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Downtown Grand Rapids business district preparing reopening post-riot

GRAM cleanup photo
Patrick Center

Downtown Grand Rapids business struggling to stay afloat took another hit over the weekend when a peaceful protest in memory of George Floyd turned into a riot damaging storefronts.

More than 100 downtown business were vandalized Saturday night enduring an estimated $1 million dollars in damages.

“At least. I think it’s beyond that. I think that’s the low number we’re looking at right now.”

Tim Kelly is President and CEO of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.

“One hundred plus businesses were damaged. About 800 or possibly more windows were broken. There was looting. There was infrastructure and all those things that were on fire.”

He spent his Sunday with thousands who descended on the business district cleaning up and boarding up windows. The focus now is assisting those businesses with reopening in the midst of a pandemic and post-riot.

Madcap Coffee Company photo
Credit Patrick Center / WGVU
Madcap Coffee Company, May 31, 2020

“We had a lot of plans underway about how we can expand outdoor seating. How we can bring retailers out into the street. So, if anything we are looking to accelerate those plans.”

Approvals from the city creating social zones could come as soon as next week.

“Many businesses are engaged and willing to step in and provide assistance, but not only the businesses downtown but across the city."

Jeremiah Gracia is City of Grand Rapids Economic Development Director.

“We’ve got a lot of positive outreach through various channels about folks willing to invest, not only in their manpower, but perhaps financial wherewithal where appropriate.”

“Sketching right now. Just putting some pencil down before we start adding paint.”

A mural project is also underway beautifying those 800 or more wood board covered windows. Colin Russell is applying his early 1900’s animation style at Madcap Coffee Company.

Grant Wortley and Colin Russell photo
Credit Patrick Center / WGVU
Grant Wortley and Colin Russell

“Big old banana. Big old ice cream cone. It’s going to have some fun cartoony faces on it. Lot’s of bright yellows, blues and reds.”

For now, making downtown a hospital place. In a few weeks Russell hopes to auction off the work raising money for organizations making positive societal change.

I’m Patrick Center.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.