DDA approves new annual operating budget


Members of the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority approved the budget for the 2014 fiscal year last week, a spending plan that has taken on a new format to reflect that the agency will be an integral component of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.

“There was a reshuffling or re-sorting of the categories to better match DGRI,” said DDA Executive Director Kristopher Larson.

The new budget, which goes into effect July 1, has $8 million worth of spending planned for the year. About $5.7 million of that comes from revenue expected to be generated in FY14, with $2.3 million being carried over from the current fiscal year.

“Total expenditures are just north of $8 million,” said Larson.

The bulk of the new spending will go into three categories: public infrastructure projects at $2.1 million; development incentives of $1.4 million; and $1.2 million in transit improvements. Another $585,000 has been targeted for planning activities.

Of the $8 million budget, $7 million will go toward existing projects.

The DDA plans to spend $1 million on 14 new initiatives, including $300,000 for a safety ambassador program. Larson said the ambassadors will do social-service outreach work throughout the district and assist visitors to downtown.

“This is a very common program in other cities that address safety needs,” he said.

Nearly $4.2 million of the board’s revenue will come from local property taxes, with $3.3 million coming from the budget’s fund balance. About $572,000 in income will come from four other smaller sources, with $355,000 of that figure expected to come from parking receipts the board receives from the six surface lots the DDA owns in the district.

Board members enthusiastically approved an amendment to their agreement with Parking Services, which operates and maintains the DDA’s lots. The new contract temporarily gives the board a bigger share of the lots’ parking revenue for the next two fiscal years, a figure estimated at almost $167,000 for FY14.

“After a couple of visits to the Parking Commission, they approved our request for two years,” said Larson.

Larson went on to say the parking revenue will be augmented by the income the DDA receives when it sells the lots to developers, a key facet of its Arena South Visioning Plan. He said he expects the DDA will get $2.1 million from the projected sale of the Area 1 lot on Ottawa Avenue across from the Van Andel Arena.

“There are tens of millions of dollars in those lots,” he said.

The new DGRI is sort of an umbrella organization for the DDA, the Downtown Alliance and the city’s Office of Special Events that emerged from the Framework Plan the DDA adopted early last year.

“This is certainly a huge change and something that should improve our work,” said Kayem Dunn.

DGRI will set up its offices at 29 Pearl St. NW once the lease negotiations are finalized. The board had hoped to occupy the ground-floor space on July 1.

“Our move-in date is going to be pushed back, probably to September,” said Larson.

The DDA’s operating budget now goes to the city commission for its approval. That budget will come back to the DDA in July, when it will be adopted by board members.

Board members also met in an executive session last week, which was closed to the public, to discuss a potential property purchase.

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