Space Mission

March 17, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — The city could lose 387 downtown parking spaces in the near future if a trio of developments targeted for three separate city-owned parking lots go forward.

And 312 of those spaces, or 81 percent, are already leased to monthly parkers.

Area 3, a lot with 62 spaces, is in the process of being sold to Tall House Enterprises for a nine-story development with condominiums, retail space and offices.

The Area 3 lot is on Ionia Avenue SE, a few steps east of Van Andel Arena. All its spaces are reserved for monthly parkers.

Area 5, a lot with 155 spaces, has drawn interest from a number of developers. Parking commissioners recently agreed to issue a request for proposals starting in April and form a stakeholder committee that would review and select a winning proposal in August. Parking commissioners would examine it in September.

The Area 5 lot is just south of the arena and west of Ionia on Oakes Avenue SE; 80 of its 155 spaces are reserved for monthly parkers.

The DASH South 6 lot,  with 170 spaces, could go to the Interurban Transit Partnership, which holds a purchase option on the site. ITP, which operates The Rapid, has expressed an interest in possibly developing the lot as a new location for the Amtrak rail station.

“They’re considering doing that, but they haven’t brought it to their board yet,” Pam Ritsema, director of Parking Services, said of ITP.

“They have requested survey work and an appraisal. But there are a pretty big number of pieces that have to come together to make it happen and that includes cooperation between the city, multiple state of Michigan departments, and I think there is more than one railroad involved. Some of the land south of that lot is owned by two different railroad companies,” she added.

The DASH South 6 lot is on Cherry Street SE, just east of Grandville Avenue and south of the ITP Surface Transportation Center, and all 170 spaces are leased to monthly parkers.

Ritsema said she hoped the stakeholder committee overseeing the Area 5 sale would be able to meet three times this month to develop the RFP and set a price for the lot. The lot has been appraised, but the appraised value hasn’t been released.

Ritsema also wants to keep operating all three lots as long as she possibly can.

In the meantime, replacing some or all of those spaces has become a mission for Parking Services and the Parking Commission — which has been the orbit they’ve been flying in for the past few years.

“Our standard operating procedure has become transition and flux — open and close parking facilities,” said Ritsema with a laugh.

A task force made up of parking commissioners and department staff will explore new space possibilities starting soon. They will meet every other week until they’ve run out of ideas, and then file a report with the commission.

“The staff certainly has some ideas about the direction we want to go, but we want to rely on the wisdom of parking commissioners in making those decisions in looking at options for replacement and expansion parking,” said Ritsema.

With all three lots in the Heartside Business District, the new ramp planned for Cherry Street and Commerce Avenue becomes even more newsworthy. The good news is the 320 spaces it will offer could cover the three lots’ 312 monthly parkers. But as Ritsema reported last month, the bad news is most of those 320 spaces have already been spoken for.

“That’s true,” said Ritsema. “If all development happens like the developers are saying it’s going to happen — and that’s always questionable — I would say that we’re going to enter a strong transitional phase.”    

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