Join us to participate in the upcoming 2019 City:One Challenge. 

Grand Rapids Pedestrian Zone (RaPz)

Create a scenic car free zone for downtown Grand Rapids along Grand River.

Photo of Teresa Qu
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Written by

Downtown Grand Rapids along Grand River is a popular scenic area for tourists and locals. The area has heavy foot traffic because of tourists sites and locals favorites, such as museums, hotels, university buildings, restaurants, and parks. Closing the area along Grand River to cars except essential vehicles (fire trucks and ambulances) during daytime would promote tourism  as well as walking, biking and busing in Grand Rapids. Also providing people movers or Autonomous shuttles within the area would help people with mobility difficulties and transport large crowds at special events.  Grand Rapids has already successfully established several large crowd-drawing events, such as ArtPrice and beer festivals. Establishing a permanent car free zone would provide a safer and more attractive location for many street-friendly activities, such as outdoor concerts, river tours, water taxis, and etc. In addition, the recent GR Forward River Restoration study  provides a linear plan along the Grand River. My idea would supplement the linear study with area approach which considers rerouting traffic and managing walking and biking for the entire area. Without an area wide planning, the accessibility to the river front would be problematic and less impactful. There are many successful examples all over the world, especially in Europe and Asia (some cases can be seen here and The US cases include Time Square, Riverwalk in San Antonio, and Michigan's homegrown Mackinac Island. 

Describe who will use your solution (1,000 characters)

Everyone visiting and living in Grand Rapids.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Pilot - you have implemented your solution in a real-world scenario

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

With over 40 faculties and 400 students, as well as four accredited degree programs: urban planning, landscape architecture, interior design, and construction management, the School of Planning, Design, and Construction (SPDC) at Michigan State University (MSU) is ideally suited for any urban revitalization and streetscape beautification projects. We would also like to invite the City of Grand Rapids to be our team member.

Size of your team or organization

  • 251-500

Funding Request

  • $50,000

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

We could start with 1)analysis on traffic flows before and after closures, 2)stakeholders public hearings, 3)school wide design competitions, 4)invitation for investments and vendors meeting, and 5)pilots on weekends first and use temporary barriers to block the streets. The business model could initially be entrance fees from vendors and investments who would like to have their business inside the RaPz. Also we can apply the interdisciplinary outreach funding from our school to support some of our initial costs. Once RaPz established, the real estate and business revenues would pay for the streetscape redevelopment costs. We would like to partner with the city of Grand Rapids and its communities to achieve our goals in education, research, and service.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

The success can be measured in the business revenues, real estate developments, increases in tourists as well as walking, biking and busing. There are many successful cases world wide. However, planning and stakeholders involvements are the keys to a successful project.


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Photo of Chad Gainor

In the future, city cores will be car-free.

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