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With Grand Rapids Facing a Housing Crisis, Grand Action proposes to spend over $250 million for tourism and entertainment

December 9, 2016

Let’s be perfectly clear about what the new Grand Rapids Destination Asset Study will mean. It will mean that more public money gets directed at private projects that will result in increasing the wealth of a selected few in Grand Rapids.screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-6-13-27-pm

In addition, the new study proposes that much of the need to expand certain assets that will primarily be used to attract more visitors/tourists to Grand Rapids. Not all that surprising, this will mean that the hotels, restaurants/bars, property management companies, construction companies, foundations, marketing firms and private parking businesses will be the primary beneficiaries of such projects. All one has to do is look at the list of people/entities that were interviewed in the process of the study and you understand which opinions are valued and which are not (see the last page of the study for list of those interviewed). 

This new study was commissioned by the DeVos-created  group known as Grand Action. Grand Action’s strategy has always been to use private and public funds for projects that will benefit many of the very same people (and the organizations they represent) that make up Grand Action Committee

The projects that Grand Action has pushed in previous years have been the Arena, the convention center, the civic theater upgrade, much of the medical mile and most recently the Downtown Market.

Take the Downtown Market for example. This project was promoted from the very beginning with the idea of making Grand Rapids a tourist destination and creating what was referred to as a “Disnyland-like atmosphere.” The Downtown Market has always been about serving the culinary needs of those in the business/professional/ownership class than for working class people. In December of 2011, we reported on the millions of  public dollars that would be used for the market, even though the public had little say in the project. 

On Monday, MLive reported the Grand Action commissioned study, with the usual glowing remarks. The article even included a short video interview with the consultant who was hired by Grand Action to do the study. screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-3-51-39-am

The Grand Rapids Business Journal and other major commercial media outlets also reported on the Grand Action study and simply restated what each source was saying. The major areas of asset improvement would be expand the convention center, add another new hotel downtown, upgrade transit options for downtown, making the Grand River more of a tourist/outdoor destination, build a professional soccer stadium and add other amateur sports options & destinations.

The expansion of the convention center can be seen in the image here on the right. You can see that the proposed expansion would utilize the space now currently occupied by the downtown post office and where the City & County buildings are located.

Another curious aspect of the Grand Rapids Destination Asset Study is what is referred to as Stressing Authentic: A Diverse and Inclusive Approach. The study says this about the idea of A Diverse and Inclusive Approach:

This initiative could effectively showcase diverse areas of the community, empower residents to participate in destination marketing efforts, and provide content that could potentially be used to inform future destination marketing efforts.

Ultimately it means maybe giving communities of color an opportunity to be involved in the marketing of their neighborhoods. Below is also major bullet points from the study having to do with diversity and inclusion.


My favorite is Minority Hospitality Incubator. Who comes up with this shit?

Lastly, the major issue that this new study raises is the cost. There are some hard figures and then there are some costs that are not as clear. However, based on the known costs, the budget for the proposed destination assets is roughly $278 million dollars.screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-6-51-42-pm

This amount of money is somewhat staggering when we think about what that kind of money would mean for people who are struggling to make ends meet. Now, I know that some people will say that at least 50% or more will come from private sources and that is probably the case, but what it should say to us is that what those with tremendous wealth are preferring to invest in is making Grand Rapids a destination city. This equals, as we stated in the opening remarks, that those with tremendous wealth will have an opportunity to make even more if this proposal comes to fruition.

Imagine what $278 million could be spent on that would actually serve the needs to of so many. If one was thinking of housing, truly affordable housing, it would not be a stretch to suggest that 2,780 houses at $100,000 each, would mean that 2,780 families could have a healthy place to live.

Imagine if that kind of money was redirected to environmental cleanup and ecological sustainability? Think of how much food justice could be practiced with such a budget, which would result in more people eating better, thus reducing health care costs.

However, this would just be fantastical thinking, because those behind such projects are  in no way interested in addressing social inequality or ways that would truly transform Grand Rapids that would make known as the Racial Justice City as opposed to Beer City.

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