GRAND RAPIDS — As developers propose a new 71-unit studio apartment building on the edge of downtown Grand Rapids, Heritage Hill residents remain concerned about the added density and a lack of parking in the neighborhood.
The development team of Shayne Malone and Rob Horton plan to buy and tear down the existing Clark’s Food Center at 363 State St. SE and construct a four-story building on the corner of State Street and Madison Avenue. In addition to the approximately 350-square-foot units, the project would also contain ground-floor retail and a 37-space internal parking lot.
But residents who gathered last week for a public meeting on the proposal — which still requires approval from the city’s Historic Preservation Commission — say the project would add too many people without a guaranteed parking spot in a neighborhood they say already suffers from a lack of parking.
“We expect there will always be a variety of perspectives anytime there’s a substantial shift or a potential exchange,” said Malone, who’s a principal at Grand Rapids-based Malone Development LLC. “We’ve taken a lot of time to try and stay ahead of a lot of those concerns.”
Malone and Horton — who are developing the project as 363 State LLC — said they’re open to a number of options to ease parking congestion.
For instance, the developers said they are planning to meet with representatives from Enterprise Car Rental to discuss having a small number of car-share vehicles parked on site as a means of lowering the necessity of car ownership. Other options to dissuade car ownership for future residents were discussed as well.
Should the project go forward, the developers say they hope to begin demolition and construction in spring 2017.
Malone declined to give a total development or construction cost for the project.
While residents expressed concern about the project throughout the meeting — with some flatly saying they didn’t want it in their neighborhood — other stakeholders quickly pointed out that the proposed mixed-use development is exactly the type of project called for on that site in the State Street Corridor Area Specific Plan.
That ASP was added to the city’s master plan in 2014 and called for the block to have a variety of housing types, in addition to restaurants, retail and services.
Nearly all residents at the meeting agreed that the site’s existing party store should be closed and torn down.
Earlier this month, the city’s Historic Preservation Commission deemed the structure “non-contributing” to the neighborhood’s historic designation, clearing the way for it to be torn down for another development.
Despite the concerns of residents, the developer’s proposal meets zoning in terms of parking and density. As such, the city planning department can approve the project without a public hearing to address the parking and density concerns, although it still requires the approval of Historic Preservation Commission.
Because the Historic Preservation Commission deals with historic design issues, its purview when considering projects does not include issues of parking and density.
Ted Lott, principal at Grand Rapids-based Lott3Metz Architecture LLC and the architect for the project, addressed the residents last week for approximately an hour. At the end of the day, Lott said he believes this type of project is exactly what’s needed to drive housing density in a city with minimal inventory and rising rents.
“I think our … first priority is that we’re not going to tear down existing houses (in historic districts) to accommodate the growth of the city,” Lott said. “We’re not doing that. Somehow, we have to figure out a way to increase our housing stock. I really feel strongly about this. Where we have opportunities to add density that are not using existing resources, we would all look at and say, ‘That’s valuable.’ I feel like we have to maximize that opportunity.”