GRAND RAPIDS — Against the backdrop of business leaders increasingly voicing concerns about a lack of downtown parking, the city of Grand Rapids plans to increase parking capacity with the construction of a new lot.
The city’s recently rebranded Mobile GR department filed paperwork with the Grand Rapids Planning Commission detailing its plans to construct a 293-space surface parking lot immediately east of the Downtown Market.
According to the plans, the city would build the lot on land owned by a subsidiary of Grand Rapids-based automotive supplier Spectrum Industries Inc. The new parking lot would sit east of Ionia Avenue between McConnell Street and Logan Street.
Spectrum Industries President Kevin Bassett told MiBiz that the city will lease the land from his company, but declined to disclose the lease rate.
“It’s an exciting project,” Bassett said. “There’s lots of growth in that area and we’re happy to be a part of it.”
The site is within one block of two free bus lines that can bring commuters into the central business district within a matter of minutes.
During a Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce meeting today, executives at Mobile GR said the city planned to build new parking lots near growing parts of downtown, but didn’t discuss specifics.
The Grand Rapids Chamber hosted the event after respondents of its annual membership survey highlighted a lack of parking as one of their primary concerns for the coming year.
Mobile GR’s Manager Josh Naramore told a large crowd of business owners that he expects two new temporary surface lots totalling about 450 spaces to be built by this summer, including one at an unspecified location near the Michigan Street corridor.
Speaking at the Grand Rapids Chamber event, Naramore said the city’s supply of monthly parking passes, which are typically reserved for downtown business people, stands at about 95 percent occupied.
Naramore did not immediately respond to a request for comment as this report was published. However, he said during the Grand Rapids Chamber event that the two proposed lots would cost about $1.5 million to build and maintain.
Commercial real estate and development sources say that temporary surface lots are now prefered over stand-alone parking structures, mostly due to cost. A parking structure generally costs about $30,000 per space to build and maintain, according to development sources. The city sees surface parking lots as more affordable temporary solutions as more parking structures come online as part of independent developments.
Nonetheless, Naramore said the city recognizes the need for added parking capacity in the form of enclosed ramps. But rather than building and maintaining the costly facilities on its own, the city now prefers to partner with private developers and have parking as a component of new mixed-use projects, Naramore said.
A survey of active proposals in the downtown development pipeline shows that all of them contain some element of parking.
Since forming last year, Mobile GR and other stakeholders such as Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and transit provider The Rapid have sought to deploy new options to assist with alleviating the parking crunch.
In recent months, the city’s free Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH) has been rerouted and condensed from four lines to two to allow for more frequent service. The lines largely connect the downtown to various surface parking lots in all directions outside of the core business district, as well as to major attractions like Founders Brewing Co. and the Downtown Market, as MiBiz previously reported.
Additionally, The Rapid’s bus rapid transit route known as the Silver Line has a no-fare zone throughout its seven downtown stops connecting the transit system’s Central Station on Grandville Avenue with the cluster of medical facilities on Michigan Street to the north.
Ultimately, the city aims to provide as many options as possible for the growing group of stakeholders who work, live or come to downtown for entertainment, Naramore told MiBiz last month.
“We need to do a better job of understanding the needs of the employees downtown,” Naramore said for a previous report. “But we also have a growing residential population downtown and their needs are completely different than the daytime workforce.”
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