Not A Lot There

March 8, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — Merchants at the east end of Monroe Center, businesses along West Fulton Street and South Division Avenue, the Children’s Museum, the Secretary of State’s Office, and the city’s Police Department will not be getting the additional parking they had hoped for.

The city’s Parking Commission unanimously decided Thursday morning not to build a temporary surface parking lot on the former City Centre ramp site at Fulton and Division.

“We always try to address their parking problems. But I’m reluctant to proceed with an interim lot. If conditions change we can take another look at it,” said Parking Commission Chairman Jack Hoffman.

“I don’t think it’s a wise investment to proceed with the lot,” he added.

Parking Services Director Pam Ritsema recommended to commissioners that they not go ahead with the project because she didn’t think the lot wouldn’t be open long enough for her department to recoup the $160,000 it would spend to build it.

“My recommendation is to not go ahead with the lot,” she said.

Ritsema said she learned from her talks with Two West Fulton, the firm that intends to buy the 37,000-square-foot parcel from the city, that it plans to begin construction on the property this fall, most likely in October. She said the lot could be open from May 1 into October, but that timeframe might not be long enough to cover the construction tab.

Ritsema also said opening the lot could complicate the city’s relationship with Two West Fulton, a joint venture between RSC Associates of Chicago and Second Story Properties of Grand Rapids. She said if vehicles were parked on the site then the development company might have to conduct a second environmental test on the property to determine if oil or gasoline leaks contaminated the parcel. The firm said it has already spent $250,000 on the project and completed the due diligence work for the site.

Ritsema said Two West Fulton told her that it was making “good progress” with getting the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts to be the development’s anchor tenant and had retailers interested in the project, which also includes rental apartments.

“I don’t want to minimize the importance of short-term parking,” she said, “but that’s not the maximum use of the site.”

Two West Fulton is in the process of buying the property from the city for $2 million and has until July 31 to close on the transaction and until Jan. 31 to begin construction.

The Downtown Alliance, which represents retailers, restaurants, and service organizations in the Central Business District, told parking commissioners the spaces were needed, even if only on a temporary basis.

Ritsema got permission from the city’s Planning and Historic Preservation commissions to build the lot and had planned to appear before the City Commission next week. But after meeting with Two West Fulton she had second thoughts about building the lot, and so did parking commissioners.

“It’s just too complicated,” said Hoffman, “and the final number just won’t work out.”    

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