Planners To Look At Razing Hall Of Justice

May 22, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Planning commissioners are expected to make a decision this week on whether the Hall of Justice, the Grand Center parking ramp and a portion of Welsh Auditorium can be demolished. A public hearing on that action and four other issues related to the renovation and expansion of the city’s convention center will be held Thursday.

The hearing was to have been held on Feb. 22 and commissioners could have given their approval for the project to move ahead then. But a mistake in the hearing’s public notice forced the commission to reschedule it. Instead of the notice advising that the hearing would be held on Feb. 22, it listed the date as March 22.

Erhardt-Hunt, the project’s construction manager, hopes to begin demolition of the parking ramp by early April. Razing the Hall of Justice won’t be done until next fall, when the police and courts are in their new locations.

Here are the four other Grand Center project items that planning commissioners will consider:

  • Whether to allow the north edge of the building to be 14 feet from the Grand River. The downtown zoning ordinance requires a 25-foot setback from the riverbank.

  • Whether to allow less transparency on the building’s façade along Monroe Avenue and Michigan Street. The city ordinance calls for a Monroe façade to have 60-percent transparency, while the Grand Gallery will have 51 percent and the exhibit hall 30 percent. The current Grand Center doesn’t have any transparency on its façade. Along Michigan 40 percent is required and the building’s loading dock will not have any windows.

  • Whether to allow an awning to be extended to within two feet of the curb along Monroe. The area will be used as a shuttle stop for those attending events at the building, and the awning will provide passengers with protection from the weather.

  • Whether to allow fewer trees in the streetscape plan.

Planning Commission approval is needed for any building in the downtown district to be demolished. Commissioners are required to make their decision on whether the planned use for the site is better than the current one.

The city’s Historic Preservation Commission has already approved the razing plan and the plan to restore the Welsh Auditorium lobby.

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