Jump to content

The State of Downtown Grand Rapids Retail


GRDadof3

Recommended Posts

DDA casts Tim Allen as pitchman

(in today's print edition, no can find on-line)

DDA approved spending $140k over the next two years for marketing campaigns that will include Tim Allen narrating a commercial promoting DT. (He's been narrating the "Pure Michigan" radion spots.) It'll include $50k from the DDA and $40k from Travel Michigan.

Guess other famous natives weren't available. Gillian Anderson has almost become a "do you know me?" commercial, and that other one is still dead.

How about Jack Kervorkian as a spokesperson? He has name recognition.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


It was my free addition to the KIAS. Soon it will be hip to craft your image with help from downtown clothiers, jewelers, thrifts, and hair stylists.

The High schoolers are clamoring for the total getaway package: 2 night stay, hip new makeover downtown style all for a low price of $400 -- Light rail to downtown is included of course. It's all about what you're seen in and at -- imagine Monday morning conversation, "Oh, Johnny, where did you get that fine image of yours?" "Babe, I got it downtown."

456727394_582ab58549.jpg

Edited by Rizzo
Link to comment
Share on other sites

...

456727394_582ab58549.jpg

That you, Rizz? Schaumbag is treating you well!

Last night I got the weekly spending DT up to $15 with a $5 dress rehearsal ticket at the Civic, bagel sandwich at the Friends (dang it Sam when are you gonna be open evenings?!?), and then wandered up Monroe Center for a dessert-like item.

Took a look in the door of Scary Morton's where a cooler at the far wall reads ICE CREAM. Appeared to contain various frozen items. WIndow shopped at Scary Wigs 'n' Hats (what's up with that absent signage space on the facade?).

Settled on GC Market where the treat selection is almost overwhelming. Besides pint ice cream, their front cooler has wrapped treats (ice cream bars, on a stick, sandwiches).

The fellow who took my money appreciated the scooped ice cream topic. "Two Choppers was the only place that had it." Someone should offer it for the warmer months. "Yes, maybe someone will open up soon with it." There would be room up here in your front area for a scooped cooler. He looked around, and agreed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


That you, Rizz? Schaumbag is treating you well!

Last night I got the weekly spending DT up to $15 with a $5 dress rehearsal ticket at the Civic, bagel sandwich at the Friends (dang it Sam when are you gonna be open evenings?!?), and then wandered up Monroe Center for a dessert-like item.

Took a look in the door of Scary Morton's where a cooler at the far wall reads ICE CREAM. Appeared to contain various frozen items. WIndow shopped at Scary Wigs 'n' Hats (what's up with that absent signage space on the facade?).

Settled on GC Market where the treat selection is almost overwhelming. Besides pint ice cream, their front cooler has wrapped treats (ice cream bars, on a stick, sandwiches).

The fellow who took my money appreciated the scooped ice cream topic. "Two Choppers was the only place that had it." Someone should offer it for the warmer months. "Yes, maybe someone will open up soon with it." There would be room up here in your front area for a scooped cooler. He looked around, and agreed.

Why only the summer? Winter weather and a walk through a cold snowy night never stopped my friends and me from getting ice cream on a January night in East Lansing. Or has the younger generation gotten soft? :blush: We'd even hold on to each other's ice cream cones to take turns making snow angels. And when I was younger, my parents and I almost never missed going to Jersey Junction after church no matter what time of year.

Someone mentioned something about a Dunkin Doughnuts (or lack thereof) on another thread, I believe. How about a doughnut place with ice cream in DT?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why only the summer? Winter weather and a walk through a cold snowy night never stopped my friends and me from getting ice cream on a January night in East Lansing.

Retailers think seasonality, and Weds was much more of a hot chocolate - soup - earmuffs kind of April day.

Or has the younger generation gotten soft? :blush: We'd even hold on to each other's ice cream cones to take turns making snow angels. And when I was younger, my parents and I almost never missed going to Jersey Junction after church no matter what time of year.

