How Cool Are These Projects

April 23, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — A trio of projects planned for the city are going to apply for state grants under the “Cool Cities” pilot program that was initiated earlier this month by Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

The city gave its blessing to the three last week, and now details of the Uptown, the Ionia Avenue-Heartside Business District and the Turner Avenue Gateway projects will soon be headed to Lansing for funding consideration.

Money for the grants will come from the Department of Labor and Economic Growth, History, Arts and Libraries, the State Housing Development Authority, and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The maximum award is $100,000.

The governor said that at least a dozen grants would be handed out statewide.

The Uptown project is made up of four geographically linked districts that have similar businesses. The four — Cherry-Lake-Diamond, East Fulton, Eastown and Wealthy Street — already have begun marketing themselves as the Uptown District.

Should the project receive a grant, the money would be used for a facade improvement program, signs to identify the districts as “Uptown,” a construction effort at Diamond Avenue and Lake Drive SE, and, quite possibly, a piece of public art.

“The things that people talk about when they talk about Cool Cities are already there, in this Uptown area,” said Sharon Evoy, who directs the Neighborhood Business Specialist Program. NBSP is assisting the projects with the grant applications.

The Ionia-Heartside project would use the funds to create an urban market at Ionia Avenue and Wealthy Street SE, and to renovate buildings in the Heartside district into loft-style apartments.

“The urban market is going to have more than just a farmers’ market, it is going to have all sorts of different ethnic restaurants. It’s a huge, huge project,” said Deanna Demory, a development specialist with NBSP.

The Gateway project would use the money to lead westbound visitors into downtown on a northwest side city street that runs alongside U.S. 131. Known as a “green” effort, it includes planting native plants, building small parks, painting a mural and more on roughly a one-mile stretch of Turner Avenue NW that would escort drivers to downtown.

“This designation is potentially the largest step we could take in full implementation of Turner Street, as a $100,000 grant award is tied to the designation and access to the state’s toolbox of grant-making activities,” wrote Robert McCarty, of The Image Shop, in an e-mail to the Business Journal.

To be selected, a project must demonstrate close partnerships with organizations and the private sector, must contain a plan to make community improvements, and must detail how the money would be spent. Applications are due by May 7.

Evoy said the city was very fortunate to have such active developers like Guy Bazzani of Bazzani Associates, Ray Kisor of Commerce Realty, Dennis Sturtevant of Dwelling Place, and McCarty. All are involved with the projects.

“We are lucky to have so many unique individuals who have given us unique projects that we can submit to the Cool Cities program.”         

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