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Resolution calls on GR city commissioners to consider new downtown parking structure COURTESY RENDERING

Resolution calls on GR city commissioners to consider new downtown parking structure

BY Friday, December 08, 2017 03:52pm

GRAND RAPIDS — Elected officials in Grand Rapids likely will consider developing and building a new parking structure in the city’s central business district.

First Ward City Commissioner Dave Shaffer on Friday morning introduced a resolution instructing city officials to begin analyzing adding to the parking supply in downtown Grand Rapids.

Over the last several years, Shaffer has held a number of meetings with real estate developers and brokers about how the perceived parking crunch has led to a number of retail and office users leasing space in other parts of the city or in suburban areas with more free parking.

“Parking has been a consistent issue,” said Shaffer, a commissioner representing much of the city’s west side neighborhood who will leave office on Dec. 31 due to term limits. “It’s an economic development tool because we get income tax.”

Shaffer’s resolution has the support of his fellow First Ward City Commissioner Jon O’Connor, who told MiBiz that he believes a “strategic investment” in parking infrastructure could be needed to support the overall growth happening within the downtown core.

Discussions are still preliminary. However, the surface parking lot along Ransom Avenue between Fountain and Library Streets and adjacent to the downtown branch of the Grand Rapids Public Library stands as one possible location for a new structured parking deck, according to a city document outlining a variety of possible capital projects.  

A parking ramp of up to 360 spaces could be built on the site for a cost of between $12.25 million and $15 million with financing coming from either a sale of public bonds or a public-private partnership that could tap into brownfield financing, according to the document. Annual maintenance on the ramp would cost between $820,000 and $1 million.

Another $3 million-$4 million could be spent for “green roof” elements.

In addition, Shaffer’s resolution also instructs the city to explore either a land purchase or partnership with Kent County to potentially redevelop the parking lot at the county-owned building at 82 Ionia Ave. NW.

Lisa LaPlante, communications director for Kent County, told MiBiz on Friday afternoon that while the idea of some sort of deal for a parking structure on the site has been mentioned, there have been no formal discussions between the municipalities as of yet.

Talk of a parking crunch, whether real or perceived, has been rampant among business stakeholders in recent years, particularly as downtown surface parking lots have become magnets for large-scale development.

Employers looking to lease spaces in downtown Grand Rapids have few options in publicly-owned lots or ramps at the moment.

Mobile GR, the organization that manages the city’s parking inventory, only has 45 monthly passes available, both in surface lots on Grand Rapids’ west side. Occupancy in city-owned parking facilities stands at about 95 percent, according to Mobile GR data.

As that supply has dwindled, the city and other partner organizations have sought to encourage new mobility options  in and around downtown Grand Rapids, including parking cash-out programs and rerouting the Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH) bus service, as MiBiz has previously reported.

The city expects to open a new surface lot on the south end of downtown across the street from The Downtown Market. Additionally, the vast majority of development projects in and around downtown Grand Rapids contain privately-owned parking.

Increasing mobility options has been on the mind for planning organizations like Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., the nonprofit organization that administers the city’s Downtown Development Authority.

Ultimately, executives there believe that while parking has a place in the urban core, it’s important to look at other options as well.

“More parking will come online. It’s expensive, it takes time to build, and there’s an emerging question about whose responsibility it is to build it,” Andy Guy, chief outcomes officer at DGRI, told MiBiz for a report earlier this year. “But our message is about how can we work with (users) to understand what (their) needs really are and what are the variety of solutions that we can throw at that.

“It might not be a single-bullet parking approach.”

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