The president and CEO of downtown’s management entity has resigned.
Kris Larson, who has served as head of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., or DGRI, since it was established, submitted his resignation to the DGRI board this week, saying that he has accepted the position of president and CEO for the Downtown Raleigh Alliance in his hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina.
Larson’s resignation was announced by the DGRI board today in an online post.
Tim Kelly, VP of planning and development for DGRI, will serve as acting president and CEO of the agency, according to the board.
“This was not an easy decision to make, as the past five-plus years have been incredibly rewarding to me professionally,” Larson said. “I’ve cherished the opportunity to lead a group of talented men and women and helping them make connections between daily tasks and our larger mission to help downtown Grand Rapids become a best-in-class city. … Moreover, I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to serve at the pleasure of the boards of DGRI.”
In 2013, DGRI was established as the management organization for the Downtown Development Authority, or DDA, the Downtown Improvement District, or DID, and the Monroe North Tax Increment Finance Authority. Prior to DGRI’s formation, Larson served as the executive director of the DDA.
In addition to mayor-appointed boards of directors overseeing the DDA, DID and Monroe North Tax Increment Finance Authority, DGRI is guided by a board of advisors and five separate alliances comprised of citizen volunteers who help guide DGRI’s work and investment in the urban core.
Under Larson’s tenure, DGRI has worked with more than 100 individuals from the metro area to leverage public and private investment in projects, such as the Arena Place development, the Movies in the Park series that draws thousands to watch free movies in Ah-Nab-Awen Park each summer, and the planned $140-million Studio C! movie theater development slated to open in 2019.
DGRI has also has played a key role in the planning of residential developments, such as Lyons Edge, the “re-imagining” of Calder Plaza and several pedestrian improvements downtown.
Playing "a critical role" downtown
Kayem Dunn, chair of the DGRI board of advisors, said Larson’s efforts put the city “on a solid path for continued future success.”
“Larson has done tremendously positive work for downtown and greater Grand Rapids,” Dunn said. “We deeply appreciate his passion for city building and dedicated service to our community.”
Dunn cited Larson’s development of the GR Forward Master Plan — with a big component being activating the Grand River for economic impact — and the creation of a citizen-engagement model among his top accomplishments.
Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss echoed Dunn’s sentiments.
“Kris has played a critical role in transforming the Downtown Development Authority, spearheading the GR Forward planning process and elevating the importance of having a vibrant city center for a strong region,” Bliss said. “I am grateful for all of his incredible work, and I will miss having him as a partner in community building.”
Greg Sundstrom, Grand Rapids city manager, said Larson’s impact will be felt for “many years.”
“Kris launched Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and grew it into a vital advocate and planner of living and working downtown,” Sundstrom said.