Carving out a pathway

January 15, 2010
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The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority decided last week to join forces with the Grand Action Committee in an effort to create a walkable corridor from the corner of Crescent Street and Division Avenue to Monroe Avenue.

DDA Executive Director Jay Fowler said it’s difficult for pedestrians to cross Division at Crescent. When they do and reach Ionia Avenue, they run into the east side of the Chase Bank Building. Then they confront Calder Plaza as they cross Ottawa Avenue on their way to Monroe.

So Grand Action, the DDA and an unidentified local foundation are funding a $29,000 study that will attempt to outline a pedestrian loop from Crescent to Monroe, a path that will follow the streetscape guidelines the Downtown Alliance established in 2006.

“We believe such a study can develop some recommended streetscape and intersection improvements to encourage walkability and connectivity between the Medical Mile and downtown business community,” wrote Jon Nunn, Grand Action executive director, in a letter to the DDA.

“This might include recommendations for an intersection improvement at North Division and Crescent Street, which could begin ‘slowing down’ vehicular traffic coming from the north,” he added.

The DDA committed $4,500 to the study last week, while the foundation has awarded a grant worth $8,000. Members of Grand Action are picking up the rest of the tab.

“I think we’ll be looking at Calder Plaza and doing some work there, too,” said Fowler.

Crescent Street Park, much of which is located on Bostwick Avenue between the Van Andel Research Institute and Grand Rapids Community College, has been renovated and is expected to experience an increase in visitors. The park will serve as the starting point for the study.

The DDA also committed $10,000 last week to look at further improvements for Lyon Street Square, which begins at Monroe and runs west to the Grand River between the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and DeVos Place. The money will go toward a $40,000 design study that Concept Design Group will conduct. The key element of the work is to add a snowmelt system to the square. The design work is expected to take three to four months to complete.

Once the design is done, the project is expected to cost $3 million and take two years to complete because work has to be done around events that are scheduled downtown. Stephen Fry, Concept Design Group president, said the more difficult portion of the project involving areas near the street would be done the second year.

Board members first learned of the project last March. The work then included adding brick pavers, strands of lights, new trees and two archways. The square provides access to the DDA’s Riverwalk and across the river to the Gerald R. Ford Museum by what became the city’s most popular bridge last fall.

“If you were downtown during ArtPrize, you saw how important the bridge became,” Ginny Seyferth, principal of Seyferth and Associates, told the DDA. “The highest cost is for the snowmelt. The discussion on snowmelt is probably the most detailed we’ve had.”

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