Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

GRDadof3

Improvements you'd like to see downtown in 2012

23 posts in this topic

Thought I'd just start a new thread on this after walking downtown this weekend around the riverfront and Ah Nab Awen Park.

The bad news: the intersection of Pearl St and Front Ave is a mess. The lanes are all screwy as you are going East from 131 toward downtown, the concrete is crumbling, it's not very pedestrian friendly, and it's one of the main gateways into downtown. If you're a visitor coming from the North, South, or West, you most likely are being directed to exit at Pearl St.

http://www.bing.com/...504&form=LMLTCC

The good news: now would be the time to rebuild that intersection into a world-class roundabout, complete with a sculpture that doubles as a fountain in the warmer months.

http://farm5.static....e8e1650ee_z.jpg

Phase 1 could be to build the roundabout, leaving Phase 2 to raise money for the sculpture/fountain.

Also, there is talk of creating a network of non-motorized trails in the urban areas of GR, much like the Indianapolis Cultural Trail:

It'd be cool to see something that connects downtown to the zoo, to Uptown, to Heartside and the ITP station, to Monroe North, to Michigan Street, etc.. I see a lot of people running and walking at lunch downtown, and I bet that number would explode if people had a beautiful trail circuit to follow.

Also, the riverwalk needs some attention, particularly between the Fish Ladder and Bridgewater. Yuck.

Any other ideas for downtown that should get on the city's radar?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


Can't believe no one has any suggestions for downtown. It must be perfect as it is. :dontknow:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love roundabouts. Much better than 4-way stops, and faster. I learned to drive on them during a vacation in England (wrong side of the street, etc.) and still found them a great way to handle traffic.

I write this with some trepidation, however, as I have to face the Boston "rotaries" next month.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Suggested improvements to downtown -- big and small:

  • streetcar that generally follows Leonard, Seward, Fulton, Market, Cherry, Division, Lyon, Monroe
  • introduce whitewater course in river
  • improve pedestrian experience around convention center
  • remove one bay of parking along Monroe at the City Hall parking garage and line Monroe (across from convention center) with retail/restaurants
  • extend BRT up Michigan to Fuller
  • find GR's Dan Gilbert (Quicken Loans) that will become the CEO that champions downtown GR and brings substantial employers and employees (including his/her own) downtown
  • improve urban design requirements along pedestrian ROWs (case and point - new St Mary's parking garage)
  • direct investment dollars to new downtown apartment developments
  • ensure design of new urban market fosters synergestic adjacent development. also explore opportunities for greater value-added economic food cluster in this area (El Matador, Founders, etc are existing assets) - this should include partnering with area farms to enhance the product for regional or national sale (e.g. specialty cheese, butcher, bakeries, etc)
  • turn downtown 131 into a tree-lined boulevard
  • dismantle and reconstruct City Hall building along Grand River, and offer City Hall property for redevelopment
  • set goal of 10/10/10/10 -- 10,000 new employees, 10,000 new residents and 10,0000 new students in the next 10 years in the "greater" downtown area.
  • partner with homeless organizations to reduce adverse impacts of large numbers of the homeless that congregate on Division
  • the medical cluster concept has largely been achieved. begin next phase of the design cluster - focused on furniture industry (related posts), but also fashion, technology and architecture/sustainability

Shall I continue?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Suggested improvements to downtown -- big and small:
  • streetcar that generally follows Leonard, Seward, Fulton, Market, Cherry, Division, Lyon, Monroe
  • introduce whitewater course in river
  • improve pedestrian experience around convention center
  • remove one bay of parking along Monroe at the City Hall parking garage and line Monroe (across from convention center) with retail/restaurants
  • extend BRT up Michigan to Fuller
  • find GR's Dan Gilbert (Quicken Loans) that will become the CEO that champions downtown GR and brings substantial employers and employees (including his/her own) downtown
  • improve urban design requirements along pedestrian ROWs (case and point - new St Mary's parking garage)
  • direct investment dollars to new downtown apartment developments
  • ensure design of new urban market fosters synergestic adjacent development. also explore opportunities for greater value-added economic food cluster in this area (El Matador, Founders, etc are existing assets) - this should include partnering with area farms to enhance the product for regional or national sale (e.g. specialty cheese, butcher, bakeries, etc)
  • turn downtown 131 into a tree-lined boulevard
  • dismantle and reconstruct City Hall building along Grand River, and offer City Hall property for redevelopment
  • set goal of 10/10/10/10 -- 10,000 new employees, 10,000 new residents and 10,0000 new students in the next 10 years in the "greater" downtown area.
  • partner with homeless organizations to reduce adverse impacts of large numbers of the homeless that congregate on Division
  • the medical cluster concept has largely been achieved. begin next phase of the design cluster - focused on furniture industry (related posts), but also fashion, technology and architecture/sustainability

Shall I continue?

