The Rapidian Home

Time to review GR Forward

Once-in-a-generation initiative to invest in downtown Grand Rapids and the Grand River corridor is open for public review.
Citizens involved in GR Forward decision making

Citizens involved in GR Forward decision making /GR Forward

Underwriting support from:
Proposed Market Street after GR Forward improvements

Proposed Market Street after GR Forward improvements /GR Forward

Gr Forward citizen meeting

Gr Forward citizen meeting /GR Forward

Downtown, everybody’s neighborhood, is changing and growing for the better- and Grand Rapidians right now have a unique opportunity to shape its future.

GR Forward is a once-in-a-generation initiative to prepare a community plan and investment strategy for Downtown and the Grand River corridor. The draft document is now available for public review.

The effort comes amid increasing awareness that beautiful, welcoming and active urban neighborhoods are key assets that foster opportunity, fuel economic growth and underpin the cultural vitality of regions, states and the nation.

Young workers and retiring Baby Boomers, for example, seek more and more to live in urban districts where residences, shops, schools, parks and other amenities are located in close proximity. Companies increasingly prefer to locate and invest in walkable downtown areas. Even in Michigan, walkable neighborhoods are starting to gain the market share of new investment and development projects.

The trick for emerging neighborhoods like the Westside, Creston, Madison Square and Downtown is to guide and maximize the growth in a way that matches the community’s vision and values.

GR Forward aspires to give local leaders the citizen-driven guidance and new tools required to keep building a great waterfront Downtown.

The neighborhood is stronger than ever. Even so, it still has enormous untapped potential, including an underutilized riverfront, vacant developable land and underperforming public spaces. There’s also the powerful prospect and priority of embracing equity and inclusion as the superior growth model.

GR Forward identifies these and other big opportunities and presents practical strategies to help the people’s Downtown achieve its full potential. The draft document is organized around six goals:

  • Restore the Grand River as the draw and create a connected and equitable river corridor

  • Establish a true downtown neighborhood home to a diverse population of residents

  • Implement a 21st century mobility strategy

  • Ensure continued vitality of the local economy

  • Reinvest in public space, culture and inclusive programming

  • Retain and attract families, talent and job providers with high quality public schools

These goals, and the 248 proposed action steps so far identified to achieve them, are the result of the most inclusive planning and public engagement process in modern Grand Rapids. The effort is facilitated by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., the City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Public Schools. Three separate citizen-driven steering committees comprised of 132 people guided the overall effort. To date, more than 3,600 residents, businesses, organizations and other stakeholders have informed the GR Forward community conversation with their perspective, ideas, goals and recommendations.

The Downtown Development Authority Board of Directors on July 8 recommended advancing the draft GR Forward document for formal public review and comment. The draft next moves to the City Planning Commission on July 23 and, if recommended, the City Commission on August 11. Both bodies will be asked to review the document and support initiating the formal 42-day public review and comment period as required by state law.

The public review process will include additional community discussions, official hearings and comment phase, thorough review by neighboring communities and multiple presentations to the City Commission, Planning Commission and various citizen committees.

Put simply, now is the time for citizens to ensure this important generational work gets done right.

At the conclusion of the review period, all comments and proposed changes will be considered and incorporated into a final GR Forward draft, which will be the subject of a September public hearing at the Planning Commission. Full plan adoption as an amendment to the City Master Plan is anticipated in October 2015.

Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. currently is organizing a two-month long “open house” period for citizens to review the draft GR Forward strategy, ask questions and submit comments. Please stay tuned for more details.


The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.