Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and the Constant Evolution of Placemaking and City Building

Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI) was created in 2013 with the goal of bringing several economic development tools and organizations under one roof (the GR Downtown Development Authority, the Downtown Improvement District, and the Monroe North Tax Increment Finance Authority).

Ten years later, Downtown has experienced a significant transformation. New developments full of people living, working, and playing have replaced surface parking lots. Parks and public spaces have been revitalized and enhanced. Urban recreation amenities like the skate park at 555 Monroe and Las Canchas de Futbol Communitarias (The Community Futsal Courts) on Seward Avenue have created more space for people to be active and play Downtown. Public art creation is now a constant as new murals, sculptures and other installations bring vibrancy to previously blank walls and empty spaces. Vacant storefronts have been filled with new and more diverse entrepreneurs. The Downtown event calendar is full year-round. All of this progress continues to elevate Downtown Grand Rapids as the regional economic and cultural hub of West Michigan.

None of this happened by chance. It took the support of not only DGRI, but countless other partners, community leaders, business owners, neighbors, and government at all levels. This collective dedication to a more livable and people-centered Downtown provided critical resilience during the hardest periods of the pandemic. Downtown Grand Rapids remains positioned for smart growth and equitable access for years to come.

The work continues to sustain this vibrancy and make Downtown as welcoming and inclusive as possible to everyone.

A critical part of this work is supporting and attracting entrepreneurs that want to call Downtown home. DGRI continues to adapt to the needs of aspiring and existing businesses with innovative grant programs that can assist with opening a business, engaging new customers, and connecting to the Downtown community. Beginning in July, new programs and grants will become available to support these goals. Stay tuned more information coming soon.

In addition to grant programs and business assistance, DGRI plays an active role as a partner with other organizations that are bringing creative energy to keep Downtown vibrant and moving forward. A great example of this is 3rd Thursdays.

Year-round, Downtown galleries, retailers, boutiques, restaurants, and cultural institutions collaborate to showcase unique events, experiences and offerings on the 3rd Thursday of every month from 5:00 – 9:00 PM. This partnership between businesses, organizations and neighbors provides a special opportunity for business owners, artists, customers, and visitors to interact, build community and experience some of the best that Downtown has to offer.

So, whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or a Grand Rapids resident looking for new and unique experiences, there is something for you Downtown.

If you’d like more information on anything highlighted here, please contact Melvin Eledge, DGRI’s Director of Operations at

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