More projects may be coming downtown

December 11, 2011
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The Downtown Development Authority will consider making a property swap with the city this week. Board members are likely to trade a downtown surface parking lot owned by the DDA for a nearby, slightly larger lot owned by the city. Parking commissioners approved the deal’s term sheet last week.

The transaction involves the DDA swapping the Area 1 lot, on Ottawa Avenue just west of Van Andel Arena, for the Area 5 lot the city owns on Cherry Street just south of the arena. The deal includes the DDA paying the city $1.13 million over a period of three to five years because the Area 5 lot has a higher appraisal value than Area 1. The cash would go to the city’s Parking Services Department.

The DDA wants the Area 5 lot because it is adjacent to another lot it owns, Area 4. Put together, both lots would become a larger parcel for a potential development. DDA Counsel Dick Wendt, who wrote the deal’s term sheet, said last week that a specific development hasn’t been targeted for the site. Years ago, a southeast Michigan developer wanted to build a parking ramp, a movie theater and a condo complex with ground-floor retail on the lots, but the project was never developed.

The Area 1 lot has been looked at as a potential site for a new parking ramp. Pam Ritsema, who directs the city’s enterprise division, said there isn’t a plan to build a ramp on the site, just an opportunity to do that if it becomes necessary. The Area 4 and 5 lots have a total of 583 parking spaces; those spots would come out of the city’s inventory if the DDA sells both for a development. The Area 1 lot has 102 spaces. City commissioners also would have to approve the swap.

Parking revenue from the Area 1 lot is expected to be $93,635 this fiscal year, while the Area 4 and Area 5 lots are expected to gross $277,800 and $164,300, respectively.

Another public parking site near the arena may be developed. CWD Real Estate Investment wants to build a nine-story, 127,500-square-foot mixed-use office tower on a city-owned parcel immediately east of the Ottawa Fulton parking ramp and directly across Fulton Street from the arena.

CWD, a partnership between Sam Cummings, Scott Wierda and Dan DeVos, has offered $1 million for the site that now has parking meters. “We’ve been calling it the ‘wedge’ property because it’s wedge shaped,” said Ritsema, who added that CWD was the only firm to respond to the city’s RFP for the site.

Ritsema said CWD has offered to place a three-year nonrefundable option on the site, with a $10,000 payment the first year and $15,000 for years two and three. Further meetings need to take place and a final appraisal has to be made on the property.

“It will become an action item if there is a term sheet,” said Ritsema.

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