GR_Urbanist

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

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Following the links on the article civitas referenced about the Dallas Calatrava bridge, I found an interesting little tidbit that should interest many Urban Planeteers. The Urban Market in Dallas is reporting financial trouble. Seems they can't make a go of it in downtown Dallas because there are only 3400 people currently living in the core. Heck, we could muster that many right now if you included downtown, Heritage Hill, the near west side, and Belknap couldn't we? Thought this was interesting. Dallas Urban Market

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Celebrity architects and artists have a knack for going over-budget, especially with large, challenging projects and most especially the ones that require new engineering methods.

And everybody complains--public officials, taxpayers, armchair city planners--that is, until the finished product brings in millions of tourists and all of their money.

I'm just saying, you hire a name for a reason.

I'm going to have to take issue with this view of 'signature' architects. No doubt its very true in the case of Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. That project was really known for how it brought tourism to the area and really pumped up the local economy, just by being such a cool building. BUT... Thats one great commission from a great client with a huge budget. After doing 'the big one' the high profile architects get asked to do all sorts of smaller jobs all over the country and world, and each time the little clients think they're going to be the next Bilbao, but it just ain't so. We have a Maya Lin ampitheater, but there is little doubt in my mind that this is one of her 'lesser works' or perhaps a 'secondary design' of hers. If you were to rank her artistic achievements... Rosa Parks Circle isn't going to be anywhere near the top of the list. I don't see crowds of tourists crowding onto Monroe to see Maya's design. So GR bought a Maya Lyn, but if I didn't know it, I might have assumed it was done by a city engineer.

These lesser "Me Too! I want a building by 'so and so' too!" projects often keep the designers office of interns busy, but generally don't receive a huge amount of "The Masters" time. There are some international projects whose situation is ripe for a really great star designer, but most are probably better off with local talent. You'd be amazed at how cool of building some designers in GR could come up with given the leeway, challenge, and the budget to do so.

Edited by Occam

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From the DDA's end of the year report:

River Edges Projects

The Authority has committed to installing river edge walkways along and/or suspended above

both banks of the Grand River from Interstate 196 on the north to U.S. 131 on the south end of

the district. Funds have been budgeted in fiscal years 2008 and 2009 for the walkway south of

Fulton Street.

Grand River Restoration Study

The Grand River is a focal point of downtown and the entire region. The Authority has budgeted

funds to conduct a study outlining potential ways to prepare and to improve the recreational,

scenic and natural aspects of the river. No dates given yet.

http://www.ci.grand-rapids.mi.us//download...599e50f7afa.pdf

Also, it looks like the blue ped bridge is set to get a paint job.

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I hope the developers wanting to get something going along the Grand take a good look at the San Antonio riverwalk and model their plans in a similar way. Not necessarily for boat traffic but bringing people downtown traffic.

The RiverWalk in San Antonio has tons of cool nightclubs, funky little retail stores, ice cream shops, etc...it could be a huge tourist draw and a great time for those of us who already live in GR.

Having traveled to San Antonio several times, I can report that the night-life there is indeed fun. But... the river aspect of it is a source of ongoing water quality issues. Many locals refer to it as the "trench". Aside from that issue, it is worth noting that SA has a much more appropriate climate nearly year-round for this specific kind of development. I'd think anything here in GR would need to accommodate our huge seasonal weather fluctuations. For an example of that, one could look to Chicago's Navy Pier. Although, like San Antonio, Navy Pier survives on a much larger tourist volume than we will probably ever get here in GR. Just food for thought...

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ugh... I mega-loathe Navy Pier.

Thank Geebus for Millennium Park (Chicago's Gehry mee-too project BTW) which is quickly becoming the most popular tourist destination in Chicago.

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Thank Geebus for Millennium Park (Chicago's Gehry mee-too project BTW) which is quickly becoming the most popular tourist destination in Chicago.

Is that such a bad thing? The City of Chicago spent oodles of cash on that project. Isn't it worth it being successful?

