Nonprofits Have Good DDA Day

May 20, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Downtown Development Authority agreed to provide financial support to a pair of nonprofit organizations last week, and the board may do the same for another one next month.

The DDA awarded the Grand Rapids Community Foundation a $50,000 building reuse grant that will go toward the $1.7 million renovation of the organization’s new home at 185 Oakes St. SW. The public dollars will help restore the façade, upgrade the utilities, install a fire-suppression system and develop barrier-free access. The two-story, 104-year-old building was once an Annheuser-Busch bottling plant.

DDA Executive Director Jay Fowler said the board didn’t award building reuse grants to nonprofits when the program began, but dropped that restriction later.

“It is a very interesting building. I think it will be a great home for the foundation,” said Fowler.

Foundation President Diana Sieger said her organization will occupy the entire structure. The nonprofit has 21 employees and hopes to add six more over the next five years. She also said the foundation needs lots of meeting space, as up to 100 persons connected with the foundation regularly attend meetings.

Sieger also pointed out the foundation has contributed over $9 million worth of capital to downtown infrastructure projects over the years, including separate $1 million gifts for Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place.

“We are very supportive of building the core city,” she said. “We have spent a great deal of our resources in downtown.”

The foundation will lease the space from Red Brick Building LLC, the organization’s entity that bought the building from developers Sam Cummings and Eric Wynsma. The DDA gave them a building reuse grant worth $50,000 in February 2007. Cummings and Wynsma returned the award in full after the sale was completed in December.

Sieger said Red Brick Building has received new market tax credits for the renovation and expects the work to be done in September.

Board members also allocated $170,000 last week to the Downtown Alliance, a nonprofit that markets downtown and its businesses to the larger community, for its 2009 budget. The award is a $30,000 increase over what the DDA gave the alliance last year.

Alliance Executive Director Sharon Evoy said $83,000 of that total will go to outdoor, print and radio advertising. Part of the radio budget will be done in conjunction with the state’s Pure Michigan campaign and the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Another $25,000 will be spent on marketing tools like the alliance’s Web site, which was revamped last week, and its newsletter. The rest, $62,000, will go toward events, promotions and staffing.

“We’re looking at this as a comprehensive strategy,” said Evoy.

Evoy added that 45 downtown businesses participated in the alliance’s marketing campaign during the last fiscal year.

The Public Museum will ask the DDA next month for $205,000 for the catering kitchen the nonprofit wants to add to its location at 272 Pearl St. NW. The DDA Priority Committee agreed in April to put the request on the board’s May agenda.

But Fowler told the Business Journal last week that the item has been pushed back to the June meeting, when members will review the DDA’s annual budget.

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