Grand Action 2.0 unveils priorities

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In 2017, the leaders of Grand Action, the group of movers and shakers behind some of the most transforming projects in Grand Rapids history, put their efforts in neutral.

The founders stepped aside, essentially saying their work was done.

We learned Monday they are about to release the parking brake.

And a much talked about site, the city of Grand Rapids Public Works, may play a major role in Grand Action 2.0.

“The amphitheater could be put there, and then what else could go on that site to really drive some excitement and create what becomes one of the most prominent assets within the community,” said John Katz, a consultant with Convention, Sports and Leisure International, the firm hired by Grand Action to determine the feasibility of potential project.

The development plans don’t stop there. Katz sees an expansion of opportunities that would stretch all the way to the parking lot currently at the southwest corner of Market Avenue and Fulton Street.

“This becomes a community gathering base 365 days a year, even winter events,” Katz said. “If we can achieve that, which we think we can, that creates a tremendous amount of vibrancy. It accommodates demand that exists in the market that’s current unaccommodated.”

A 5,000-plus seat professional soccer stadium in or around downtown and enhancing and possibly expanding DeVos Place for more convention business is also on the table for Grand Action 2.0.

Those projects were all part of a 2016 study.

But Grand Action 2.0’s wish list goes beyond talk.

They’ve hired the international urban design and planning firm Populous, along with local firm Progressive AE.

The firms will seek community input to guide future development along the Market Avenue corridor from Wealthy Street to Fulton Street.

Their work should be done sometime in January of next year.

“It’s really exciting and I’m looking forward to seeing what the next chapter has to bring,” said Grand Action member Carol Van Andel.

Founded in 1993 by Dick DeVos, David Frey and the late John Canapa, Grand Action helped identify needs, gain community support and shake enough check books to fund private-public partnerships for projects like Van Andel Arena, DeVos Place and the downtown Market.

It was a unique mix of power brokers with a philanthropic twist that made it happen.

The end results turned a downtown that closed down after 5 p.m. into a bustling place — at least prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

About $420 million was invested over the years with $130 of that from private funds.

Leaders put Grand Action into neutral in 2017. Now in 2020, Grand Action 2.0 is looking at ways to get the band, with some new members, back together. Their mission has been made even more urgent by the pandemic.

“We knew our region had to be prepared to hit the ground running when the health crisis subsides,” Van Andel said.

“Unless we plan now, we know it will be much more difficult to recover.”

DeVos says Grand Action 2.0 is also more diverse, bringing more voices to the table.

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