I rather enjoy hanging around Grant Park and Millennium Park. Crown Fountain is one of the best people watching spots I've ever seen.

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ugh... I mega-loathe Navy Pier.

As do I for many reasons, but Navy Pier does include much of what everyone has been saying they'd like to see downtown GR: small retail, dining of all kinds, entertainment, waterfront, etc. All with a flavor that somehow serves both local residents and convention visitors.

My earlier comments re San Antonio and Navy Pier are only conversation starters. Neither does exactly what I think we'd need in GR. But both do have components worth studying. On the down side, Navy Pier is too much of a carnival atmosphere and SA is too dependent upon a warmer climate.

I'd just like to make sure we don't end up with the "Rivertown Mall" version of a riverfront with nothing but chain-store-this and chain-eatery-that... all surrounded by a giant asphalt parking lot with numbers on the light poles.

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I was thinking about this very topic the other day. I think that there are two inherent problems with the river right now. The condition and the accessibility, can both be improved, but to what point. Currently the condition of the river it

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Well it is well known that the Grand used to be much wider than it is today, with Monroe basically travelling along the former line (and maybe even into the old river some.) With a wider river and smae amount of water flowing though, we had a much shallower river, which would allow for much grander rapids. What if we were to build an underground channel or pipe to help divert some of the water out of the river (and back into the river again further downstream) make the river shallower, thus allowing for rocks to be placed back into the river creating some rapids.

Not that I'm saying this is practical, affordable, or anything of that sort, but it is a possibility (assuming organisations like the DNR would approve). Who knows, maybe 50 years from now such a thing could actually be probable?

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Well it is well known that the Grand used to be much wider than it is today, with Monroe basically travelling along the former line (and maybe even into the old river some.) With a wider river and smae amount of water flowing though, we had a much shallower river, which would allow for much grander rapids. What if we were to build an underground channel or pipe to help divert some of the water out of the river (and back into the river again further downstream) make the river shallower, thus allowing for rocks to be placed back into the river creating some rapids.

Not that I'm saying this is practical, affordable, or anything of that sort, but it is a possibility (assuming organisations like the DNR would approve). Who knows, maybe 50 years from now such a thing could actually be probable?

I can't go back in the aerial photos earlier than 1938 (after floodwall construction) to see what the river width downtown was. I can't believe the river would be much wider than say around Ada or Johnson Park today. It was "wider" downtown than it is today because there were canals down both sides to power the mills. (I can remember the one on the west side at the Voight mill although most of it was filled at that time). I would assume when the mills were running at capacity in the summer, there would have been very little water in the river itself.

The more I think about it, naturalizing the river from Fulton to Northland is doable. Politically, maybe not but engineering wise, yes. I'll try to get some approximate cost estimates :thumbsup:

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Aerial photos are unavailable but maps show that the river was twice as wide downtown as it is now. In fact, the JW sits atop what was once an island in the river I believe.

119857327_c4836e90ea_b.jpg

(dredged up from http://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/index.ph...23034&st=60 )

I'm pretty sure there was another map somewhere which showed a larger area... I'm not sure where that was posted though.

Edited by tSlater

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Sorry my comment was confusing. I was complementing MMPark:Chicago as infinitely better than Navy Pier. The mee-too remark referred to someone's earlier post who said those types of projects are never successful.

As the most successful public/private civic partnership in recent history, it's a point MMPark clearly proves wrong.

If you've never sat on the Great Lawn at the Pritzker Pavilion, or even Butler Field, you're missing one of the most fantastic views in the country.

Reengineering the river to a "natural" state is probably not economically possible. I would rather we focus efforts on improving water quality than restoring any "rapids."

Edited by Greedo

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Reengineering the river to a "natural" state is probably not economically possible. I would rather we focus efforts on improving water quality than restoring any "rapids."

Very good point - and a string argument for completing the remainder of the stormwater system. And even with the NKSA taking pressure off the GR sewer system, GR will probably still face the need to upgrade its system in the not so distant future. This is clearly where we should be planning to spend our dwindling financial resources. The greatest waterfront development in the world isn't going to succeed if the river is constantly filled with sewer overflows.

