DDA Is Ramping Up For Parking

November 24, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Members of the Downtown Development Authority recently agreed to spend up to $5,000 to determine what type of parking ramp could be built on the DASH 8 surface lot.

The DDA owns the lot on Summer Avenue NW, which is just north of the new YMCA facility that is under construction, and the board commissioned Walker Parking Consultants of Kalamazoo to draw up a preliminary design for a parking structure there.

DASH 8 is the smallest of the three lots that make up the DASH West shuttle service, with roughly 125 spaces. DASH 7 on Mount Vernon Avenue NW is bigger, with about 500 spaces, as is DASH 9 on Seward Avenue NW. Both offer a larger footprint than DASH 8 does for a ramp.

But DDA Executive Director Jay Fowler said DASH 7 could be developed for another use in the near future and he wanted to learn whether DASH 8 could support a ramp large enough to meet future demands for parking downtown.

If DASH 8 doesn’t offer enough space for a ramp, Fowler hoped the DDA might be able to convince YMCA officials to allow part of the structure to go up on a portion of their site.

“Having remote parking, like we have at DASH 9, is important,” said Fowler.

But ramps are expensive to build.

The city’s newest, the MonroeCenter ramp, cost over $20,000 per space — though that one carried a higher-than-usual price tag because the building included commercial space that the city leases.

Still, Parking Services Director Pam Ritsema didn’t think the city could continue to only charge $2 a day for the DASH park-and-ride service if it originated from a ramp and also meet the debt service on the facility. Nor did Ritsema think DASH customers would pay $125 a month, about the going rate for a monthly parking card at a city-owned ramp, to use the shuttle service.

If a ramp is built — and there is nothing now to indicate that would happen — who would pay for it? A bond issuance would be the likely method to finance construction, but the DDA is already making debt-service payments on Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place. Parking Services is expected to be in the red for this fiscal year and the next, largely due to $1 million that the city transferred over the past two years from the parking fund to the city’s general fund.

This year Parking Services has roughly $1.75 million in principal and interest payments to make on four downtown ramps.

In a related matter, Fowler said the city would begin accepting bids on the former City Centre parking ramp site in December. The 36,000-square-foot parcel sits on a prime site at the downtown corner of Division and Fulton. Fowler added that any proposal offered for the land needs to include at least 100 parking spaces for visitors.

“It’s a great site,” said Kayem Dunn, DDA vice chairperson, “and there is some concern about what would go up there.”

A selection committee will review all proposals the city receives and then select one. City commissioners would be required to approve a proposal.    

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