Whaddya mean, "younger generation"?? [whips out AARP card, waves it at screen]

Someone mentioned something about a Dunkin Doughnuts (or lack thereof) on another thread, I believe. How about a doughnut place with ice cream in DT?

Old-fashioned ice cream, bakery treats, penny candy place with cafe seating, WiFi, and a rack of sundries.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think someone mentioned this place, but it's new and they have ice cream. Near downtown and HH on Union at Michigan (it's a one way going North so if you drive come in on Union from the South):

458135803_429104d525.jpg

458135809_19a82e754c.jpg

Free wi-fi?

Even with cozy outdoor seating (pay no attention to the snow on the ground):

458135857_00f88a1c5b_b.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think someone mentioned this place, but it's new and they have ice cream. Near downtown and HH on Union at Michigan ...

Yep, I put it in the thread about the building across the street and down a block (which has not started).

I guess if you live in Rockford or Grandville, this is DT. But to me, that would be Monroe/Monroe/Pearl, where the Senator stands. Michigan and Union is a loooonnnngggg way from RPC.

Thinking about DVP, we need some retail/shops/cafes there, to help catch the afterglow crowd. But instead we have Big Ugly Govt Wall.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It was my free addition to the KIAS. Soon it will be hip to craft your image with help from downtown clothiers, jewelers, thrifts, and hair stylists.

.....

We already do this in Uptown. I've "borrowed" jewelry from a couple of boutiques to wear to parties & fundraisers. Since I'm a dedicated patron, the shop owners are happy to have me promote their product. I also love it when I can say that my "image" is all local first; from my purse, to my shoes, to my clothes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It was *really* hopping downtown on Saturday. Lots of people enjoying the weather, walking Monroe Center, etc. Unfortunately, no retail to support it but I was amazed at the activity. It was nice to see on the weekend with nothing special going on except people taking in the city. :)

Joe

Link to comment
Share on other sites


...

458135803_429104d525.jpg

...

Open Sunday! Not quite a land-office business about 8 pm, but probably paid for part of that gignormous white parasol. Five flavors of scooped, soft serve, the usual mix-in flavors.

Three dog-walking residents, a couple, a large Hispanic family, and a bike patroller, all sitting around in the nicely worked out eating area.

The residents in the adjacent house upstairs were blasting music out the window (how would you like to live next to a hot dog place?, and parking may become a problem (for four-wheelers). I counted probably 5 pieces of MOXIE's signage exclusive of the napkin holder and the tip jar.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Spent part of the morning in Holland, and the downtown 8th Street area was pretty hopping for a weekday morn. But I got the feeling that some people were there as tourists before the Tulip Festival storm later this week.

Some observations:

1) 8th Street is a great shopping area, but frankly (as GRTP pointed out), there is little else outside of 8th Street to the North. The highly polished retail district masks a sea of parking lots lining the back of all the businesses. This robs the downtown of a feeling of "urban-ness". They are starting to infill some of the areas North of downtown with residential, but there are a lot of surface lots breaking up any continuity.

2) South of downtown is a little better, because Hope College's campus almost butts right up to downtown. There are still a lot of surface lots breaking up the area though between campus and downtown. I can't believe there aren't more apartment complexes between Hope and downtown on these surface lot areas. Is there a parking ramp or two in Holland's future?

3) Although I love the amount of vibrant retail on 8th, I would not trade it for the more "big-city" feeling that downtown GR has.

4) There were A LOT more older and elderly people in downtown Holland than you see in downtown Grand Rapids. I thought they were from the nearby retirement village, but they still seemed to be arriving by car. If I had to guess, they like downtown Holland better than the malls (nostalgia maybe?), plus, the majority of stores in Holland carry gifts and nick-nacks, and the clothing stores seem to be targeting older men and women.

