Designing and engineering a new public access point to the river near Wealthy Street ($150,000).
  • Continuing the process of redesigning Lyon Square ($317,000).
  • Completing final construction documents for the rehabilitation of Ah-Nab-Awen Park, which includes establishing proper ceremonial space in partnership with the Grand River Band of Ottawa Indians ($180,000).

The Board also approved funding ($150,000) for the development and implementation of a public information system that indicates real-time water quality information along the waterway.

Approved a Project Amendment at 161 Ottawa Avenue

The Board approved an amendment to the 2014 Development and Reimbursement Agreement with Waters Building, LLC and GR HS, LLC (Developer) for the development of the Waters Building at 161 Ottawa Ave.

The $35 million Project delivered a new ground-floor retail space, 130,000 square feet of refurbished office space and the 110 room Homewood Suites by Hilton.

To support the project financing, the Developer was approved for reimbursement of 75 percent of the tax increment revenues generated over 10 years to pay for eligible DDA activities, which were approved at $1,481,127.

Due to overall projects costs, improvements to Lyon Street were not part of the initial redevelopment plans. However, based on the performance of the building following the redevelopment, as well as the redevelopment at 111 Lyon Street and at 200 Monroe Avenue, the Developer now aims to complete public realm improvements to complement the enhancements on the corridor.

Total costs of the proposed improvements are estimated at $180,000 and will include a new

sidewalk cap and reinforcement of the existing areaway. In addition, streetspace amenities including new street trees, benches, trash and recycling receptacles and bike loops will be installed.

To assist with the proposed work, the Board approved an agreement amendment to provide for reimbursement of DDA eligible expense of not to exceed $1,572,225 over a period not to exceed 15 years.

Authorized Funding to Deploy Air Quality Monitoring Sensors

The Board approved the disbursement of the funds previously authorized in July 2020 to initiate a pilot project that aims to deploy a network of neighborhood-level air quality sensors Downtown.

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 disbursement of DDA funds was made contingent upon additional funds being secured for sensor deployment outside of Downtown. Since July, the Rapids Air Quality team has made good progress towards bringing the additional neighborhoods into the pilot program.

The disbursement of DDA funds will allow for the deployment of the Downtown sensors to begin

collecting data and demonstrate the usefulness of the information to potential funders.

As previously approved, DDA funding will not exceed the authorized $30,000 and will only go toward the deployment of sensors within the DDA boundary.

For more information on the above outcomes, view the full meeting agenda or watch the live stream of the Board meeting on Facebook Live or YouTube.