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South Division Corridor Wayfinding System

South Division Street is a vital connection in the city and unique new signage would make it more usable for residents and visitors alike.

Photo of Charlie Hogan
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As a society we often take for granted how complicated cities really are. Urban areas are complex systems of streets, buildings, green spaces, cultural institutions, businesses, and people. Visitors, new residents, and even lifelong community members often find themselves in situations where they are both struggling to get around a city and having difficulty understanding the physical and social fabric that makes it unique. 

To address this often overlooked problem, our team is proposing a network of signage that will help residents and visitors alike understand one of the most interesting and diverse areas of the city: the South Division Corridor. 

In the Fall of 2017 the City of Grand Rapids began the process of making an “Area Specific Plan” for the South Division Corridor. With the help of an appointed Steering Committee and a team of planning consultants, the intent of the South Division Corridor Plan is to create a framework for equitable future development by planting the seeds necessary to lift up existing businesses and residents, create new opportunities for a sustainable mix of housing, services, and institutions, and to raise overall quality of life. 

The idea for the wayfinding project first came about in a July, 2018 community meeting with residents and stakeholders from the Corridor. Residents indicated to the planning team that they thought that this type of project could potentially be integrated with the existing neighborhood and could go a long way to enhancing the “sense of place” around South Division. 

The South Division Corridor connects multiple neighborhoods in Grand Rapids, including Downtown, South Hills, South East, the Madison Area, Burton Heights, and Garfield Park. The three-mile stretch from Wealthy Street at the north to 28th at the south is home to a diverse mix of nationalities, races, and ethnic origins (including large Dutch American, African American, and Hispanic communities). Despite this, when walking or driving on South Division there is little indication that you are surrounded by such a diverse mix of cultures, and it is not clear what area you are in relative to other neighborhoods in and around Grand Rapids. 

Other cities around the country have used creative, unique, and well-designed signage to create cultural destinations that are more navigable, useful, and understandable to residents and visitors alike. Our planning team hopes to make South Division feel distinctly unique from other seemingly similar places around the region, state, and nation. 

Unique signage would: 

  1. Simplify wayfinding and the usability of public transit in the area. 
  2. Be easy to read and include maps, pictures, arrows and travel times to important points of interest. 
  3. Act as gateways for individual neighborhoods along the corridor. 
  4. Indicate the direction and distance to other important locations outside the corridor area. 
  5. Emphasize and promote the bus system, and the Silver Line in particular. 
  6. Highlight the history of different locations along the corridor. 
  7. Unify the branding of the corridor to further position South Division as a destination for the region and beyond. 
  8. Identify where nearby public and private amenities, such as parks and businesses, are located. 
  9. Be bilingual to allow members of both the English and Spanish speaking communities to benefit from the program. 

Other features of the signage could include: 

  • Technology that would be integrated into the project. For example, a program involving a smartphone app and scannable QR codes that would offer pertinent information. 
  • A design that could potentially be adapted as a model for other neighborhoods in Grand Rapids. 

The goal of this proposal is to create signage that is well-designed and attractive, while promoting the rich culture and heritage of the community.

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

This solution will be used by visitors, new residents, and long-time neighbors who may not be familiar with all aspects of their community.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Initial Design - you are still exploring the idea and have not tested it with users

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

The planning team was assembled to implement a Plan for the South Division Corridor as mandated by the 2002 City Master Plan. The project is being lead by The City and coordinated by Camiros, an urban planning firm. A Steering Committee has been appointed to represent the interests of the community and eight “Community Ambassadors” have been selected to help lead the Plan. Their goal is to represent the interests of their neighbors and assist in the planning process.

Size of your team or organization

  • 11-50

Funding Request

  • $50,000

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

In addition to the Ford funding, the planning team has set aside some funding from the planning budget for “Early Action Projects” that will create momentum for greater transformation. Also, the area was recently designated as a Corridor Improvement District (CID) by the City. This designation could provide an additional source of funding for the project. Over time, the Community Ambassadors will take over leadership of the project to ensure it is in line with the interests of the community. They will keep in regular contact with their neighbors to gather input on the project and get feedback on aspects of the signage that could be improved. The planning team expects to introduce a 1st phase of signage in the Burton Heights area and then, after receiving community feedback, create more signage in other parts of the Corridor. Once the signage is built it could be maintained by the City or potentially a S. Division Corridor Business Association that is under consideration.

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

To collect feedback on the signage we would gather input from neighborhood residents with surveys and working group sessions. The Community Ambassadors have already spent time canvassing the area to make residents aware of planning initiatives, as well as other opportunities to provide input on the future of the neighborhood. Ambassadors could use their community connections to collect resident opinions on the wayfinding program while also assessing the impact for local businesses.

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Join the conversation:

Photo of KatieWalsh 100

Hi Charlie - many thanks for posting this idea before the deadline - thanks for including lots of useful info and an image! Katie - Facilitator

Photo of Charlie Hogan

Hi Katie - We're very very excited to submit our proposal . We think it could have a big impact on GR and look forward to hearing back on soon!

Photo of Tom Bulten

Charlie: As one of the facilitators on the forum, I'm pleased to see a proposal connected to the South Division corridor planning process. Thanks!

Photo of Charlie Hogan

Hi Tom - Our team is very excited about this project and we're looking forward to hearing back soon. We think we have a really compelling proposal that could have a tangible, lasting impact on Grand Rapids!