Economic Development and Government

Civic agency produces downtown Speaker Series

November 18, 2014
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Agency produces Downtown Speaker Series
The Downtown Speaker Series by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. addresses a range of topics related to urban development. Photo via

After a successful first year, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. will host a second year of its popular Speaker Series, which focuses on downtown development topics.

This year the speaker series and its topics will support DGRI and the city of Grand Rapids’ GR Forward Downtown and River Action plans. GR Forward is actively gathering suggestions from residents all over Grand Rapids about what would make the community an even better place to live and work.

“After last year’s success, we know citizens are intensely interested in shaping the future of Grand Rapids and thinking about urbanism in new ways,” said Christopher Reader, chair of the Grand River Restoration Committee. “This year, we are very excited about the caliber of speakers and incorporating their insights into the GR Forward planning process.”

Experts in city planning and community engagement from across the country will visit Grand Rapids between now and the end of March as part of the series.

Discussion sessions will follow each speaker’s presentation.

“After our speaker series events we will break into roundtables and we will have facilitated roundtable discussions,” said Kris Larson, president and CEO of DGRI. “You are going to be ideally sitting at a table with eight or nine people you don’t know, and we are going to be facilitating a conversation. Part of the value in that is hearing what others think about issues.”

DGRI and the city of Grand Rapids have partnered with a dozen organizations on the GR Forward Thinking Speaker Series, including the American Institute of Architects, BL2END, the city of Grand Rapids, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition, Grand Rapids Urban League, KCAD, Local First, The Rapid, The Rapidian, The Salon and WMEAC, to ensure a wide variety of voices are involved.

The entire series will occur at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University’s Woodbridge N. Ferris Building, 17 Pearl St. NW.

Speaker Lineup:

Nov. 20, 6:30 p.m. - “Planning with Bold Vision” with Jen Keesmaat, chief of planning for Toronto

Dec. 4, 6 p.m. - “Economic Development and Equity” with Don Edwards, principal of Justice and Sustainability Associates

Jan. 15, 6 p.m. - “Performance Based Governance” with Theresa Reno-Weber, director of performance and innovation for Louisville

Feb. 12, 6 p.m. - “Welcoming Civic Love through Open Engagement” with Peter Kageyama, author of “For the Love of Cities”

March 12, 6 p.m. - “Driving Vibrancy in the Public Realm” with Dan Biederman, founder of Bryant Park Partnership in New York City

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