DDA DASHing, Again

January 23, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — The DASH 8 parking lot is being reborn — and this reinvented version will accommodate a fleet of fire trucks and also serve as a storage area for a city agency.

The Downtown Development Authority recently agreed to go ahead with building a new surface lot for the city-owned DASH shuttle service. The lot will be built on Winter Avenue NW on 1.2 acres of land situated south of the Bridge Street Fire Station and north of Ferris Coffee and Nuts.

In addition to having 107 spaces for commuter parking, the lot will also have a 14-foot wide access drive that will allow fire trucks to enter the station from the rear of the building. Trucks that return from a call now enter the firehouse on Bridge Street and stop traffic for blocks on the busy two-lane street in the Stockbridge Business District.

Deputy Fire Chief Jeff VanDellen told the DDA that 16,000 vehicles travel daily on the city street, and the Bridge Street Station answered 4,100 emergency calls last year. When the station was built in 1966, the department answered 400 calls that year.

“Each time a fire engine or truck returns to the station we have no option but to stop traffic, block Bridge Street, and back our fire apparatus into the fire station,” said VanDellen.

The site for the DASH lot also contains a small brick building that was once owned by American Seating Co. The furniture maker used the building to store products it loaded on trains that traveled on the nearby tracks.

The DDA is going to lease the building to the Downtown Alliance to store its street-cleaning equipment. Currently, the alliance leases space in the basement of an office building at 549 Ottawa Ave. NW.

“If we preserve the building it would give them a place for storage,” said Jay Fowler, DDA executive director, of the alliance.

Parking Services, which will operate DASH 8, is giving up 29 parking spaces in the lot to accommodate the storage building and the access drive.

“It’s a reduction of about $10,000 a year, if it was full,” said Parking Services Director Pam Ritsema of the revenue her department will lose from not having the entire lot for parking.

“It’s my opinion that the benefit to downtown and the fire department outweighs the number of spaces we would lose,” she added.

The first DASH 8 lot was part of a property transaction between the city, the DDA and the YMCA of Grand Rapids. The lot now belongs to the new YMCA building on Lake Michigan Drive NW.

“It’s new spaces, but in some sense it replaces what is being used by the YMCA,” said Ritsema of the new DASH 8 lot.

The DDA bought the property in late August for $1.2 million and hired Walker Parking Consultants to design the lot. Fowler said there was enough money in the budget to build it, and that he would come back to the board soon with a construction cost that is expected to run about $5,000 per parking space.

The DDA has also built other DASH lots, including DASH 9 on Seward Avenue NW between Bridge Street and Lake Michigan Drive. DASH 9, which opened last fall, has 500 parking spaces.

Ritsema said the logistics of the shuttle’s passenger pickup and drop-off for the new park-and-ride lot hasn’t been decided yet. DASH 8 will be part of the DASH West system, which has 964 parking spaces, and all were leased on a monthly basis. The new DASH 8 is expected to open in late summer.    

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