GRAND RAPIDS — The Grand Rapids Planning Commission approved a special land use request Thursday for a developer’s plan to construct a three-story, mixed-use building that will include a new expanded location for The Peoples Cider Co.
The 15,570-square-foot building is planned to be built on a mostly vacant lot spanning four parcels at 555 Leonard St. NW and 1211, 1217 and 1221 Gezon Ave. NW on Grand Rapids’ west side. A gas station previously occupied the property before it was demolished, and the area has since been used for overflow parking by surrounding businesses. Two single-family homes on the site are set to be demolished.
The project is being developed by 555 Leonard LLC, which is registered to Ryan Schmidt, partner at Indigo Design + Development. The four parcels are owned by Leonard Street Capital Partners LLC, which is registered to Kyle Van Strien, co-owner of the nearby Long Road Distillers LLC.
The site plan calls for 20 apartment units on the second and third floors of the building that will be a mix of studio and one-bedroom units, as well as two apartment units planned for the first floor.
The project would also create a larger cider production area and tasting room than The Peoples Cider Co.’s current location at 539 Leonard St. NW. The space will include an approximately 1,900-square-foot cider production space, more than double the size of the company’s existing 900-square-foot space.
The tasting room will have an occupancy of 48 people with a 26-seat patio abutting the Leonard Street sidewalk. The site will also include a surface parking lot with 40 spaces — five spaces below the minimum required for the plan, which was waived by the Planning Commission. The parking lot would also be allowed to accommodate mobile food vending.
“We’re thrilled to bring this forward,” Schmidt said during the Thursday Planning Commission meeting. “We view this type of incremental development as really key to the maturity of business districts in our city.”
Some nearby residents and city staff raised concerns about the potential for added traffic on the narrow Gezon Avenue, as well as the project eating into parking spaces for businesses.
Parking has been an issue with most developments that have been proposed in the area recently, Grand Rapids Planning Commissioner Paul Greenwald said at the Thursday meeting.
“This (project) has done better than most at accommodating parking,” Greenwald said. “There are issues here but I don’t think they are issues that are insurmountable or ones that can’t be cured in the future if they do become problems. Overall I think the project is adding to the vitality of Leonard Street and it is a very good improvement and would be very good for the neighborhood.”