Award Brings Parking Transportation To Publics Consciousness

June 5, 2002
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Winning the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s Newsmaker of the Year Award does not ensure fame and fortune.

In fact, it doesn’t even guarantee that you’ll be around the next year (see West Michigan Grand Prix, 1999).

What winning does, however, is shine the spotlight on your accomplishments.

To that end, the timing could not have been better for last year’s winners, David Cassard, George Heartwell and Ted Perez. The trio picked up the Newsmaker nod for their efforts to resolve the parking crunch in downtown Grand Rapids by injecting the idea of a transit system into the central business district’s economic-growth equation.

“Downtown is one of the areas that can truly work for transit if it’s done well. It can become a tool for attracting employers to downtown in the future, especially if downtown continues to focus as the hub of the system,” Cassard said when accepting the award.

The chairman of the Downtown Development Authority made those remarks in March of last year, just weeks before voters in six metro cities were asked to pass a transit millage that would provide slightly more than $6 million annually to expand the Interurban Transit Partnership’s bus system.

The millage did, in fact, pass, and the bus service was expanded as promised.

But more than anything, the Newsmaker Award brought the downtown parking crunch and transportation issue into focus for many business owners.

Businesses and city officials collaborated to roll out programs last year designed to encourage ride-sharing ideas and the better use of shuttle services. Developers paid special attention to parking concerns when it came time to build or renovate downtown. And parking – and transportation – once again moved to the forefront of everyone’s consciousness.

“We’ve come to realize that the vitality of downtown, I mean the continued potential of downtown to grow, is dependent on finding alternatives to moving people in and out of the downtown area,” Heartwell said. “We can’t continue building parking ramps and surface lots on all of our prime developable land downtown. It’s just not a good use of that asset.”

The parking and transportation problems downtown are not solved. But at least there seems to be more awareness of the issues involved. And maybe that’s what a Newsmaker of the Year Award does for your cause.

Last year’s other nominees included:

  • Richard Lacks Jr., president of Lacks Industries, and Dr. Thomas Gribbin, medical director of Saint Mary’s, for their efforts in creating a new comprehensive cancer center. The Lacks family donated $10 million to the center in memory of Richard Lacks Sr. and John P. Lacks, both of whom died from cancer.

  • Mayor John Logie and Ari Adler, MDOT spokesman, for their work in making the U.S. 131 S-Curve reconstruction less of a hassle than originally thought.

  • James Koslosky, aeronautics director at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, for helping area businesses get off the ground faster with an improved cargo facility and new trade center.


  • Grandville City Manager Ken Krombeen and Randy Zimmerman, general manager of RiverTown Crossings, for working together to bring the region its most expansive, and expensive, retail development in three decades.

  • Pat Malone for leading the legal and political communities down the path to a new courthouse and then giving everyone some park land to relax in after the day’s business battles.

  • Peter Secchia, head of SIBSCO LLC, and Rockford Construction’s John Wheeler and Michael VanGessel for remembering all the good things downtown stood for by renovating buildings that hold those memories.

  • The Right Place Program President Birgit Klohs and John Brown, president of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, for finding quality workers during a period of economic expansion, with possibly the region’s tightest labor market ever standing in their way.

  • Amway (now Alticor) Corp. Chairman Steve Van Andel and President Dick DeVos for reinventing one of the area’s top companies and most important corporate neighbors.

  • Grand Valley Metro Council Chairman Jim Buck, Executive Director Jerry Felix and Andy Bowman, GVMC Blueprint director, for showing that commercial and residential development can co-exist with green spaces.

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