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, the full recording of the live-streamed DDA Board meeting on April 12, 2023, is available on Facebook.

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

Recommended the FY2024 Budget

The Board recommended the $15.2 million budget for the fiscal year 2024 that outlines investments in, among other actions, continued work to create a more accessible and people-friendly Grand River Greenway, improvements to make Downtown streets and public spaces safer and more inviting and the activation of public spaces to make Downtown more welcoming to all Grand Rapids residents and visitors.

The DDA budget is prepared by the staff of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. in consultation with project partners and a diverse group of citizen advisors.

“This year’s budget continues our work to implement the GR Forward plan and importantly is funding projects that we’ve been waiting to break ground on for years,” said Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. President/CEO Tim Kelly.

“Aside from our ongoing efforts to make Downtown more vibrant, welcoming and inclusive, we will take critical steps forward on the Grand River Greenway, Lyon Square, the Van Andel Alley and many others. We’re excited to continue turning plans into action.”

Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI) is the organization responsible for city building and place management in Downtown Grand Rapids, which anchors one of the fastest-growing regions in the nation. DGRI manages several economic development tools in the urban core, including the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority, which leverages public and private investment in the central city.

Working in partnership with the City of Grand Rapids and dozens of other partners, DGRI engaged thousands of citizens to define GR Forward, a 10-year growth strategy that outlines the city building goals and investment priorities for Downtown Grand Rapids. The City Commission in 2015 unanimously adopted GR Forward as an amendment to the City Master Plan.

The DDA’s FY24 budget commits approximately $11.3 million to support the plan’s implementation.

Specifically, the GR Forward-recommended actions supported by the budget include, but are not limited to:

  • Supporting the construction of critical Grand River Greenway trail segments to enhance accessibility and connectivity along the Grand River
  • Supporting the construction of enhanced public spaces and improved pedestrian connections between the Medical Mile and Monroe North and next to Van Andel Arena
  • Constructing a second 24/7 fully accessible Downtown public restroom
  • Public space accessibility enhancements including sidewalks, street crossings and social zones
  • Continuing implementation of a new Downtown wayfinding system
  • Planning for mobility safety improvements, public space enhancements and better connectivity between Monroe North and Belknap Lookout
  • Continuing efforts to:
    • Support Downtown businesses and diverse/inclusive entrepreneurship
    • Plant and maintain trees to grow a healthy canopy
    • Make Downtown streets more beautiful and safer for pedestrians

The budget continues robust investment in public art that honors the cultural history of Grand Rapids, as well as accessible, welcoming events that celebrate Downtown’s public spaces and riverfront.

    The budget also includes voluntary gain sharing rebates issued to the City of Grand Rapids, Kent County, Grand Rapids Community College and The Rapid. Gain sharing is a mechanism for the DDA to distribute a portion of rising property value to partners that also capture property tax revenues in the district. As the work of DGRI increases Downtown property values over time, these gain sharing rebates will grow and provide increased funding back to these partners.

    The proposed FY24 expenditures organize approximately in the following priority areas:

    • Goal 1 - Restore the River as the Draw: $3,310,000
    • Goal 2 - Create a True Downtown Neighborhood Home to a Diverse Population: $1,850,000
    • Goal 3 - 21st Century Mobility Strategy: $2,100,000
    • Goal 4 - Ensure Job Opportunities and Ensure Vitality of the Local Economy: $600,000
    • Goal 5 - Reinvest in Public Space, Culture and Inclusive Programming: $5,121,000

    In addition to recommending the FY24 budget, the Board also:

    Approved Funding for Continued Van Andel Alley Design Work

    This project continues to finalize design elements related to outdoor seating, lighting elements and accessibility considerations. This funding will allow for completion of the design phase and potential 2023 first-phase construction of a more accessible, vibrant and welcoming pedestrian-focused public space.

    Additional funds were approved in the amount of $46,575 bringing the project total to an amount not-to-exceed $276,675.

    Approved Funding for Continued Wayfinding Implementation Services

    The implementation of a new wayfinding system continues as the Board approved funding to perform preparation work for six new digital wayfinding kiosks throughout Downtown.

    Funds were approved not-to-exceed $22,417.92.

    Approved Funding for Downtown Winter and Holiday Decor for 2024

    The Board approved funding for continued reinstallation, updating and maintenance of existing winter and holiday decor, as well expansion to new areas including Fulton St., Van Andel Arena, Ottawa Ave. and Lyon Square. Lights and decor will be active from approximately December 1, 2023, to March 1, 2024.

    Funds were approved not-to-exceed $75,000.

    Approved Funding to Continue the Heartside Historic Mural Series

    The Board approved funding for the planning and installation of three new large-scale murals and two smaller wall panel murals as part of the Heartside Historic Mural series. To date, DGRI has supported the installation of nine new murals in the Heartside neighborhood providing jobs for local artists, historic education for the community and enhanced placemaking Downtown.

    Funds were approved not-to-exceed $60,000.

    Approved Major Event Funding for the Global Water Festival, Re(turn) to the River and ArtPrize Travelling Installations

    The Board approved funding to support the Global Water Festival as it expands to two days in celebration of the Asian-Pacific heritage of the Grand Rapids community with activation in and along the Grand River. Additional funding was approved to support the expansion of the Re(turn) to the River festival to two-days and secure three large-scale traveling art installations that will be displayed Downtown during Re(turn) to the River. These installations, along with works by local artists and placemakers, will remain on display through the duration of ArtPrize.

    Funds were approved for a Major Event Sponsorship of $35,000 for the Global Water Festival and Major Event Support for Re(turn) to the River and ArtPrize traveling installations not-to-exceed $150,000.