The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is a funding tool that 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 June 9, 2021, is available on YouTube.

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

Approved Funding for Website Design Services

The Board approved funding to build a visitor-focused website that promotes Downtown businesses, events, activities and other place-based information. Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. staff will engage local firm Well Design to help conceive, design and build the new platform.

The project comes as staff also prepare to deploy a new Downtown wayfinding system that contemplates, among other things, digital informational sidewalk kiosks, a mobile phone app and other 21st century solutions. Such innovative wayfinding tools also present integration opportunities with web-based platforms to help enhance the overall Downtown visitor and customer experience. The Board approved funding for the project not to exceed $32,000.

Authorized Funds to Begin Engineering a New Public Restroom

The Board approved funding to begin site engineering work for a new public restroom in the Heartside neighborhood.

Heartside’s first public restroom was installed in 2020 at the corner of Weston and Division to improve the quality of life for residents in an area of the city that generally lacks publicly available restrooms. Based on the success of the so-called Portland Loo, and the ongoing need for public restroom facilities, DGRI staff began evaluating locations for a second facility in Heartside.

To assist in this work, staff recommended a partnership with Moore & Bruggink based on the thoroughness of their proposal and their experience in completing similar work for the first loo. The Board approved funding in an amount not to exceed $15,300 for the project.

Approved Funds for Winter Lighting and Decor

The Board approved funding to dress up Downtown for the holidays. Christmas Decor by DeVries will manage the installation, de-installation and storage of the decorations at a project cost not to exceed $65,000. The annual seasonal lighting and decorations will be deployed to enhance public spaces around Division Ave, Monroe North, Rosa Parks Circle, Ionia Ave and Bridge Street. The decorations and light will be hung and turned on no later than December 1, 2021, to help kick off the holiday season.

Approved Major Event Sponsorships

The Board approved funding for three major special events - ArtPrize, the Global Water Festival and Confluence - to continue DGRI’s investment in public space activation and cultural and inclusive programming, which in turn drives foot traffic and opportunity for local businesses.

ArtPrize will return on September 16 after a year-long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Board approved a $50,000 sponsorship and DDA funding for the event specifically will support public transportation and grants to support a diversity of artists.

The Global Water Festival, a first-time event, will happen in September at Sixth Street Park and utilize the Grand River to promote cultural programmings such as dragon boat races, light and art, and local talent and vendors. DDA sponsorship of $35,000 will help cover staff support, talent and equipment for the festival.

The Confluence festival, another first-time event, will focus on innovation within the context of art, music, science and technology. During the 3-day event on Calder Plaza, there will be music, opportunities to highlight startup businesses, a thought series, a makers expo and a program geared towards children. DDA sponsorship of $35,000 will support event logistics, permitting, marketing and talent.

Authorized Funds for Lyon Square Rehab

The Board approved additional funding to support ongoing design and permitting work for the rehabilitation of Lyon Square and street.

The Board in October 2020 authorized funding not to exceed $317,270 for project design, the development of construction drawings and the bid process with Progressive AE.

As the project moved along, the project team discovered that existing watermains under the street are more than 50-years-old and require replacement - a job and expense not included in the initial scope of work.

The Board approved an additional $30,000 for professional services to design the watermain replacement and support the state permitting process to build the project.

Approved Funds to Design River Edge Improvements

The Board approved funds for the Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM) to design and get ready to build a series of extensive proposed riverfront improvements on museum property.

The GR Forward plan specifically identifies GRPM’s property as a priority riverfront opportunity site. GRPM is currently organizing a dramatic transformation of its riverfront landscape to increase safe access to the river, improve trail connection across the property, add new public gathering areas and create new educational programming.

The GRPM team recently completed a conceptual design for these proposed riverfront improvements. The next step is finalizing the project design and developing construction documents to prepare for project implementation. The museum is working with Viridis Design Group and Tower Pinkster to execute this work at an estimated budget of $464,000.

The DDA approved the allocation of $253,625 to cover a share of this work. This share, along with funding from Great Lakes Fishery Trust, DTE and others, will help finalize the design and make the proposed improvements a “shovel ready” project.