$8.6M DDA budget backs GR Forward


The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority officially has its budget for the next fiscal year, and a pair of downtown building renovations will receive DDA support.

Following approval of the 2017 budget and Priority Plan at the June 7 Grand Rapids City Commission meeting, the DDA unanimously approved the $8.6 million budget at its meeting Wednesday.

The new budget plans for 103 capital projects and other initiatives and largely focuses on advancing the GR Forward 10-year plan, with 92 of those initiatives coming on the recommendation of GR Forward. Those initiatives, which make up 82.52 percent of the proposed DDA program expenditures for fiscal year 2017, include the renovation of Lyon Square, a conceptual redesign of Calder Plaza and pedestrian safety improvements at four highway overpasses near downtown.

“Now we know what we’re supposed to do,” board chair Brian Harris said following the vote.

The DDA also voted unanimously to approve Building Reuse Incentive Program requests for 63 Monroe Center St. NW and 443 Bridge St. NW.

Belford Development LLC submitted a BRIP request for $17,607.50 to improve the facade of 63 Monroe Center, current location of Jimmy John’s. The total project, estimated at $35,215, includes new siding, painting and reconfiguring the entrance to reduce congestion. The BRIP will cover exactly half of the estimated cost.

However, the BRIP agreement is unique in that the DDA is unable to record a historical easement on the entire building — one of the guidelines for approved facade projects — due to the upper floors having been converted to condominiums and under separate ownership. The DDA voted to approve the request without the easement, and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. Planning Manager Tim Kelly noted that future conversations about restructuring some of the DDA’s incentive programs will include facade projects.

The DDA then voted in favor of a $72,050 BRIP agreement with DIG Hospitality LLC to renovate the 10,000-square-foot building at 443 Bridge St. NW, whose ground floor will house The Sovengard, a restaurant and biergarten.

The total cost of the project, which will include a new electrical system, drywall and heating and cooling system plus improvements to surrounding vacant lots to accommodate the 124-person biergarten, is $750,000. The $72,050 grant from the DDA will assist with adding barrier-free improvements and installing fire suppression systems.

The Sovengard project was eligible for more than the financial assistance limit placed on BRIP agreements — no more than $50,000 or 50 percent the total estimated cost of the project — due to several sustainable design elements including the use of recycled materials, LED lighting and solar panels. However, because two of the four parcels are located outside of the DDA boundary, funds from the DDA may be used only for the two parcels within its boundaries.

Once the project is complete, the restaurant is expected to create 10 new full-time jobs.

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