New Green GR documents coming

As part of their effort to maintain and possibly even further the city’s nationally recognized status as a leading sustainable metropolitan area, Grand Rapids city commissioners agreed last week to approve a contract that will summarize the accomplishments that have been made under the community-driven Green Grand Rapids initiative.

JJR LLC, based in Ann Arbor and part of the larger SmithGroup, was selected by the city as the most qualified firm in a 2007 RFQ to assist with the Green GR planning process. The company was hired again last week to write a series of documents about the outcomes from that process.

City Planning Director Suzanne Schulz said the key manuscript will be a stand-alone, four-page summary of the Green GR document. The summary report will be formatted to match the city’s 2002 Master Plan and the 2010 Parks and Recreation Master Plan.

“While staff has been intermittently working on the Master Plan update, it has become apparent that a stand-alone Green Grand Rapids planning document is needed to support the efforts of community champions and to insure that the priorities of Green Grand Rapids are clearly and consistently conveyed to the broader community,” wrote Schulz in a memo to commissioners.

“The planning department is presently unable to develop this document due to the limited in-house staff resources,” she added.

JJR also will compile a report from previous efforts that centered on activities involving the Grand River. These include a plan to restore the riverbank, a feasibility study for a possible kayak course, an analysis of expanding the riverwalk, and an evaluation of the development possibilities for the city-owned Public Works Island at 201 Market Ave. SW.

“The creation of one comprehensive document that encapsulates these findings will be useful in future efforts for continued investment along the riverfront, particularly for the Downtown Development Authority,” said Schulz.

Schulz said this work is similar to other in-depth companion documents that emerged from Green GR, such as the Park & Recreation master plan and the soon-to-be-released Complete Streets Plan, which is in its final draft.

The contract with JJR is not to exceed $35,000. The firm expects to complete the job within four months. “They are fabulous to work with and we are under budget,” she said.

Schulz said some of the funds to pay for the project will come from a grant the city received from the Dyer-Ives Foundation, while the Planning Department will contribute $15,000 to the total cost. She had budgeted $20,000 for the project, but decided to keep $5,000 and distribute those dollars to neighborhood and business associations as seed money to help pay for smaller planning studies.

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