More Than Enough

January 24, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS—The Heartside Business District told the city four years ago that at least 1,000 more parking spaces were needed and the city heard that request.

Business owners and residents in the district, which borders downtown’s core to the immediate south, could have as many as 1,100 new city-built spaces within the next few years to add to the 308 they got in November when a city-owned ramp opened.

The total investment city agencies will make in these spaces tops $30 million, a figure that doesn’t include the bond payments.

“We’re pretty well engaged for the next three years,” said Pam Ritsema, Parking Services director, of her department’s financial status.

Parking Services spent more than $10 million to build the ramp at Commerce Avenue and Cherry Street SW, which added 308 spaces to the district’s inventory. The department now plans to build two more garages that will give the district another 620 spaces.

One ramp is tentatively set to go up at Commerce Avenue and Weston Street SW as part of the Liner Buildings project and will offer 360 spaces. The other is tentatively set to be part of The Gallery on Fulton project at Fulton Street and Division Avenue and it will offer 262 spaces.

Parking Services will invest about $11 million in the Liner ramp and more than $9 million in The Gallery ramp. Initially, the city department was to only have 83 spaces in The Gallery. But then the number rose to 149 a few months later, before it went up again to 262 earlier this month.

“We should be able to fill those spaces,” said Ritsema.

“The monthly parking will mostly be for the (Gallery) residents, and arena goers will likely use the ramp there. Over the long run, it should pay for itself,” she added.

Another 350 to 500 spaces will come from a new DASH surface lot the Downtown Development Authority will build near Ionia Avenue and Logan Street SW. The board bought 3.7 acres for slightly more than $2 million.

DDA Executive Director Jay Fowler said the exact numbers of spaces won’t be known until a design is completed and multiple drawings are being prepared. Work on the lot could begin this summer, but might not start until next year.

The last time a DASH lot was built a few years ago the average space cost $5,000. So a new lot with 350 to 500 spaces at that price will at a minimum cost the DDA from $1.75 million to $2.5 million.

Parking Services hired Walker Parking Consultants of Kalamazoo to conduct a parking demands survey in the business district in 2004. The results of that survey were made public in June of 2005, which revealed that the sector could use another 1,000 spaces.

With the Cherry Commerce lot and with three new projects on the drawing board, the district could get from 1,280 to 1,430 spaces since the survey’s findings were revealed. Those spaces would be additions to the 788 in the Ottawa Fulton ramp, the 544 in the Monroe Center ramp, and the 360 spaces in the two DASH lots that are already in the district.

“We’ve definitely seen, ‘build it, and it will help drive economic development,’” said Ritsema.

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