The Rapidian

Community updates: Thursday, March 4

City of Grand Rapids begins planning process for new Master Plan; Michigan loosens COVID-19 gathering restrictions, opening vaccine eligibility to people age 50 and over; and Grand Rapids Public Schools celebrates National Reading Month with reading program, author events.
Greenhouse dining spaces outside Field & Fire Café on Monroe Ave. NW.

Greenhouse dining spaces outside Field & Fire Café on Monroe Ave. NW. /Experience Grand Rapids

City of Grand Rapids begins planning process for new Master Plan

The City of Grand Rapids has begun the planning phase for its new Master Plan, it announced Wednesday. Work on the plan comes nearly twenty years after adoption of the city’s current Master Plan.

The city’s Master Plan guides city policy on issues such as land use, development, infrastructure, public safety, job training, sustainability, and overall quality of life. It covers 20 to 30 years and requires a review every five years, providing opportunities for regular changes. The last plan was completed in 2002.

While our current Master Plan provides an effective starting point, we know there are gaps that need to be filled to create the blueprint for our city for the next 20 years or so,” the city’s Planning Project Manager, Layla Aslani, said.

The city previously completed the first phase of work on the new plan, which gathered information from the community on the successes of the 2002 Master Plan and where improvements can be made. 20 Master Plan facilitators – consisting of individual community members and representatives from community organizations – coordinated meetings in their communities to review and discuss that plan.

Priorities recommended by the Master Plan facilitators for the new plan share common themes with the 2002 version, such as improvements to neighborhoods, business districts, and transportation. New priorities, however, “reflect the nuances of today’s needs and the city’s growing and diverse populations,” according to a City of Grand Rapids statement.

The new Master Plan will highlight new priorities such as equity, inclusion, and environmental sustainability. Housing availability and affordability will also become a higher priority.

With the planning phase of the Master Plan process, the City of Grand Rapids is calling for public feedback and participation. City staff plan to host community meetings to discuss the future of Grand Rapids and how the Master Plan can better represent and serve its residents. That process will tentatively begin late summer of 2021.

“Community involvement is crucial to developing a new Master Plan that not only meets the goals we have laid out in the City’s strategic plan, but also meets the evolving needs and expectations of our community,” said Planning Director Kristin Turkelson. “We want members from all areas and communities of our city to contribute so that we can better understand the wants and needs of our city as a whole.”

The adoption phase of the new Master Plan is currently planned to begin in the latter half of 2022.

Detailed updates about the Master Plan planning process are available in a Feb. presentation by the city’s Planning department, available on its website.

 

Michigan loosens COVID-19 gathering restrictions, opening vaccine eligibility to people age 50 and over

Michigan’s COVID-19 restrictions will loosen for indoor dining and other social gathering spaces starting Friday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced.

They also announced that COVID-19 vaccine eligibility will open up for all Michiganders age 50 and over starting March 22, with some groups within that age range even sooner.

The MDHHS updated its pandemic-related emergency orders on Tuesday, which, effective Friday, allows restaurants and bars to operate indoors at 50 percent capacity, up to 100 people. There will also be an 11pm curfew.

Other capacity changes include indoor entertainment venues such as movie theaters, which will also be able to operate at 50 percent capacity, up to 300 people. Others are indoor non-residential gatherings being permitted up to 25 people, exercise facilities permitted up to 30 percent capacity with distancing and face covering requirements, and more.

The emergency orders' updates come as COVID-related hospital capacity, case rates, and test positivity rates have declined over the last month. These metrics have been used by the MDHHS to gauge the state’s progress in control of the pandemic.

“As we continue our vaccine rollout and make steady progress against the virus, we are taking additional incremental steps to re-engage to ensure we are protecting our families and frontline workers and saving lives,” said Gov. Whitmer. “Michigan is a national leader in the fight against COVID-19, and our fact-based, data-driven approach will help our state rebuild our economy and resume normal day-to-day activities.”

A full list of capacity changes issued by the MDHHS is available on its website.

For COVID-19 vaccinations, Gov. Whitmer and the MDHHS announced Wednesday that, effective March 8, vaccine eligibility will be expanded to include Michiganders age 50 and older with medical conditions or disabilities, and caregiver family members and guardians who care for children with special health care needs.

Starting March 22, vaccine eligibility will then expand to include all Michiganders 50 and older.

As of Wednesday, more than 40 percent of Michiganders age 65 and older have been vaccinated, according to the MDHHDS. Its goal is to eventually reach vaccinating 70 percent of Michiganders age 16 and up.

“Over 2.3 million doses of the safe and effective COVID vaccines have been administered in Michigan, and we know more vaccine is coming into the state,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the MDHHS’ Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy for Health. “We are pleased to expand eligibility for more people to get vaccinated as we continue to focus on our most vulnerable and those at highest risk of severe illness due to COVID-19.”

In Kent County, the Kent County Health Department announced Wednesday that it’s working to expand its process to ensure all eligible residents can be vaccinated. Vaccine supplies remain extremely limited, according to the department, so there may be a waitlist for available appointments.

As Kent County residents wait their turn for vaccinations, the KCHD is urging all eligible residents to visit VaccinateWestMI.com and complete a vaccination registration form with a local provider.

 

Grand Rapids Public Schools celebrates National Reading Month with reading program, author events

With March marking National Reading Month, Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) is helping Grand Rapids 5th graders celebrate literacy skills with a month-long reading program focused on a single book, in partnership with the Grand Rapids Public Library (GRPL).

Called “One Book, One City for Kids,” the citywide program is held annually by GRPS and GRPL, with this year’s selected book being Front Desk by Kelly Yang. All 5th graders in GRPS have or will receive a copy of the book and discuss it as part of their curriculum.

Front Desk is a fictional story about a ten-year-old who helps her immigrant family manage a motel in the U.S., while dealing with an exploitative owner. The story is inspired by the childhood of its author, Yang, whose book has become a New York Times bestseller and earned her numerous awards such as the 2019 Asian Pacific American Award for Literature.

Yang will also take part in virtual events held by GRPS and GRPL during the second week of March.

I am pleased to announce that we have special ‘Meet the Author’ virtual events scheduled for March 9th, 10th, and 11th at designated schools throughout GRPS,” GRPS Superintendent Leadriane Roby shared in a Wednesday video update.

In addition to the annual reading program, Roby said GRPS will be coordinating virtual and in-person reading opportunities for students that involve elected officials throughout the region, as well as GRPS Board of Education members.

The superintendent also acknowledged Women’s History Month in her video update, taking place in March. GRPS curricula will highlight and celebrate contributions of women to events in U.S. history and culture throughout the month.

Throughout this month, we will be highlighting the importance of women in our nation’s history, including a focus on famous GRPS graduates,” said Roby. “Like Loney Clinton Gordon, a South High graduate who played an important role in the whooping cough vaccine.”

More details about the One Book, One City for Kids program are available the GRPL’s website. Public updates from GRPS are available on its own.

 

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