DDA will add more police patrols on foot bicycles

July 15, 2011
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Members of the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority agreed last week to increase foot and bicycle patrols by the city’s police department for at least the next five months, and not because of the reported violence that occurred in the sector following the 4th of July celebration.

“We were working on this before the 4th of July incident,” said DDA Executive Director Jay Fowler, who added that the board’s Framework Plan calls for increasing public safety downtown through a number of measures including the installation of security cameras.

“We’re certainly not trying to create a police state but to provide for better safety. I think the cost is reasonable and we’ll see how this pilot project works,” said Fowler.

The board allocated $21,000 to cover the cost of the increased patrols, which will likely continue into the fall and involve 10 two-officer shifts a week in addition to the regular patrols. “The hours will vary and the days of the week will vary,” said Fowler. It’s also likely that most of the additional patrols will occur at night and when special events are held downtown.

The shootings that occurred on July 4 came during a concert in Rosa Parks Circle on Monroe Center after the fireworks display. Fowler said the music was added to the event as a way to keep some people in the sector to relieve traffic congestion out of downtown following the fireworks. DDA member Joseph Tomaselli suggested the board may want to approach the Kent County Sheriff’s Department about having its mounted patrol downtown for special events. GRPD Capt. Dan Savage said having officers on horseback is an efficient way to protect large crowds.

“I want to commend Capt. Savage and the police department for the good work they’ve done downtown,” said DDA Chairwoman Kayem Dunn.

The board allocated $500,000 earlier this year for police and fire protection and park maintenance in the district.

Board members also agreed last week to make nearly $600,000 worth of improvements to the district by approving four recommendations from the DDA Environmental Action Group. The money will pay for 18 new tabletops for damaged outdoor tables at Vandenberg Center, curb and median repairs at 40 locations, 15 new parking facilities for bicycles on Commerce and Sheldon avenues, and a host of upgrades to Fulton Street, from the Grand River east to Division Avenue.

The most expensive of the projects is, of course, improving Fulton Street at a cost of $570,700, which includes upgrading the telecommunications duct bank, streetscape, sidewalks and street lighting. The DDA will pay for that work over the next two fiscal years. “It will come back to you in the fall,” said Fowler to board members. The DDA had already approved a resurfacing of Fulton Street over the same stretch.

Even though the DDA also agreed last week to vacate Ferry Street, which runs from Monroe to Ottawa avenues between the 50 Monroe Place office building and The BOB, the board still is being sued to vacate the street. This oddity comes about because the DDA has property interests in the area and vacating a public right-of-way needs to be approved by the Kent County Circuit Court.

The DDA will be listed as a defendant in the legal case, despite agreeing to the plaintiffs’ request. If and when the court vacates the street, the property will be divided between 50 Monroe Place and The BOB, which plans to expand on a portion of the site. The property will retain a public right-of-way for pedestrian traffic after the court case.

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