Grand Rapids DDA heading into the home stretch

January 4, 2011
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The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority is in the stretch run of assembling its Framework Plan: January marks the sixth month of the six-month-long effort. Then the real work will begin.

The idea behind the plan is to help the DDA set a course for future action to at least keep downtown economically viable and, hopefully, to improve economic activity in the district. To get there, board members will have to determine what type of investments should be made. There will be a number of areas for them to choose from. One might be housing.

The plan's consultant, Progressive Urban Management Associates of Denver, has suggested that the DDA should continue to be a catalyst to ensure investments are made in residential units and mixed-use developments. PUMA said the board should continue to work closely with developers "who understand the critical challenges in infill development."

PUMA said the DDA can accomplish that by offering a variety of incentives, grants and loans to support mixed-use development, which normally features retail shops or office space on the ground floor with residences on the upper levels.

PUMA also has recommended that the DDA support amenities that support housing, such as transit service, parking and greenspace for outdoor activities. The consultant even suggested the board conduct a feasibility study to determine whether a grocery store could be profitable in the district. But before that decision or any others are given consideration, the final leg of the planning process has to take place.

That will begin next week when PUMA principal Brad Segal and his crew return to Grand Rapids for two more community open houses like those held in November. But DDA Executive Director Jay Fowler said these meetings will give the public opportunities to review all of PUMA's recommendations.

"What we reviewed in December was sort of the Framework, but now the recommendations will be much more specific. It's more of an action plan that they're putting together," he said.

Both meetings will be held in the Ford Ballroom in the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel Jan. 11. An open house will run from 8-9:30 a.m., with a second gathering set for 5:30-7 p.m. Reservations should be made with Clark Communications by e-mailing craig@clarkcommunications.com

The plan will be presented to the DDA board Wednesday, Jan. 12, and then to the DDA Steering Committee the next day. "This is the home stretch, really. This is sort of the last round of input. Then the DDA board will be prepared to actually adopt the plan at its February meeting," said Fowler.

The planning process has been fairly painless. There haven't been any major chinks along the way and the schedule has been maintained. "I'm very pleased with the process. We had great input through the entire process. We had a 20-member Steering Committee. We had about 100 people involved in working groups talking about various aspects of this. And roughly 200 people were involved in the first round of open houses. Over 1,100 people responded to the online survey," said Fowler.

"So we think we did quite a good job of outreach to sort of see what was on people's minds in regards to the work the DDA does and what we should be doing. And I think PUMA really brought to the table a best practice of what other people are doing around the country. When you put those two together, I think we're really going to have a good set of recommendations on how we can be most effective going forward," he added.

Once the DDA adopts the Framework plan, the Steering Committee, headed by board member Brian Harris, will devise ways to implement the recommendations.

If the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority chooses to improve housing availability in the sector from the Framework recommendations, the following demographics will serve as the starting point.

Downtown
Demographic
Population
Households
Average Household Size
Median Age
Median Household Income
Per Capita Income

 

2009
Figures
17,372
8,347
2.08
30.4
$32,681
$20,543

 

Percent Change
from 2000
+1.5%
+1.2%
N/A
N/A
+21.7%
+22.3%

Source: Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority, December 2010

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