Corridor study updates this week

October 14, 2011
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Two updates on the progress the Michigan Street Corridor Study has made will be held this week, work that the Grand Rapids Planning Department is heading.

The first is a public forum, which will ask for input into the effort from those attending. It is set for Wednesday at the former Central High School building at 421 Fountain St. NE. City Planning Director Suzanne Schulz will direct the meeting, which will include the study's consultants: U3Ventures, Zimmerman Volk Associates, SmartMobility, LSL Planning and the Wilbur Smith Associates Team.

"I think that a lot of people will be very surprised by what they hear," said Schulz. "From 6 until 6:30, people can look at some of the data and some of the boards, and 6:30 until 8:30 is the forum itself."

The second update takes place the following night for the medical community, which is an appropriate audience as the corridor is also known as the Medical Mile. But the event isn't restricted to that group; the public also can attend. It will be held 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday at Macatawa Bank, 126 Ottawa Ave. NW, and will be hosted by the Medical Mile Resource Group. Schulz and city planner Landon Bartley will be the guest speakers.

"We thought the data concerning the current study is kind of important to understand the current conditions and what is there. Before we started the entire process, we had the housing study done and the employment study done to be able to speak to those. We also have traffic data and we've been looking at the Michigan-and-College intersection," said Schulz. "We're trying to get as much public input as we can."

The area the city is studying is four miles long. It runs east from the Grand River to East Beltline Avenue and south from Leonard to Fulton Street. The sector contains seven residential neighborhoods with 20,000 residents and numerous businesses and major health institutions. Roughly 50,000 people work and attend school within 50 acres of the study area. More than 30,000 vehicles travel the corridor every weekday.

Schulz gave the Business Journal a few of the highlights that will be revealed and discussed at this week's meetings. One is that only about 3 percent of those employed at the health institutions located in the study area also live in it.

"It's the same number people have in Detroit's Midtown neighborhood," said Schulz, referring to the area that is home to the Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford Hospital and Wayne State University.

The housing-potion of the study estimated that one-third of the new residents in the sector have come from locales outside of the city rather than relocating there from a different section of the city. "I think that's a pretty substantial number," said Schulz. The same piece also discovered there is a huge demand for new housing, a finding that Schulz said was supported by the employment data connected to the study.

"Especially the Michigan State medical students are choosing to live in newly constructed buildings, like the Icon on Bond, the River House, or the Boardwalk. That's where a good portion of them are living," she said.

"So how do we provide more of that housing? For Michigan Street itself, is that where you provide those opportunities? Do you provide those in the neighborhoods, and what does that mean? And how do you balance that with the desire for institutional growth for the hospitals? Clearly, we want to keep them here," she added.

The city has set up a website, It offers updates and includes the housing study to which Schulz referred that was done by Laurie Zimmerman, of Zimmerman Volk. Schulz emphasized that public input is vital to the study and is likely the reason a 40-member steering committee made up of a spectrum of organizations is overseeing it.

Then there is the economic factor.

"We've seen a billion dollars of investment in the corridor the last decade," said Schulz. "The challenge now is to understand how we can accommodate the next billion in growth and not impede it with insufficient infrastructure."

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