Economic impact of ArtPrize not felt by all

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — ArtPrize 2014 kicked off at noon Wednesday — and it was evident by the crowds in downtown Grand Rapids.

Businesses in the downtown corridor are ready to cash in on the huge number of visitors expected at the sixth annual art competition.

“It brings so many more people down here. The volume of business we do is way up,” said Chris Knap of Barfly Ventures, which owns several restaurants and bars downtown.

Grand Rapids Brewing Company, one of Barfly Ventures’ establishments, normally doesn’t open until 4 p.m. during the week. But for the three weeks of ArtPrize, it will open early for lunch.

“It’s a whole new audience for us. We get a lot of people coming in from out of town that may not get the opportunity to visit us otherwise. So being open for lunch really helps us and is a big boost for our business,” Knape said.

He says everyone wins with ArtPrize.

“ArtPrize is a big win the entire community. As a business, we benefit by bringing in extra business. The community benefits by seeing all the great things that happen in downtown Grand Rapids. It’s kind of the fruits of some of the investments that have been made down here,” Knape said. “And the employees at our business and other business benefit because they get more hours, they are able to make more money and all that money flows back through the community.”

Since ArtPrize started in 2009, there have been three studies conducted on its economic impact. A Grand Valley State University study found that the 2010 competition brought $7.5 million into Grand Rapids. A study commissioned by Experience Grand Rapids found that jumped to $15.4 in 2011 and to a whopping $22 million for ArtPrize 2013.

artprize economic impactBut the economic impact may be limited to downtown bars and restaurants.

“I don’t think it affects us negative or positive either way,” said Jeffrey Bouldin, who works at Rezervoir Lounge.

Bouldin has been a bartender at Rezervoir Lounge on Plainfield Avenue north of Leonard Street for eight years. The restaurant is about a mile outside of downtown.

“It definitely helps business when it’s in the area. It hasn’t come up this far yet,” Buldin said.

The lounge is holding out hope that someday it may see the ArtPrize boom. The restaurants and bars that already see it are grateful.

“It’s a huge economic benefit and we are really lucky to have it here in Grand Rapids,” Knape said.

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