Grand Rapids Leverages Public-Private Partnerships

In its latest public-private community development partnership, the City of Grand Rapids in Michigan is scheduled to open a $30 million, 130,000-square-foot public market that it hopes will become a center of commerce for the culinary arts and local food, the New York Times reports.

The Downtown Market is the latest example of "civic equipment" in Grand Rapids designed to leverage the same urban economic trends — access to good higher education, hospitals and health care, housing, entertainment, transit, and cleaner air and water — that have revitalized many large U.S. cities. Grand Rapids, a medium-sized city, has succeeded in leveraging many of those trends thanks in part to a number of innovative partnerships between the city's redevelopment agencies and local industrialists and philanthropists. Indeed, hundreds of millions of private dollars have been raised to create a downtown that encourages entrepreneurs to create career-track jobs and attracts new residents.

Since the mid-1990s, civic projects built by public-private partnerships include the Van Andel Arena, the Grand Rapids Art Museum, DeVos Place, hospitals and the headquarters of the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, a number of parks, and the downtown campus of Grand Valley State University. And while the city already has a seasonal outdoors farmers market, the Downtown Market is expected to serve as a year-round, seven-days-a-week shopping and dining destination for out-of-state visitors and residents of the surrounding region. The three-story brick-and-glass building in a neighborhood of vacant turn-of-the-twentieth century warehouses is expected to generate gross annual sales of around $25 million and create more than six hundred jobs.

"This project fills a variety of needs," said Frey Foundation chairman David Frey, who co-chairs Grand Action, a nonprofit group of local business leaders that joined the city's Downtown Development Authority to raise money for construction of the market. "It creates a lot of synergy for the development that's been happening in Grand Rapids for some time now."

Keith Schneider. "A Michigan City Bets on Food for Its Growth." New York Times 11/13/2012.