Anderson Economic Group Work

Rivers of Vibrancy: cities embrace waterways as economic development strategy

GRAND RAPIDS — Restoring the Grand River to its former state and encouraging more recreational uses of the waterway in downtown Grand Rapids may be part of the long game of economic development, but a variety of companies have started banking on the notion that improvements will occur. Proponents of revitalizing the Grand River in and around Grand Rapids argue that the current infrastructure — both the dams in the river as well the lack of connecting trails and general access along its banks — make it a wholly underutilized asset.

A 2014 report by East Lansing-based consulting firm Anderson Economic Group LLC commissioned by GRWW referred to the dams as serving “no useful purpose.”

The report found that greater use and access to the river itself and the riverfront area could stimulate between $15.9 million and $19.1 million annually in new economic activity.

“The Grand River through downtown Grand Rapids is largely unused, though its natural beauty preserves its place as a centerpiece in the downtown,” according to the report, which noted that removing the unused dams and restoring the natural bottom could bring back the rapids, provide new recreational opportunities and restore fish habitats. “This, in turn, will provide ecological, recreational, and economic benefits to the community.”


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