Street Talk: The network factor


Next week, during the Grand Rapids City Commission meeting, the strategic GR Forward plan will be considered for formal approval.

The plan has six overarching goals: restoring the river corridor as an inclusive community asset; creating a true downtown neighborhood that is home to a diverse population; expanding job opportunities and ensuring continued vitality of the local economy; reinvesting in public space, culture and inclusive programming; and retaining and attracting families, talent and job providers with high-quality public schools.

Another goal is to implement a 21st century mobility strategy.

That means providing a stress-free pedestrian experience for all ages and abilities, establishing an expanded transportation department known as Mobile GR, and completing the networks in and out of downtown.

The GR Forward executive summary indicates multi-modal planning tends to focus on “specific street design and how to prioritize use of space” — and streets cannot accommodate all forms of transportation.

Last month the commission heard a presentation by Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates on an early assessment of Grand Rapids Vital Streets, which will ultimately be developed using earlier street plans as a foundation. During the presentation, Karina Ricks, the consulting firm’s project manager, indicated that, while Grand Rapids is being touted as the place to model, its transportation plans appeared to “have been developed in isolation from one another,” using the same corridors to serve all forms of transportation.

The issue with multiple plans for the same streets is how to implement them in a “quality and comfortable way” and avoid conflict, according to the presentation.

In October 2014, the consulting firm Desman Associates raised another concern when reporting its parking needs and operations assessment to the Grand Rapids Parking Commission.

The 2014 Downtown Parking Study draft prepared by the group indicated there was “sufficient public parking in the downtown” at the time, but the existing parking supply “cannot accommodate immediate extensive development within downtown Grand Rapids.”

The report provided a summary of stakeholder meetings, which suggested nearly every one of the 18 out of 30 stakeholders who owned businesses or had interests in the real estate south of Fulton Street expressed “anxiety and concern regarding the elimination of surface lots located in proximity to the Van Andel Arena.”

Tractor pulls

Apparently, there’s anxiety in the agricultural industry about tractor colors.

Who knew?

Apparently Gov. Rick Snyder did, as he knew enough to avoid making mention of the color of the tractor he sat in during an anecdote he used at the 96th annual Michigan Farm Bureau meeting at DeVos Place.

He quipped, “I know better than that.” The room at the President’s Luncheon erupted in laughter, while Business Journal reporter Pat Evans was left with a quizzical look on his face as to why a tractor color would matter.

Snyder was full of jokes at the luncheon. Evans also learned the governor’s wife is always right when Snyder chatted about how politicians and organizations need to talk as one would at the dinner table.

He made sure to tell the group to continue making their policy book, as he reads it.

“One of the things about the public sector people often forget is, people try to make politics too complicated, and I try to keep it really simple,” Snyder said. “So when you do a policy book, and wonder if the governor really looks at it — I do.”

He finished the speech with a comment about the next policy book.

“I’m looking forward to that policy book,” he said, “so when you’re going through that, remember you have the governor reading this thing, so no sneaking in extra lines making jokes about the governor, please.”

Oh, and then there’s Pure Michigan:

“One of the fun things I do when I travel to other states is watch other governors get aggravated by Pure Michigan ads,” he said.

No Shave November

There were some hairy men roaming the halls of Varnum Law firm last month, thanks to No Shave November.

Tom Kyros, the firm’s executive partner, is a trustee with DeVos Children’s Hospital Foundation, and Kyros challenged the male members of his firm to participate in the No Shave November challenge to raise money for the hospital.

No Shave November is a national campaign with the mission of “growing cancer awareness and raising funds to support cancer prevention, research and education.”

More than 35 attorneys and staff members from three Varnum offices answered the challenge, letting their beards grow over the 30 days.

Together, Varnum raised more than $4,000 for the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital Foundation.

You can view the results on Varnum’s Facebook page.

The Downtown Market and Spectrum Health also celebrated men with beards last month, with Beards for Boys: Broga. Men were invited to participate in a yoga class at Downtown Market with proceeds going toward men’s health care research and the Spectrum Health Foundation.

Out of options

The earth’s care is something West Michigan needs to take seriously. After all, there is no Planet B.

That was the message of marchers in downtown Grand Rapids Nov. 29.

The marchers sought to raise awareness and stand in solidarity with the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, which is being held just outside Paris in Le Bourget, France, Nov. 30-Dec. 11.

The goal of the meeting is to create a united mindset among the nations on what can be done to affect climate change and to create some legal framework to move forward.

The march in Grand Rapids sought to show that West Michigan is on board.

“Today we have about 35 to 40 people who are marching in solidarity with the world for a global climate march,” said Mary Colborn, representing Global Catholic Climate Movement and march coordinator.

“It happened kind of spontaneously. People are marching all over the world. They marched in Manila, Kampala, Madrid, London and Wellington — they marched pretty much all over the world.”

“The thing we’re really concerned about is keeping the limits for the temperatures rising and of containing our carbon emissions. And so we’re really looking at development models shifting and the shifting of our perspective on how we’re managing our own carbon footprint and also our collective carbon footprint.

“We’re looking at good green business practices and green lifestyle practices.”

Colborn said many of the marchers were part of other groups, such as Citizens Climate Lobby, Climate Reality and Ban Michigan Fracking.

Colborn has participated in a number of marches in multiple cities to demonstrate the importance of the issue.

The Grand Rapids march was well received, with waves and honks from passing drivers, she said.

“I love the one sign that said, ‘The earth needs you,’” she said.

“We don’t have any other options.”

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