Edited by FilmMaker

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Very good point - and a string argument for completing the remainder of the stormwater system. And even with the NKSA taking pressure off the GR sewer system, GR will probably still face the need to upgrade its system in the not so distant future. This is clearly where we should be planning to spend our dwindling financial resources. The greatest waterfront development in the world isn't going to succeed if the river is constantly filled with sewer overflows.

But returning the river to it's natural state would probably improve the water quality.

The dams in place actually add to the color of the river. The sixth street dam holds back the waterflow. Add in sunlight to mix with a slowdown in waterflow and natural sediments being carried from downstream will allow for more alge growth than if the river was freeflowing. Now compound the issue with fertilizer runoff from properties flanking the river. Even more food for the green stuff to grow on.

As for my two cents worth, I actually like the development plans GR as doing currently with the Grand. I like the emphasis of putting the riverfront to recreational walks and parks over retail and commercial development.

I remember being downtown in the mid-70's as a little lad, and that was a time where the river was truly being ignored. The 80's were the time where they started turning it around. Gillete bridge was coverted from auto traffic to a footbridge first, then the old rusting black railroad bridge was converted later to our lighted blue footbridge of today. (I can remember walking across the old railroad ties to cross the river back when the Ford Museum was dedicated. I actually bypassed the Secret Service pat down and screening that day by doing it! The fun things you could get away with back then as a young teen :thumbsup: ) Beleive me when I say that in 20 years the river front has improve 1000%.

To sum it up: Today you fish for trout, in the 70's it was carp.

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Very good point - and a string argument for completing the remainder of the stormwater system. And even with the NKSA taking pressure off the GR sewer system, GR will probably still face the need to upgrade its system in the not so distant future. This is clearly where we should be planning to spend our dwindling financial resources. The greatest waterfront development in the world isn't going to succeed if the river is constantly filled with sewer overflows.

The sewer overflows enter the river downstrewam of downtown. Any money GR spends in sewer separation at this point does nothing for the water quality above Wealthy Street. The same money spent in Lansing will greatly improve the water quality above Wealthy Street. Tonight's GR Press had an article on the fooding study being done for Plainfield Township. One of the possible improvements mentioned to reduce their flooding was a flood gate at the 6th Street dam. That makes me think again about removing the dam. Several benefits, naturalize the river and reduce flooding upstream. I know an engineer who specializes in among other things dam removal :) I'm going to run the concept by him and hopefully post what he says :thumbsup:

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Sounds interesting. I'd love to hear what he says it would do to the river.

Joe

I had a chance to talk to my dam :silly: expert today. Here's his thoughts: politically, probably not going to happen. He's been working on removing one from the Grand upsteam for 5 years and "all the parties' can't agree. Technologicaly, very possible. Cost :remove the dam approximately $1,000,000. Dredge clean sediment $1 - 2,000,000. Contaminated sediment??? depends on the contaminant. Streambed restoration - depends on what & where. He said a good ballpark number with contamination & restoration work $10,000,000.

To me that's pretty affordable when the City is spending $100,000,000 to remove the remaining sewage overflows. There's part of me that likes the river as it is especially above the flood walls (It was fun this summer on a Friday afternoon being the only jetski from Leonard to Northland Drive :yahoo: ) The other part of me would like to see it "natural" like it is from Knapp Street to Ada. (Jetski'd that one Sunday afternoon this summer. Saw one boat and only a few residences. One would never guess you were in a metro area of how many people?)

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Say you were to do this with all the planets aligning, what would the river look like. Would it be wider or narrower? I heard the Grand used to get really wide in the Spring and then look really small and dumpy in the summer / fall with a large swatch of stinky river bed. Would this be the case?

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Say you were to do this with all the planets aligning, what would the river look like. Would it be wider or narrower? I heard the Grand used to get really wide in the Spring and then look really small and dumpy in the summer / fall with a large swatch of stinky river bed. Would this be the case?