By all means.

I do have a question about: "direct investment dollars to new downtown apartment developments" As in, what?

Why would you put city hall on the riverfront (where?), and then offer a less desirable parcel in that plaza for redevelopment?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would like:

- Trader Joe's at 2 East Fulton

- completion of the proposed urban farmer's market

- Schuler's continued DT store

- Development of the Morton House

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

- Wind farm and a raised deck pavilion at the old Butterworth landfill site.

- Major crackdown on the number of parking lots being constructed. City should start taxing the land at the same value as if a 4 story building was on the site.

- Planted median on Market st.

- Degege and Guiding Light receive some sort of grant to build a new facility on S. Division and Franklin.

- A real rehabilitation of the Grand River south of Fulton, with the lowering of the flood walls and an extension of the river walk.

- Someone (please) buys those buildings DT that are boarded up and just rotting because the owners are crackpots. (Examples) Kendall building, the structure next to Richmond Stamping on Ionia, and the building by the Civil War fountain.

- A Bowling Alley.

- A real grocery. Not just a fancy expensive Whole Foods type place, and not a glorified liquor store either.

- The area around the proposed Amtrak station receives major investments for housing and retail.

- N. Monroe area receives more modest, doable projects. With 3-story buildings filling in the emptiness.

-Extension of the bike trail from 6th street bridge to Riverside park.

-St. Mary's gets bought out by Spectrum Health. Spectrum goes on a building spree on all the empty land.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


Scrap the city income tax, declare bankruptcy, tear up union contracts, you get the picture: Something to get the City back on a financially sustainable course so that there is actually capital available for all of the public works projects being proposed (particularly as property tax revenues implode). An empty fantasy, I suppose, but worth dreaming about. Someplace worth going downtown for shopping might also be nice, but with Rivertown and Woodland filling that niche, and Grand Rapids not really caring to compete, downtown retail seems like a childish pipe dream.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't see how eliminating a tax would improve the city's budget situation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

- A Bowling Alley

I love the Clique on the west side. It's also never full when we go. I'm not sure we need another urban bowling alley.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

-Urban Market finalization

-Proposed Parking lot development – SW corner of Fulton/Market next to Charlie’s Crab. Dreaming, but is a space that could accommodate a skyline changing development. Developing this would bring downtown that much closer to the 16 acres of city property that was once up for sale.

-Morton House – Would like to see this renovated into contemporary apartments in $750-$1,000/mo range. The Gallery and 38’s rent is a barrier for some young professionals to choose downtown. Those fringe renters justify looking elsewhere due to the price point (burbs). I would also like to see an outdoor rooftop bar/restaurant on top.

-Grocery store – I believe this was touched on prior, but a realistic, one stop shop grocer. Meijer Marketplace store would be a great fit.

-Long term retail vision. True downtown retail success needs a destination shopping experience beyond niche boutiques. An anchor store would help ignite a retail boom, and makes a statement that retail is here to stay. Driving the foot traffic and creating a central retail hub. High end retail (Saks, Neiman Marcus, Barneys, etc.) is not the answer. Grand Rapids is evolving into a more fashion conscious place, but still in the infant stage. The majority wants to look put together, but can’t/won’t pay two grand for those Italian loafers. Crawl, walk, run approach. Macy’s would fit that mold, but we have 2 in greater GR. Best fit would be H&M, Uniqlo, or an Urban Outfitters. The secondary impact to support this new influx of shoppers would have a strong potential.

-Off topic, but here is an easy one. Stop using a two building “skyline” photo. Also, the entire view from the West makes the height of the buildings look insignificant because the vantage point. Grand Rapids is getting more and more national attention. These photos make the skyline look small. I was rooftop at The Gallery a couple weekends ago. The view made the skyline look robust, and the skyscrapers concentrated. Riverhouse wasn’t just off in the corner, and wasn’t a profile shot. I am sure there are better examples, but a unified branding would be nice. I digress :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

By all means. I do have a question about: "direct investment dollars to new downtown apartment developments" As in, what? Why would you put city hall on the riverfront (where?), and then offer a less desirable parcel in that plaza for redevelopment?