5) The pace of the pedestrians could be characterized more like "strolling" as opposed to power shopping. Even a much slower pace than the malls, and a much slower pedestrian pace than Grand Rapids (although GR's downtown seems to be more businesslike and energetic because of this). But more "strollers" on the off-lunch hour would be nice in downtown GR. Could they co-exist with power lunchers in downtown GR?

6) edit: oops, also free parking in downtown Holland as far as the eye could see. I don't think that's feasible in GR.

I have a ton of photos that I have to process before I can post them.

The Retail Group plans to meet this Thursday, and I think I got everyone that expressed interest in joining.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What do blank walls do for the retail in downtown? Never mind the obvious lack of space for retail. Does the further building of blank face buildings at street level degrade the environment by breaking up continuity? Does the breaking up of the continuous space at street level make it harder to create a retail 'critical mass?' I cross this over from the Fulton & Division thread from Dad's comment below:

Can there be something written into the code: "No blank walls anywhere, unless facing an alley"
Edited by Rizzo
Link to comment
Share on other sites

4) There were A LOT more older and elderly people in downtown Holland than you see in downtown Grand Rapids. I thought they were from the nearby retirement village, but they still seemed to be arriving by car. If I had to guess, they like downtown Holland better than the malls (nostalgia maybe?), plus, the majority of stores in Holland carry gifts and nick-nacks, and the clothing stores seem to be targeting older men and women.

I'd guess (having spent gobs of time in Holland) that this might be an influx of Tulip Timers getting a head start.

The times I've been downtown on a nice day during the business week it was a pretty even mix of adults from all age brackets. I've certainly never noticed a preponderance of old folks downtown.

That said, I think Holland is fast becoming the retirement destination of choice for Grand Rapidians. Heck as pointless as some of these lists can be, it was even chosed an a top retirement town by Money magazine: http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/bp...2006/index.html

What do blank walls do for the retail in downtown? Never mind the obvious lack of space for retail. Does the further building of blank face buildings at street level degrade the environment by breaking up continuity? Does the breaking up of the continuous space at street level make it harder to create a retail 'critical mass?' I cross this over from the Fulton & Division thread from Dad's comment below:

They make streets very unwelcoming for pedestrians. I know that much.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Personally, I have no problem walking next to a blank wall. Granted, it is 'wasted space' that would probably be better developed as retail or businesses. An entire city full of blank walls would not be pedestrian friendly at all, but I think them scattered about isn't the life or death situation that some people make it out to be.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's a test of the "blank walls and how it affects a retail environment" theory. Try to find a blank wall in Rivertown Crossings. :whistling: Or try to find a blank wall along 8th Street in Holland. I was only able to find one really (the one I posted that I thought could use a mural because it stood out like a sore thumb). Then go to Centerpointe Mall and look down the halls that have no tenants right now with big huge blank walls. I'll bet if you did a video study, you would find people walk twice as fast in an area with no pedestrian level interest vs. the latter.

Is 1 blank wall in a block of retail storefronts the end of the world? No, and no one is claiming that. But when 2/3's of the projects either underway or on the drawing board right now feature big blank walls for pedestrians, then it starts to be a bit disconcerting.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's a test of the "blank walls and how it affects a retail environment" theory. Try to find a blank wall in Rivertown Crossings. :whistling: Or try to find a blank wall along 8th Street in Holland. I was only able to find one really (the one I posted that I thought could use a mural because it stood out like a sore thumb). Then go to Centerpointe Mall and look down the halls that have no tenants right now with big huge blank walls. I'll bet if you did a video study, you would find people walk twice as fast in an area with no pedestrian level interest vs. the latter.

Is 1 blank wall in a block of retail storefronts the end of the world? No, and no one is claiming that. But when 2/3's of the projects either underway or on the drawing board right now feature big blank walls for pedestrians, then it starts to be a bit disconcerting.

What about plotting all current retail spaces, possible retail spaces, and any spaces that break up the continuity of possible or existing retail space in downtown (at street level.) Maybe this can help the task force form a plan to best help the retail situation.

