University of Wisconsin–Madison

Forward Downtown and River Action Plan

Type Policy Brief or Report
Year 2015
Level City or Town
State(s) Michigan
Policy Areas Civil Rights, Community Development, Democracy & Governance, Economic Justice, Education, Housing, Public Safety, Public Spaces, Transportation & Mobility
Signs of renaissance abound in the City of Grand Rapids. Cranes and construction dominate the urban heart of Downtown. The city is on track to recover all of its pre-recession population and now claims one of the nation's strongest real estate markets. And Forbes recently declared the regional economy one of the fastest-growing in the U.S. Yet this rapid expansion is contrasted by a costly degree of deepening racial inequity. Poverty, for example, grew faster across greater Grand Rapids in recent years than it did in Detroit. The unemployment rate exceeds 25 and 50 percent for Hispanic and Black citizens, respectively, in our urban neighborhoods. Even in Downtown Grand Rapids, generally perceived as affluent, 66 percent of residents earn less than the area median income. Clearly, conventional economic recovery and growth is not sufficient to solve the persistent racial and ethnic inequity in our community. We need a fundamentally new approach to systemically achieve growth with prosperity that is widely shared by all residents in the "new" Grand Rapids. Toward this necessary end, GR Forward recommends a series of sound strategies to simultaneously promote growth, equity of opportunity, and a more welcoming Downtown. Please find a summary of these proposed actions, targets, and success measures on page 34 of the full GR Forward plan. These recommendations reflect what we heard from thousands of citizens and stakeholders who participated in GR Forward's extensive engagement process.

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