Plan would improve square and walkway along Grand River

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Plans are in the works to improve a plaza with prime placement along the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids.

The redevelopment of Lyon Square between the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and DeVos Place would be the center point of the river restoration project.

“Today, it’s a highly underutilized amphitheater,” Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. President and CEO Kristopher Larson said of the square. “It’s not had a lot of love or improvement now for decades.”

The concrete is crumbling at the square and some of the bricking is damaged or gone completely. A sign tells people to walk around the amphitheater.

But GR Forward — the effort to make the Grand River the key to downtown revitalization — says it’s perfect for a gathering spot.

“This is going to be the new front door of our community,” Larson said.

Renderings of the proposed upgrades show a walkway down to the river, a large waterfall fountain, added green space and a place from which kayaks or other recreational vessels could be launched.

“This is going to be one of the most important sections of the river itself,” Larson said.

He said that if all goes well, the project could become a reality in just a few years. The Downtown Development Authority is set to vote on whether to move forward with design plans for the project Friday.

Work is already underway on the overall river restoration project, which includes taking out dams to restore the rapids and redesigning flood control areas as parks and tramways instead of concrete walls. Construction of an improved river walk and greenspace area that will run south of Leonard Street to the downtown area should be done this summer.

“That will help to really demonstrate and really showcase what this new trail system is going to be,” Larson said.

The price tag on just the river restoration part of the project is expected to be $36 million. Exactly where those funds will come from is still being figured out.

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