Downtown Parking Shuffle Starts Next Month

June 5, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — The downtown parking space shuffle begins in earnest in three weeks, and the first round of shuffling will likely last for five months.

“This is a disruption that is likely to be noticeable,” said Parking Services Director Ted Perez to the city’s parking commissioners.

The city-owned Grand Center ramp is set to close for good on April 9. The building will be demolished as part of the $219.5 million expansion project for the Grand Center, the city’s convention facility. On days when there wasn’t a trade show going on at the facility, the ramp had at least 140 spaces, and often up to 400, available for visitor parking. But those spots will be lost to the project.

The nearest option is the Government Center ramp, which has access across the street from the Grand Center on Monroe Avenue. But that building has only 200 vacant spots on average, not always enough to absorb the lost spaces from the Grand Center ramp.

So the city is alerting visitors who will be heading to City Hall, the County Administration Building, the Grand Center, the Waters Building — or any other destination in the mid-downtown area — that starting on April 9 they will likely have to hunt for a parking spot. And that scenario is expected to continue until mid-September when a new ramp being built by Ellis Parking and Kent County opens.

In the meantime, Perez said his department will unleash an aggressive marketing and ad campaign to try to convince downtown visitors to park at DASH West and ride the shuttle. For a dollar, a visitor can park at the DASH West lot and take the short ride downtown on the DASH shuttle. The lot is just north of Pearl Street and west of the U.S. 131 Pearl Street exit on Winter Avenue NW.

In an attempt to open up more spaces in the Government Center ramp, which is situated underneath Calder Plaza and is where a number of city and county workers park, Mayor John Logie said that he, Perez and City Manager Kurt Kimball will try to develop an incentive plan that might persuade some employees to voluntarily park at another site.

The mayor also encouraged parking commissioners to continue to concentrate on this situation. “We’re going to need more creativity than we’ve seen this morning over the next three years,” said Logie.

The new underground ramp that is being built as part of the convention center project is expected to open in January 2004, almost three years from now.

When the new Ellis Parking ramp opens in five months, it will offer between 200 and 300 spaces to downtown visitors. The ramp is going up just west of the Waters Building and east of Monroe Avenue between Lyon Street and Monroe Center.

Ellis Parking President and Parking Commissioner Mike Ellis said officials at Old Kent Bank told him there are some visitor spaces available in the bank’s ramp at Ottawa and Lyon NW. Ellis Parking manages the ramp for Old Kent, soon to become Fifth Third.

As for Parking Services, Perez said the loss of the Grand Center ramp means a loss of about $700,000 in annual revenue. But the city’s longtime parking chief was optimistic about the upcoming parking-space shuffle. He said that if downtowners could survive the S-Curve reconstruction, they should also get through this inconvenience.

“People tend to be remarkably resilient and adaptable,” said Perez. “And we suspect that they will continue to be that.”

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