Downtown had a great year Alliance excited about future

November 8, 2010
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At the recent Downtown Alliance annual meeting, Chairman Bob Partridge said it was a “great year” for the district and that everyone at the organization was “excited about the future of downtown.”

One reason for that enthusiasm was ArtPrize, the arts competition founded by Rick DeVos that brought hundreds of thousands of people into the district during its recent 19-day run.

“ArtPrize — what can you say?” said Partridge, who is vice president of business and financial services at Grand Rapids Community College. “The (cleanup) crew worked seven days a week. They usually work five, but they worked 14 straight days to keep downtown clean.”

Slightly more than 70 percent of the alliance’s $614,000 annual budget goes to keeping the streets and sidewalks clean and to maintaining about 120 planters dispersed throughout the district. The cleanup crew, which normally consists of seven workers, picks up about 2,300 pounds of trash from downtown each week. They also manage the recycling trash cans along Monroe Center.

The alliance spent $78,500 to market downtown during the last fiscal year. In addition to promoting a large and varied number of events, the alliance also printed and distributed 40,000 business directories. The organization also awarded 20 grants — each worth up to $1,000 — to help finance events held in the district. “We were under budget in 2010,” said Partridge.

The alliance gets the bulk of its funding from a Downtown Improvement District special assessment. Another key financial supporter is the Downtown Development Authority, which gives the organization funds for its marketing efforts.

The DDA currently is seeking public input through an online survey to help the board determine where its funding in the coming years should be directed in order to continue the district’s development. The survey is just one portion of the effort called Framing the Future that is being led by Brad Segal of Denver-based Progressive Urban Management Associates. A link to the survey is posted on the DDA’s website at grcity.us/dda.

“I regularly receive positive comments about downtown, and it’s due to the Downtown Alliance and the downtown businesses,” said Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom, who laid out the city’s fiscal future at the meeting.

Partridge is in his first year chairing the alliance. He took over the top spot from Ray Kisor, who held the position for three years. “It was a great three years,” said Kisor of Colliers International. Kisor followed Rockford Construction’s Kurt Hassberger, who followed Dwelling Place’s Dennis Sturtevant as chairman.

The annual meeting was to have been held in the Imperial Ballroom at the Amway Grand Plaza, but was moved to the larger Pantlind Ballroom to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend.

“This is a record crowd for the meeting,” said Partridge, “and this is not a fundraiser.”

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