City Gets State Loan For North Monroe Ramp

May 8, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Last summer, the North Monroe Business Association told the city it needed more parking to accommodate its growth. Six months ago, the group said it would need 1,000 spaces within a year, and more than 2,000 by 2006.

Last week, the city got a $2.5 million loan from the state to help build a parking ramp on North Monroe and to also make repairs to the district’s sidewalks and streets. The loan came from the Core Communities Fund Program, which was originated by state lawmakers and is administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

“I think the Core Communities funding is a good complement to what you are doing,” said Jeff Kaczmarek, MEDC senior vice president of business services, before he handed the check to Mayor John Logie.

So if the city can complete a triple play, the business association may get a new ramp that would offer at least 500 spaces, and maybe between 800 and 900, at Monroe Avenue and Trowbridge Street.

At the same time, the owners of the Brass Works Building at 642 Monroe have begun work on a surface lot at Ottawa Avenue and Fairbanks Street that will hold another 200 cars.

But to make the ramp plausible, the city has to reach a deal with The Grand Rapids Press, Kent County and Quality Auto Service. All three own a piece of the projected ramp site, a surface parking lot, and all three use it.

The mayor said the city doesn’t have a deal yet, and is open to ideas. One option he mentioned would have the owners sell the property to the city and then lease parking spaces from it. Or, he said, they could donate the site in return for spaces.

Logie added that the ramp hasn’t been sized yet, so a price tag hasn’t been attached to it. But he said the city feels that at least 500 spaces are needed and each space would likely cost between $12,000 and $16,000.

Deputy City Manager Eric DeLong and Business Advocate Susan Shannon are trying to iron out a deal for the city. Shannon explained that neither principal nor interest are due for the first five years of the state loan. In year six, the interest rate is 5 percent.

Parking Services Director Ted Perez said the city is hoping to get additional financial help for the ramp, possibly up to $600,000 annually, from tax-incremental financing through area businesses and the city’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.

Perez said the money would subsidize the parking rate, which could be held to $50 a month. He added that the ramp would open up property along the east bank of the Grand River for commercial development, as the city could then close its North Monroe lot. The ramp’s design, Perez said, would not detract from the renovated buildings in the district.

The owner of one of those buildings, the Brass Works, is laying out a surface lot between Ottawa and Ionia avenues along Fairbanks Street. The Canal Street Group, the partnership that owns the Brass Works, plans to have the lot finished in a few months. The paved lot will offer about 200 spaces to the building’s tenants.

“We obviously won’t be able to asphalt it until the mills open up again. But as soon as the mills open, it will be one of their first projects, we hope,” said Sam Cummings, a partner in the Canal Street Group.

Last year, the partners wanted to sell their site to the city for a multi-level parking deck that would have provided public parking for the business district. But the city prefers the Monroe Avenue location.

“We offered the site to the city for a low-cost deck. The city’s gripe has been that they can’t justify the price of building a full-scale ramp,” said Cummings. “We actually went through the exercise with Owen-Ames-Kimball of roughly designing a deck on that site.

“That sort of fell on deaf ears. They weren’t interested,” he added. “We estimated that they could build it for approximately 60 percent as much per space for what a conventional ramp would cost.”

In addition, the city plans to begin redesigning the Sixth Street Bridge Park this spring, work that will eliminate some of the park’s parking spaces. Business association members have told the city that now is not the time for the district to lose spaces.

In other parking news:

  • The city-owned lot at Ionia Avenue and Oakes Street is open and accepting monthly parkers. The lot has 168 spaces and cost $650,000 to build. “These spaces are being claimed at a brisk pace,” said Perez.

  • The schematic designs for the new city-owned Monroe Center 2 ramp are nearing completion. Construction drawings are set to start in March and a contractor should be chosen by September. The ramp at Ottawa Avenue and Louis Street will take about 15 months to build and have at least 500 spaces. Each space carries about a $16,000 price tag.     

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