Master Plan Public Hearing Thursday

September 23, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — The task of creating a new master plan appeared daunting at the outset, but the process that started 21 months ago and involved more than 250 meetings and 3,000 participants soon will come to a close.

Public comment on the plan, which will guide zoning ordinances and policies for urban and neighborhood development for the next 20 years, is strongly encouraged as the project nears its final stages.

The Plan Grand Rapids process will culminate in the city’s first new master plan since 1963, and public participation has been the order of the day since the project kicked off in January 2001.

“What we have seen is a process that, from what I can see, is unparalleled,” said Assistant City Manager Victor Vasquez at Plan Grand Rapid’s final community forum on Sept. 12.

Vasquez said the whole process is on schedule and on budget.

Feedback from participants gathered through a series of neighborhood and business district outreach meetings, focus groups and community forums has been translated into a series of maps illustrating future land use and open space frameworks, as well as transportation frameworks for public transit and streets.

The plan designates the type and density of development participants deemed appropriate for different areas of the city and pinpoints areas where new development might occur and where revitalization efforts could be directed.

The draft document outlines objectives for neighborhoods, business districts, the local economy, public transit, protection of natural resources, smart growth, enrichment opportunities, and objectives for building regional planning, community, educational, neighborhood and business partnerships.

According to the master plan, objectives for strengthening business and the economy include:

  • Reinforcing downtown’s role as a multi-purpose urban center for the metro area.

  • Reinvesting in business districts to create compact, mixed-use retail centers linked by residential mixed-use development.

  • Encouraging development of compact, walkable, mixed-use commercial centers along transit routes.

  • Encouraging commercial redevelopment of portions of 28th Street.

  • Improving the visual appeal and walkability of all business districts.

  • Encouraging a change in land use along the riverfront from industry to open space and mixed use.

  • Improving riverfront visibility through mixed-use development in downtown industrial areas east of U.S. 131 and west of Monroe Avenue.

  • Retaining industrial districts along rail lines.

  • Encouraging major institutions to remain in a mixed-use context downtown.

  • Improving public transit access to workplaces.

  • Balancing economic growth with neighborhood and environmental priorities.

  • Increasing the available range of jobs and pay scales.

  • Encouraging partnerships that promote youth development and job skills.

Jack Hoffman, chair of the Master Plan Committee, referred to the plan as both idealistic and realistic and as a positive approach to real problems.

He said a great portion of the plan is devoted to urban design issues.

He recalled that in the post-WWII era, the trend was to tear down old buildings and build new.

But today people are interested in evolution, not revolution — in revitalizing rather than razing older areas of the city, he said.

The plan recognizes the unique characteristics of different areas of the city, City Planner Bill Hoyt pointed out.

“People in Alger Heights have different concerns than residents in the West Grand area or the northeast side,” Hoyt said. “The character of neighborhoods and business districts varies throughout the city so this draft master plan reflects that.”

The document also reflects a consensus for more green space and for trail systems connecting neighborhoods throughout greater Grand Rapids.

Comments provided at the Sept. 12 community forum, along with the draft master plan, have been submitted to the Planning Commission.

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Thursday, Sept. 26, for final public comment before the plan is prepared for adoption.           

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