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Philanthropist David Frey honored as ‘visionary’ leader by Grand Action 2.0

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — David Frey, a philanthropist and retired banking executive, has been named chairman emeritus of Grand Action 2.0, a private economic development group that helped create Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place and is now focused on building a riverfront amphitheater south of downtown.

Frey received the designation at a reception Thursday evening attended by Grand Action 2.0 co-chairs Dick DeVos, Carol Van Andel and Tom Welch, regional president of Fifth Third Bank. The designation was made in honor of Frey’s three decades of community service as well as his work with Grand Action 2.0 and its predecessor, Grand Action.

“Both 1993 and 2023 are milestones in Grand Action 2.0′s history,” DeVos said in a statement. “David Frey stands at the intersection of these dates and has been a visionary, wise counselor and guiding hand in transforming our community in the 30 years that lie between.”

Frey, 81, earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He went on to serve in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, and later succeeded his father, Edward J. Frey, as president of Union Bank & Trust Company in Grand Rapids. He lives in East Grand Rapids.

Along with DeVos and John Canepa, a community leader and former president of Old Kent Bank who died in 2018, Frey formed Grand Action in 1993.

Over the years, through public-private partnerships, Grand Action helped lead several projects that transformed Grand Rapids. They include Van Andel Arena, DeVos Place, Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine Secchia Center and the Downtown Market.

“At that time, we knew that to drive growth in West Michigan we must think boldly, plan collegially and act with a sense of urgency,” Frey said in a statement. “We knew we had to be intentional and focused on investing in our future. That’s what Grand Action has been all about – love for this community, vision for what it can be, and a collective commitment to invest in making that happen.”

In 2017, DeVos, Frey and Canepa announced they were retiring from Grand Action. The group later relaunched in 2019 as Grand Action 2.0.

Frey “helped to write Grand Action’s second chapter,” which includes a more diverse executive committee and board and next generation leadership, according to a news release. Frey was named as vice chair of Grand Action 2.0 when it launched.

Since forming, Grand Action 2.0 is now working on a 12,000-capacity riverfront amphitheater at 201 Market Ave. SW, and the development of the property in and around the venue. The group also wants to bring a professional soccer team to the city and has explored building a stadium on several city-owned surface parking lots across from the David D. Hunting YMCA.

Related: New agreement stipulates how $30M Grand Rapids amphitheater grant will be doled out

“Fully engaging as elder statesman, visionary, passionate advocate and vice chair of a reenergized force for generational change, David’s impact has been unparalleled and undeniable,” Van Andel said in a statement. “He has continued to be a leading voice as we push forward on the transformational projects of tomorrow.”

Kara Wood, executive director of Grand Action 2.0, said Frey brings “a tremendous amount of contribution” to the organization, including long-term knowledge of what it takes to bring transformational projects to fruition.

“He is a great champion for our city and for our downtown and has a keen interest in design and ensuring that whatever Grand Action builds, it can be something the community is proud of,” she said.

Want more Grand Rapids-area news? Bookmark the local Grand Rapids news page or sign up for the free “[email protected] Grand Rapids” daily newsletter.

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