Grand Rapids merges social districts and adds four more

Center City zone Courtesy Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.

The city of Grand Rapids combined the existing downtown social district areas — also known as “refreshment areas” — into one to streamline operations and simplify the boundaries for businesses and visitors.

In May 2020, the city commission authorized outdoor dining areas called social zones to increase business operations for local restaurants and bars negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, the commission established the following social districts containing refreshment areas — overlapping with many of the social zones — downtown Grand Rapids, Wealthy Street and West Fulton.

Recently, the commission approved four others expected to be operational by July. The four new districts are Creston, Fourth and Stocking, Michigan Street and West Leonard.

Since developing the original framework for these outdoor spaces, the city has considered feedback from patrons, local businesses, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI), city staff and law enforcement to improve operations and patron experience.

“As COVID-19 restrictions continue to be lifted, I look forward to a great summer in West Michigan,” Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said. “I am excited to see a resurgence of downtown activity as our community enjoys outdoor dining and special events. By extending the boundaries of our refreshment areas and initiating new ones in our neighborhood business districts, we’ve created walkable areas to enjoy as we continue our return to the vibrant city life we had before the pandemic.”

DGRI, which manages the operations of the downtown social district in partnership with the city, is working to update signage, maps and related materials to reflect the changes.

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