Editorial

Bad doesn’t even begin to describe parking plan

December 15, 2017
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Grand Rapids city commissioners again last week gave limited discussion to this business community’s No. 1 issue with the city: downtown parking. The Business Journal has reported since the beginning of this year that existing parking was at 95 percent capacity, even before the city shut down lots behind the Van Andel Arena for tentative new development.

The city’s partnership Dec. 12 with Spectrum Industries to use the company’s vacant land for 300 additional monthly and all-day parkers on the south end of the central business district (across from Downtown Market) barely amounts to a drop in the bucket.

The Business Journal finds reasons to support Commissioner David Shaffer’s proffered resolution Dec. 14, which was shot down amid complaint of “process.” Shaffer’s proposal would analyze the potential for adding parking via a proposed library parking ramp, public-private partnerships to increase the supply of parking downtown, and determining factors for potential projects, including demand, return on investment and the best potential land use. The city’s parking department Mobile GR is in the process of looking at the library lot potential, but the Business Journal underscores the rest of the proposal. So, too, is there agreement for Shaffer’s call to acknowledge expediency to move forward. Agreement ends with that. The problem is a bad plan, period, on many levels.

Those recommending the original “GR Forward” planning document glossed over the loss of city income tax from downtown workers as compared to any gain in new residential property tax. The loss of a burgeoning number of largely professional commuters is a net loss compared to residents moving into tax-free housing developments. Statistical data from 2013 shows 23,943 of the residents living in downtown commute out of downtown for jobs. The number of households within the 49503 ZIP code was 31,825 in the same year. Well more than 61,580 commuters (shown in 2011 Census data) work downtown, pay city income taxes — and have no chance to find parking for jobs that involve incoming clients or coming and going from the office several times in a work day, which has led to employee-driven requests to look for suburban locations. City commissioners approved the plan’s parking ban and assisted with the systematic sale of existing city parking areas to developers.

The Business Journal had been commenting on that issue fully two years before the GR Forward plan was even approved, and four years later, Mobile GR manager Josh Naramore noted last week some of the factors squeezing parking are the lack of availability of public property left to build on.

It is a bad plan, period, on many levels. And very, very costly to the taxpayers.

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