Phase one of Calder Plaza redesign to cost $5.9M

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With food trucks lining Ottawa Avenue, Calder Plaza was busy place during the noon hour Tuesday. Most agree it’s a nice place to grab lunch — but it could be a whole lot better.

After a year of public input, we’re getting a better idea of what a new and improved Calder Plaza might look like.

In 1969, La Grande Vitesse and the 160,000-square-foot pad in front of City Hall and the County Building were part of downtown’s rebirth. The statue was one of the first pieces of public art funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

But 48 years later, there’s not much activity at the plaza most days.

The plan presented to Grand Rapids city commissioners Tuesday, which was developed with input from over 5,000 interested participants, is much more people-friendly.

“What we’re really focused on is that Ottawa Avenue edge. We think the eastern edge of the plaza has some opportunity to widen the sidewalk,” said Grand Rapids Inc. Vice President Tim Kelly.

Kelly said there also could be a shade pavilion and a cafe.

He admitted there’s much work to be done before the changes become reality. The price tag is one challenge.

Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., which is the driving force behind the downtown revitalization efforts known as GRForward, has to come up with $5.9 million price tag for phase one of the project. That funding will likely be a mix of public and private dollars.

“We’re really going to explore all opportunities, and hopefully can move something forward in the next couple years,” Kelly said.

Another question centers on what will surround Calder Plaza in the future. There’s the occasional talk of expanding the convention center. One option would take that expansion across Monroe Avenue, possibly replacing City Hall and the County Building.

It’s one reason any plans beyond phase one will stay on the drawing board for now.

“We want to be smart about it. We want to make sure investments that we make are going to be there for a long time, so we’re not going to rush into anything,” said Kelly.

As for a timetable, organizers behind the upgrade would like to have phase one complete by the Calder Plaza’s 50th anniversary in 2019.

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