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Letter: Focus on parking needs relative to businesses

July 10, 2015
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Editor:

Wow … your editorial (“City parking ‘study’ was no study and assumed a conclusion,” July 6) is even more “right on” than perhaps you know.

There are a few realtors who do 90 percent of the leasing in the downtown area, and none of us were interviewed. Major building owners were not interviewed. Many — and I do mean most — business owners and non-government civic leaders were not interviewed.

A business that has its employees come in and sit in front of a computer and phone all day can get by with parking off-site and busing in and busing out once a day. But a lawyer, banker, CPA, salesman or any business employee who comes and goes — some several times a day — needs relatively close parking. I bet at least 50 percent of the employees in downtown need to be able to get to their car several times a day.

The city and Convention and Arena Authority talked about a 750-car ramp to be built directly south of Van Andel Arena but ran into problems (bonding, I think), and that plan does not seem to be moving forward. If Arena Lots 4-5 are developed, we will lose something like 750 more parking spaces for at least two years while the theaters or whatever are being built. This will only exacerbate an already major parking problem.

The parking folks may be right: Maybe you can dictate parking behavior by pricing. But I bet they are wrong. I bet we will lose many businesses that have been wrenching their hands for years and will finally throw them up in the air and move out of downtown.

Downtown Grand Rapids is certainly becoming a vibrant, high-energy destination. We can spend all the money we want on bike paths, apartments and condos, but if the businesses move out for lack of easy access for their employees, then the housing will start to report vacancies and the bars, restaurants and retail establishments will start to close, and some or even much of the momentum that is creating this exciting downtown will be lost.

Everyone in the state points to Grand Rapids as a city that knows “how to get things done.” I sure hope someone will look at how we got here, and it was not through buses and bike paths.

I fear that while bike paths, walking trails and buses are all great pluses for our city, we can’t continue to expand them at the expense of our “core business community” and not expect to pay the piper down the road.

We need to really focus on our parking needs and its relativity to the business community.

Again, thanks for stating the obvious. It takes guts to say unpopular things in our community, but someone needed to say them.

Bill Bowling, SIOR

Sherwood Financial

Grand Rapids

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