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Monday, 19 February 2018 15:27

Land deal would clear way for city-owned riverfront park in downtown Grand Rapids

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Aerial view of the Grand River corridor north of I-196 along Monroe Avenue. Aerial view of the Grand River corridor north of I-196 along Monroe Avenue. FILE IMAGE

GRAND RAPIDS –– A long-discussed park on the banks of the Grand River just north of downtown Grand Rapids could take a couple steps closer to reality this week.

The creation of the proposed park along North Monroe Avenue still requires a multi-part land deal between the city of Grand Rapids, Kent County and Michigan State University.

In separate meetings on Tuesday, the Grand Rapids City Commission and Kent County’s Finance and Physical Resources Committee will consider a term sheet that, if approved, would ultimately allow the city to gain control of three parcels on Monroe Avenue just north of I-196 along the Grand River. Meanwhile, MSU would gain control of a county-owned surface parking lot on the east side of Monroe Avenue that it could use for future expansion of its adjacent Grand Rapids Research Center.

Kent County would then acquire city-owned land just over a block away on Ottawa Avenue that it could use for future parking needs.

“(The deal) moves all the parking off the river,” said Eric DeLong, interim city manager for Grand Rapids. “It’s a huge win.”

The terms of the proposed deal would have the city of Grand Rapids acquiring the three county-owned riverfront parcels for $3.3 million. A deal for the city to acquire two riverfront properties from MSU for $3.8 million was approved last week by the university’s board of trustees.

MSU seeks to acquire the parking lot on the east side of Monroe Avenue from Kent County for $1.65 million. Meanwhile, Kent County would acquire the two city-owned Ottawa Avenue parcels for just over $1.3 million.

In 2016, the city was awarded a grant by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund to help pay for the riverfront land acquisition. The terms of that grant require that the city close on the parcels by April 30, which DeLong said he expects will happen.

The future park still will require a Special Land Use permit from the city’s Planning Commission. 

While a park is eventually planned for the site, DeLong said that in the shorter term, the city could use that land as staging for the Grand River Whitewater initiative aimed at restoring the rapids to the river through downtown.

The park has long been planned, albeit with some controversy, as MiBiz reported in 2015.

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Nick Manes

Staff writer

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