Kentwood OKs MVP Sportsplex

October 17, 2003
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KENTWOOD — The Kentwood Planning Commission approved by a vote of 7-4 Tuesday the DeVos family’s proposal to build a  $17 million, 96,000-foot MVP Sportsplex on a 10.6-acre site at Burton Street and East Paris Avenue.

The Planning Commission’s recommendation, in the form of a resolution, now heads to the Kentwood City Commission for final approval. The resolution is on the City Commission’s Nov. 10 agenda.

Project plans call for a two-story medical office building in conjunction with the health club and include indoor and outdoor pools, six indoor tennis courts, a gym, day care facility and small café.

Though a restaurant and fitness-related retail space were originally part of the plan, the developers dropped those as a concession to residents of the area.

Kentwood Economic Planner Lisa Golder outlined for the commission eight conditions the developers have agreed to meet, including additional landscaping, the repositioning of an outbuilding, elevation changes, and lighting and signage requirements.

Although the sportsplex would generate more traffic, and traffic studies indicate that the East Paris-Burton intersection has one of the highest accidents rates among intersections in Kentwood, Golder said the Kent County Road Commission approves the project.

Spectrum Health is considering the possibility of partnering with MVP Sportsplex to provide the health care arm of the business.

Bruce Rossman, Spectrum’s media relations manager, said the hospital doesn’t have a formal commitment with the developer as yet.

“We are considering how we can contribute to this project in a manner that will benefit the community and our patients. I think we are committed to trying to work with them to develop some kind of a partnership.”

Spectrum isn’t far enough into the process to determine exactly what health services would be offered, he said. There are a number of health initiatives that would be a good fit with MVP Sportsplex, such as sports medicine, he said.

“A location like this can offer some other benefits, too — like programs that promote wellness or things like that. There is a wide range of things we’re discussing with them and we hope to come to an agreement in the near future.”

Residents of Sabal Pointe Condominiums, which is adjacent to the sportsplex site, originally opposed the development, maintaining it was too intense and too large to be placed in the middle of a residential area.

Roger Meyer, president of the Sabal Pointe Condo Association board of directors, told the Business Journal the week before the Planning Commission vote that there was a lot of opposition to the proposal among members of the association, which represents 65 households and 110 people.

At the time he cited condo owners’ concerns about increased traffic, the visual and noise impact of a large health club next door and their fears that a sportsplex would either destroy or lessen property values.

But in the interim, condo residents met with the developers once again and by Tuesday had changed their tune. It was their 15th meeting with the developers, Meyer noted.

He said the condo association subsequently polled members that live on the street closest to the proposed development and that the majority of them now approve of the project.

His wife, Gloria Meyer, however, does not. She still feels the project is too intense for the area, which she made clear to planning commissioners Tuesday.

Jim Reminga, president of Development Advisors Equity Corp., said the developer’s team spent “a lot of very specific time” working with Sabal Pointe residents on their concerns about the sportsplex.

“We have come to understand what’s important to Sabal Pointe and what the commission has been concerned with. We think this is about as close to a win-win plan in terms of balancing all those interests that we could possibly get,” he said.

“The Sabal Pointe Condominium leadership and the individual owners there have just bent over backwards to be hospitable and to be good neighbors. Our client has given us a lot of latitude to reciprocate their hospitality as much as we can.”

The MVP site is in close proximity to East Hills Athletic Club on East Paris and the Michigan Athletic Club (MAC) on Burton.

John Smallfield, general manager of East Hills, reiterated to the commission last week his concerns about the impact of another health club in the area.

From his perspective, another large health club would provide unnecessary duplication of services and would likely siphon off some membership from East Hills and the MAC.

Smallfield said he doesn’t buy the developer’s claim that the market is plenty big enough to support three large health clubs.

Based on a market study by the HealthFit Research Board (HFRB) conducted in November 1999 and updated in August, the southeast market of Grand Rapids is nearly saturated with health clubs and related facilities, he said.

“We understood that this commission didn’t have market saturation as a high priority, if any priority, as far as making their decision,” he said. “The city commissioners are elected so we may or may not continue this fight if we believe that’s an issue they ought to look at.”

At one time the developer and East Hills discussed the possibility of a joint venture, but the negotiations fell through because of a land ownership issue.

“Those negotiations got started as a result of our bringing them to the table, saying, ‘Do you realize that generally the DeVos family has been associated with building up the community and augmenting things that are already there, not tearing down other businesses?” Smallfield recalled.

“They kind of took stock in that and decided to try to do a joint venture. When they weren’t able to make that happen, they went back to their original proposal to do it alone, completely avoiding the question of maybe not doing it at all.”    

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