The State of Michigan, the City of Grand Rapids and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc offer a variety of performance-based incentives to developers, entrepreneurs and companies undertaking projects to grow and enhance the urban core. Here below is a list of major and commonly used public sector tools available to support the growth of Downtown.

Valent-ICE Program

You can help drive foot traffic to your business this winter by purchasing an ice sculpture to be on display Downtown during the 2023 World of Winter Festival.

The annual World of Winter Festival returns January 6, 2023 - March 5, 2023. As always, there will be various FREE winter-themed programming and events, including but not limited to pop-up performances, a noodle festival, black history walking tours, silent disco, and the community-favorite Human Hungry Hungry Hippos on Ice Tournament!

One of the festival's most beloved attractions is Valent-ICE, wherein a gallery of over 50+ ice sculptures is displayed throughout Downtown for visitors to enjoy. Many of these sculptures are placed in front of businesses. Valent-ICE will be hosted from February 10-12, 2023. There will also be ice sculpture walking tours, live ice carvings, ice skating, and more.

Stay tuned for an official announcement with the complete lineup of events!

World of Winter is one of the largest ice festivals in Michigan. Thousands of attendees and event participants visit Downtown each year to get involved with World of Winter programming. If you own or manage a local business, don't miss out on this opportunity to purchase a sculpture, which will feature your brand's logo, to be placed within the Downtown vicinity to highlight your respective business, organization, or institution. Help us make Downtown the largest gallery of ice art in the state of Michigan again this winter!

Is your business not located Downtown? Not a problem! We will work with you to find a highly visible location for your sculpture.

Downtown Enhancement Grant

Financial assistance to enhance projects in Downtown Grand Rapids that furthers the community goals established in GR Forward and the organizational goals of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.

Projects within the Downtown Development Authority's (DDA) boundary are eligible for the Downtown Enhancement Program. The DDA will fund project elements and enhancements beyond what is required by the City of Grand Rapids, and which are deemed to be publicly owned, including but not limited to the following elements:

  • Accessibility Enhancements for Persons of all Abilities
  • Bicycle and Multi-Modal Facilities
  • Parklets
  • Public Art
  • Others as Approved by Review Committee

Window Activation Reimbursement Program

This grant program provides funding support to Downtown retailers, bars, restaurants and other storefront businesses with temporary installations of artwork that activate Downtown’s streetspace by showcasing active businesses and promoting vibrancy within the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) boundary.

Grant funds are intended to be used for helping businesses promote themselves and Downtown economic activity.

Proposals are accepted between the periods of October 1 through November 30 and May 1 through July 31, to reset annually.

Activate This Place Grant

This grant focuses on animating and energizing underutilized public spaces in the Downtown neighborhood.

The program aspires to incentivize and support creative interventions such as permanent public artwork, window displays that add energy to empty storefronts, pop-up parklets that enhance street life and other "placemaking" initiatives.

What is placemaking? According to Project for Public Spaces, “Placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community." MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning defines "placemaking" as “the deliberate shaping of an environment to facilitate social interaction and improve a community’s quality of life.”

Towards these goals, DGRI's Activate this Space Grant Program organizes around three key areas:

  • Public art installations, programming, and interactive initiatives through the Placemaking Grant;
  • Art installations through the Window Activation Grant; and
  • Expanding public space and amenities for people through the Parklet Grant.

The level of funding available depends on the nature of the proposed project.

Submit your digital application at downtowngr.org/activatethisplace.

Seasonal Event & Programming Grant

Through the GR Forward process, the community called for expanding winter activities to make Downtown more fun and dynamic all year long. Downtown, for example, hosts hundreds of special events and programs from May to October. But the action tends to slow down when the cold blows in from November to April. To help build a great four-season city, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. retooled its Event Grant Support Program to encourage and promote events and public space activation efforts during the cold weather months. If you have an idea to help make Downtown GR a more active year-round city, download the application below to learn more about this grant program.

Retail Innovation Grant Program

The GR Forward community planning process revealed considerable demand for creative strategies and partnerships that effectively and measurably increase the diversity, vibrancy, and density of retail selections in Downtown Grand Rapids while strengthening its economy.

With these goals in mind, the Retail Business Incubation Program, a geographically-targeted grant funded by the Downtown Development Authority, seeks to support retail businesses, emphasizing women and minority-owned local businesses.

This program is currently closed and not taking applications.

Brownfield Redevelopment Authority

Supports the redevelopment of blighted or contaminated properties. Managed by the City of Grand Rapids, the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority can reimburse the costs of demolition, environmental cleanup, site preparation, parking, and other property improvement activities.

Community Revitalization Program

Promotes the redevelopment of brownfield sites and historic properties located in traditional Downtowns. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation manages the program. Applicants apply to the Michigan Strategic Fund Board.

Development Support Program

Provides financial assistance to help private development projects achieve high quality public facilities such as plazas, streets, walkways and parks. The policy, administered by the DDA, is designed to leverage private investment and catalyze economic growth in the central business district.

Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Exemption

Encourages the redevelopment of older buildings into commercial and mixed-use structures. Exemption requests are considered by the Grand Rapids City Commission and State Tax Commission.

Redevelopment Liquor License

Supports commercial redevelopment and expanded dining and entertainment options in targeted urban areas.

Smart Zone Grand Rapids

Supports the growth of technology-related or research-oriented businesses and employment opportunities. The City of Grand Rapids manages the Smart Zone.