Signs of renaissance abound in the City of Grand Rapids. Cranes and construction dominate the urban heart of Downtown. The city is on track to recover all of its pre-recession population and now claims one of the nation’s strongest real estate markets. And Forbes recently declared the regional economy one of the fastest-growing in the U.S.

Yet this rapid expansion is contrasted by a costly degree of deepening racial inequity. Poverty, for example, grew faster across greater Grand Rapids in recent years than it did in Detroit. The unemployment rate exceeds 25 and 50 percent for Hispanic and Black citizens, respectively, in our urban neighborhoods. Even in Downtown Grand Rapids, generally perceived as affluent, 66 percent of residents earned less than the area median income in 2015.

Clearly, conventional economic recovery and growth is not sufficient to solve the persistent racial and ethnic inequity in our community. We need a fundamentally new approach to systemically achieve growth with prosperity that is widely shared by all residents in the “new” Grand Rapids.

Toward that end, Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, the City and DGRI are working with the Rose Center for Public Leadership to answer a critical question: How can Grand Rapids align its development policies, practices and incentives to build a more equitable city?

About the Daniel Rose Fellowship

The Daniel Rose Fellowship is a flagship program of the Urban Land Institute's Rose Center for Public Leadership. The purpose of the program is to provide city leaders with the insights, peer-to-peer learning, and analysis needed to successfully improve and growth their cities. Click here to learn more.

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss leads the Grand Rapids team of fellows which includes:

  • Kara Wood, City of Grand Rapids Economic Development Director
  • Josh Naramore, Mobile GR & Parking Service Manager
  • Kristopher Larson, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. President & CEO
  • Tim Kelly, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. Vice President of Planning & Development

Presentation of Final Recommendations

The local Rose Center Fellowship team on November 14, 2017 presented final recommendations to the Grand Rapids City Commission. The overarching goal of the proposed strategy is to evolve the traditional public policies, practices and incentives that support new development in a way that builds a more equitable, inclusive and ultimately prosperous city. Here's the presentation:

Initial Project Briefing Presentation

Here below is the presentation, including some preliminary recommendations, Rose Center advisers delivered on March 23, 2017 after several days of conversation with Grand Rapidians.

Presentation Materials

All documents in PDF format.

Project Schedule

November 2017

October 2017

  • Closing fellowship retreat and presentation of draft report (Nov. 24-27).

September 2017

  • Grand Rapids Study Visit #2 (September 18-19).

August 2017

  • Presentation to the GR Neighborhood Alliance (August 24).

May 2017

  • Mid-Review Retreat at 2017 Urban Land Institute Spring Meeting (May 2 -4).

April 2017

  • Anchorage Study Visit

March 2017

  • Grand Rapids Study Visit. (March 20 - 23)
    • Meetings with local leaders.
    • Focus groups with community stakeholders and assets.
    • Community presentation of observations and recommendations (video above).

February 2017

January 2017

  • Study Tour of New Orleans. (Jan. 10 - 13)

November 2016

  • Opening Retreat at National League of Cities Summit. (Nov. 16 - 19)

Additional Background