Planners Nix Part Of Hotel Plan

February 25, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — City commissioners will be the next group to check in, and check out, the new hotel being proposed for the corner of Pearl Street and Campau Avenue by Alticor Inc.

Planning commissioners approved much of the hotel’s site plan yesterday, including the demolition of the Israels Building at 226 Pearl St. NW.  But they nixed two elements of the design: the helistop and the overhead walkways.

The proposed walkways would have connected the new hotel with the existing skywalk system. The design would have linked the hotel with the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and then connected the hotel with its parking deck, which is to go up south of the 340-room hotel on Campau Avenue. The walkway then would cross Campau Avenue and join the existing skywalk, adjacent to the city’s Louis Campau parking ramp.

“It seems to me to be entirely consistent with the existing walkway,” said Bill Hoyt, city planning director, prior to the commission’s vote.

“It seems to be a logical connection between the two hotels,” he added.

But planners felt the walkway would direct people away from other businesses located downtown.

As for the helistop, the hotel’s project manager Bert Crandell said it was a “land and go” pad that wouldn’t be used for commercial purposes. Crandell told planners that it would mainly be used to shuttle dignitaries to the city, and would likely have a maximum of two stops a day with none occurring overnight.

Crandell added that the pad meets the city’s noise regulations and was allowed under the current downtown zoning ordinance. But planning commissioners felt differently.

The helistop would be built on the roof of the four-story ballroom, part of the 24-story hotel’s design.

Michael Kaufman, a principal with Lohan Caprile Goettsch, the Chicago architectural firm designing the hotel with BETA Design Group, told planning commissioners that a 2,500-square foot urban park would replace the Israels Building at the corner of Pearl and Campau. He said the first floor of the hotel would be lit at night and would provide an “inviting” background to the park.

City commissioners will make the final decision on the hotel’s design. They can overrule the Planning Commission’s decision and allow the overhead walkways and helistop to be built.

Alticor has estimated the cost of the new hotel, to be operated by Marriott Inc., at from $60 million to $70 million. The firm said it would spend up to another $10 million to build the 700-space parking deck. About $11 million of public funds will go to the project.

“We’re not going to do anything that’s not done right,” said Crandell.    

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