Downtown development agency backs Street Party and Art Downtown


The Local First Street Party is in its 10th year. The event takes place in front of Bistro Bella Vita in early June. Courtesy

The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority has decided to provide financial support for two upcoming events downtown. But in both cases, the support was less than requested.

The board awarded $3,700 to help Local First cover some of its city-related expenses to put on its annual Street Party. This year marks the 10th year for the event, which takes place June 1 from noon until midnight on Weston Street between Ottawa and Market avenues near the Bistro Bella Vita restaurant.

“Not only is the Street Party a personal favorite, it is a great evening for our business as the crowd from the Street Party flows in and out of our restaurant throughout the course of the evening,” wrote James Berg, managing partner of the Essence Restaurant Group, which owns the Bistro, in a letter of support for the event.

“The Local First Street Party also creates excitement for other bars and restaurants in the Arena District,” he added.

The Street Party celebrates all things that are local, including food, music and beer. This year’s party also will offer a family-friendly section with activities geared to young children, as well as a market and activity area for local artists. More than 10,000 have attended previous events.

Local First had asked the DDA for $20,000 in financial support. The nonprofit organization reported to the board that it will cost about $97,000 to produce this year’s Street Party and it hopes to raise $85,000 in sponsorships from local businesses, food and beverage contributions and in-kind trade arrangements. But at this point in time, that revenue hasn’t been secured.

Local First Executive Director Elissa Hillary is a DDA board member. She wasn’t present at the meeting and didn’t vote on the funding resolution so there isn’t a conflict of interest surrounding the award.

The DDA also awarded $6,050 to support the Avenue of the Arts’ “Art Downtown” event and Market that Dwelling Place of Grand Rapids is sponsoring. The event begins on April 12 and runs through Dec. 14 on South Division Avenue between Fulton and Wealthy streets.

The “event” is actually a series of four events that run over six evenings. Art Downtown kicks everything off on April 12. The Market will open in June and July. The Free Radical is set for Nov. 1 and 8, and Urban Lights happens in December.

The idea behind these events is to create retail activity and new opportunities for local artists and businesses and to reinforce downtown as a center for creative activity. More than 500 artists and 25 local businesses and organizations are expected to participate this year. This is the ninth year for the Avenue of the Arts series of events.

Dwelling Place had requested a $13,000 grant from the DDA for Art Downtown and the Market. Art Downtown has a budget of just under $40,000, while the Market’s expenses total slightly more than $30,000.DDA Executive Director Kristopher Larson indicated that the board should encourage event sponsorsto find ways to make their events more financially sustainable.

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