Status
Completed
Client
Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc,
Budget
Size
6 mi
Design Team
Stoss

Interface Studio (team lead)
This multi-disciplinary, multi-site project focuses on reconnecting the Grand River with the community of Grand Rapids as a part of new efforts to restore the rapids to the Grand River, an interest in creating new recreational opportunities along the water, and an emerging vision to create a more energetic and resilient downtown. The project looks to provide a singular experience and strengthen the City's identity as progressive, healthy, and vibrant.

GR Forward is a community plan and investment strategy that envisions the future of Downtown and the Grand River – two of the city and region's strongest assets. Grand Rapids is poised to become a resilient, waterfront city and an urban playground for all ages centered around a progressive and lively Downtown. GR Forward is designed to guide this ongoing transformation. 

All members of the community – those who live, work, learn, and play in and near Downtown and the River – were welcomed participants, invited to help craft a collective vision for the future and identify key actions for change to make the vision become reality. Thank you to the thousands who engaged with the planning process and in doing so enriched this plan. Your words, your ideas, and your energy are present in every page. 

Facilitated by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. [DGRI], the City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Public Schools [GRPS], GR Forward is our roadmap to guide change and direct investment in the coming years. With a focus on Downtown, the Grand River and improving public schools through efforts to reimagine Innovation Central High and a new Museum School, GR Forward encompasses three planning efforts in one. 

GR Forward is a plan but also a call to action that organizes the actions of local leaders, private and non-profit organizations, residents and businesses toward a shared vision for Downtown, the River and local schools. Grand Rapidians are proud of their hometown and are eager to participate in building their city. 

The River Corridor
The River corridor presents the opportunity to offer a range of connected, unique experiences around outdoor adventures not usually found within urban centers. The plan address Grand River's outmoded flood protection system and casts a vision for accessible and public amenities aimed not only at protecting the city from an increasing flood risk, but that also provide entertainment and recreation, including floating boardwalks, kayak docks, yoga decks, biking trails, and wildlife habitat. Stoss identified 16 sites at over 70 acres along 6 miles of the Grand River, each site tapping into larger issues of flood protection, public access, and ecology, bringing new interest, development, and activity to the city's river.

Through a series of promenades, floating river walks, and trails, the plan re-establish the emotional and physical connections between Downtown and the River that Grand Rapids was built upon. Critical east-west streets are reconsidered not simply as traffic arteries, but cultural corridors that extend the presence of the River into the city and connect neighborhoods to the heart of Grand Rapids. through a series of promenades, floating river walks, and trails.