Great question. Directing city investment dollars could include partnering on development projects through available HUD loans and/or backing a portion of the project through other available municipal bonding/financing instruments and/or new market tax credits. The key here is that we all know that there is sufficient demand for market rate rentals downtown - thus this is more a financing failure rather than a supply/demand failure. More importantly, if the City becomes second/third tranche investor in project - it limits the city's exposure while inducing greater investment and thereby tax revenue -- income and property tax. If the City were to partner, I would hope that ensures superior design and units reserved for those making less than the AMI.

Regarding the City Hall building. The building is of caliber that deserves to be saved. It is quality modernist architecture designed by SOM. However, the site design is lacking (sorry Calder lovers). The building deserves to be placed at an iconic location with greater visibility in connection with appropriately designed adjacent structures -- in a denser overall development. Perhaps the vacant lot on the river and Fulton. The City Hall site is a prime location situated at the base of the Medical Hill, and already contains substantial parking making it a fairly marketable site (see previous comment regarding Monroe retail for improvements).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great question. Directing city investment dollars could include partnering on development projects through available HUD loans and/or backing a portion of the project through other available municipal bonding/financing instruments and/or new market tax credits. The key here is that we all know that there is sufficient demand for market rate rentals downtown - thus this is more a financing failure rather than a supply/demand failure. More importantly, if the City becomes second/third tranche investor in project - it limits the city's exposure while inducing greater investment and thereby tax revenue -- income and property tax. If the City were to partner, I would hope that ensures superior design and units reserved for those making less than the AMI.

An article posted by Andy Guy on Twitter talks about how Milwaukee is doing this very thing pretty successfully (so far). http://twitter.com/#!/GreatLakesGuy/status/100626065537507328

"Still, the continued tight lending climate has made it difficult for some projects to obtain private financing.

The $55 million Moderne, developed by Rick Barrett, includes $9.3 million in city loans, and a $4.6 million city loan is helping finance The North End's $37 million expansion. The Moderne and 1910 on Water are both using private loans guaranteed by a fund overseen by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, while Mandel Group is selling tax-exempt bonds as the main financing for The North End expansion.

Beeline B Apartments are financed partly through federal affordable housing tax credits. All but 21 of its 140 units will be rented at below-market rates to people earning no more than 60% of the area's median income, said developer General Capital Group.

Despite turning to public financing, developers said the demand for rentals is strong, especially with younger people delaying buying homes in the aftermath of collapsed housing prices."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


Great question. Directing city investment dollars could include partnering on development projects through available HUD loans and/or backing a portion of the project through other available municipal bonding/financing instruments and/or new market tax credits. The key here is that we all know that there is sufficient demand for market rate rentals downtown - thus this is more a financing failure rather than a supply/demand failure. More importantly, if the City becomes second/third tranche investor in project - it limits the city's exposure while inducing greater investment and thereby tax revenue -- income and property tax. If the City were to partner, I would hope that ensures superior design and units reserved for those making less than the AMI. .

Sounds like more of a serious proposal than a wish list item. You should take it to the city and see what they say.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I know this idea has been spoken of in the past, but: I would like to see Amway (and other major local companies, eg. Meijer), eventually relocate part or all of their corporate operations downtown. Obviously, in terms of time frames, I am thinking in many years, or even decades. Still, with the gambles the Amway families have taken on downtown GR (eg. Grand Plaza Hotel, Van Andel Arena, etc.), which have all paid off magnificently to the benefit of all, there is more than a little reason to be optimistic.

Real estate does not seem to be a problem (tons of surface lots to build on, tons of old buildings in need of renovation. Don't they also own part or all of the Olds Manor building? Could that form part of a Downtown Amway campus?) Alternatively, here is a pic of Amway's Japan head office. Is there any reason we shouldn't have something like that here? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Amway_Japan_Head_Office.jpg

Companies like Amway moving downtown would mean a huge influx of people... and people who would probably want to relocate closer to their jobs. That kind of population boom is what we need at this point. People make any city what it is. Rick DeVos, among others, understands this...one of the reasons behind ArtPrize, as I recall, was to make downtown a "destination." What better way to do that on a permanent basis than to create the conditions for people to work and live downtown? I also believe that such large scale population shifts/growth, perhaps stimulated by private sector growth/relocation etc. can provide the denser population base we need to sustain a true multi-modal mass transit system.

These are just my thoughts. I welcome any comments/criticism.

