The Downtown Development Authority committed up to $559,000 last week to make floodwall repairs and improvements at Ah-Nab-Awen Park. The commitment is just a portion of the nearly $8.3 million the board plans to spend in the district during the next fiscal year that starts in a few weeks.
The amount designated for the park is well above the $350,000 that had been assigned to the work. At first, the DDA thought it would only repair the floodwalls. But the board has since decided to make additional improvements to the park to make it more inviting for public activities and private parties.
“Frankly, the (project’s) scope has grown over time and I’m pleased with the design work,” said Jay Fowler, DDA executive director. “A number of improvements are planned for the stage.”
Those upgrades include adding a loading dock near the stage to make equipment easier to unload and a removable canopy that will keep performers and their instruments dry when it rains. “The stage is actually being extended to accommodate the canopy,” said Fowler.
Other improvements include replacing the asphalt walkway along the west bank of the Grand River with a concrete sidewalk and installing a new electrical system for the park. Ah-Nab-Awen can accommodate a larger crowd than Rosa Parks Circle and Calder Plaza, so Fowler feels the park will be used more once the work is completed.
Construction is set to begin after the July 4th celebration and finish before Celebration on the Grand in September. Nagel Construction will manage the work. O’Boyle, Cowell, Blalock & Associates designed the project and Geotech did the engineering.
“It’s long overdue,” said Fowler of the project. “The floodwalls were damaged a few years ago.”
Spending on the Ah-Nab-Awen Park project represents 44 percent of the $1.2 million the DDA will invest in downtown parks and open spaces in fiscal year 2011, which begins on July 1. Eight other projects are on the board’s list, with $234,000 being set aside as the DDA’s share for a reconstruction of Lyon Square. That work is the category’s second-most expensive project.
Funding for those projects will come from the board’s local tax-increment fund, which consists of tax payments made by property owners in the region. Fowler said revenue to the fund is down by 2 percent from last year due to a drop in the taxable value of downtown properties. He also said tax revenue was down in four of the DDA’s five districts, with only the Heartside sector providing an increase.
The board captured $4.55 million this year and is projecting $4.39 million for next year and $4.34 million for the following year. Fowler said he expects property-tax receipts to decline by 1 percent for the next few years. “It does raise the question of what the future growth will be,” he said.
Where the DDA money is going
The Downtown Development Authority proposed last week to spend $23.6 million on various projects and improvements in downtown Grand Rapids over the next five years. Roughly three-quarters of that total five-year investment would go to supporting developments and making streetscape improvements in the district.
Those two categories will also capture more than 80 percent of the board’s spending in downtown for the upcoming fiscal year that begins on July 1.
Parks, open space & cultural
Source: Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority, June 2010.