GRAND RAPIDS — The Sovengard’s plan to relocate roughly a mile away on Grand Rapids’ west side faces neighborhood opposition and parking concerns after owners already chose an alternate location because of rising construction costs.
The locally sourced, Scandinavian-style restaurant that opened in 2016 at 443 Bridge St. NW initially planned to construct a new building roughly 1 mile west at 1213 Bridge St. NW. Owners now plan to move to an existing 5,085-square-foot building at 1232 Bridge St. NW. An outdoor patio and four-season covered porch would be added as part of the plan.
The Grand Rapids Planning Commission in September 2021 approved the restaurant’s initial plan to build a new facility.
However, the Planning Commission today tabled the latest plan based on concerns over a lack of parking and as neighborhood leaders claimed they have not been involved in the planning.
“This is entirely within the John Ball Area Neighbors neighborhood boundary,” said Peter Carlberg, a resident from the neighborhood organization who spoke against the project at today’s planning meeting. “We keep getting ignored, and other neighborhood organizations keep volunteering to do our role.”
Carlberg called the new location “highly objectionable” based on the lack of parking and proximity to homes.
Elliot Muller, sales associate with Ben Muller Realty Co., a co-owner of the project, told planning commissioners that the project owners unintentionally engaged with a separate neighborhood organization.
The Sovengard owner Rick Muschiana said shifting plans to the existing building at 1232 Bridge “came as a surprise to us as well. The site across the street did not work out for a number of reasons, but we really are passionate about staying on the west side and hopefully have been a reputable business for going on six years, and we love it over here.”
Muschiana said he shares some of the resident’s concerns about traffic and parking, but added that business activity tends to “slow down traffic,” which the owners hope is the case.
The owners are actively engaging a nearby church that has 51 parking spots on a potential parking agreement, he said.
Both 1213 and 1232 Bridge are owned by affiliates of Ben Muller Realty, which is serving as the realtor and project developer.
“The reason for the (change of plans) was the cost of construction,” Muller told MiBiz via email. “Our value engineering efforts didn’t get us a viable project and resulted in an uninteresting design.”
The new location would accommodate 125 patrons inside and 100 on the outdoor patio. The building is set to undergo extensive renovation by CD Barnes Construction, the project’s general contractor. The project designer is Integrated Architecture LLC.
The owners hope to have the project completed by August, Muller said. However, it remains unclear when it might come back for planning commission approval.
“I’m not opposed to this, so I don’t want to deny it, but I do think a couple more conversations do have to happen before it’s finalized because of the challenges we see here,” said Planning Commission Chairperson Kyle Van Strien said. “I am not concerned about the noise, but I think the parking is what will impact more folks here. If you were able to finalize an agreement with the church I would be more comfortable with this.”
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