Economic Development, Government, and Real Estate

DDA wants to build a better State Street

Arena area visioning plan takes another step forward.

February 22, 2013
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(As seen on WZZM TV 13) The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority recently agreed to support a grassroots effort to develop a new streetscape for portions of State Street SE.

The effort, called Build a Better Block, is taking place in urban centers across the country. The DDA gave the local group a $15,000 grant. The effort was started here by Lynee Wells, Josh Leffingwell and Tyler Doornbos, who volunteered for the task.

Their plan is to turn State Street into a two-day showcase of demonstration projects for urban planners, policymakers and citizens. The DDA grant is expected to cover half of the planning effort’s expenses.

DDA Executive Director Kristopher Larson compared Build a Better Block to an urban laboratory that offers a chance to try new ideas without committing to any of the concepts. He also said the ideas aren’t fully developed at this point and the volunteers are looking for suggestions. The effort is expected to include things such as pop-up shops and patio dining.

The trio plans to file a report when they finish their work; Larson felt the results could be used to redo the street. “This is a new project for the DDA,” he said.

Not all of State Street is in the DDA’s district so the entire grant must be spent on the blocks that are in it.

DDA Vice Chairwoman Kayem Dunn said the project’s results could be replicated in other parts of the city.

“This is a great experiment,” said Brian Harris, DDA chairman. “And who better than the DDA to do it?”

Who better than the DDA to envision future developments south of Van Andel Arena? The board is putting that effort together and recently decided on the makeup of a 13-member steering committee for its South Arena Area Visioning Plan.

Although the individuals haven’t been chosen to fill the committee, the organizations they will come from have been. Members will come from the higher education field, the Avenue of the Arts, the Convention and Arena Authority, The Rapid, the new Downtown Market, The Right Place and others, including someone from the DDA.

“The entire community will have an opportunity to get involved,” said Larson.

The DDA chose Cornerstone Architects last month to head the plan’s consulting team, which also has the VIRDIS Design Group and Williams & Works on board.

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