Economic Development, Government, and Travel & Tourism

City approves next stage of Michigan Street planning

Also, a 92-year-old school building is up for historic inclusion.

February 8, 2013
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City approves next stage of Michigan Street planning
Traffic along the Medical Mile, especially on Michigan Street, is the subject of a $231,500 study. Photo by Johnny Quirin
The city’s effort to resolve the congestion along the Medical Mile on Michigan Street took another step forward last week when Grand Rapids city commissioners approved the project’s third-phase work.

The board’s approval allows city Planning Director Suzanne Schulz, who is heading the effort on the city’s behalf, to enter into a contract for up to $231,500 with LSL Planning Inc.

LSL, which has an office in downtown Grand Rapids, will serve as the lead consultant for what is set to be the final stage of the planning process. “The third phase brings everything together,” said Schulz.

The work will include making recommendations to improve transit, bicycle and pedestrian traffic, and suggestions for parking. It also will tackle creating a new design for the Michigan Street and College Avenue intersection and improvements for the northeast corner of Michigan and Diamond Avenue. In addition, an assessment of affordable housing in the immediate area will be done.

“We really don’t want to add another traffic lane on Michigan Street. It’s really led us to do a ton of traffic planning, working on 37 intersections. There has been a lot of discussion of what to do between College and Fuller,” said Schulz, who added that the sector’s growth has moved west with Spectrum Health’s recent leasing of space in Bridgewater Place at 333 Bridge St. NW.

The project’s steering committee selected LSL for the work after the city issued a request-for-proposals, and interviews were held with four of the nine firms that responded.

The project already has gone through the first two stages that involved planning and modeling. The work is being paid for by grants and donations. Schulz was able to raise roughly $1 million for it. The third-phase work is expected to be finished in June.

“It’s a very comprehensive study,” said Mayor George Heartwell.

On another front, city commissioners set next Tuesday as the day to decide whether to expand the boundaries of the Fairmount Square Historic District to include Congress School at 940 Baldwin SE, which is on the north side of Lake Drive SE just west of Diamond Avenue SE.

Grand Rapids Public Schools received permission from the city last year to establish a study committee to review the building’s inclusion in the historic district. The school was built in 1921 and was designed by noted architect Henry H. Turner.

Gaining the designation would allow a future owner who wants to renovate the school to apply for federal historic tax credits. The city’s Historic Preservation and Planning commissions support the building’s inclusion into the district.

The study committee consisted of Diana Barrett of the city’s Historical Commission, John Helmholdt of GRPS, Tyler Nickerson and Michael Tuffelmire, both of the East Hills Council of Neighborhoods, and Rebecca Smith-Hoffman of Past Perfect Inc.

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