Sorry, Lot Full

October 22, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — The demand for downtown parking is up.

But the supply is down, at least in the 20 city-owned downtown lots and ramps.

Parking Services Director Pam Ritsema recently told parking commissioners that requests for 680 monthly spaces in the city’s downtown system she received has topped the 593 spaces she has available to lease on a monthly basis.

Ritsema said Spectrum Health asked for 500 downtown spaces and, so far, she has only been able to give the region’s largest health-care provider 150 spaces in DASH 9 on Seward NW, part of the department’s shuttle service. She told commissioners that filling Spectrum’s request would consume almost every open space in the downtown surface lots and the Government Center ramp located underneath City Hall.

Spectrum needs to move parkers from its main campus on Michigan NE for a number of reasons, including the upcoming opening of its new heart center.

Ritsema said she also received a request for 150 spaces from Saint Mary’s Health Care that she can’t fill and told a hospital official to contact the Ellis Parking Co. Privately owned Ellis Parking owns lots and ramps downtown. Saint Mary’s plans to upgrade its parking situation at its Jefferson Avenue campus and needs the spaces until that work is completed.

The state employment office also told Ritsema it was adding 30 staffers and needed that many monthly parking spaces.

Figures released by Parking Services this month showed the department has issued 6,382 monthly parking cards, a number that represents 98.7 percent of the 6,469 spaces the city has downtown. The third-quarter report has the number of monthly cards issued up by 7.1 percent from the same period last year and up by 10.6 percent from the same 90-day stretch in 2002.

The department, however, can sell more cards than there are spaces in its system because not every card is used all the time. Still, Parking Services wants to retain a number of unused spaces for visitors coming downtown during business hours.

Ritsema told commissioners that she hoped to have another 300 downtown spaces ready for monthly lease sometime next spring by adding more property to the system. Members of the Downtown Development Authority met in executive session earlier this month to discuss property acquisitions.

DDA Executive Director Jay Fowler attended the last Parking Commission meeting and Ritsema was at the most recent DDA meeting. But it’s unknown whether she participated in the closed-door session the DDA held.

Ritsema did say that if a new ramp were to be built near the Spectrum downtown campus, as was proposed last month, spaces would become available in DASH 9. The shuttle lot, which opened two months ago, can hold 500 cars.

The parking crunch offers the Convention and Arena Authority a rare opportunity to increase its revenue.

The CAA owns the 700-space garage located below the DeVos Place convention center on Monroe NW. A limited number of monthly spaces are available there now and about 400 more spaces will come online when construction of the ramp is finished in March.

Parking Services lost over 700 spaces in its downtown system when the City Centre ramp closed in January because of structural problems.           

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