Thursday, December 16, 2004

Attracting People Downtown

Mi Biz has an interesting article on the development of Grand Rapids' downtown and what needs to be done to attract more people.

A study was paid for by the state and the GR Downtown Development Authority to figure out how to get more people to come downtown. I believe it cost over $100k to hire a consultant to issue the report.

The conclusions are a little disappointing. It says, "Grand Rapids must continue investment in public infrastructure but move to the next phase. Invest in marketing, promotions, recruiting, and organizational staffing to accomplish the goals."

For sure, investing in public sector buildings in the immediate downtown area needs to stop. What do you see when you walk out of the new convention center? The city/county buildings, the post office, an empty old age home, and that's about it. The area simply isn't conducive to pedestrian traffic. The real entertainment district is several blocks down, from the BOB, south.

But the conclusion of the report is that the city simply needs to spend more money on marketing. Marketing what? There really isn't much to do downtown. Sure, there are museums, the arena, and a lot of restaurants and bars. But that really is it.

What are we saying? It will take more people living downtown in order for more shopping venues to be viable. But the study recommends one more layer of bureaucracy - a new Downtown Partnership - to spend even more on marketing and such.

Downtown will start doing well and it doesn't need more government - it needs less. Government can foster growth of housing by making it easier to do business in Grand Rapids. Lower taxes would help too. Housing growth downtown continues. It will eventually reach a critical mass, and that's when shopping will take hold. Until then, we don't need more government and bureaucrats, we need less.

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