Architecture & Design, Arts & Entertainment, and Nonprofits

DDA OKs temporary plaza plans

Calder Plaza will see improvements while permanent solutions are finalized.

April 13, 2018
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Plans to improve Calder Plaza still are in the works, but the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority recently approved expenditures for temporary improvements that should breathe new life into the space.

The GR Forward Goal 5 Alliance presented plans to the DDA on April 11 to temporarily activate the plaza while a more permanent solution is being finalized.

“We’re really looking to focus on some lighter, quicker, cheaper improvements to activate this space,” said Kimberly Van Driel, Goal 5 Alliance special events manager.

Goal 5 Alliance has been working with the city, Grand Rapids Parks Department and Office of Special Events to develop a plan for temporary activation with a budget of $50,000.

The key areas of focus include seating, shade, greenery, storage, games and other activities, lighting, trash and recycling.

Van Driel described the design focus for the plaza as a type of “urban living room,” with outdoor furniture, hammocks, planters, umbrellas and additional seating areas.

“Right now, we’re working with a couple of different vendors on proposals of what that looks like in the space and what types of plants are going to last and be sustainable,” Van Driel said.

Activities include cornhole, table tennis, tetherball, a giant chessboard, shuffleboard and a court for volleyball, tennis and badminton.

The design elements also were proposed with portability in mind. Van Driel said the alliance considered the use of the plaza for special events, so everything has to be moved quickly and stored when not in use while still being easily accessible.

The alliance will utilize a pod already at the plaza to store the new elements. The portability factor has received positive feedback from the Office of Special Events.

“Those event organizers are very excited to be able to utilize some of these improvements within their events so it creates more additional programming, and it actually will help with their event budget because there will be less expenses for a stage, seating, stuff like that,” Van Driel said.

Goal 5 Alliance has partnered with several organizations in the area to provide more attractions for the plaza. It is currently working with the community farming and educational nonprofit Urban Roots to provide an urban garden on-site where people can pick and eat produce as a snack.

“We’re also talking with Urban Roots about a pop-up urban garden that can also be moved and education programming that also goes along with that,” Van Driel said.

The alliance also has been working with the Grand Rapids Food Truck Association to have food trucks at the plaza every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

“That doesn’t mean that they might not be there on Mondays … but this is the time that the organized group will be there,” Van Driel said.

The Grand Rapids trucking program Move Systems also might be able to provide more food trucking on a regular basis.

DDA board member Kayem Dunn voiced concerns about the placement of the urban garden as outlined in the plan. She said it might intrude on the view of the La Grande Vitesse sculpture from Ottawa Avenue NW.

“I had understood that was part of the original placement for that sculpture, and we needed to preserve that,” she said.

Van Driel said every part of the plan easily could be moved to accommodate the view of the sculpture.

A soft opening of the space is scheduled for May with a grand opening in June. According to the DDA agenda, more improvements will be added throughout the year as directed by project partners.

Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. CEO and President Tim Kelly said an RFP to finalize designs for the permanent activation of Calder Plaza would be released later in April.

“We are also with (Grand Rapids) Parks releasing an RFP/RFQ to get construction documents done for phase one permanent improvements to Calder Plaza,” he said, “so as that work is happening out there, we envision moving these (temporary) elements elsewhere.”

The city hopes to begin the first phase of construction in June 2019.

The GR Forward Goal 5 Alliance is a citizen-led council with members appointed by the DGRI Board of Advisors. The alliance advises DGRI staff on programs and projects to improve downtown Grand Rapids.

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