Grand Rapids Downtown Market (2009-2014)

In 2015, the Downtown Market won the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence, the nation’s premier award for placemaking.  The Downtown Market also won the American Planning Association’s top national award for economic development planning.

Grand Action, a nonprofit representing the city’s business and philanthropic leadership, has spurred revitalization of downtown Grand Rapids through construction of catalytic development projects. Observing the success of public markets in other cities, Grand Action hired MVI to explore development of a new public market, including analysis of potential sites, concept development, and feasibility analysis.  Based on its extensive market research, MVI conceived of the Downtown Market as a regional economic development strategy that links West Michigan’s expanding agricultural sector to the burgeoning demand for local, fresh foods by area residents and tourists. 

MVI proposed an innovative mixed-use program for the Downtown Market, including 27,000 sf of indoor fresh food retailing, a 60 stall outdoor farmers’ market shed that can expand to accommodate over a hundred farmers, a kitchen incubator program within a 5,000 sf certified commercial kitchen, rooftop greenhouses, and dry and cold storage facilities.  Extensive education and event spaces include the country’s first demonstration kitchen designed for kids and adults, with adjustable height cooking surfaces.  MVI provided design schematics, outlined an ownership and management model, identified potential partnerships and innovations, created operating and development pro forma, and assessed the project’s economic and social impacts. 

Following the decision to move forward, Market Ventures provided a range of predevelopment services:

  • Identification of potential funding sources and grant writing, , helping to secure $16 million in capital support.
  • Selection of the new Downtown Market board of directors and implementation of an eight month board training program
  • Preparation of the RFP for architectural and engineering services and selection assistance
  • Participation in the executive director selection process, and
  • Ongoing community engagement through creation of a Community Advisory Committee, a Food and Farmers Advisory Committee, and other meetings and presentations

The Downtown Market opened in September 2013.  MVI met with each Market tenant in 2014 to provide feedback on ways to improve their businesses.