Arts & Entertainment, Economic Development, and Government

Parking shift begins in Arena South district

Theater development eventually will create more parking, but the short-term might be dicey.

April 22, 2016
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Businesses in downtown’s Arena South district already are being asked to relocate parking as a result of the newly announced Loeks Studio C! movie theater and 616 development project.

The mixed-use project, which includes a nine-screen movie theater, residential units, retail space, community space and a parking ramp, will be constructed on the Area 4 and 5 parking lots behind Van Andel Arena.

Those lots serve 595 parking pass holders, according to Josh Naramore, Mobile GR and Parking manager.

The parking lots will not actually go offline until sometime in 2017, but Naramore said business owners already are being given the chance to relocate to other parking lots. Those choosing to wait until the lots close are agreeing to take a gamble for spaces that will be available a year from now.

Naramore said he expects the new 900-space parking garage to open by summer 2019. It will include 300 more parking spaces than are currently available in Areas 4 and 5 — an important addition for the Arena South area where parking lots are regularly at 90 percent capacity or more and where monthly parking passes are no longer available for downtown employees.

Naramore said when the parking garage opens, all 595 current Area 4 and 5 cardholders will have first right of refusal for parking passes. He didn’t know what the cost of those passes will be, stating it would be demand-based just like the rest of the system.

“The remaining capacity would be shared with the residential piece, and then I’m assuming a lot will be for new parking customers,” he said.

Naramore said he isn’t sure how many parking spots will be tied to the residential component, which will be built in two phases: 187 units during the first phase and 150 units in the second phase.

“With residential parking, a lot of people are paying and their car sits there all the time. Do you really need it at that specific facility?” Naramore asked. “We actually have people who park in different lots because it’s cheaper, so we may want a certain number of spaces at a certain rate, but we may not need all of them adjacent to that specific building.”

Naramore said none of the remaining spaces would be guaranteed for movie theater customers.

During the April 14 meeting of the Parking Commission, commissioners approved an agreement regarding the parking structure and special parking arrangements that include a transactional approach versus a flat annual fee.

Under the transactional agreement, the theater will only be billed for parking that is used by theatergoers. Naramore said initially theatergoers will also be able to park in the Pearl/Ionia and Louis Campau ramps under the validation arrangement. Other ramps will become open once their debt service has been paid off. Naramore said there are additional ramps scheduled for payoff just prior to or just after the movie theater opens.

It is estimated the theater will bring tens of thousands of patrons a year downtown, generating roughly 115,000 vehicle trips.

The Grand Rapids City Commission still needs to approve the agreement.

Details of the proposed parking arrangement and the new parking structure are:

  • For the first three years after opening, the theater will be charged $1 per transaction up to 125,000 transactions. The rate increases to $2 per transaction beyond 125,000 and up to 150,000, and $3 per transaction beyond 150,000 and up to 200,000. Beyond 200,000 transactions, the theater will be charged the full applicable market rate for each facility.
  • For years four through nine, the DDA will purchase the validation tickets directly through the city to resell to the theater and administer usage.
  • For years four through six, the theater will be charged $2 per transaction up to 125,000 transactions. The DDA will pay for 50 cents per transaction of the $2 rate up to 125,000 transactions. The rate charged to the theater increases to $2 per transaction beyond 125,000 and up to 150,000, and $3 per transaction beyond 150,000 and up to 175,000. Beyond 175,000 transactions, the theater will be charged the full applicable market rate for each facility.
  • For years seven through nine, the theater will be charged $3 per transaction up to 125,000 transactions. The DDA will pay for 75 cents per transaction of the $3 rate up to 125,000 transactions. The rate charged to the theater increases to $3 per transaction beyond 125,000 and up to 175,000. Beyond 175,000 transactions, the theater will be charged the full applicable market rate for each facility.
  • For years 10 through 12 and 13 through 15, the city will charge the theater $4 and $5 per transaction, respectively, or at the lowest validation rate, whichever is lower, up to 125,000 transactions. Beyond 125,000 transactions, the theater will be charged the full applicable market rate for each facility.

City documents indicate the parking structure will be financed using taxable bonds and will be purchased from the development team upon completion for a guaranteed, not-to-exceed maximum price of $28.5 million before crediting the present value of certain Grand Rapids Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, or GRBRA, tax increment revenues.

The GRBRA tax increment revenues allow reimbursement for eligible costs incurred while redeveloping contaminated, functionally obsolete, blighted and historic properties.

The city and the development team have negotiated that no less than $1 million of GRBRA tax increment revenues will be applied to the parking structure.

The details will be brought to the Parking Commission at a future meeting.

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