Even as business headlines focused on the negative economic impacts of COVID-19 in 2020, Grand Rapids/Kent County remained a hotspot for capital investment. Major development projects were announced and we were named America's #2 Boomtown of the Future.
Here are just a few highlights:
Hotel Boom. The Residence Inn Downtown Grand Rapids opened February 2021 in the distinctive triangular building at Ionia Avenue and Fulton Street. It brings the number of downtown hotels to 12 – more than double the total of a few years ago. At least 15 new hotels have opened outside downtown in the past few years, and more are in the planning stages.
Garden Party. Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park recently unveiled its new 69,000-sq. ft. Welcome Center, the centerpiece of a $115 million capital improvement program slated to continue through fall 2021. The expansions were needed to accommodate an ever-increasing influx of visitors from around the globe.
Amphitheater Action. Plans are underway to transform a 31-acre downtown parcel fronting the Grand River into a mix of green, retail and living space complete with an outdoor amphitheater, pedestrian bridge and zipline over the river, “Green Ribbon” park and possibly a soccer stadium or aquarium.
Restoring the Rapids. Work continues on the $45 million project to restore the Grand River’s whitewater rapids through downtown. The project will transform the waterway into a recreation hub complete with new whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, swimming, boating and fishing opportunities. Construction could begin as early as this year.
Top Flight. The Gerald R. Ford International Airport is in the midst of its $165 million “Project Elevate” expansion, which includes a renovated concourse, eight new gates, additional amenities, a reconstructed apron and more. This will enable the airport to serve more airlines and accept more daily flights.
These and other projects are making Grand Rapids a better convention and tourist destination – and also a better place to live, work and play.
A Growing Reputation
Grand Rapids continued to earn national and international recognition throughout 2020. These honors raise awareness and interest for visitors and potential new residents:
- 1 of America’s Top 25 Convention Cities
- Craft Beverage Capital of the U.S.
- Best Travel Destination in Michigan
- America’s #2 Gen Z Housing Market
- #10 Best Place for Older Travelers to Visit
- #3 U.S. City for Millennials to Live and Work
- #4 Safest Metro in the U.S.
- #1 Market for Millennial Home Ownership
- 1 of the Top 14 Walkable Cities in the U.S.
- #1 U.S. City for First-Time Homebuyers
- #1 Large City with the Most Manufacturing Jobs
Experience Grand Rapids also added to its growing list of honors in 2020:
- The Governor’s Award for Non-Traditional Partnership was given to EXGR, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Public Schools and AHC+Hospitality for the establishment of the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism at Ottawa Hills High School.
- The Invest In Ability Award was given to EXGR by Disability Advocates of Kent County, in recognition of our ongoing commitment to accessibility and inclusivity.
- The Corp! Magazine 2020 Diversity Award recognized EXGR as a diversity-focused company.