P.S. Does anyone know how many people Alticor/Amway global/quixtar employs on the local level?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here are some other ideas I've had. Some are more far-fetched than others, but they should get people talking:

1) Reconstruction of the Western Wall (of Calder Plaza). Remove the Soviet-style stone facade facing Monroe avenue. Bring segments of Calder Plaza down, in increments, to make it directly accessible from Monroe. This could be done by working around the court, city hall and the county building. I think there are parking spaces directly on the other side of most of that stone wall, apart from the area around the foyer, and the garage entrance. Here are some innovative ways of integrating stairs and ramps, from Portland: imagi_pioneer_square.jpg

2) Relocate Whitecaps downtown, build stadium in the empty lot on Fuller and Monroe. Integrate street-level retail and restaurants. Arcade-style indoor/outdoor shopping, restaurants, retail.

3) A new gateway to downtown Grand Rapids: reconstruction of the 1-96 bridge over the Grand River as a cable-stayed structure.

4) The next time the S-Curve needs to be rebuilt, lets not rebuild it! Eliminate US 131 from 1-96 to Burton; re-route 131 to meet 1-96 at around O'Brien and Butterworth, following the tributary creek that runs between Burton and the River. Rebuild former 1-31 as a boulevard. Bike paths in the median, space for BRT or streetcars.

5) I know this isn't downtown, but... grade separation of some intersections on East-Beltline, with on and off ramps, like US 29/250 in Charlottesville, VA. Replacement of stoplights with roundabouts at on and off ramp intersections with cross-streets.

6) Who owns the land south of Wealthy, West of the Grand? I'd eventually like to see something like Seattle's University Village there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I know this idea has been spoken of in the past, but: I would like to see Amway (and other major local companies, eg. Meijer), eventually relocate part or all of their corporate operations downtown. Obviously, in terms of time frames, I am thinking in many years, or even decades. Still, with the gambles the Amway families have taken on downtown GR (eg. Grand Plaza Hotel, Van Andel Arena, etc.), which have all paid off magnificently to the benefit of all, there is more than a little reason to be optimistic. Real estate does not seem to be a problem (tons of surface lots to build on, tons of old buildings in need of renovation. Don't they also own part or all of the Olds Manor building? Could that form part of a Downtown Amway campus?) Alternatively, here is a pic of Amway's Japan head office. Is there any reason we shouldn't have something like that here? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Amway_Japan_Head_Office.jpg Companies like Amway moving downtown would mean a huge influx of people... and people who would probably want to relocate closer to their jobs. That kind of population boom is what we need at this point. People make any city what it is. Rick DeVos, among others, understands this...one of the reasons behind ArtPrize, as I recall, was to make downtown a "destination." What better way to do that on a permanent basis than to create the conditions for people to work and live downtown? I also believe that such large scale population shifts/growth, perhaps stimulated by private sector growth/relocation etc. can provide the denser population base we need to sustain a true multi-modal mass transit system. These are just my thoughts. I welcome any comments/criticism. P.S. Does anyone know how many people Alticor/Amway global/quixtar employs on the local level?

Did you know that Amway has employees working in GRid70 now? And they're growing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't see how eliminating a tax would improve the city's budget situation.

... because you don't just get to say, "We're the super important City so we can impose a tax the surrounding areas do not impose, and expect that it will have no impact." This is not Chicago. Companies do not relocate downtown because of the "prestige" of downtown. Business flees downtown because downtown is generally not an economically prudent choice save all but a very few select industries. Riddle me this: What happens if you move the Kent County Courthouse to the Beltline? Desolation, that's what. Attracting industries that don't otherwise have a good reason to be there is a challenge the City is not facing all that well. Wishing for all of these improvements does no good unless you've got a sustainable model to attract and retain people and business to the downtown environment. The current tax structure does not provide for this--not even remotely. Amway would have to be run by a gang of fools for them to move themselves downtown. It just isn't going to happen unless the powers that be stop looking at people with money as people with pockets for the picking, which is precisely what a city income tax does.

