Ramp Land Decision To Be Delayed

September 28, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — While the demolition of the former City Centre parking ramp is wrapping up, a decision on what the city will do with the site at Division and Fulton probably won't be made until after Thanksgiving.

That is when the results from the parking and transit study being done in the Heartside Business District are expected to be available. The 36,000-square-foot parcel that was home to the ramp for over four decades sits at the district's northern edge.

In the meantime, Parking Services has put together a task force of private individuals and public officials to come up with suggestions on what should be done with the ramp site, a piece of property that some local developers feel has a lot of commercial potential. The task force met for the first time early this month.

"The first meeting was about process," said Parking Services Director Pam Ritsema. "But the goal of the group is to make recommendations for the highest and best use."

One of those uses could be parking in the expanding business district, which lost more than 700 spaces when the city closed the ramp nine months ago because of structural concerns.

But Ritsema said early findings from the study being done by Walker Parking Consultants showed that an excess of spaces exists in the district. Most, however, are privately owned. So she said one possible option that might lead to more parking in Heartside would have the city create a partnership with those who own the available parking spots.

For its parking analysis, Walker divided Heartside into four zones — west, east, north and central. (See related chart.)

Walker found the west zone has a surplus of 279 spaces, and supply outnumbers demand by 432 spaces in the district's east zone. The north zone has a surplus of 346 spaces and the central zone has the largest excess of parking with 871 available spaces.

But the surplus in the district's central core is expected to evaporate in the near future.

Walker reported that the central zone would be facing a parking deficit of 295 spaces in 2009. The zone is south of the Van Andel Arena and may be the city's fastest developing sector with retail, institutional, residential and entertainment projects having recently opened and more on the way.

The City Centre ramp property is a few blocks northeast of this zone.

The early findings did not include a report on the cost of parking in the district. Ritsema said a final report from Walker is due in late November.

But before that report reaches the Parking Commission and the City Centre task force, Parking Commissioner John Logie said both groups need to learn more about the current market value of downtown properties to get a better understanding of what the City Centre property might be worth. He suggested that data on downtown transactions that closed in the last 10 years be gathered and analyzed.

"We need to know more about the market than we do know now," said Logie.

The city had the ramp site appraised, but is keeping that figure under wraps for now.    

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