GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Two new social districts are slated to roll out in Grand Rapids as the city ushers in its third year of outdoor business space.
What started as a COVID-19 necessity to keep businesses afloat has turned into a popular trend across the U.S. The city’s newest layout for the spaces will be more accessible for those with disabilities and easier for drivers to get around.
Richard App, who is the retail retention and attraction specialist with the city, said the new iteration will “give (social districts) a more sense of permanence.”
“When we first started this, they were put up quickly so it could benefit the restaurants in the neighborhoods,” he said.
The two new districts, which were approved by the city commission earlier this month, will take shape off E. Fulton Street near Union and Carlson avenues and in the East Hills area near popular eateries like Maru, Brewery Vivant and The Green Well.
Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said that social districts “promote a welcoming atmosphere where people feel comfortable and safe. Each social district includes a shared seating area as well as multiple businesses offering unique food, beverage, and social experiences,” a release from the city said.
Both restaurant and retailers can utilize the shared space, parklet or designated park, App said.
“It makes the streets livelier and it’s exciting to get people out on the streets,” he said “And when you’re talking about the many different neighborhoods that we have them in, a lot of times it makes people slow down to check out what’s going on (nearby).”
Essence Restaurant Group learned of the city’s newest social zone from News 8. Tristan Walczewski said two of the group’s restaurants, Grove and The Green Well, will likely opt into the district while modifying their business model to a limited beverage selection.
“Beer’s great. It’s always good,” Walczewski said. “It comes in a can and is easy to open. So we’ll definitely have our rotating selection of beers over at Green Well, which is something they do really well. And then we’re going to work to develop a couple of cocktails that will be kind of available for everyone to roam the area.”
According to the release from the city, Grand Rapids leads the state with nine dedicated zones and more than 60 participating businesses. New parklets and the updated zones will start to roll out Nov. 1.