We used to have a scenario where downtown space was so cheap you couldn't give it away--that made it a bargain for many. Now, that isn't so much the dynamic. When the cost-structure hits parity or close to parity with the 'burbs, you have--like it not--got to come up with the next great thing to finance all of these projects. In the past, it was possible to put the cart before the horse because someone was basically giving away free carts. That is no longer the case. Hence, my odd desire to see droves of City workers hitting the streets coupled with a municipal bankruptcy filing in 2012. I want to see all of these infrastructure dreams come to fruition, thus my rather curious "behind the scenes" vision designed to save the City oodles of dollars destined to finance the future. :good:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But, at least for the short-term, that 1% income tax would need to be replaced by another source of revenue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
... because you don't just get to say, "We're the super important City so we can impose a tax the surrounding areas do not impose, and expect that it will have no impact." This is not Chicago. Companies do not relocate downtown because of the "prestige" of downtown. Business flees downtown because downtown is generally not an economically prudent choice save all but a very few select industries. Riddle me this: What happens if you move the Kent County Courthouse to the Beltline? Desolation, that's what. Attracting industries that don't otherwise have a good reason to be there is a challenge the City is not facing all that well. Wishing for all of these improvements does no good unless you've got a sustainable model to attract and retain people and business to the downtown environment. The current tax structure does not provide for this--not even remotely. Amway would have to be run by a gang of fools for them to move themselves downtown. It just isn't going to happen unless the powers that be stop looking at people with money as people with pockets for the picking, which is precisely what a city income tax does. We used to have a scenario where downtown space was so cheap you couldn't give it away--that made it a bargain for many. Now, that isn't so much the dynamic. When the cost-structure hits parity or close to parity with the 'burbs, you have--like it not--got to come up with the next great thing to finance all of these projects. In the past, it was possible to put the cart before the horse because someone was basically giving away free carts. That is no longer the case. Hence, my odd desire to see droves of City workers hitting the streets coupled with a municipal bankruptcy filing in 2012. I want to see all of these infrastructure dreams come to fruition, thus my rather curious "behind the scenes" vision designed to save the City oodles of dollars destined to finance the future. :good:

This view is not an accurate representation of how locational decisions are made. For a regional CEO to determine a new HQ location, existence of local income taxes will only be one of many factors. Other equally or more important factors would include efficiency of transportation/infrastructure, land prices, visibility, adjacent amenities, and the ability to attract/retain top talent. To say that Grand Rapids will never attract major employers downtown because of a 1% income tax is an overly simplistic analysis on the implications of taxing policy. If I were a CEO, I would happily consent to the tax if I viewed sufficient return on that investment based on the other factors. To make a decision based entirely on the existence of an income tax would be more of a political statement than a decision grounded in sound business methodology.

The other underlying factor in HQ geographic determination is that of inertia. Once a certain level of momentum is achieved in moving out to the suburbs (the past 50 years), or back into the city (perhaps over the next 10 years?), other companies will be more apt to follow suit. This can be witnessed in NYC and Pittsburgh primarily, but the beginnings of this trend may be occurring in Detroit and Chicago as well. In my opinion, companies remain conflicted to both follow the norm and distinguish themselves from the pack. Downtown versus suburbs is one of those areas where cities could do a better job of "peer pressuring" other companies to move downtown. The first company move can be used as leverage for further relocates. What is happening right now in Detroit with Compuware and Quicken Loans (Dan Gilbert) is an excellent template to follow.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
... because you don't just get to say, "We're the super important City so we can impose a tax the surrounding areas do not impose, and expect that it will have no impact." This is not Chicago. Companies do not relocate downtown because of the "prestige" of downtown. Business flees downtown because downtown is generally not an economically prudent choice save all but a very few select industries. Riddle me this: What happens if you move the Kent County Courthouse to the Beltline? Desolation, that's what. Attracting industries that don't otherwise have a good reason to be there is a challenge the City is not facing all that well. Wishing for all of these improvements does no good unless you've got a sustainable model to attract and retain people and business to the downtown environment. The current tax structure does not provide for this--not even remotely. Amway would have to be run by a gang of fools for them to move themselves downtown. It just isn't going to happen unless the powers that be stop looking at people with money as people with pockets for the picking, which is precisely what a city income tax does. We used to have a scenario where downtown space was so cheap you couldn't give it away--that made it a bargain for many. Now, that isn't so much the dynamic. When the cost-structure hits parity or close to parity with the 'burbs, you have--like it not--got to come up with the next great thing to finance all of these projects. In the past, it was possible to put the cart before the horse because someone was basically giving away free carts. That is no longer the case. Hence, my odd desire to see droves of City workers hitting the streets coupled with a municipal bankruptcy filing in 2012. I want to see all of these infrastructure dreams come to fruition, thus my rather curious "behind the scenes" vision designed to save the City oodles of dollars destined to finance the future. :good:

You do realize that corporations do not pay the 1% city income tax, right? And that companies are moving downtown and expanding downtown for the prestige? A lot of them. There are financial challenges to having a business downtown. The cost of land is one, meeting parking demands is another. Neither of those would change with dropping taxes or the city filing bankruptcy (absurd).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.