Byron Gaines Development Coming

October 7, 2002
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BRYON TOWNSHIP — The long-anticipated project with the long name — the M-6/Paul B. Henry Freeway and Grand Rapids South Beltline project — continues on schedule.

Meanwhile, communities along that corridor continue to anticipate what impact the South Beltline will have on them.

Phase I of the 20-mile project, from I-96 to M-37, opened to traffic last November.

Phase II, from M-37 to U.S. 131, and Phase III, from U.S. 131 to I-196, will be open to traffic by 2005, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).

Reconstruction of U.S. 131 from 44th Street to 76th Street began this spring, and reconstruction of the 68th Street bridge over U.S. 131 was completed in July, two months ahead of schedule.

Currently, northbound U.S. 131 is being reconstructed and widened to three lanes between 76th Street and 44th Street.

Next year, southbound U.S. 131 will be reconstructed and widened to three lanes between 44th Street and 76th Street. Traffic will be maintained on northbound U.S. 131.

Right now the dust is still flying around Byron Township, but township Supervisor Larry Silvernail has an idea of what will happen when the dust settles.

Township officials have already been approached by some developers interested in potential commercial development along the South Beltline corridor in Byron Township, he said.

“We’ve intentionally resisted that speculation until the South Belt is in place. We feel once it’s in place we’re going to have a better idea exactly what is needed. But we certainly are expecting a lot of speculation on development, particularly commercial.”

Developers have floated ideas for office parks, hotels, a smattering of retail, and even some industrial sites, he said.

Silvernail said he doesn’t know whether the South Beltline will have a positive impact on the community, but it will definitely stimulate some growth.

“It’s certainly going to be challenging for us to accommodate the growth that we expect to have,” Silvernail remarked.

The township updated its master plan in 1998 when planning for the South Beltline project was well underway, Silvernail said.

“So we pretty well have a handle on our master planning and we would expect that growth would take place within those areas that are master-planned for that.”

“Some of that growth probably will be residential as the South Belt makes it easier to get to and from the workplace and that type of thing.”

So far, there haven’t been any developers talking about any large residential housing developments along the corridor.

There’s already tremendous residential development in Byron Township, he said, adding that about 1,200 residential lots are either in the process of being constructed or going through the approval process now.

Byron Township’s neighbors to the east are hoping for a little truck traffic relief.

Gaines Township Supervisor Don Hilton Sr. said he has tracked the progress of the South Beltline project “almost from the day a line was scratched on the map.”

At one time, it seemed like it would never get here, he recalled.

“Now it’s become a reality,” he said.

“I think from Gaines Township’s perspective, we really have only one interchange on the South Belt that directly involves this township, and the next closest one that would be of some impact would be the one at the 131 interchange.

“But I do see probably the funneling of vehicles coming from various directions from the south to use the interchange we have.”

How much impact that’s going to have is hard to say, he said. If Gaines had a lot of industry or business to the south, then Hilton would expect to see a lot of truck traffic.

Since that’s not the case in Gaines, he thinks it will be more a matter of local residents hopping on the South Belt to shorten the trip to work or to cut off a little time when traveling to destinations such as Lansing or Holland.

“At least in that Kalamazoo corridor, I definitely think we’re going to see some increase in various kinds of traffic there.”

The township is hoping that it will get some truck traffic relief when the South Beltline is in place.

As it is now, some large trucks do wander through the township heading south, Hilton noted. So they may find it easier to get on the South Belt and take it across rather than go through the township.

But he thinks Gaines Township is probably going to see some impact with business growth around the interchange even though a lot of that land is already taken up by one type of business or another.

“There is some vacant land there and there has been some development discussion for many years,” he observed. “Now, I’m sure, with the South Belt becoming a reality we’ll probably see some of that.

“I don’t know that we’ve had any formal requests for that vacant land at this point in time, but I expect to see it happen soon.” 

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