Parking Deck Rising In Downtown Holland

August 24, 2008
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HOLLAND — Construction on Holland’s first-ever parking ramp got underway in mid-July on the north side of Seventh Street between College and Columbia avenues.

The city is selling $4 million in bonds to pay for the two-level, 262-space parking ramp. Total cost of the project is $4.38 million, which includes a snowmelt system for the ramp, as well as for sidewalks on the north side of Seventh, and on College and Columbia avenues. So far, workers have done some compacting of the soil around the site, have begun working on the foundation, and have installed a portion of the crosswalks on Seventh Street, said Greg Meyer, the city’s director of community and neighborhood services. 

“We’re hoping to have cars in the ramp by the end of the year,” Meyer said. “It won’t be entirely complete at that time because we’ll have landscaping and some other things left over that we’ll have to pick up in the spring.”

The Holland City Council approved a brownfield redevelopment plan for the project last fall. The Michigan Economic Growth Authority approved a new brownfield plan that grouped two existing brownfield districts with a new district that included the new CityFlats hotel at Seventh Street and College Avenue, the Plaza East project on Eighth Street, and the new Macatawa Bank at Eighth Street and Columbia Avenue.

Tax increment revenues generated by the redrawn brownfield plan are expected to cover the total cost of the ramp over the next 10 to 15 years. According to the city, there should be significant tax increment revenues generated by new projects under construction within the brownfield area, and it’s also anticipated there will be additional projects constructed during the life of the brownfield from which tax increments can be captured to support the financing of the parking deck.

“There are a couple of other redevelopment sites within that area, and we’re hoping that one or more of those will be developed, and if so, the pay-off of the ramp would be even quicker,” Meyer observed. 

The city owns one of the parcels on which the ramp is being built. Plaza East’s developer owns one of the parcels and local businessman Jim Brooks owns another of the parcels that make up the site. In return, the two businesses have the right to lease back from the city a certain number of parking spaces within the ramp during business hours. But on weekday evenings and weekends, the lower level ramp also will be available for public parking. Meyer said the upper level will be open to the public 24 hours a day free of charge and the lower level will, in effect, be leased back from the city by those two parties as the need for parking grows.

He said that eventually other businesses may be able to lease space in the ramp, too. Currently, most of the city’s on-street and surface lot parking is free. There are some leased parking spaces downtown but not many, Meyer noted.

“We got rid of parking meters more than 20 years ago. We have sort of gotten used to free parking, which is free for everybody except the property owners who have to pay for it through an assessment,” Meyer pointed out. “We are trying to encourage additional development, so as long as we can go without having to charge for parking, I think that’s the preferred way to proceed on this.”

The city lost 170 public parking spaces over the past year due to the Plaza East and CityFlats developments.

The city has compensated for some of the loss by creating a temporary parking lot of about 70 to 80 spaces on what’s known locally as the Super Block on Seventh Street, Meyer said. The city is also leasing 70 or so on-street spaces from CityFlats, which may be expanded with a second phase of development. 

Meyer said if the hotel does go through with the second phase, then the portion of the property that’s currently leased by the city for public parking would revert back to the hotel’s use. He said city officials believe the ramp will provide a good amount of parking on that end of downtown. The city has done a number of parking studies, and the studies have always shown that there are enough parking spaces downtown, but some are a little farther away from the higher demand areas.

“It’s a question of how far people are willing to walk and whether they feel parking is adequate and accessible,” Meyer remarked. “This part of downtown has a number of redevelopment opportunities, and if a number of those projects take place, then we’ll probably have to look for additional parking.” 

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