Two Grand Rapids development and planning leaders are stepping into new roles and leaving behind a legacy of city and community redevelopment.
Grand Rapids Managing Director of Design and Development Suzanne Schulz announced she will leave the city and join the private sector in September of this year.
Schulz’s departure from the city was made public on June 25. Recently, she told the Business Journal she had accepted a position as the urban planning practice leader for Progressive AE in Grand Rapids.
Although she had served Grand Rapids for the past two decades, Schulz said she’s no stranger to the private sector. She had worked in the business community for six years prior to joining the city, and her desire to take on more urban projects made the transition a great fit, she said.
“Now I think is the time to leave because we’re about to do a new master plan,” Schulz said. “Knowing the work that goes into implementation and all the hours that it takes, I’m finding I wasn’t as excited as I should be.”
Realizing she’d done all she’d set out to do, Schulz said it’s time for another city planner to take over. In her new role, she expects to work both with the Grand Rapids development community as well as with city staff on new developments.
“I’m excited about the Progressive AE team,” Schulz said. “I’m going to a place where I know a number of the staff already, and I’m staying local.”
Schulz began working for the city in 1999, around the same time planning began for the city’s 2002 Master Plan, which encompassed most of Schulz’s work.
The city’s 2002 Master Plan also was the foundation for the past 20 years of city development, including the Green Grand Rapids program, which led to the creation of Joe Taylor Park, Pleasant Park and other green infrastructure projects, Schulz said.
Additionally, Schulz helped implement the city’s Vital Streets program, which won an award from the American Planning Association two years ago.
The Vital Streets fund, established in 2014, focuses on improving street conditions with the goal of having 70% of urban streets PASER-rated good or fair by 2031.
Schulz also was involved in critical work with Deputy City Manager Eric DeLong transforming municipal services to weather the 2008 recession without bankrupting the city.
Grand Rapids also said goodbye to Courtney Magaluk, senior project manager for the city planning department. She recently started her new position as city manager of Scottville.
Magaluk has been doing planning work for almost 20 years, the last two of which were with Grand Rapids.
She said it was a phenomenal experience to coordinate with Grand Rapids residents and business owners. While she always enjoyed planning, she found the pieces she enjoyed most were working with other departments and the community, most notably the South Division Corridor Plan, the groundwork for which she credited to Schulz.
“In Grand Rapids, you don’t always have that level of coordinated work,” Magaluk said, “not that that’s a fault of Grand Rapids, it’s just the reality of any city of Grand Rapids’ size. You need those additional layers of government to run a city that large.”
Coming into her new job in the much smaller city of Scottville — the population was 1,214 as of the 2010 census — Magaluk said there is an opportunity to revive the city’s downtown, which she said has come into decline following the arrival of larger retailers diverting business from the downtown core.
“I grew up in this area, and before, Scottville was much more vibrant,” Magaluk said. “In the meantime, all these big-box stores opened right next to the highway. That changes what type of retail can be successful here.”
The city already has laid a good foundation by working on reviving blighted properties and ensuring they’re maintained, and with her help, it will continue to bolster that revival, specifically for the downtown area, she said.