The Rapidian

Downtown Grand Rapids Inc joins efforts of several groups under one roof

The recently formed Downtown Grand Rapids Inc hopes to increase efficiency and communication to further improve downtown.

Downtown Grand Rapids Inc Information

Contact DGRI

The DGRI location at 29 Pearl Street

The DGRI location at 29 Pearl Street /Nicole Merte

Previously there were three different groups focusing on improving Grand Rapids in various and sometimes overlapping ways. These groups include the Downtown Development Authority, the Downtown Alliance and Downtown Improvement District. In 2010, a new way of combining these efforts was brought forward and by 2012, the structure of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. was defined. The first board meeting was on October 28 and the board appointed Ray Kisor as chair and Kayem Dunn as vice chair.

This change with DGRI was seen as necessary to increase communication between groups and reduce redundancies that they saw as inefficient and costly. 

"There were a lot of overlaps. The DDA was in the city hall renting space from the city and marketing was handled by the city and they were renting space from the police department. The DA was at 77 Monroe renting space and each one of those organizations has staff that wouldn't in the same room," says Kisor.

Now these organizations are in one building at 29 Pearl NW to increase communication and avoid overlaps to work on problems together. The DGRI board oversees the rest of the operations and coordinates the combined efforts to improve downtown. When a recommendation to change some aspect of the city arises, they are brought to the heads of each organization such as the DDA for example. Each head of the separate organizations has a seat on the DGRI board and gain support for those activities they want to pursue. This is a major change from the previous structure.

"[These groups] weren't in the locations where someone could walk in off the street, ask a question and get pointed to a person that could actually answer their questions, help them, sit down and think through what role they would like to play in the community, what project they wanted to move forward with and not know how to do it, what retail store to open and what kind of help or assistance is out there to help them through this process," says Kisor. "So through that two year period of interaction between the three organizations, a framework plan was created that would bring all three under a single location, pretty much on an income neutral basis and get everyone in a collaborative environment where they could not be doing something in a repetitive nature."

One of the main goals of the DGRI is communication. They want to relay information to entice people into the city but also work on improving downtown itself. This could include keeping the city clean, helping to decide store location and the general direction of the city in the future. DGRI encourages input from citizens who have ideas to improve downtown and want to get involved.

"The group should really be considered funding resources and think of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc as just a new way to make the best use of funds," says Dunn.

"Its whole goal is engagement of the public and a very positive balance and the creation of a new partnership that the community can turn to that is a really effective and cost-efficient approach to the community," says Kisor. "So all of this was engaged to reach out and involve more people and directing the future of downtown, provide a role to the city and new partnership structures that preserve existing strengths in a new structure."

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