GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Grand Rapids is touting a “rebound” from the pandemic, saying downtown has seen hotel occupancy and new business grown this year comparable to 2019.
“We’re very fortunate to see accelerated recovery from the pandemic with all the economic indicators of job growth and new housing development, new commercial development downtown, there’s some very exciting projects,” Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington told News 8.
This summer, the downtown area saw more “foot traffic, hotel occupancy and retail openings than it’s seen in years,” the city said in a Wednesday release.
The city says occupancy of hotels this summer was close to 2019, with 38% more rooms sold this year compared to summer of 2021.
“I think there’s more consumer confidence and people traveling, both for business and leisure travel, with the opportunity to have vaccinations now,” Washington said. “Of course we’ve had a lot of our major events, fall festivals, ArtPrize came back again in 2022 and we’re pleased that will happen again in 2023, and that’s giving people a reason to come downtown.”
Twenty-one new downtown businesses have opened so far in 2022, the city said. Twenty-four percent of the new businesses are owned by Black, Indigenous and people of color, while 48% are owned by women, the city says. A total of 13% of downtown businesses are now owned by BIPOC and 20% are owned by women.
“It’s an equitable, inclusive growth opportunity, that the rising tide is really lifting all boats downtown,” Washington said.
“With the job growth that’s happening with the Spectrum (Corewell) relocation, headquarter relocation (to the) Center for Transformation and Innovation downtown, with the residential tower that’s being planned at Studio Plaza, there’s a lot of excitement happening downtown,” he said.
Other projects planned for downtown Grand Rapids include the Inner City Christian Federation Tapestry Square, which will have 56 housing unites for seniors.
Washington said there are still some challenges the city is facing.
“Like every city we have our challenges, we have our challenges with smart growth, we have our challenges making sure that it’s safe, and it takes everyone to work together,” Washington said.
The city says aggravated assaults are down 9.8%, while crimes of intimidation are down 11.1%.
City leaders are now looking toward this fall and winter winter as Restaurant Week kicks off on Nov. 4 and as skating returns to Rosa Parks Circle.
“I think people are really recognizing that Grand Rapids is really a great place to live, work and play, and that’s exciting part of our city,” Washington said. “Not every city has that narrative during the pandemic and recovery.”