Downtown Market one of five $50,000 finalists

CAMBRIDGE, MA - Grand Rapids' Downtown Market is one of five national finalists for the "Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence," a $50,000 prize that recognizes "transformative urban places in America."

The 2-year-old development at 435 Ionia Ave. SW is competing against four other urban projects that range from a housing development for the homeless to a river restoration project, according to the Bruner Foundation, sponsor of the award.

The $30 million Downtown Market opened on the south end of downtown in 2013 to promote local food producers, food education and healthy lifestyles. It includes an indoor market hall with more than 20 vendors, an outdoor seasonal market, classrooms and kitchens for local food producers.

According to a Bruner Foundation news release, other finalists include:

• Falls Park on the Reedy - Greenville, SC: The renaissance of a 26-acre river corridor running through the heart of Greenville, restoring public access to the falls and green space and catalyzing adjacent downtown development.

• Miller's Court - Baltimore, MD: The redevelopment of a vacant manufacturing building into an affordable and supportive living and working environment for public school teachers and education-focused nonprofits.

• Quixote Village - Olympia, WA: A two-acre community of 30 tiny houses and a common building that provides permanent, supportive housing for chronically homeless adults.

• Uptown District - Cleveland, OH: The vibrant redevelopment of a corridor linking art, educational and health care institutions with surrounding neighborhoods, creating lively outdoor gathering spaces, retail shops and restaurants, student and market-rate housing, and public transit connections.

The medalists will receive cash awards to support their projects. The Gold Medal recipient will get $50,000 and four Silver Medal recipients will get $10,000 each.

The staff of the Bruner Foundation staff will begin site visits to each finalist project next month in preparation for the committee's selection of the medal winners in June, according to a news release.

"The Rudy Bruner Award offers the opportunity to showcase innovative place-making responses to the needs of American cities and communities," said Simeon Bruner, who founded the award in 1987 to honor his late father.

"We want to advance discourse about making cities better, and seek outstanding examples to share with those who care about improving our urban environments. There are a surprising number of inventive projects out there, if you just look for them."

Pike Place Market in Seattle was the first Rudy Bruner Award winner, and 73 places in 25 states have been recognized with the award since.

Established in 1963, the Bruner Foundation is dedicated to social issues, including health care, education, evaluation, and the "built environment."

Written by Jim Harger. Jim covers business for MLive/Grand Rapids Press. Email him at jharger@mlive.com or follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google+.