DDA Buys Pair Of Parking Parcels

September 6, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — Construction of a new DASH lot could begin next spring if the Downtown Development Authority closes this fall on 1.2 acres along Winter Avenue, just south of Bridge Street on the city's near West Side.

At a special meeting held last week, board members agreed to buy two parcels at 325 and 331 Winter Ave. NW from the estate of Frederick High for $1.2 million. DDA Executive Director Jay Fowler said the city would begin due diligence on the properties immediately and the board hopes to close on the transaction this fall.

Once the deal is finalized, Fowler said bids would be accepted this winter for the work, which would get underway next spring. The proposed lot would be within a few blocks of two others that serve the DASH West shuttle system, and is likely to offer 140 spaces for the park-and-ride service. At the going rate of $5,000 per space, the lot should roughly cost $700,000 to build.

There are minor concerns about contamination on the parcels, as the land once belonged to a railroad that stored coal on the sites. Coal dust has been found on the properties, but the board was told that the groundwater doesn't seem to be contaminated. The city can clean and cap the parcels under state law and then build the lot.

"It has been vacant for a long time, except for the building," said Fowler.

The building belongs to the High family and houses the family's business, Contract Flavors, which serves the beverage industry. The contract allows the business to stay in the building until the end of February. Frederick High, who ran the business, died before a sales agreement was reached.

The city had the parcels appraised for $1.06 million, while the family's appraisal came in at $1.3 million. The Highs asked for $1.5 million, but agreed to sell for $1.2 million.

Fowler said the DDA would buy the parcels with money that has been set aside for such a purchase in the board's budget. But he added that construction of the lot would have to be financed, most likely through short-term municipal purchase notes.

"We're going to look at that and come back with a proposal in a few weeks," said Fowler.

DDA Vice Chairman David Cassard said this could be the last opportunity the board will have to buy property to support business expansion in downtown. Parking Services Director Pam Ritsema said the DASH system, with the DASH 7 and DASH 9 lots serving two of the three shuttle routes from the West Side, is full during peak hours.

DASH West and DASH South, which originate from DDA-owned lots south of Van Andel Arena, account for nearly 40 percent of the city's downtown parking traffic and offer the most affordable monthly rates in the district with prices ranging from $22 to $44.

"The benefit to downtown is it provides lower-cost parking for employees and students," said Ritsema.

Ritsema told the Business Journal that the new lot is likely be named DASH 8, which was the name of the lot the city turned over to the YMCA for its new facility on

Lake Michigan Drive
in a three-way property swap that led to DASH 9 being built. Parking Services still has the signage for DASH 8, so giving the new lot that name would save the department the expense of buying new signs.

The DDA will put $50,000 down on the parcels and pay the High family $1.15 million at closing. The board, which meets again on Sept. 14, may decide to reimburse itself for the land purchase by authorizing a financing package for $2 million — a figure that would cover the cost of the properties and the estimated cost to build the lot.    

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