Our 20 Favorite Projects in GR for 2020 (A Letter)

Ionia Avenue looking from the new Residence Inn under construction


Dear family, friends and loved ones near and far,

Happy New Year! It’s once again that time of year to give you an update on the exciting new projects going on around town, and of course, our favorites!

Our little city continues to grow and bloom and there are many new things to tell you about. If you haven’t lived near us for a while, come pay us a visit some time! You’ll really enjoy all that is going on. So let’s jump right in.

2019 was an exciting year with a lot of projects going on, several new big ones announced, and many of them coming to completion. A lot more parking lots grew into booming projects, our retail scene continued to mature, and our local colleges are still all the rage.

And we’re starting to become big kids when it comes to parking.

Uncle Joe takes us to the City of Grand Rapids’ Development Department page and found there were over 300 “major” projects and over $1 Billion in the works, underway or just recently completed. It seems like lately that as one construction crane comes down, another two go up in its place. Aunt Jen said she almost ran off the road watching the three red cranes working away on Michigan Street Hill!




There’s so much going on with the family, but we thought we’d just give you the highlights of our 20 favorites

) Studio Park – Celebration Cinema

Since the new Studio Park complex just South of the arena has so many puzzle pieces, we felt we had to split it up to give it proper accolades.

We’ll start with the movie theater. Yes, in downtown! If you haven’t checked out a movie at the new Celebration Cinema at Studio Park, you don’t know what you’re missing (so we’re going to tell you).

This nine-screen movie house is beautiful! And the first movie theater downtown since the 1960’s. And while a lot of people have been asking (begging) for a downtown theater, there were many that didn’t think a downtown Grand Rapids theater would work; especially your negative brother-in-law. Based on our experiences there so far, it’s not only working, but it’s thriving. Parking (!)is attached right to the theater and parking in the ramp can be validated with your purchase of your movie tickets (for the parking complainers in the family).

Oh! We’d be remiss not to mention the heated leather recliners and tray tables for all of your drinks and snacks. It’s like watching movies at your rich Uncle Dominic’s home theater without all of the political debates!

) Studio Park – Acrisure Headquarters

Our daughter Josephine works in insurance and she was thrilled to hear that Acrisure, a rapidly growing insurance brokerage with offices wayyyyy out in Caledonia has decided to build their new offices at Studio Park downtown. Not only one building but two, bringing hundreds of people downtown. The first building is just a hole in the ground but Josephine is getting her resume’ ready!

The hole in the ground at the corner of Studio Park near Ottawa


What that hole will become this year

Across the street by the s-curve is a planned Building 2!


) Studio Park Lofts

For the nieces and nephews who want to live, play and work downtown, they can live right at Studio Park. The new apartments are open and filling up.

) Studio Park – Canopy Hilton Hotel

With so many family members getting married the next few years in downtown GR, we can’t wait to add this hotel to the mix for all of you out-of-town guests. I mean, talk about LOCATION. Right on Ionia, or as Uncle Jim calls it “Where all the best drinks are poured.”

) Studio Park Restaurants and Retail

The retail spaces are quickly filling up! Don’t miss the new restaurant one.twenty.three and the Listening Room music venue upstairs.

) Residence Inn – aka Hinman Flatiron Project

We think this might be one of the most interesting buildings being built downtown since…. maybe the J.W. Marriott? A new flatiron for downtown! (A flatiron is that thing Grandma used to use to iron curtains). It will soon be home to another hotel, right near the arena and Ionia Avenue.

) Doug Meijer Medical Innovation Center

Right next door to where Lyndsey is studying medicine at MSU, the new Doug Meijer Medical Innovation Center is being built. She’s stoked for future job opportunities!

) Amway Grand Plaza Hotel – Glass Recladding

What the heck are they doing to our beloved Amway Grand Hotel? It’s like it’s slowly undressing! But apparently we’re all in for a big surprise when it’s finished…

) Van Andel Arena Plaza Redevelopment

Yeah, this plaza is looking a bit tired (ie screams 1990’s). The new redesign looks pretty cool.

) GVSU Medical Building on Michigan

With GVSU’s medical programs bursting at the seams, they had to add onto the house. (These are the three cranes that Aunt Jen had a problem with that we mentioned earlier).


) Texas De Brazil and Additional Retail on Lyon

We haven’t been to a Texas De Brazil yet, but we hear that “meat sweats” can be expected…

This is that ugly section of 5/3 Bank downtown that faces Lyon Street (no offense 5/3) today, and what it will look like later this year.

) RDV Headquarters

That tired looking building next to 5/3 Bank is also getting a major renovation, to consolidate RDV’s offices downtown. It looks like a brand new building, with a fresh shave.

) North Project on Bridge Street

We love Bridge Street and the West Siiide, so we love seeing this project finally moving along. More housing for the kids. (and a new ground floor restaurant)


) Stockbridge Housing at Bridge Street

Just around the corner, yet another new apartment building with new retail (next to Bridge Street Market and the Hendrik if you’re completely lost)

) New Spectrum Health “Headquarters”

Spectrum is not calling it a “headquarters” but we are, lol. The area’s largest employer announced earlier this year that they’re going to consolidate 26 offices around downtown into one newly built “Center for Transformation and Innovation.” We don’t yet know WHAT it will look like but we know WHERE it will be: on two parcels in Monroe North right near the newly opened Embassy Suites. Huge news for that neighborhood and downtown! Might be time to invest….

) Warner Building completion and new Tupelo Honey restaurant

We like how this project fits into the skyline and makes it feel more dense (right there in the middle). We also like that Tupelo Honey is coming to the ground-floor restaurant space.

) Laker Line from Allendale to Downtown

The kids at GVSU are all excited about the new Laker Line from Allendale to GVSU. The Bus Rapid Transit line should cut time off of the #50 Rapid bus route, with raised stations for quicker boarding, traffic light priority, and GR’s first articulated (accordian style) buses.

We really like the stations, which all seem to have art incorporated into them!


) And Some News “Just Because”

The family (city) keeps working with developers and the State of Michigan to help deliver more affordable housing for a community in desperate need of it.


Whew! That’s it from us, for now anyway. From our house to your’s, here’s hoping you have a healthy, prosperous and peaceful 2020 ahead!


Jeff Hill is a contributor to GRNow and takes a break from his regular paid gig once in a while to bring development news to the GRNow family. You can email him feedback or insider story ideas to grjeff@gmail.com.