Working in partnership with the City of Grand Rapids, Kent County, Grand Rapids Whitewater and numerous others community leaders, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. is incubating a new nonprofit entity to serve as the backbone agency that cultivates collaboration and coordination towards implementing the community's vision for a more beautiful, accessible, safe and active Grand River corridor.
About Grand River Network
The Grand River Network formed in 2022 after an extensive effort to evaluate a range of governance options, consult with stakeholders and organize with community.
The mission of the emerging organization is to establish a world-class River for All by supporting efforts to develop, activate and steward the Grand River as a place that enriches our community's wellbeing.
The purpose: Unite community voices to advocate for enhancing the river’s ecological, economic and social benefits, ensuring its legacy as the core of the city and region’s enjoyment and prosperity.
The vision: The Grand River is one of the nation’s most exceptional urban rivers, thriving as a healthy, natural resource and welcoming all as a cultural destination for enjoyment and opportunity.
Click here for a brief detailing additional background and the community leaders initially involved.
Grand River Equity Framework
What does it mean to build a River for All? Community partners in 2022 convened a variety of conversations to inform the drafting of the Grand River Equity Framework.
The Framework, presented for community consideration in February 2023, is a guiding document that aims to establish a common local understanding of equity in the context of river corridor revitalization. The Framework includes proposed goals, strategies, actions and accountability metrics and is meant to be used by a wide range of community actors, including residents, policy makers, government, philanthropy and business.
The Framework was developed under the banner of Grand River Voices and guided by a diverse group of local stakeholders.
Click here for process info and updates.
Click here to read the Executive Summary of the Grand River Equity Framework.
The full report will be available in Spring 2023.
Grand River Greenway Framework
One of the Grand River Network's initial areas of focus is to develop a plan for guiding Grand River Greenway investments in a way that integrates and harmonizes the relevant community plans in Grand Rapids and Kent County.
A key near-term goal is to leverage the $55 million state Grand River Greenway appropriation made to accelerate transformational projects that drive implementation of the community’s vision for a revitalized, beautiful, active and connected Grand River corridor.
To support this work, the Network Board established a Greenway Project Technical Advisory Committee that will:
- Oversee a thorough discovery process of local river-related parks/trail plans and projects.
- Develop a framework that aligns identified plans and project efforts along the river corridor.
- Design a method for evaluating capital project priorities.
- Determine Greenway grant funding award criteria.
- Provide recommendations for priority projects.
February 28, 2023
- Meeting Agenda
- Meeting Minutes
January 30 - Postponed
January 11, 2023
December 7, 2022
October 26, 2022
- Meeting Agenda
- Staff Presentation
- Draft Grand River Greenway Project Catalogue (Grand Rapids/Kent County)
- Meeting Minutes
Board Meeting Materials
March 1, 2023
- Meeting Minutes
- Staff Greenway Presentation
February 2, 2023
November 30, 2022
August 29, 2022
July 27, 2022
When Grand Rapids Whitewater (GRWW) and the City of Grand Rapids complete their work of removing obsolete dams, a 2+ mile reach of the Grand River will emerge as a renewed social, economic and environmental asset flowing through the urban core of Kent County.
The transformation of the waterway will catalyze significant new community building opportunities along the waterfront.
Conceptual community planning to date has identified more than two dozen “opportunities sites” that can rise to higher and better use as much-needed housing, business and public recreational space. Community partners already have begun organizing for major improvements on several sites.
The full vision also involves building out the river edge “trail” or “green ribbon” to tie together Downtown, the opportunity sites and existing amenities such as Millennium and Riverside Parks – ultimately transforming this currently isolated, industrialized and underutilized reach of river into an active and vibrant 5-mile stretch of Grand River greenway.
Similar to public facilities such as Van Andel Arena, DeVos Place Convention Center or Meijer Gardens, the joined public assets in this future rejuvenated corridor – the whitewater and restored waterway, trail and expanded green space – has powerful potential to become, not just a major new attraction for visitors to our region, but also an important driver of local growth towards an increasingly more livable, equitable and prosperous place for all Grand Rapidians.
This clearly has proven the case in other forward-thinking cities with similar projects – including but certainly not limited to riverfronts in Memphis, Denver and Detroit, the Cultural Trail in Indianapolis, and the Atlanta BeltLine.
Lessons drawn from these and other cities also affirm that – to truly be successful – these unique public facilities require special focus, expertise, partnership and management, not unlike an arena, convention center or Downtown district.
The question is how do we execute? GRWW organized specifically to lead implementation of the in-channel improvements. But once that work is complete, how does the community sustain those waterway improvements over time, provide accessible recreation opportunities and ensure all users are safe?
How does the community organize itself to revitalize, program, manage and maintain the waterfront, specifically the public trail and park spaces, and thereby reinforce and maximize the Grand Rapids Whitewater initiative and investment?
Collaboration is uniquely important. The Grand River waterfront is perhaps one of the most complicated locations to advance community building and improvement initiatives. A multitude of different property owners, institutions, organizations, stakeholders and permitting agencies have an interest in the corridor, and they all have different needs, roles, responsibilities, capacities and decision-making processes.
Deliberately and intentionally cultivating collaboration, joint effort and support is critical to bring the community’s vision for the river to life and make the most of this generational opportunity.
That is the role the Grand River Network aspires to fulfill.
- Community First Toolkit (PDF) via the High Line Network
- Video: Lessons Learned from the Front Lines of the LA River Restoration
- Video: Exploring the River Restoration Economy
- Video: Lessons Learned from Bringing the Detroit Riverfront to Life
- Video: Strategies & Tools for Early Stage Infrastructure Reuse Projects
- Best Practices Toolkit (PDF) via the High Line Network