Downtown rebounds – visitors return, businesses flourish

Published on November 02, 2022

Pedestrians walking at crosswalk at Pearl Street and Monroe Ave Downtown.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Shops, bars, restaurants and hotels in Downtown Grand Rapids showed activity levels this summer that were at or better than years prior to the pandemic. The Downtown Grand Rapids district rebounded from COVID-19 with more summer foot traffic, hotel occupancy and retail openings than it’s seen in years.

According to statistics provided by Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. (DGRI) and Experience Grand Rapids, Inc.:

  • Hotel occupancy Downtown Grand Rapids (June – August) returned to near pre-pandemic levels. According to Smith Travel Research, through Experience Grand Rapids, even with the addition of new hotels Downtown, hotel occupancy was close to 2019 percentages and the demand (rooms sold) was 2.6% higher than in 2019. There were 38% more rooms sold in Summer of 2022 compared to 2021.
  • So far this year, 21 new businesses have opened Downtown
  • Storefront Vacancy Rates were down 9% in Sept. and 3% in August, year-to-date
  • There is a 5% average decrease in office space occupancy in 2022 compared to 5-year average
  • Downtown saw a 17% average increase in visitor activity in September compared to 5-year September average

Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington said there is a lot to look forward to Downtown over the coming months. He says the excitement that took place and built during the summer festival season and ArtPrize will continue in the coming months with skating at Rosa Parks Circle, the holiday tree at the Grand Rapids Art Museum and World of Winter in February.

“After a limited and altered outdoor skating season over the past two years, family skating returns to Rosa Parks Circle for the winter season in a few weeks. Our office spaces, restaurants, entertainment venues, museums and bars are open for business at full capacity. Whether you come Downtown to take part in Restaurant Week, enjoy a show or game, attend one of our special events, traverse one of our social districts, or begin your holiday shopping, Downtown Grand Rapids is back and ready to welcome you!”

Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. reports that the progress made since the easing of the pandemic looks to continue. It says the future of Downtown is strong with a variety of construction and development underway or planned:

  • ICCF Tapestry Square - anticipated completion: Q4 2022 +10,000 square feet of commercial space

+56 housing units

  • Center for Transformation & Innovation - anticipated completion: Summer 2023

+303,000 square feet of office space

+1,200 jobs

+1,090 parking spaces

  • Corewell Health Ambulatory Building - anticipated completion: Spring 2024 +240,000 square feet of office space
  • Studio Park Residential Tower - anticipated completion: End 2024 +193 housing units

What’s more, 2022 is proving to be a strong year of attracting new minority-owned businesses to the Downtown core. New Downtown businesses ownership included 24% being owned by Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and 48% owned by women. In 2022, 13% of Downtown businesses are BIPOC-owned and 20% are women-owned.

“We’re very pleased to see continued positive momentum Downtown across the board,” said Tim Kelly, president & CEO of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. “A vibrant and healthy Downtown is essential to the overall success of the region.”

In addition, statistics from the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) show that Downtown continues to be a safe place to work, live, shop and play. Many major crimes that impact perceptions of safety have improved year over year (YTD 2021 Vs YTD 2022).

Aggravated assaults, defined as an unlawful attack by one person upon another with a weapon or causing bodily are down 9.8%. Crimes of intimidation, to place another person in reasonable fear of bodily harm using threatening words and/or other conduct, are down 11.1%.

“GRPD is committed to working with other city departments, business, community partners and stakeholders to provide a safe environment across the city,” said Police Chief Eric Winstrom. “Because of the concentration of special events, festivals, restaurants, cultural institutions and hotels in the Downtown area, a consistent police presence is important.”

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