Arts & Entertainment, Real Estate, and Travel & Tourism

Event venues hear parking complaints

Representatives say there could be connection between lack of parking downtown and rising bookings for suburban-based venues.

May 4, 2018
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Thousand Oaks Exterior
Suburban venues such as Thousand Oaks Country Club, which has available parking in front of the door, are drawing more events. Courtesy Thousand Oaks Country Club

(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Representatives of several event venues said parking is a notable factor for customers, and they are hearing more complaints about the lack of parking downtown.

The Business Journal spoke with representatives of event venues located outside of downtown Grand Rapids about the growing issue of parking.

Dan DeWard, owner of Studio D2D, called it a “huge concern” for customers as they’re shopping for venues. He said his business books about 150 corporate events and weddings per year, so they get a lot of feedback.

“Our client feedback is they love the district and the downtown vibe. But parking, especially for weddings, is so difficult,” DeWard said.

He said many hosts are afraid of forcing their guests, especially the elderly or disabled, to navigate downtown streets at night.

Two of his business’s three venues are outside downtown, at 401 Hall St. SW, which he said has been a “huge sales advantage” because many customers book there to make parking convenient for guests, he has noticed.

He recently acquired a downtown venue in The Harris Building, at 111 S. Division St., and was able to strike a deal with Ellis Parking to offer valet services for all bookings there.

“Without that, I would not have opened a space there,” DeWard said.

“Otherwise, our booking ratios would have drastically dropped to where it may have been difficult to sustain.”

The new venue has not had its first event yet, but it has been “getting bookings like crazy,” DeWard said.

Representatives from the Goei Center, The Cheney Place and Prince Conference Center agreed their clients see parking as an important factor.

Representatives from Frederik Meijer Gardens, English Hills Country Club and The Pinnacle Center said, however, that mention of lack of downtown parking does not typically come up at their venues.

Bill Worst, Pinnacle Center owner, said the majority of his customers appreciate the venue’s central location between Grand Rapids and Holland.

Angela Smith, director of sales and membership for Watermark Properties, said she hears from customers that parking is a notable factor when booking, and the on-site parking at the clubs always is an attractive feature.

Watermark Properties owns Watermark Country Club, StoneWater Country Club, Sunnybrook Country Club and Thousand Oaks Country Club.

Smith said many customers have brought up difficulties parking downtown, especially for large events.

Besides the lack of parking, she said many customers do not want guests to deal with the costs.

Smith said Watermark’s venues have been booking more and more events as the economy has been growing.

While she wouldn’t necessarily attribute those rising numbers directly to lack of parking downtown, she does think there could be some connection.

Smith pointed to the 20 Monroe Live building downtown, which the Business Journal has reported has added to parking difficulties downtown.

The Business Journal recently reported the closing of the Area 4 and Area 5 downtown parking lots for the Studio Park development, taking 500 spaces offline.

The Business Journal also reported the slowing of office leasing activity, attributed to lack of parking.

Smith said she is curious what the downtown parking situation will look like as spaces are lost and more people vacate the area.

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