Thursday, October 16, 2008

Developing a successful city

Grand Action Committee co-chairman David Frey listed six elements that he felt are necessary to develop a successful city at the University of Michigan & Urban Land Institute Real Estate Forum, and here are the six in the order he gave:
  1. A cultural package: Frey said Grand Rapids was strong in this area with DeVos Performance Hall, the new Grand Rapids Art Museum, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and the Van Andel Public Museum Center. He also noted that the city’s arts organizations are nationally known.
  2. Great health care: Here, again, he said the city is doing well with Spectrum Health, Metro Health, Saint Mary’s Health Care, the Van Andel Research and Education Institute and the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. While Frey noted that having aspiring medical students in the city was a very good thing, he thought VAI provided the best opportunity for the city’s medical future. “The real untold story is the commercialization of the research being done at the Van Andel Institute,” he said.
  3. Good education: Frey said the city was doing very well in this area with five universities and colleges located downtown.
  4. Good entertainment: Also good. Frey said the city offers baseball, arena football, hockey, Millennium Park, an expanding John Ball Zoo and the Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, which he said , by the way, was paid for with only private dollars, a $155 million worth. “It is the second-largest tourist attraction in the state of Michigan,” he said of the Frederick Meijer family development.
  5. Good places to gather: Frey said people need places to socialize, other than in establishments that serve alcohol, but the city is lacking in this area. “We are in the process of creating those, all in the private sector,” he said.
  6. Urban dwelling units: Frey said downtown needs to become easier to walk in order to draw more people to live in the district. “We are sort of pedestrian friendly, but we’re more car friendly,” he said.
“We are, perhaps, in the process of creating a new economic paradigm in this city. In some sense, I think this city and the region represents the future of this state,” Frey said as he closed his presentation. “We need venture capital. We are determined to define our future and we will not be determined by the state.”

—David Czurak

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