At the very least I think we could see where the most retail and possible retail space is concentrated in a corridor and concentrate on that.

Edited by Rizzo
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What about plotting all current retail spaces, possible retail spaces, and any spaces that break up the continuity of possible or existing retail space in downtown (at street level.) Maybe this can help the task force form a plan to best help the retail situation.

At the very least I think we could see where the most retail and possible retail space is concentrated in a corridor and concentrate on that.

We walked around downtown this evening and noted some areas like this. Here are some of the things that come to mind:

  • The opening south of the Founders building. GRDad mentioned that it was getting a facelift, so could be good.
  • The Ellis lot entrance between the Dog Pit and Tre Cugini. It's a waste of great space. Could be a park, infill, or number of other uses.
  • Entrance to building occupied by Atwell Hicks has no signage or anything. It just looks like a vacant storefront.
  • Vacancies in old Two Choppers and Van Hoeks Shoes
  • Vacant space on both sides of Monroe Ctr. between Ottawa and Ionia (Old Fox's, Morton House, Riverbank Books)
  • Old Market on north side of Monroe Ctr. accross from Grand Central Market. Huge space.
  • Parking Lot between the BOB, TGI Fridays, and Ottawa.
  • Other buliding entrances appear as if they are vacant storefronts instead of entrances to great work spaces.
  • Kendall Building (next to Reynolds and Children's Museum) is vacant and boarded up
  • JA building disjoins Heartside/Division Art District from CBD
  • Dodds Music???
  • Empty lot...duh, at Fulton & Division
  • More vacancies/deteriorated buildings along Division
  • Lot Behind JA building
  • Keeler? Building north of the Civic Theater has vacancies/little retail

Everybody else feel free to add

Other observations:

Protruding signage would help throughout CBD. When you look north on Ottawa from Monroe Ctr., it just looks like a brick wall. You cannot see any signage for any businesses. The same can be said for other businesses on Monroe Ctr...until you get to Anginas, Little Bohemia, and Cafe Solace. Also, City Signs, only face the direction of oncoming traffic. So, if you are a pedestrian walking north on Ottawa, you just see green...no text or pictures. Furthermore, pedestrian maps only show building addresses and large organizations. There is no mention of specific businesses, restaurants, or retail stores to assist visitors and other consumers. Finally, Children's Museum has no signs that identify itself from the West/Southwest...unless you count the blue awnings.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Our small and intrepid group met at Urban Mill (where they had a new coffee sample to try--orange something...) and we talked about various aspects of DT retail. Compared to Holland (Jeff's recent pics). What do we need here? What's missing? Rather than sit inside, we hit the pavement, and found ourselves on Monroe and Monroe Center. Pretending to be tourist and newcomers, we went looking for someplace to spend money and buy something that wasn't coffee or food at 7:30 pm on a Thursday night.

Eyewear: useful (closed). Three food places (the middle one closed). Then a big open space that's useless to peds and shoppers. Why is there a car entrance to the parking lot here, Jeff wondered. Blank walls. Unfriendly. How much of the KIA$$$$ could have been used to landscape this up? (This was not the first time the KIAS program was, um, discussed, nor would it be the last.)

Here the crew attempts to figure out a wayfinding sign.

PICT0073.jpg

Continuing up the street, there's luggage (closed). They have umbrellas; earmuffs would have been logical. Jewelry (closed). More food (closed).

Some projecting business signage would be really helpful on Ottawa. There's nothing to draw the ped down that street and make us want to turn the corner.

PICT0072.jpg

Here they are reading the list of signs on the building with Local Mocha and Curves. Yep, hanging signage would help. (Everything was closed there too.)

PICT0074.jpg

"Old man" shoes (closed), vacant, vacant, under contruction...you get the idea. It wasn't until we got to Little Bohemia and the shoe boutique that we found open storefronts and shoppers shopping.

More to follow...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.