Village To Get Food, Gas

July 14, 2008
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Spartan Stores Inc., which already has provided a major donation for a YMCA in MetroHealthVillage, plans to build a grocery store and gasoline station there as well, a Wyoming city official said.

Tim Cochran, chief planner for Wyoming, told the Business Journal a D&W Fresh Market is planned for the 170-acre development around MetroHealthHospital. The grocery store would be located on 4.5 acres at the northwest corner of Health and Center drives, and, if approved, the gas station would have direct access from

Gezon Parkway SW
, he said.

Representatives from Spartan Stores and developer The Granger Group were unavailable for comment last week.

A major hurdle yet to be cleared is an ordinance amendment expected to go before the Wyoming Planning Commission this week, Cochran said. The amendment would allow a gas station in the MetroHealthVillage district, but only adjunct to a grocery store.

"When we crafted this district initially — the planned health care district — we didn't envision any gas stations being there," Cochran said. "With this particular application, we see where it makes some sense, but only if it's tie-barred to a supermarket. It wouldn't be a free-standing station right off the expressway. In this case, it would be fairly near the Mobil near Gezon and ByronCenter (Avenue). We see some merit in the overall scenario."

After Planning Commission review, the ordinance amendment requires Wyoming City Council approval, he said. The earliest the council could see a proposal would be August. The store also would need site plan approval from the Planning Commission.

Spartan has announced its intent to build stores near downtown Grand Rapids and on East Beltline Avenue NE in the anticipated Knapp's Crossing retail development across from Celebration Village. Recent plans to replace a Family Fare on

Northland Drive NE
failed to gain approval from PlainfieldTownship, which the developer is seeking to overturn in court.

The Spartan Stores Foundation in 2007 announced a $3 million gift toward construction of a 70,000-square-foot YMCA in MetroHealthVillage. The eighth YMCA branch in the greater Grand Rapids area, it will be named after the grocery retailer and distributor based nearby in ByronCenter

  • Reports have confirmed that visitors have become confused and disoriented — and some have even gotten lost, so the Downtown Development Authority has decided to line the Skywalk with a series of wayfinding signs.

DDA Executive Director Jay Fowler said he has met with property owners along the enclosed Skywalk, which runs from DeVos Place to Van Andel Arena, and there was "universal agreement" that the walkway needs some signage. "I did warn the stakeholders that we may need some assistance from property owners for funding," he said.

The DDA has $75,000 set aside for the project in its current budget.

Corbin Design of Traverse City has been commissioned by the DDA to design the signs. It's the same firm the board used to design the much larger downtown wayfinding system that has been in place for the past few years. Fowler said Corbin Design was in the final design stage and that he would have a better idea of how much the project will cost once that stage is completed.

  • The latest Small Business Barometer survey surprisingly finds that small business owners are a little more upbeat about the Michigan marketplace than they were six months ago. There's even a slight up-tick in the number of small employers who say they hired more workers over the past half year.

Of course, small business owners say there are still plenty of problems that need to be addressed: decreasing sales and profits, poor access to credit, a lousy business climate, and a continuing slide in perceptions of the fairness of the tax system.

This wave of the Barometer shows that only 6 percent of respondents give a positive rating to the performance of the Legislature. This will make the upcoming political endorsement season even more compelling.

Survey results show employment appears to be inching slowly toward the historical average hiring level, becoming relatively more positive for small businesses in Michigan. Thirteen percent of those surveyed reported they had hired more employees over the past quarter, a three percentage point increase over the past wave in January.

Positive ratings of the Michigan marketplace rose seven percentage points, reaching 40 percent. This is in line with levels from early 2007.

Small businesses may be re-evaluating their perceptions of the market, but their ratings of Michigan's business environment are rather unfavorable, indicating they do not feel the environment is conducive to their business growth. Positive ratings fell to 6 percent this quarter, the lowest historical level for the Small Business Barometer. This compares with a peak of 75 percent less than a decade ago. Negative ratings rose to yet another record high (56 percent). This is more than three times the historical average of 17 percent and more than 10 times the levels seen for the second half of the 1990s.

Perceptions of the tax system continue to be unfavorable. Only 8 percent of respondents rated the fairness of the tax system positively. Since 1994, positive ratings had mostly stayed above 10 percent. However, the past few waves indicate a more downward shift. In the last wave, negative ratings had risen to their highest level (46 percent). This period marks a marginal fall to 44 percent, which is still well above the historical average of 26 percent.

When small business owners were asked to identify "the most negative aspects of doing business in Michigan," taxes were by far the single most frequently cited negative factor. The shift to the new Michigan Business Tax and its 22 percent surcharge is not being perceived positively by the small business community.

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