Uhhh, I don't like the sounds of that. Maybe that's why the dam was built, to better regulate a consistent width of the river in downtown?

Plus, didn't someone here mention that digging up the contaminated sediment would send a toxic plume all the way to Lake Michigan? As long as efforts are made to greatly decrease contaminated runoff from getting into the river, and finish the sewer separation project, I think the river will be just fine.

I don't know why more people don't boat on the Grand North of downtown. I think in front of The Boardwalk up to Riverside Park it's wide enough to even water ski (making wide turns), and definitely jet ski, and there's a boat launch at Riverside Park. The MSU water ski team practices and competes on a stretch of the Grand River West of downtown Lansing all the time, and it's much narrower. We used to hang out there during the summer in high school and watch the ski jump competitions.

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Uhhh, I don't like the sounds of that. Maybe that's why the dam was built, to better regulate a consistent width of the river in downtown?

Plus, didn't someone here mention that digging up the contaminated sediment would send a toxic plume all the way to Lake Michigan? As long as efforts are made to greatly decrease contaminated runoff from getting into the river, and finish the sewer separation project, I think the river will be just fine.

I don't know why more people don't boat on the Grand North of downtown. I think in front of The Boardwalk up to Riverside Park it's wide enough to even water ski (making wide turns), and definitely jet ski. The MSU water ski team practices and competes on a stretch of the Grand River West of downtown Lansing all the time, and it's much narrower. We used to hang out there during the summer in high school and watch the ski jump competitions.

The dams were built to divert the water to the power canals on both sides of the river. The "pond" above the dams insured a steady flow of water even during the summer months. If the dams were removed, I'm guessing the river above Fulton Street to the end of the floodwalls would look like the river as it is today between Fulton & Wealthy. During high flow, it's wall to wall, duing low flow there's "sandy beaches". North of the floodwalls, it would look like the river from Knapp Street (way upstream East of Grand River Drive) to Ada or the area near Johnson Park.

More fisherman use the river via boats than recreational boaters. I'm not sure I'm ready for full body contact watersking :unsure:. Remember Lansing & Jackson haven't done much to eliminate their sewage overflows. The water quality there is worse than GR in my opinion. My daughter competed in a canoe competition in Lansing by the river boat and that water was gross :( I jetskied on it from Leonard Street to Ada last year but didn't go swimming :rolleyes: Even when there hasn't been any over flows, theres a lot of natural sediment that is in suspension.

As for contaminated sediments behind the dam, soil samples are taken and the sediemnt is treated for those contaminates. It just isn't let go to flow down river.

Edited by Raildudes dad

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Uhhh, I don't like the sounds of that. Maybe that's why the dam was built, to better regulate a consistent width of the river in downtown?

Plus, didn't someone here mention that digging up the contaminated sediment would send a toxic plume all the way to Lake Michigan? As long as efforts are made to greatly decrease contaminated runoff from getting into the river, and finish the sewer separation project, I think the river will be just fine.

I don't know why more people don't boat on the Grand North of downtown. I think in front of The Boardwalk up to Riverside Park it's wide enough to even water ski (making wide turns), and definitely jet ski, and there's a boat launch at Riverside Park. The MSU water ski team practices and competes on a stretch of the Grand River West of downtown Lansing all the time, and it's much narrower. We used to hang out there during the summer in high school and watch the ski jump competitions.

Do we have accurate number of how deep the Grand is in the stretch you mentioned? Any unknown/unmarked submerged trees? That's why I personally wouldn't venture into the river to water ski.

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The dams were built to divert the water to the power canals on both sides of the river. The "pond" above the dams insured a steady flow of water even during the summer months. If the dams were removed, I'm guessing the river above Fulton Street to the end of the floodwalls would look like the river as it is today between Fulton & Wealthy. During high flow, it's wall to wall, duing low flow there's "sandy beaches". North of the floodwalls, it would look like the river from Knapp Street (way upstream East of Grand River Drive) to Ada or the area near Johnson Park.

