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.
Winter Ready Program
Financial assistance to Downtown restaurants, bars and other retail establishments for cold weather activation within the boundary of the Downtown Development Authority. The program is designed to help adapt outdoor commercial operations, support economic stability and protect public health thru the winter months amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Retail Business Incubation Program
The GR Forward community planning process revealed considerable demand for more retail options in Downtown Grand Rapids. Attracting retail tenants that provide goods or services currently not available or underserved in the Downtown area emerged as a particular priority, with an emphasis on locally-owned businesses that strengthen and diversify the mix of Downtown retail offerings.
This Retail Incubation Program, funded by the Downtown Development Authority, supports creative strategies and partnerships that effectively and measurably advance on the community’s goal of growing a thriving Downtown retail market.
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
- Public Art
- Others as Approved by Review Committee
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.
Window Wonderland Activation & Decoration Program
This grant program provides one-time funding support to Downtown restaurants, bars and other retail establishments with temporary installations of artwork that activate Downtown’s streetspace by showcasing active businesses and promoting the holiday season within the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) boundary.
Grant funds are intended to be used for helping businesses promote themselves and downtown economic activity while still protecting public health thru the winter months amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
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.
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.