GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids’ efforts to revitalize the downtown along the Grand River made a lot of progress this week, with announcements on a site for the planned amphitheater and state funding ensured for parks and trails.
On Thursday, Grand Rapid WhiteWater, the group working on a plan to restore rapids to the river and make the river the center of a revitalized downtown, resubmitted permit applications for the project to the state.
“We still hope to be permitted this year. And if we are, we still can do some of the mussels work and things late in the fall,” Grand Rapids WhiteWater President and CEO Steve Heacock said.
The group originally applied for the permits in 2020. Months later, the state said it needed more details.
Studies on the project, which has a projected $45 million price tag, suggest the restored rapids could attract 500,000 new visitors to the area annually, adding between $22.6 to $30.04 million to the local economy each year.
“We will have the roar of rapids, we will have people playing on those waves — assuming that the state agrees with the design we’ve submitted,” Heacock said.
He said if the state issues permits this summer, crews could be in the lower arm of the river, from Bridge Street south to Fulton Street, as early as the fall.
Crews will basically split the river in half, damming up and working on the west side first, then doing the same on the east side. That portion of the project could be done by 2024.
Work on the upper arm, from Bridge north to Ann Street, would take out the 6th Street dam, replacing it with a hydraulic wall that could be keep fisherman happy while controlling invasive species. That part of the project could be completed by the late 2020s.
“It’s a pretty big deal, even though at the end of the day, we’re just taking out some dams and putting in some material,” Heacock said. “But it has a very substantial impact on who we are, and who we will be in the future.”