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Wednesday, 07 October 2015 22:42

Reporter’s Notebook: Spectrum Health’s new downtown I.T. office highlights mobility options

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When MiBiz broke news that Spectrum Health plans to bring 500 I.T. workers to a new office in downtown Grand Rapids, many quickly praised the health system’s continued investment in the city.

But the move certainly gave other business owners pause once they realized Spectrum Health would need to find parking for all those employees. After all, the perception persists that the core downtown area lacks available parking options, despite studies to the contrary.

It might come as a surprise, then, that the new Spectrum offices at 25 Ottawa Ave. SW will be located in a building that has no available on-site parking.

[RELATED: Spectrum Health to move 500 employees to downtown Grand Rapids office building]

To compensate, the health provider plans to offer its employees a variety of options, including a parking cash-out program that has gained momentum with some smaller downtown office users in Grand Rapids, not to mention in other major cities around the country.

Supporters of parking cash-out programs say employers should empower their workers to come up with the solutions that work best for them.

Under the program, Spectrum will pay its I.T. professionals extra if they agree to find their own way to the office. They can ride the bus, take an Uber, bike (the building has showers and changing facilities) or park on the outskirts and walk in. The money is theirs to do with as they please.

Employees who would rather park downtown and not participate in the cash-out program still have the ability to access spaces in city-owned downtown parking ramps at a discounted business rate.

It’s up to the employee to decide.

With approximately 22,000 employees across its sprawling organization, Spectrum Health already offers many transportation options for its workforce. The health system provides free transit passses to all workers, and most employees at the main Spectrum Health campus on Michigan Street park miles away and ride shuttles into work.

Spectrum Health likely would have struggled to find parking spaces for the 500 new-to-downtown employees as part of its move to the central business district, particularly given the current demand for parking in that area. To that end, the cash-out program provides the health care organization with a convenient mobility solution.

However, Spectrum Health is hardly alone in weighing the decision to offer parking or participate in the cash-out program. It’s a dilemma downtown companies and others looking to move into the growing central business district will face as the corridor continues to expand with new and renovated offices and residential units.

For new companies considering a move downtown, the message is clear: Don’t expect a cheap, convenient, guaranteed parking spot a block away from your office.

Years ago, that may have been a deal-breaker for many companies. But the Spectrum example and the precedent set by other companies in the downtown area prove that businesses can thrive without offering employees a dedicated parking space.

Spectrum Health’s move will undoubtedly result in challenges, but far larger cities than Grand Rapids have found ways to address these perplexing transportation issues in the past.

Employers and employees — and the city itself — just need to get creative in embracing new mobility options.

Read 2490 times Last modified on Monday, 12 October 2015 12:42

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