Grand Rapids has long been recognized for the number of public and private development partnerships contributing to the lifestyle and therefore the growth of the community, but the recent commitment of Mayor George Heartwell and city staff in a partnership with building owners and developers may be one of the most important to date.
The city’s acceptance as an Emerging 2030 District, designated by nonprofit think tank Architecture 2030, includes the city as part of a growing national effort to reduce energy use in urban areas. The designation would not have been possible without the might of well-recognized local developers, the U.S. Green Building Council West Michigan and the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum. Other districts include Seattle, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Denver, Los Angeles, Dallas, Toronto, Stamford and Albuquerque.
It is far more than a designation but rather a commitment to reduce energy use across the district (currently, primarily the downtown) by 50 percent and a reduction of water use and emissions from transportation by 50 percent in existing buildings. New buildings and major renovations would require further commitment to a reduction in building energy use by 50 percent compared to a 2003 benchmark, with additional targets getting to net-zero energy use by 2030.
A 2030 District Exploratory Committee will set a more exact district boundary and includes: 616 Development, Rockford Construction, Bazzani Building Co., the city of Grand Rapids, Consumers Energy, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Grand Valley State University, Kent County Department of Public Works, Midwest Energy Group, Progressive AE, Spectrum Health, Van Andel Institute and SMG, manager of DeVos Place and Van Andel Arena.
The April Earth Day recognition by USGBC-WM of building-energy “biggest losers” (actually winners) offers an example of the ability to achieve the goals. The biggest losers in the Michigan Battle of the Buildings represented 11.5 million square feet of West Michigan properties including Nichols, JSJ Corp., Muskegon Area Transit, Porter Hills, The Pyramid Scheme and River House condominium owners, among others. The 2015 competition (to be recognized next year) includes nearly three times the number of competitors, currently representing 28.6 million square feet and 159 buildings.
In late April, a housing report presented to the city indicated in the next five to seven years, almost 23,000 households will move within or to the city. The developers committing to new housing projects also are represented by the 2030 District committee.
The Business Journal also notes that development along downtown’s riverfront by virtue of the Whitewater initiative would likely be impacted by the initiative.
The city and business partnership creating the initiative is certainly likely to draw more interest in living downtown and a millennial population of support.
It is a partnership that will have identifiable economic ripples (including new technology businesses) and obvious long-term benefits.