More Downtown Makeovers Coming

April 30, 2007
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With more than $150 million worth of new developments opening this fall — namely, the JW Marriot Hotel and the Grand Rapids Art Museum — the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority has decided to spruce up a key property near both.

And that means a summer reconstruction of the Louis Campau Promenade is in the works. The promenade sits across Monroe Avenue from Rosa Parks Circle, where the art museum is nestled, and across Campau Avenue from where the hotel will do business.

“Louis Campau Promenade has been kind of a mess for a long time,” said Jay Fowler, DDA executive director.

The promenade opened as a public space and pedestrian walkway in 1985, but has deteriorated since then, and plans to upgrade it have been put on the back burner for years.

So the city hired the design firm of O’Boyle, Cowell, Blalock & Associates to draw up a preliminary plan for the promenade. An estimated construction cost of $475,000 came from that effort. Adding a snowmelt system to the project would raise the cost by $157,000.

“The space now is a little dark and not very appealing,” said Wes Steer, a principal with Kalamazoo-based OCBA and director of the firm’s Grand Rapids office.

The project calls for landscaped beds, planters, benches, ornamental lighting and brick pavers placed on a concrete base. The new pavers are supposed to have a longer life than the original ones, in addition to making the site more aesthetically appealing.

“We’re using the brick to lead your eyes through the space,” said Steer. “You won’t have the same pavement issues that you have now. That was a thinner brick.”

The project also leaves space for an art piece that could be anchored near the entry on Monroe Avenue.

“Perhaps the art museum could put a sculpture in at the focal point,” said Steer.

The DDA approved another project south of the promenade, as members agreed to spend $1.97 million to reconstruct portions of Grandville and Ellsworth avenues.

“This comes closer to a Third World street than any other,” said Mayor George Heartwell, who sits on the DDA.

The project will be the first to follow the new downtown streetscape guidelines that the Downtown Alliance unveiled last month. The work will replace utilities, improve sidewalks, add trees and planting areas, and install brick pavers on Grandville from Cherry to Goodrich streets.

The project has been estimated to cost $2.26 million, but not exceed $2.97 million. The city awarded Dykema Excavators Inc. of Grand Rapids the contract.

“This will be a whole new neighborhood when it’s all done,” said Fowler.

The Interurban Transit Partnership is giving the DDA $200,000 this year for the work, and the city’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority will be giving the DDA $300,000 next year. Once those payments are made, the DDA’s total cost will be cut by $500,000 to $1.47 million. The city’s water, sewer and street funds will pitch in about $1 million for the work.

Board members also agreed to commit up to $20,000 to install new wayfinding signs on the enclosed skywalk that runs from DeVos Place to Van Andel Arena, and for the walk along the Grand River.

“I’ve been here more than 20 years, and it really needs something,” said Joseph Tomaselli, DDA member and president of the Amway Grand Hotel, of the skywalk that his guests use. “One thing I also think we need to address is the maintenance of the skywalk.”

A dozen businesses are linked to the skywalk, and Fowler has Corbin Design designing the signs for the skywalk and the riverwalk. Corbin Design, of Traverse City, is the same firm that designed the downtown wayfinding system.

The DDA also agreed to spend $300,000 on repairs to the Van Andel Public Museum parking ramp and the riverwalk area behind the museum. Rahm Industrial Services is doing the work. The museum operates the ramp, which is not part of the city’s parking system. Fowler said the DDA has two years of bond payments left to make on the ramp on Front Avenue, a block south of Pearl Street.     CQX

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