GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A group of influential business leaders revealed its idea of how Grand Rapids could transform part of downtown into a bustling city center.
Grand Action 2.0 released conceptual plans for what it calls an underutilized stretch of the Grand River. The designs call for the east bank to undergo big changes, starting at the Fulton Street bridge and stretching south to Wealthy Street.
Grand Action says the plans build off of other projects like Grand Rapids Whitewater, River for All and the Equitable
Economic Development and Mobility Strategic Plan. Designers say the Whitewater project ties into the concept.
The 31 acre stretch of land includes the city-owned 201 Market site, which city leaders want to see turned into an amphitheater. That too is included in the Grand Action plan.
Along the river, Grand Action wants to create green space terraces, a walkway, and 3 public parks with more than 10 acres of space. The group also wants to see the island in the Grand River made available, with an action adventure park, including a zip line system across the river created. Two new pedestrian bridges would also be built, one underneath US-131, and another a little south of the freeway connecting to Grand Valley State's Pew Campus. An existing decommissioned rail bridge would also be converted for pedestrian use.
“Our job was to envision and evaluate which assets will bring the greatest community benefit,” said Grand Action 2.0 co-chair Tom Welch. “With a proposed 10 acres of accessible public space, including a ribbon of parkland along the riverfront, the final recommendations placed strong emphasis on community access and green spaces.”
The concept also calls for 1,500 or more mixed housing units to be built, with space for retail shops and small businesses too. Grand Action says they want to prioritize minority-owned businesses.
“When we reconvened as Grand Action 2.0 in 2020, we were very intentional about diversifying our advisory committee,” said Grand Action 2.0 co-chair Carol Van Andel. “That approach carried over to these latest studies and to our planning process. We reached out to several community groups in order to engage a diverse cross section of the population and solicit opinions to make this, truly, a community project.”
Grand Action 2.0 worked with global design planning firm Populous and local architectural firm Progressive AE on the plans. The group says it used information from a public engagement campaign that held individual interviews and community focus groups to determine what Grand Rapids needs most out of the project.
Grand Action says it hopes the recommendations act as a catalyst to a new wave of development in the city.
“Populous has applied their proven urban planning skills to this underutilized 31 acres of prime real estate and envisioned a magnetic mosaic of critical urban assets on the banks of our Grand River,” said Grand Action vice chair, David Frey. “They have reimagined something powerful that responds brilliantly to the expectations and hopes of a diverse cross section of our residents. Properly executed over the next several years, it will bring new energy and excitement to our community!”