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Sunday, 16 February 2014 22:09

Mostly unused $1.8M Grand Rapids parking lot serves as snow dump

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The city of Grand Rapids’ Ionia-Mason lot was built at a cost of $1.8 million in 2010 in anticipation of a condo development that never materialized. Now, the city is using the lot as a dumping ground for snow it removed from other well-used lots in the city’s downtown. The city of Grand Rapids’ Ionia-Mason lot was built at a cost of $1.8 million in 2010 in anticipation of a condo development that never materialized. Now, the city is using the lot as a dumping ground for snow it removed from other well-used lots in the city’s downtown. PHOTO : JOE BOOMGAARD

Nearly four years after its completion at a cost of $1.8 million, the city-owned Ionia-Mason parking lot in downtown Grand Rapids is nearly filled to capacity — with snow.

The surface lot, which sits a few blocks north of the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, is packed these days with huge piles of snow that workers removed from other city-owned lots where people do actually park. In some spots, the piles at the Ionia-Mason lot are more than 10 feet tall.

“Right now, we’re taking the snow from the surface lots behind the (Van Andel) arena that have monthly renters to keep those spaces open,” said Kim Miller, parking system manager for the city of Grand Rapids. “The Ionia-Mason lot is the only (lot) we are using to store snow.”

The city built the 76-space lot at a cost of $1.8 million in 2010 in anticipation of an office and condominium project developer Jack Buchanan had proposed for the former Imperial Metal Products facility that abuts the parking lot from the south. The city bought the land from Buchanan at a cost of nearly $900,000, according to local media reports.

But the condo project never materialized. As a result, there is little demand for parking in the area, Miller said.

The lot remains unused for most of the year, even in the non-winter months when it isn’t serving as a dumping ground for the city’s snow, according to a neighboring businessman.

“I’ve seen it used during a film shoot and some events on occasion, but it’s usually empty,” said Dave Hazelswart, sales representative at West Michigan Propeller Inc., whose store is adjacent to the parking lot. “It seems like it was a waste of money.”

Even with an inexpensive $3 per day parking fee, the Ionia-Mason lot has attracted only two paying customers since it opened in 2010. The city received an $18,000 payment from developer Buchanan and also generated $3 in revenue from a driver who parked in the lot, according to Miller.

The city’s parking system takes in roughly $11 million per year, which is enough cover the cost of the Ionia-Mason lot and its regular maintenance, which Miller described as “minimal.”

The adjacent property, where Buchanan once proposed his condominium project, is now owned by Rockford Construction Co., which purchased the site in 2011 for $1.275 million, according to city records. However, the firm doesn’t have any specific plans for the building, said Mike Mraz, vice president of development for Rockford.

“We’re not really in a position to make any announcements about that property,” he said. “Right now, we’re focused on the projects that take priority.”

Read 3270 times Last modified on Sunday, 16 February 2014 18:46

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