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Grand Rapids begins to build the Bridge to their Future

By June 5, 2023Project Updates

It is common knowledge that the people of Grand Rapids are resilient. Having to traverse through the fierce winter months is typical for a West Michigander. However, the extent of their resiliency was revealed when several hundred people traveled through a storm that brought snow, sleet, and freezing rain to participate in Planning NEXT’s public engagement session, the first of three planned sessions as a part of the City’s extensive Community Master Plan process.  

The thread that influenced so many to attend? Energy, excitement, and urgency for building a Bridge to Our Future – the planning project’s brand. While the city’s diversity is one of its notable characteristics, it is evident that the enthusiasm to be involved in planning the future of Grand Rapids transcends any divides that might otherwise exist. There is also a strong emotional attachment to the city that fuels the engagement. 

Throughout the first of four rounds of planned public engagement, a variety of strategies were conducted in attempts to be as equitable and inclusive as possible. The intention of these sessions was to take people’s lived experiences and translate those into tangible objectives that influence policy, land use, housing recommendations, among other aspects of the future Community Master Plan. These input gathering sessions ranged from in-person workshops, 1-on-1 interviews, meetings with youth at Grand Valley State University and the Innovation High School, online activities, a trivia game, and stakeholder meetings. The participants are asked to supply their opinions on meaningful subjects such as their hopes and dreams for the city, their big ideas for the future, and their favorite experience in Grand Rapids as well as where they think future housing needs to be built in the city. As a result, over 5,000 pieces of input data were gathered from the eager community. 

As this was taking place, members of the Grand Rapids Community Master Plan team were researching critical topics. These topics include economic opportunities, land use, transportation, neighborhoods, and others, all viewed through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The research done on these topics and the content extracted from the public engagement session will be woven together to create compelling and implementable recommendations for the City. 

From their robust participation in the engagement events, to trekking through a winter storm to take part in them, the people of Grand Rapids spoke with both their responses and actions in the unified interest of voicing just how meaningful building a bridge to the future is to them.  

To take a deeper dive into the community’s involvement with updating the city’s community master plan, look at this article.