GRAND RAPIDS — A broad group of stakeholders on Thursday unveiled conceptual plans for re-designing public spaces on both banks of the Grand River through downtown Grand Rapids.
Dubbed the “River for All” project, the reimagined spaces on the banks of the river — including plans for a 7.5-mile trail — come as the Grand River Whitewater organization hopes to begin restoring the namesake rapids in the coming months, as MiBiz has previously reported.
“We have long seen the restoration of the river as a catalyst for future development in the river corridor,” stated Matt Chapman, project manager for Grand Rapids Whitewater.
Chapman added that the plans for redesigning the river’s edge come from a mixture of community input and support from a variety of stakeholders including the city of Grand Rapids and downtown and regional planning organizations Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI) and Grand Valley Metro Council.
“Through the ongoing collaboration with (those organizations), we have been able to coordinate these bold plans and establish a community vision for how we interact with our river and river edges,” Chapman said in a statement.
Included in the River for All plan are six “opportunity” sites along the river, stretching from the former municipal water department storage site just south of Riverside Park to the Fish Ladder at Sixth Street on the west side of the river down to the Public Museum at Pearl Street.
Taken together, stakeholders hope that the plans — which could over time leverage nearly $20 million annually in new economic activity, according to Anderson Economic Group LLC — will convert the Grand River from a largely passive asset to an active one.
“A revitalized riverfront will provide spaces and connected trails that invite Grand Rapidians to enjoy natural amenities in an urban context while also strengthening our community’s ability to withstand severe flood events,” according to Tim Kelly, president and CEO of DGRI. “As Grand Rapids transitions back to a waterfront city that embraces its namesake rapids, these assets will become gathering spaces that provide activities and amenities for everyone in the community to enjoy.”