DeVos Place Spaces Open This Week

January 16, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS—About 330 parking spaces in the new underground ramp at DeVos Place are set to open to the public on Friday.

But a new parking agreement between the Convention and Arena Authority and the city  sparked a lengthy discussion last week at the CAA Finance Committee on who profits from those spaces, and drew a less than enthusiastic recommendation from the committee for the CAA board to approve the contract at its meeting next week.

“I would hate to see us in the predicament of having parking at the convention center not able to be used for conventions,” said Steven Heacock, chairman of the Finance Committee.

Under the agreement, which is good through June 2005, the CAA is required to make spaces available to the city and the county at $40 a month per space.

Public rates at the DeVos Place ramp reportedly will be identical to those charged at the city-owned Government Center ramp. Parking in that ramp costs 95 cents a half hour up to a daily maximum of $8.75, and $125.75 for a monthly card -- or triple what the contract calls for the county and city to pay the CAA for spaces in the new ramp.

The city hadn’t reserved any spaces as of last week, while Kent County Fiscal Services Director Robert White said the county was leaning toward leasing 100 spots.

Heacock was concerned that the contract might give the city and county an incentive to move from the Government Center ramp to the new ramp, and then not enough spaces would be available for convention goers and others who attend events in the building.

Heacock felt both situations have the potential to cut parking revenue to the CAA. His uneasiness surfaced at the same time the committee learned that income for DeVos Place in December was much lower than projected, and that the CAA operating account fell to $2.87 million at the end of last month.

When the reserve account drops under $3 million, the CAA has to notify the city and the county -- which are responsible for losses at DeVos Place after the CAA. DeVos Place has been projected to lose $1.61 million this fiscal year.

“I’m not real comfortable with this,” said Heacock of the agreement and suggested that the contract be better defined sooner rather than later.

SMG general manager Rich MacKeigan said that the agreement would be revised and made more specific before it expires next year.

The contract also calls for the city to make available the same number of parking spaces for convention center traffic at the Government Center ramp that are moved by the city and county from that ramp to the DeVos Place ramp, which are across Monroe Avenue from each other.

But the city, not the CAA, gets the revenue from DeVos Place visitors who park in the Government Center ramp. So making room for these parkers in the Government Center ramp may not deliver as much revenue to the CAA than if they parked in the DeVos Place ramp. The CAA is also responsible to pay the ramp’s electric and telephone bills. Parking Services will operate the ramp.

Because the convention center ramp won’t be fully open until next year, the parking revenue from it wasn’t included as a line item in this year’s budget. So exactly how much revenue it will generate in a fiscal year isn’t known yet.

But White said the city plans to get $2.5 million in revenue from the Government Center ramp this fiscal year and $1.5 million of that income should go into the city’s general fund.

White also pointed out that some visitors to DeVos Place will arrive in the evening and on weekends, times when county-leased spaces are likely to be empty, and the CAA can park visitors in those spaces at those times.

City commissioners will review the agreement tomorrow, while the CAA will do the same on Jan. 28.

Another 75 spaces should open in June, with 90 more in December. The remaining 195 spaces will become available in March 2005. The ramp will have 685 spaces, in all.

For the time being, the only entrance and exit to the ramp is just east of the Bridge Street bridge across the street from the Post Office. A second entrance and exit will open on Lyon Square, which is at the south end of the building, when construction is finished next year.

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