More fisherman use the river via boats than recreational boaters. I'm not sure I'm ready for full body contact watersking :unsure:. Remember Lansing & Jackson haven't done much to eliminate their sewage overflows. The water quality there is worse than GR in my opinion. My daughter competed in a canoe competition in Lansing by the river boat and that water was gross :( I jetskied on it from Leonard Street to Ada last year but didn't go swimming :rolleyes: Even when there hasn't been any over flows, theres a lot of natural sediment that is in suspension.

As for contaminated sediments behind the dam, soil samples are taken and the sediemnt is treated for those contaminates. It just isn't let go to flow down river.

Well that was my point, the water skiers in Lansing didn't seem to have a problem with it, and they were downstream of downtown Lansing where overflows would go. And if most of GR's overflows happen South of Wealthy, what would be the harm in boating/skiing North of the dam? Is there any city upstream of Grand Rapids discharging (Ada, Portland, Lowell, Grand Ledge? other than Lansing?) I know Jonathan Rooks has seriously looked at putting in slips in front of The Boardwalk.

grrwymng, about 7 years ago or so I watched "Thunder on the Grand" near Riverside Park. These guys were racing in modified jet powered boats going over 100 mph on the river through that area. They only had to delay the race once when there was a log or something in the way. I think it's a perception issue that the river in non-navigable.

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Well that was my point, the water skiers in Lansing didn't seem to have a problem with it, and they were downstream of downtown Lansing where overflows would go. And if most of GR's overflows happen South of Wealthy, what would be the harm in boating/skiing North of the dam? Is there any city upstream of Grand Rapids discharging (Ada, Portland, Lowell, Grand Ledge? other than Lansing?) I know Jonathan Rooks has seriously looked at putting in slips in front of The Boardwalk.

grrwymng, about 7 years ago or so I watched "Thunder on the Grand" near Riverside Park. These guys were racing in modified jet powered boats going over 100 mph on the river through that area. They only had to delay the race once when there was a log or something in the way. I think it's a perception issue that the river in non-navigable.

Depth of the river depends on the time of year:) Late spring early summer is deeper than late summer especially if it's been dry. Having said that in mid summer it's probably 2-3 feet, maybe 1-1.5 deeper in the channel. Mid-August I watched a fisherman walk across the river at Knapp Strret (east) and not get his knees wet. It was a little deeper in the channel along the west shore but not to his waist. There was a couple spots upstream of there that I had to find the channel to have sufficient water for the jetski. My marine charts indicate the similar depths down near Grand Haven except for the marked navigation channel.

The water is deeper from say the Whitecaps down to 6th Street. My 23 foot Searay draws 30 inches with the I/O drive down. I'd be comfortable running it below the Whitecaps but not above. Even below I-96 I'd run about 4 passes at slow speed with my depth finder to plot the river depth before I'd open it up to full throttle. PS: If I'm trailering my boat and putting it in the Grand River, I'm going to put it in in Grand haven :yahoo: That's probably why you don't see more boats at Riverside park.

As for stumps or hidden logs - I always make a run upstream at half throttle with my jetski just to look for logs. Last summer, there was only one downstream of Jupiter and it was marked with a buoy. The water is not really deep enough to cover the logs. If it does, you can spot an eddy or ripple that tips you off.

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But returning the river to it's natural state would probably improve the water quality.

To sum it up: Today you fish for trout, in the 70's it was carp.

In the 70's, it was brown trout, the kind you find at 1300 Market SW, not a fish store :sick:. If you don't remember those days, let me assure you the river is tremendously cleaner today, even after an overflow.

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Sombody here suggested the idea of naturalizing the DT stretch of the Grand. So here's a quick 20 minute photoshop project I did to visualize the idea. Thank Goodness for Wacom tablets! I would simply bury the floodwalls with the naturalization work. So We'ed have a nice natural looking bank and still have the protection of the floodwalls.

naturalizedriverbanksf5.jpg

The source photo came from a shot I pulled from the JW Marriott thread.

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