Editorial

Both public and private river development use served by city action

March 27, 2015
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Grand Rapids city commissioners approved what amounts to a giant step toward Grand River development for recreational use, even as some business owners in the development community and its supporting occupations regard the action as a public entity intrusion for prime property enhancements, providing an equally enhanced tax base.

The Business Journal cites the unanimous decision as laudable for continued public use of riverfront access as the project develops in scope and opportunity for both profit and public uses.

City commissioners approved submitting an application to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund for a matching $7.5 million grant to purchase properties from three entities: Kent County, city of Grand Rapids Parking Services department and Michigan State University.

The Business Journal notes the entirety of the four acres cited for purchase are currently non-tax-paying entities.

The full purchase price is $10 million.

The four acres are only a fraction of the 2.2-mile stretch of the project to restore the river rapids and related development. The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, Frey Foundation and Wege Foundation joined to pay for an economic impact study by East Lansing’s Anderson Economic Group, which was completed and announced in September 2014.

The study, which focused on direct activity connected to restoration, revealed an economic impact of between $15 million and $20 million — per year. The conservative estimate does not include the impact of additional developments related to the improvement.

It must also be emphasized that the entire concept and project lead has come from a grassroots organization, a group of Grand Rapidians now known as Grand Rapids Whitewater.

The project offers the city opportunity, too, to add to its comparably small public park acreage, now given the aid of city taxpayers in approval of a millage expressly for park procurement and improvements.

The acquisition also supports the existing Parks and Recreation 2010 Master Plan.

The economic impact study showed directly related new activity would include between 250,000 and 500,000 new recreational visitors to the city — an obvious benefit to the business community.

In fact, city leaders are counting on private sector investment and improvements that would more than pay the estimated $27 million price tag for the project, which includes city, state and federal funds.

The economic study, also reviewed by Grand Valley State University Seidman School of Business economics department chair Paul Isely, identifies the underdeveloped lots near the river would increase in value: an increase of $117.7 million in real estate value, $285 million in development — and 1,520 jobs.

The Business Journal supports this advancement toward the city’s giant step in the initiative that will improve the city as well as the region.

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