City has little time to ponder what is already done

January 30, 2015
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“The $1 billion in investments has changed the Michigan Street corridor persona to the Medical Mile and changed the face of several neighborhoods, especially as continued investment currently in discussion jumps north of the I-196 Ford Freeway.”

The Business Journal so opined … in 2011. The suggestion was that the Grand Rapids planning study undertaken for that corridor was almost too little too late. That study, which has become one of the most exhaustive in the city, considered five themes, including a public health impact study.

The city this week announced it would begin a Strong Neighborhoods, Strong City summit March 13 to initiate a series of neighborhood “branding” sessions that will include discussion of public safety and the foundations for “strong neighborhoods.”

Once again, the scope of the summit seems too little in the face of rapid development on every edge of the downtown:

  • Monster traffic jams along Michigan Street, particularly from the river to College Avenue, will be commonplace as Grand Valley State University begins its School of Health Professions expansion north of the Ford Freeway into the Belknap neighborhood from its current Michigan Street location.
  • Development plans for the neighboring Creston area will add destinations and residential development but without planned alternatives to alleviate traffic congestion.
  • Development along and just off Bridge Street, where Michigan Street crosses the river, will add to the downtown northern tier’s canopy of conflict.

Updating the exhaustive Michigan Street corridor process this week, the Business Journal reports Suzanne Schulz, city of Grand Rapids planning director, said in the not-too-distant future there might be as many as 15,000 daytime employees in the area. That’s double the 7,500 currently working there. In addition to employees, Michigan Street’s six adjoining neighborhoods could grow by 10,000 new residents, resulting in nearly 30,000 residents.

In 2011, Schulz told the Business Journal those corridor characteristics offer a comparison: “It’s the same number of people they have in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood.”

The same scenario could very quickly become evident as development on the south edge of downtown continues to draw strong interest and great possibility along the Silver Line route following South Division Street.

The city, which has marveled for decades at the unprecedented private investments in the urban core, was and is self-congratulatory and boastful for the growth — and unprepared for its full impact.

The cart is in front of the horse. There is every urgency to get this plan done.

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