In anticipation of a multifaceted effort to restore the Grand River through downtown Grand Rapids, numerous public and private partners are coming together to activate a number of key sites along the riverbanks.
Those initiatives include new trail connections, public plazas and sites with mixed uses such as housing, hotels and retail. MiBiz checked in on the status of several major initiatives that could help make the riverfront more of a destination.
Stakeholders hoping to redevelop a major cityowned riverfront site in the southwestern corner of downtown Grand Rapids are in a holding pattern at the moment, but remain hopeful the project will move forward.
The city last October selected Indianapolisbased Flaherty Collins Properties (FLCO), a real estate development firm, to redevelop the 15-acre site at 201 Market Ave. SW on the east bank of the Grand River near the S-Curve. The developer has since submitted preliminary documents to the Michigan Economic Development Corp. with the hopes of tapping into the state’s newly created “transformational” brownfield incentive, according to Kara Wood, the city’s economic development director.
Wood said the city and the would-be developers are just waiting to hear back whether the project qualifies for the enhanced incentive that allows developers to capture additional taxes generated by large-scale projects.
To date, Detroit developer Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock LLC remains the only firm to leverage the incentive, which took effect last year.
If the MEDC signs off on the preliminary review, the city and the developers would then begin negotiating a development agreement for the property, Wood said.
Officials contend that the added incentive would be necessary to address infrastructure challenges on the property and remediate the site, which is home to a number of city services.
Flaherty & Collins proposed building nearly 700 housing units on the site, as well as a hotel, retail and public green space with access to the Grand River, as MiBiz previously reported.
The site, located just west of Founders Brewing Co., contains a number of infrastructure challenges such as a massive sewer line that likely would need to be moved as part of any redevelopment.
Flaherty & Collins offered to pay the city $6 million for the property.
A redesigned Lyon Square, a public plaza located where Lyon Street dead ends into the Grand River near the Gillett pedestrian bridge, could be a major access point for kayakers and others looking to get into the restored Grand River.
Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI), the private nonprofit that administers the city’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and is leading many of the planning and design initiatives for key riverfront sites, is in the process of coming up with construction drawings for the project that could move forward in the coming months.
Plans call for removing the circular concrete amphitheater and replacing it with a public park, a tiered pathway system and flood protection infrastructure, according to DGRI documents.
Given the square’s proximity to the Amway Grand Plaza and J.W. Marriott hotels, Amway Hotel Corp. (AHC) — which operates the two hotels — also is serving as a private sector partner in the project.
AHC President Rick Winn said he envisions Lyon Square as a “congregating spot for river enthusiasts” with the potential of docking boats there, as well as possible retail and restaurant uses.
RIVER’S EDGE TRAIL
The city of Grand Rapids hopes to connect Riverside Park and the White Pine Trail on the northern edge of the city limits to the downtown via a system of trails. It got closer to that goal last year when it opened the Coldbrook Edge trail along the Grand River north of Canal Park.
Now, one of the remaining hurdles to that goal is to make the connection from Leonard Street north to Ann Street.
Andy Guy, chief outcomes officer for Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., notes the final connection falls outside the boundaries of the city’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA).
Nonetheless, Guy remains hopeful that partners will identify funding for that stretch, calling it the “most important connection.”
AH-NAB-AWEN AND INDIAN MOUNDS PARKS
On the western banks of the Grand River north of Pearl Street near the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, crews have started work on the enhancement of a key public park. Plans call for increased flood protection, a 15-foot wide trail section along with new lighting and “enhanced” public seating at Ah-Nab-Awen and Indian Mounds Parks.