The Downtown Development Authority approved plans this morning for making downtown safer and more inviting.
The board approved $15,000 toward a downtown bicycle and pedestrian safety enhancement plan and authorized a $74,000 contract to update the city’s 2006 streetscape design guidelines with a goal of making streets and sidewalks “captivating.”
Bicycle and pedestrian safety
The plan for bicycle and pedestrian safety is part of the GR Forward initiative by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and aims to prioritize “pedestrian safety and connectivity at intersections” for a “stress-free experience” for walkers of all ages.
The DDA will collaborate with Mobile GR and the city’s Traffic Safety and Engineering departments to fund and implement a study and then roll out the changes.
Intersections targeted for study tied to pedestrian traffic include Fulton and Ottawa, Fulton and Ionia, Fulton and Market/Monroe, and Monroe and Campau.
Safety enhancements the groups will consider include pedestrian countdown timers, “zebra” or “ladder” crosswalks, pedestrian refuge islands or raised medians, eliminating turns on red lights and pedestrian scrambles.
The plan will also address bicycle safety by analyzing and implementing a proposal to add a “north-south bicycle facility” on Division Avenue between Fulton and Lyon streets, which would include installing a pilot lane.
“As someone who uses that lane regularly on my bike, this will be very welcome,” said Wendy Falb, DDA board member.
The DDA plans to complete the project by next spring.
The city’s existing streetscape plan was developed in 2006, and downtown has changed significantly since then.
Mark Miller, urban designer, architect and planner at Nederveld, said the old streetscape was not designed for the comfort of passersby.
“We want to begin to think about not just benches, lights, trees and landscaping, but how do we invite people into those spaces," Miller said. "They have to want to be able to stay there in order for it to be captivating."
The DDA will pay for $74,760 (80 percent) of the project’s planned cost of $93,450, and the Monroe North Tax Increment Financing Authority will pay for the remaining 20 percent.
The new streetscape document is expected to be completed by April 2018.