Downtown organizational transformation nearly complete


Grand Rapids city commissioners transferred a services agreement the city has had with the Downtown Improvement District since 2000 to the new Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. last week.

“This is a transformation of downtown that will create new efficiencies,” said Mayor George Heartwell.

For the past 13 years, the DID has overseen the special tax assessment downtown property owners pay, maintained the district and its snowmelt system, and operated a beautification plan. It did much of that through the Downtown Alliance, which is being disbanded.

“The attached agreements between the city on behalf of the DID and DGRI establishes that framework and will ensure that the same important outcomes continue to be produced without interruption,” said Kristopher Larson, who will oversee a staff of 10 as president and CEO of DGRI.

“On a parallel track, the membership of the DID is being expanded at the recommendation of DGRI, Downtown Alliance, the current DID board and the DDA,” added Larson, also DDA executive director. The new positions will be filled with members who served on the Downtown Alliance board.

DGRI held its first official public meeting last week. At that meeting, alliance board chairman Bob Partridge resigned from the organization. Partridge said that since he no longer lives or works in the city, he needed to step down from the board.

“I feel it is important that the board that serves downtown either lives in the city or works in the downtown,” he wrote in his resignation memo. “I will continue to serve the Downtown Alliance through the completion of the transition to DGRI or earlier should the Executive Committee (of the alliance) wish me not to,” he added.

Partridge said a date hasn’t been established when the alliance will be fully transitioned into DGRI.

The seven-member DGRI board of advisors elected Ray Kisor, a principal with Colliers International of West Michigan and a longtime downtown advocate, as its chairman. The board then selected Kayem Dunn as vice chairwoman, the same post she holds with the DDA.

“DGRI represents a new era in our movement to catalyze downtown’s improvement and growth,” said Kisor.

“Our citizens want more from downtown and they’re seeing that,” said City Commissioner Ruth Kelly.

DGRI also authorized the operating agreements it has with the DDA, the DID, and the Monroe North Tax-Increment Financing Authority last week. The lease the DDA had for the organizations’ new office space at 29 Pearl St. NW was transferred to DGRI, which expects to be in the new space in October.

“I think this is an excellent step,” said City Commissioner James White of the transformation. “It’s a natural progression of what has happened downtown.”

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