Economic Development and Government

The Grand Strategy misses out on $200M

The plan to improve the Grand River watershed was not selected for HUD support.

January 29, 2016
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A national program intended to provide funding for resilient housing and infrastructure projects to cities, counties and/or states that experienced major disasters between 2011 and 2013 has bypassed West Michigan.

Kent County, Grand Rapids and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. officials released a joint statement Jan. 21 expressing their disappointment in not receiving up to $200 million in financial support for The Grand Strategy from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s National Disaster Resilience program.

Michigan was one of 67 states and communities invited to apply for funding from the national program, and although The Grand Strategy made it to the second round of consideration, the plan was not one of the 13 winners to receive federal dollars.

“After months of waiting, the (collaborative partners) learned that our region will not be receiving funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s National Disaster Resilience competition,” the joint statement from Kent County, Grand Rapids and DGRI read. “While we are appreciative of HUD for the chance to compete for this award, we are disappointed that The Grand Strategy was not funded.”

The Grand Strategy was developed as a result of Grand River flooding in spring 2013 and with the collaboration of Kent County, Grand Rapids, Wyoming, Grandville, Ada Township, Lowell Township, Cascade Township, Plainfield Township, DGRI, the Michigan Department of Economic Development, and nonprofit and philanthropic partners.

To improve disaster preparedness and leverage the Grand River as an economic, ecological and social asset, The Grand Strategy outlined such key objectives as: transforming a 40-mile stretch of waterfront; protecting more than 22,000 floodplain residents; removing obsolete dams; restoring 92 acres of wetlands; and enhancing flood retention on nearly 1,500 acres of land.

“The innovative resiliency plans and projects this collaboration designed will make the region stronger in future flooding events while improving daily life for the people of West Michigan,” according to the joint statement.

Steve Arwood, chief executive officer of MEDC, said it is disappointing Michigan was not awarded HUD funding.

“The coalition of Kent County communities and stakeholders that came together to develop this proposal demonstrates the type of dynamic collaboration that serves as a catalyst for ongoing community and economic development,” said Arwood.

Grand Rapids officials initially authorized city staff to partner with MEDC to apply for funding in October 2015. The project team submitted a request for nearly $200 million, which was only half of the estimated cost for implementation. The remaining funds were intended to come from local matches, philanthropic donations and potential support from the state.

The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority board also had committed nearly $1.5 million to funding eligible projects in the downtown related to The Grand Strategy, contingent on the award of federal funds.

“The value of the collaboration will yield incalculable benefits for this region as we move forward together — stronger,” said the joint statement. “We’ve built something great: a highly collaborative team that will yield results on many projects in the future and make our region more resilient to natural disasters and an even better place to live, raise families and grow businesses.”

Officials from Kent County and DGRI declined to comment further on the HUD decision.

HUD partnered with the Rockefeller Foundation for the National Disaster Resilience Competition, which was funded through Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery appropriations from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013.

More than 25 federal agencies and 100 industry experts participated in the two-phased, 16-month competition.

The eight winning states and respective financing were: California, $70.3 million; Connecticut, $54.2 million; Iowa, $96.8 million; Louisiana, $92.6 million; New Jersey, $15 million; New York, $35.8 million; Tennessee, $44.5 million; and Virginia, $120.5 million.

Cities or communities selected for financial support were: New York City, $176 million; New Orleans, $141.2 million; Minot, North Dakota, $74.3 million; Shelby County, Tennessee, $60.4 million; and Springfield, Massachusetts, $17 million.

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