Guest Column

Chamber addressing parking needs of downtown employers

April 14, 2017
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Grand Rapids is the fastest growing metro region in the state. The vibrancy of our downtown and continued economic development has created new challenges for our city. One of the most pressing issues for businesses downtown continues to be the availability of monthly parking permits.

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce has been engaged in conversations with the city about the parking crunch for more than a year. In September 2015, city staff presented to the Chamber Board of Directors regarding planning for the future of parking downtown, and there have been many conversations since.

The chamber’s involvement intensified over the last six months, as our members indicated a growing impact on their businesses. Media coverage by the Grand Rapids Business Journal and other outlets has been critical in helping communicate the urgency needed to address these challenges.

Last week, following discussions in public forums, feedback through surveys, numerous meetings with employers and a workgroup of members, the chamber made eight recommendations we believe will begin to address these issues.

The recommendations follow two principles: (1) that a true “all-of-the-above” approach will provide downtown employers and residents with greater flexibility and opportunities to find the solutions right for them, and (2) that downtown parking and mobility should never be a significant obstacle to business and job growth.

Transit and alternative approaches, including more “remote” parking and parking cash out, are all valuable pieces to the mobility puzzle. It also is clear adding parking capacity is a critical need for many downtown who have daily mobility requirements associated with their positions.

Making a system that works for everyone going forward should be intentionally data driven, transparent and include close engagement with the users of the system.

We are thrilled with the dynamic participation by the business community and encouraged to be facing challenges created by a thriving city. We are committed to continued advocacy on behalf of our members and optimistic there will be significant projects this year that will provide relief to downtown employers.

The chamber appreciates the continued engagement from city leaders, and we look forward to working with them to address the needs of downtown employers.

Josh Lunger is director of government affairs for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

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