Sunday, September 28, 2008

Case Study - Grand Rapids, MI

It has been over four months since I've done a case study for this blog. This one will be more than a detailed tourist guide or a first-hand travelogue. It is a transformation of a presentation I prepared at the request of the RRCDC into a form more suitable for a blog. Mayor George Heartwell will be coming to Rochester in April to speak as part of the 4th Reshaping Rochester Lecture Series.

Lets begin with geography. Grand Rapids is located 30 miles east of Lake Michigan on the Grand River. The city maintains a traditional rectilinear orthogonal grid system divided into four quadrants by Fulton Street (E-W) and Division Avenue (N-S). These quadrants manifest themselves in the mailing address system.

The Grand Rapids City Charter, authored in 1916, provides for the Commission-City Manager municipal government. Two part-time commissioners are elected from each of three city words to four-year terms to form the bulk of the seven-man commission. The mayor is elected by the entire city every four years as well. Unlike many mayors, this one is not an executive. He or she acts as the chair of the commission. A full-time City Manager and other appointments are hired by the commission.

City Planning Department Director Suzanne Schulz acts under the direction of the City Commission, other appointed boards and authorities, and the City Master Plan. These boards and authorities include the Tax Increment Finance Authority, City Planning Commission, Downtown Improvement District Board, Grand Rapids Building Authority, Historic Preservation Commission, Downtown Development Authority, and Brownfield Redevelopment Finance Authority.

Their Mass Transit currently consists of 19 fixed bus routes with a Central Station, however they have commissioned, through their existing transit authority (something I would be surprised to ever see happen here), a streetcar feasibility study for the downtown.

Grand Rapids was nicknamed the "Furniture City" at an international exhibition in 1876 due to its status the premiere furniture manufacturing city in the United States from 1850-1900. It was the location of the first U.S. hydroelectric generator in 1880. In this millenium the focus is on developing business in the Health Sciences fields. Its climate is prime for apple, peach, and blueberry farming in the surrounding area.

Cultural facilities and other sites of interest include the Grand Rapids Public Library (pictured), Fifth Third Ballpark, Van Andel Arena, the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum, John Ball Zoo, Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, and the Van Andel Museum.
In the coming days I will attempt to find some quality architecture to profile as I try to keep things positive around here.

No comments: