Cornerstone will head DDA’s visioning work


(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Cornerstone Architects will lead a design team that will assist the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority in getting its South Arena Area Visioning plan underway.

Cornerstone has been recognized across the state for its architectural work in urban areas, having won the Governor’s Award multiple times for its designs, along with a host of other honors.

The VIRDIS Design Group and Williams & Works, also local firms, round out the team selected by a DDA review committee for the project. VIRDIS is a landscape architect and site planner, while Williams & Works’ specialties are civil engineering and planning.

“We are in the process of identifying the key elements with the DDA and the steering committee, but the basics are that the south arena area has a tremendous amount of potential and impact on Grand Rapids’ future,” said Tom Nemitz, president of Cornerstone, in an e-mail to the Business Journal.

“We will be assisting many stakeholders, such as businesses, residents and the public, to ultimately provide a vision of this potential and its positive impact on Grand Rapids,” he added.

The DDA board backed the review committee’s choice last week and gave Executive Director Kristopher Larson the nod to enter into an agreement with Cornerstone.

“We had seven or eight individuals review the documents,” said Larson of the consultant’s search. “It was a very difficult decision, but there were several attributes that separated Cornerstone Architecture from the others.”

The DDA allocated up to $50,000 in October for the visioning project, which has a goal of creating a strategy to further develop the public properties south of Van Andel Arena to the site for the new Downtown Market. The market opens at Ionia Avenue and Wealthy Street SE this summer.

“We’re well aware of the potential for development in that area,” said Larson.

Mayor George Heartwell suggested the board include Washington, D.C.-based planner Jeff Speck in the project. The mayor said he was impressed with Speck’s urban work and with what Speck had to say when he spoke with him. Heartwell thought Speck would bring a “fresh set of eyes” to the project. DDA Chairman Brian Harris, however, felt the staff should review some of Speck’s work before the board considers bringing him aboard.

Although the Grand Rapids office of Nederveld & Associates reportedly finished second in the project’s application process, the firm volunteered to be a part of it.

“We’ll do whatever we can do to help this project,” said Mark Miller, a senior architect and urban designer with the firm. “I have a great deal of respect for Jeff (Speck), but he doesn’t live here.”

Larson said he hopes to have the project done in April.

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