GR_Urbanist

The Grand River?! You mean GR has a River?

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Cities with large bodies of water seem to thrive much more than cities that are totally landlocked. Grand Haven, East GR, Lowell: These places seem to rally around the river or lake that they are built next to. I was recently in Grand Haven for the first time and I was astonished by the energy and beauty of their downtown. Yes, Lake Michigan has a lot to do with it, but it doesn't take just a huge body of water to create the same effect. East GR

Edited by GR_Urbanist

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I agree 100%. The river could be a huge asset to the city but for the most part it's totally ignored. It's surrounded by industrial facilities instead of housing. We dump sewage into it on a regular basis. It is horribly polluted just under the river bed. Grand Rapids would benefit so much by doing something about the current state of the river. If we would clean it up and stop dumping crap into it every time it rains, we could have an incredible addition to our city.

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I think part of the issue is that the Grand River rises and falls so dramatically in the Spring and Fall. I'm sure that is the reason for the floodwalls. Wherever the banks are left natural, such as around I-196 in Grandville, it overflows the banks every Spring.

I do believe that if the river were narrowed, it would run deeper and faster and could make for some interesting rapids for recreation.

And the city is slowly working to separate the sanitary and storm sewers, with projected completion within 10 years. Hopefully that will help with the overflows. Every major city of note has some kind of body of water, probably because of the river infrastructure back in the 1800's and for commerce at the time, which is when many U.S. cities gained their prominence.

I am definitely for making the river better though.

BTW: I can't believe you have never been to Grand Haven before, Urbanist. The old Piano Factory/Loft Condo project was probably the first of its kind in West Michigan. And The Gilmore Group renovated "The Kirby" a couple of years ago to its old glory days. Very nice!

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That's one of the first things I noticed upon visiting Grand Rapids a few years back. While Lansing is trying to reclaim a lot of it's riverfront from bad planning, the city is generally good in keeping the linear parks and the 8 mile River Trail (which is continually being expanded) up to par. I think Grand Rapids should do something like this. There is so much potential, and the Grand is wider here and in Lansing. We also are separating our sewers (have been for a few years now). It's a pain in the neck, but keeps the river much cleaner.

Here's Lansing's River Trail map if anyone cares. It's not only a recreational tool, but it connects people to jobs:

http://parks.cityoflansingmi.com/rivertrail_map.pdf

Edited by Lmichigan

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BTW:  I can't believe you have never been to Grand Haven before, Urbanist.  The old Piano Factory/Loft Condo project was probably the first of its kind in West Michigan.  And The Gilmore Group renovated "The Kirby" a couple of years ago to its old glory days.  Very nice!

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I've been saying that to myself since I got back! :lol: The downtown area was just wonderful. There was a new building going up on the main road that runs from the downtown to the lighthouse. It looks like a major project. There was also some new condos going up as well. There was so many people and things going on, I had to stop and sit on a bench to take it all in! I hope I can get back before the summers over. I had a great time :thumbsup:

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I agree..the Grand River is almost totally ignored. Unfortunately, our buildings downtown were built with their backs turned to the river. Plaza Towers went and built a big parking ramp facing the river. I would love to see that area made into a big pedestrian boardwalk-type thing with lots of retail and little park-like features here and there. Just because the river is dirty (it is) doesnt mean we have to ignore it. This is one of the issues addressed in the 2002 Master PLan, so hopefully the city will try to take advantage of it at some point in the (near) future.

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I recall a river restoration initiative a few years back. It proposed the removal of numerous small dams that line the river route though downtown, even the sixth street dam/fish ladder. Also the adding of natural landscape features such as rocks and native plant species along the river. What held this up was the funding. Analysis of the riverbed turn up years of hazardous sediment build up. If the cost can be over come river restoration would be a great project.

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This is the key to a successful downtown, in my opinion. We need to use a city like San Antonio and the Riverwalk as an example. Every building with frontage along the river could be developed with restaurants, clubs, galleries, coffee houses. Festive lighting, landscaping and paving could make this the draw that turns around downtown. In another thread, someone posted a view from an airplane of GR and the amount of vacant land along the river is shocking. We have the huge parking lot (thanks DeVos) just south of Fulton, across the river and under the bridge we have abandoned warehouses...come on Grand Rapids! Get a handle on your best asset and maximize it!

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I read that the Grand used to shrink its banks by 20-30 feet each summer. Part of the reason the dams went up.

The Kirby Grill looks great. Did you know it used to be taller? I remember reading that they chopped off the top story at some point. Very odd. I am interested to see what the 2 new condominium buildings look like. Downtown Grand Haven is definitely hopping.

Joe

I think part of the issue is that the Grand River rises and falls so dramatically in the Spring and Fall.  I'm sure that is the reason for the floodwalls.  Wherever the banks are left natural, such as around I-196 in Grandville, it overflows the banks every Spring.

