A downtown organization will look to a series of measures as a starting point to benchmark its performance and create a standardized approach to reaching its goals.
After the Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. executive committee narrowed down a list of more than 60 potential benchmarking and tracking metrics, DGRI now has a set of 15 performance measures designed as a starting point to help the organization gauge alignment and efficacy in key investment areas.
The recommended measures, which focus on six investment areas and overall organizational efficiency, were approved by the Downtown Development Authority board during its meeting last week. The metrics are intended to align with the purpose of DGRI’s public finance tools, goals outlined in the GR Forward plan, or fiscal responsibilities of nonprofit management.
Kris Larson, president and CEO of DGRI, said the 15 measures serve as a starting point for an annual reporting process based on 61 items that could be measured to help track progress and benchmarking.
“This begins as a starting point to understand the performance of the organization and staff, and most importantly work with various (downtown) boards and the priorities of the various boards,” said Larson.
The initial key investment topics include facilitating investment; mobility; livability; inclusion and participation; marketing, communications and vibrancy; and safe, clean and beautiful.
Within each of the topics, there are specific metrics listed to help benchmark where the organization is today and track its progress moving forward.
In terms of facilitating investment, the organization plans to measure the change in tax valuation within districts, and the amount of private investment leveraged compared to tax increment financing dollars investment.
In terms of mobility, DGRI plans to measure pedestrian counts and evaluate the perception of visitor parking availability through annual surveys and then work with Parking Services and the city to recommend improvement projects.
Performance measures in livability include looking at the number of households and the household affordability mix in the downtown area, while marketing, communications and vibrancy metrics consist of growing DGRI’s social media channels into a robust communication tool and looking at the ROI generated from DGRI events.
For inclusion and participation, DGRI plans to identify the current perception of downtown as a welcoming and inclusive environment and where improvements can be made, and also “align the representation of the demographic groups” in Grand Rapids with various leadership opportunities, such as on boards and alliances.
The two measures for having a safe, clean and beautiful downtown are putting together a stakeholder-driven qualitative rating on sidewalk cleanliness, which would be defined by the group’s definition of “clean” based on a numerical scale, and supporting the tree canopy in the downtown area.
DGRI also has performance metrics associated with organizational efficiency, including the percentage of Downtown Improvement District budget reinvested as direct services or improvements, the speed of project implementation, and the resources or leverage raised to assist with projects.
Brian Harris, board chair of the DDA, said what gets measured and what gets done is part of the reason for establishing the performance measures, along with two other important pieces.
“We will learn through clarity what it is we really value by setting these objectives. We might find out down the road — seeing progress or lack thereof — that these measures are profoundly important or only perceived important,” said Harris. “It is the right thing to do, and we are going to learn from it. Once we establish these measures, they become a billboard to the community. … It becomes a communication tool.”
While the 15 performance measures will be used this year to establish a benchmark for investment and efficiency areas, an annual update is anticipated as part of the State of Downtown event at the end of each fiscal year.
DGRI’s website will provide public access to the baseline data, goals and performance measures in each of the metric areas, according to a city memorandum.