The West Michigan economic development agency The Right Place, Inc.
accepted grant proposals from local organizations and municipalities for the Revitalization and Placemaking (RAP) 2.0 Program, after a successful first run of the program in 2022.
Last year’s RAP 1.0 Program included renewing an interest in underused and targeting lost alleyways and public park spaces needing repair. Last year, The Right Place secured $3.6 million in grant money for nine public place-making projects throughout West Michigan.
Administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)
, the state legislature allocated another $100 million for RAP 2.0 with an increase of 13 counties being served, including Muskegon County. Announcements of applicants will be made this upcoming September (https://www.michiganbusiness.org/rap/2/
“Grant applications can focus on real estate and vitalization, traditional real estate and redevelopment projects, or investments in public place making projects,” says Tim Mroz, senior vice president of community development at The Right Place, adding that these public spaces are owned by the community.
The grants have been helpful for some recipients in meeting project phases more quickly and funding costs. This has been the case for Heartside Linear Plaza, one of the grant recipients of the RAP 1.0 Program.
Photos by Bird + Bird Studio.
Mark Miller, managing director of planning and design at Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.
, who represents Heartside Linear Plaza, says this project is a part of a longer-term effort established through the Arena South plan
in downtown Grand Rapids.
“This grant is very helpful as it helps augment or supplement some of our DDA [Downtown Development Authority] projects and funding and offset costs,” says Miller. He explains that there are three different phases — including building the Arena South as well as developing Studio Park — downtown Grand Rapids’ entertainment district — and Ionia Avenue.
The plans include dedicating a comfortable space to patrons frequenting the local businesses with outdoor seating, landscaping and a combination of back alleyway and sidewalk access to stroll through and linger to enjoy what will essentially connect downtown landmarks, including the Van Andel Arena and the Studio Park outside piazza, Miller says.
This community space, Miller says, will entail a parkway with trees, overhead lighting, planters with trees and swings for sitting. Overall, the downtown experience will improve for patrons waiting to access the businesses. He also adds that there will be opportunities to incubate businesses, provide temporary kiosks for small business owners to operate and sell their products during special events and activities, and hold more of these events.
“As we continue to evolve in the city, this will become a potential space for future events as well, so we can use this space to hold events without closing the streets down,” he says.
The Right Place has served the Greater Grand Rapids community for more than 30 years by interacting with business leaders with a focus on opportunities to grow, which is evident with the RAP program grants.
Courtesy of Studio Park Facebook Page
As Mroz points out, many of these business leaders are more focused on day-to-day sales operations, but the opportunities The Right Place provides put an emphasis on components such as business trends, workforce turnover, customer service and what business needs entail.
“The most important thing is to set that time aside to talk to those business owners to find out what’s truly going on in the business, what those opportunities for growth are and what those opportunities for improvement might be,” he says.
With the RAP Program grants, this provides the connection to resources and opportunities, so issues are addressed.
The MEDC, through the RAP 2.0 Program, partners with local Michigan communities by investing in projects that promote growth in population and tax revenue to help offset the economic impacts of the pandemic and foster community revitalization.
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Shanika P. Carter is an author, freelance writer, editor, and adjunct communications instructor. She is also the Principal Consultant of The Write Flow & Vibe, LLC (writeflowandvibe.com
), offering writing, editing, and content development services to a variety of clientele, including fellow authors and businesses. Shanika is the author of the book To Lead or Not to Lead, which was released in 2019.
Shanika recently returned to her hometown of Muskegon after spending over 11 years in Grand Rapids. A native of Muskegon Heights, she proudly professes her love for and affiliations with her fellow Muskegon Heights Tigers, MSU Spartans, GVSU Lakers, and Sorors of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated.
In her spare time, Shanika loves to travel, shop, and spend time with family and loved ones. A self-proclaimed movie buff, she loves most genres of movies (especially horror!) and music (especially Michael and Janet Jackson!).