Editorial

Problem solving for urban living demand best left to local expertise

June 13, 2014
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The Business Journal focus on more than a dozen new residential projects in the downtown highlights the predicted increased demand for downtown housing. Perhaps no comment gives more evidence of the squeeze than that of 616 Development Managing Director Derek Coppess, who told the Business Journal he has more than 1,400 people on waiting lists for projects now nearing completion. The demand also is reflected in the occupancy rates on the list of downtown residential housing developments reflected at 96 to 100 percent.

While it’s a “nice problem” to have, the demand on city services and the ability of planning and building inspectors (among others) to keep up is certainly being tested. To that end, the Business Journal notes the work of former city planning director Suzanne Schulz, now city managing director of design, development and community engagement. Schulz has been immersed in preparedness for more than four years, giving leadership to the city’s master planning process and residential planning from the Michigan Street Corridor south to what is now the Arena District housing project(s).

In 2012, Schulz was recognized with the Michigan Association of Planning’s highest honor, the Daniel Burnham Award for the department’s innovative Green GR plan, along with its prestigious Outstanding Grassroots Initiative honor for the method used to create the planning document.

MAP said the department’s method didn’t just result in creating opportunities for citizen involvement, rather it helped create a group of citizen activists. The association also said, “The updated plan and the process used to create it have promoted the awareness of the benefits of good planning while providing top quality and transferability through its graphics and facilitated (the) citizen-participation process.” Association leaders further noted comment from benefactor Dyer Ives Foundation, “The Green Grand Rapids effort represents a rare example of strong, community-wide engagement that has had, and will have, significant impact on the lives of local individuals and families.” 

Downtown Grand Rapids is witnessing unprecedented residential demand and from a population of educated influentials who look to be part of the process. The city also has engaged out-of-state consultants for additional guidance, but the expertise of those like Schulz should be foremost as the city approves cementing the visions of answers to the “nice problem.”

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