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Streets blocked off in downtown GR to give businesses more room

Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. has been working to roll out the 'Social Zone' program for several weeks
Downtown Grand Rapids Social Zones
Posted at 5:52 PM, Jun 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-19 17:52:01-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Several roadways in downtown Grand Rapids have been blocked off in an effort to give businesses in the area more space to safely serve their customers.

The 'Social Zones' project has been organized by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc over the last several weeks.

“If we don’t have businesses downtown, we really don’t have a downtown,” said Mark Miller, the organization's managing director of planning and design.

There are currently 4 zones blocked off around the downtown area.

Monroe Center is almost completely blocked off aside from main intersection, tables and chairs moved into the roadway.

“We deployed on Ionia Street, just south of Fulton today [Friday]. We just finished Bridge Street and we’re up on Monroe North,” Miller said.

Miller says they are planning on establishing additional zones in different areas of downtown, but those spaces have not yet been unveiled.

“They are basically our attempt to allow for businesses to encroach into the public space and provide them more seating so they can begin their recovery during this revitalization effort.”

People were already out enjoying the extra space Friday afternoon.

"This is my first time post-covid downtown and I didn’t know what to expect but having all the seating outside and on the street, I loved it,” said Kristen Myers-Chatman, who was grabbing lunch at Little Bird.

Rachel VanSchooneveld was at Cinco de Mayo with her sister. "I know for myself I've been looking for places where can you go on a nice day to sit on a patio that doesn’t get overcrowded," she told FOX 17.

Sarah Wepman, who owns Little Bird on Monroe Center with her husband, said, "We’re planning on adding umbrellas, potential for a stage, this is just very much the first phase.”

“It's just going to be expanding and building from here and will be a really fun experience to come downtown,” Wepman said.

As of now the zones are set to remain in place until the end of November.

Mark Miller telling FOX 17, “There's a whole bunch of different ideas out there and I think we’ll just let those ideas happen and then see what is best practices in terms of making sure things stay clean and operational.”