I do believe that if the river were narrowed, it would run deeper and faster and could make for some interesting rapids for recreation.

And the city is slowly working to separate the sanitary and storm sewers, with projected completion within 10 years.  Hopefully that will help with the overflows.  Every major city of note has some kind of body of water, probably because of the river infrastructure back in the 1800's and for commerce at the time, which is when many U.S. cities gained their prominence. 

I am definitely for making the river better though. 

BTW:  I can't believe you have never been to Grand Haven before, Urbanist.  The old Piano Factory/Loft Condo project was probably the first of its kind in West Michigan.  And The Gilmore Group renovated "The Kirby" a couple of years ago to its old glory days.  Very nice!

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

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I thought Grand Rapids was doing a fine job in making the Grand River a centerpiece of the experience downtown until I strolled along the banks this weekend. I was disappointed to see a dilapidated boardwalk, closed off to pedestrian traffic. Right in front on the Four Star Amway Grand it was a mess with xxx graffiti, overgrown weeds, and missing boards all for visitors to see.

I was also surprised to see the relatively new Canal Street Park falling into the river. It looks like the engineers on that project miscalculated the forces of nature. It's really sad to see all the broken up concrete and asphalt patches along there.

Also, how hard would it be to have the parks and rec folks clear out the garbage out of the river? It

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I thought Grand Rapids was doing a fine job in making the Grand River a centerpiece of the experience downtown until I strolled along the banks this weekend.
Edited by GRDadof3

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They did. And I guess they use a certain type of exotic wood that is backordered for a long time. That is why the boardwalk is closed.

That is a shame about Canal Street park. I worked in the Brass Works Building when they were redoing that area, and that was not too long ago!

Joe

I think a lot of that has been victim of the never-ending budget cuts.  And I think the sea-walls took a lot of damage from that huge ice jam this past winter (that was crazy).

Was there ever a task force formed to work on revamping the river?  It has been mentioned several times here, and I wonder if the idea could be revived.  I think it would be a bigger catalyst for growth downtown than probably anything else.  Maybe get the Army Corps of Engineers involved?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

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This summer had been the first time I had visited GR in a few years. I was suprised how channeled the river felt. There were those large concrete retaining walls, that had closed off stairways leading down to the river. Since I live in Saginaw, and also not far from Bay City, it was odd to see a river so closed off to the public when the good ole Sagnasty River is toxic, yet filled with recreational boatists and has riverwalks right up along the water. Ann Arbor has done the same thing, except, they have kept the urban city scene away from the river and left it natural for recreation purposes, but added in pedestrian walkways, boat launches, and has permitted people to walk on the hydro-electric dam as long as people don't damage it.

However, the Grand River has far more potential than any of the rivers I mentioned above. You guys are fortunate to have a well developed corridor on each side with hotels, businesses, convention centers, apartments, and parks. It wouldn't take much to make the river more pedestrian accessible and more welcoming for recreational purposes. I really hope to see this in the near future.

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It wouldn't be hard to make the river very nice in GR, just build some nice boardwalks on each side of the river, and wait for the buildings and people to utilize it. As Wolvorine sais, GR already has nice areas on both sides of the river, this is rare, Lansing is only heavily developed on the West side of the river, the east side does have the Lansing Center and the Riverfront Apartments (but they are subsidized) thats it, no major residential or business, and really no place to put any either. It seems like this problem should of never existed to begin with, there must have been some poor city management at some point.

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Hood, Lansing's Rivertrail was never meant to be commercialized. It was meant to be an urban trail system, and accomplishes that really well. Eventually, there are concepts and dreams to make the short stretch downtown into more of a tourists destination, but I like it the way it is. It's very natural and many visitors remark on how you can be right in the center of the city and not even know it. The different kinds of vegetation and the key points along it make it an awesome urban scenic trail. I use it VERY often.

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I know Lansings rivertrail wasn't meant to be commercialized but it would be nice if at least the west side between Shiawassee & Kalamazoo could be, the city is already hinting that they may allow portions of Riverfront park to be developed. But GR has everything in place for that kind of Riverfront, besides I'm not one for large urban greenspace, perhaps it's because Lansing has too much of this greenspace.

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Some progress has been made along the riverbank in the last 5 - 7 years: The small area next to Kinkos parking lot was made into a little park, Canal Street Park from I-196 all the way up to the water facility on Monroe was developed (used to be weed-choked dirt lots), the riverwalk was extended alongside the Devos Place Convention Center (the old riverwalk stopped short at the Civic, and the park around the Grand Rapids Public Museum was put in when that was built. Still a lot of work to be done, but it is getting better, IMO.

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OK, I took a little tour of the riverfront this morning to see some of the damage mentioned and others impressions. Here are some photos I took, starting from the Brenke Fish Ladder heading South on the West bank:

BDC7FBF0FF8A11D99147A1AB18F73B1D.jpg

A few blankets from the homeless under the bridge, but pretty clean otherwise.

