Van Andel Arena plaza revamp deemed essential, underway

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — While plenty of construction projects have stalled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a $2.1 million renovation outside Grand Rapids’ Van Andel Arena is still underway.

Construction started April 1, according to a tweet from Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.

Andy Guy with DGRI emphasized the project is considered essential work because it’s modifying the plaza to improve safety.

The work includes elevating the plaza, setting brick walkways farther back from the street, adding transit shelters along Fulton Street and Ottawa Avenue, and installing planters with wraparound seating, pedestrian lighting and a new snowmelt system.

(A rendering gives a bird’s-eye look at the revitalized plaza surrounding Van Andel Arena in downtown Grand Rapids. City officials say the pavers will be brown and red, not purple and pink as depicted. Courtesy: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.)

“This type of work is critically important for the Downtown neighborhood, as more than ever we must do all we can to ensure people have confidence that the places they go are safe,” Guy stated in an email to News 8.

He said the arena itself has also been designated a critical commercial facility by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

At the start of construction, DGRI said workers were following current state and federal health and safety guidelines.

“Contractors, workers and inspectors are also taking additional precautions against COVID-19, including restricting the number of workers on the site, physical distancing measures as well as increased standards for cleaning and disinfection,” DGRI stated in a tweet.

When News 8 visited the site Thursday, fencing surrounded the plaza and only a couple of construction workers were visible.

Leaders of the GR Forward Goal 3 Alliance, which focuses on transportation and mobility, were updated on the project progress Wednesday. Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. Planning & Design Director Mark Miller said foundations for three planters have been added and contractors plan to install the snowmelt system next week. A couple of trees may also be added to the future greenspace next week, according to Miller.

An April 30, 2020 image taken from video shows construction underway on the plaza outside Van Andel Arena in downtown Grand Rapids.

In February, the Downtown Development Authority unanimously approved awarding Pioneer Construction approximately $1.6 million for the project. The Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority previously approved funding the other $440,148 needed for the work.

The target date for finishing the first phase of the project is September — in time for ArtPrize and the Grand Rapids Griffins’ home opener, if they begin as scheduled.

(A courtesy rendering from Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. of the revitalized plaza surrounding Van Andel Arena in downtown Grand Rapids.)

A later phase of the project will focus on revamping the service alley on the west side of Van Andel Arena, including replacing the parking lot adjacent to HopCat with a green space.