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Kris Larson Kris Larson MIBIZ FILE PHOTO: Katy Batdorff

Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. CEO resigns to take hometown job in N.C.

BY Thursday, November 02, 2017 08:09pm

GRAND RAPIDS — After a five-year tenure running Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., President and CEO Kris Larson plans to depart for a similar position in North Carolina.

Larson, who leads the nonprofit organization that administers the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) tax increment financing mechanism, plans to leave the position to take the top job at Downtown Raleigh Alliance in his hometown, according to a statement posted Thursday on the DGRI website.

“This was not an easy decision to make, as the past five-plus years have been incredibly rewarding to me professionally,” Larson wrote in a letter to DDA board chair Kayem Dunn on Oct. 30 announcing his plans to resign. “In this (new) role, I can continue continue my passion for city building while being closer to lifelong friends and family.”

Larson did not immediately respond to a request for further comment on Thursday night.

Andy Guy, chief outcomes officer at DGRI, said in a text message that a timeline and further details regarding the search for a replacement would be discussed at the organization’s next board meeting on Nov. 8.

“Kris not only made Downtown Grand Rapids a better place, he put us on a solid path for continued future success,” Dunn said in a statement.

During his time at DGRI, Larson helped to restructure the DDA as an entity administered by a private nonprofit as opposed to being operated directly by the city.

DGRI largely led the GR Forward downtown master planning process that sought to engage the community around long-time priorities, such redeveloping the city’s riverfront and the Grand River itself through downtown Grand Rapids.  

An outspoken advocate of using downtown Grand Rapids’ surface parking lots as possible development sites, Larson and DGRI have pushed for mobility options beyond just personal vehicles in the central business district as a way to help companies attract workers.

“We are beginning with this notion that people work someplace because it’s easier to park there,” Larson told MiBiz in 2015. “The parking is a bit of a red herring in all of this. Quite frankly, it’s cultural — it’s not economical.”

Rather, Larson urged employers to give workers as many options as possible for how to get to work.

“Oftentimes, you have employers trying to solve all the problems for their employees,” he said at the time.

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