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The area near Bridgewater was very clean, with flowers planted and crushed boulders along the bank.

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Nothing but that dreaded Purple Loose Strife flower and ducks

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I went up Ah-Nab-A-Whan park and across the pedestrian bridge to the convention center. I have posted pics around the museum under the "GR Photos II" thread if you want to check them out. The area around the Amway Grand up to Plaza Towers is closed due to ice/flood damage.

The East bank in front of Devos Place

C58C5B60FF8A11D98BF425AE18F73B1D.jpg

Not bad, except for access right down to the river restricted because of the ice damage

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Some erosion damage on the West shore at Ah-Nab-A-Whan

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Looking South on the East Bank

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One problem, nowhere to cross Michigan except to jay-walk straight across by the post office. But the riverwalk by the post office is all intact and very clean.

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Canal Street Park near the dam (fishy smell, but the park was very clean, not even a cigarette butt)

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These are all crushed boulders at the boat launch, which I can't imagine launching anything other than a small fishing boat due to all of the rocks

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Gazebo at Canal/6th Street Park

58E06BE0FF8B11D99F93EB4D18F73B1D.jpg

I do admit the brick sea wall on the West bank is not very attractive, but at least they painted it a few years ago. It used to be all discolored and rusted :(

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End of the line at the North Monroe Water Facility

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Abandoned (I think?) rail line that leads to Bond Street and ends at the GR Press facility

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Maybe they could do the East bank of the river like they did the Muskegon Channel:

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Overall, not as bad as I thought from reading some of the posts. I think it needs some work, but with the sanitary/storm sewer issue resolved in the near future, I thought it seemed very walkable and clean. It could use some improvement though.

Edited by GRDadof3

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GRdad, from the East side of the river, can you walk continuously from Plaza Towers to North Monroe along the bank?

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GRdad, from the East side of the river, can you walk continuously from Plaza Towers to North Monroe along the bank?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I don't think so. I think that is where the ice damage happened, and I believe joedowntown mentioned that the wood materials needed to do the boardwalk repairs are on backorder. You can go from the Fulton Street bridge on the West bank North to the pedestrian bridge at the Ford Museum, and then cross the river and continue all the way up to the water facility on Monroe. Not a bad walk.

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Well, I had been taking peoples word for the walks condition, but I don't see any problem with it from your pics, it looks nice and very clean. I had heard someone mention problems with graffiti, did you notice any? I know Lansing has some moderate graffiti problems on it's rivertrail but it never gets too bad thanks to Lansing's full-time graffiti removing team (which I don't particularly care for.)

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Well, I had been taking peoples word for the walks condition, but I don't see any problem with it from your pics, it looks nice and very clean. I had heard someone mention problems with graffiti, did you notice any? I know Lansing has some moderate graffiti problems on it's rivertrail but it never gets too bad thanks to Lansing's full-time graffiti removing team (which I don't particularly care for.)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I think someone mentioned that there was graffiti (I think it is more likely tagging) at the part that is temporarily closed right now. I notice tagging all over lately, and it just pxxxes me off! Sorry. Suburban punks with nothing better to do.

Edit: come to think of it, I did see some graffiti under the 196 bridges (on the concrete supports), but just your usual highway overpass poets.

Edited by GRDadof3

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I hit the riverwalk system again this morning. Just so you guys don't think I am sugar-coating anything, I got some shots of the damage and some graffiti:

Starting at Fulton Street near Plaza Towers:

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This is actually a sculpture built into the retaining wall:

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The path is open to the blue pedestrian bridge:

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Can't go any further on the East bank at the Riverfront Building (construction fencing is up for their addition<<<):

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River sculpture from another angle from the pedestrian bridge:

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Riverfront trail South to Fulton Street in front of Eberhard is open:

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Riverfront trail looking North, was open and you walk around the carousel building:

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Carousel building looking South:

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I then walked across the Pearl Street Bridge, and got these shots of the damaged rail in front of Forslund Condos (you can see the rail missing):

A213BE70004411DA99E4C6BB18F73B1D.jpg

You can then take the walk in front of the Amway Grand to the Gillette pedestrian bridge, where I got these shots of the other area damaged:

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Gillette Bridge

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The trail from the Gillette Bridge back South to the Pearl Street Bridge, overgrown, but very natural (and bugs)

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Graffiti under the blue pedestrian bridge:

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Some trash, but nothing a good boy scout troop couldn't handle. I think I have found my new morning routine. You can put on a couple of miles doing those circuits :D

We need a really great riverfront development at Fulton and Market, another one at the county/city owned site just North of I-196 (which Moch sold them I believe), and the post office site. That would be a great start :D

Edit: BTW, I did not see any erosion damage anywhere along Canal Park or 6th Street Park.

Edited by GRDadof3

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