Parking lot swap going forward

December 24, 2011
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The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority agreed to trade parking lots near Van Andel Arena with the city and to pay Parking Services $1.13 million in equal payments over 10 years as part of the deal. City commissioners also gave a green light to the deal last week.

The DDA will swap its Area 1 lot for the city’s Area 5 lot. The Area 5 lot is just south of the arena on Cherry Street and is adjacent to the Area 4 lot, which the DDA already owns. Rock the Rapids, a weeklong music festival, took place last summer on the lots. Putting the two lots together creates roughly a five-acre parcel in a key downtown sector that might turn into a potential development site. At least that’s what the DDA is hoping.

DDA Executive Director Jay Fowler said there have been a number of inquiries about the lots, and the board is entertaining an undisclosed offer for the parcels. “We would expect that in a year or two, we would flip the property,” he said. “The resolution also authorizes staff to make the property available for sale.” Fowler said he hopes to have the site listed in the first quarter of next year.

Parking commissioners also agreed to the deal. Parking Services sees the Area 1 lot, which is on Ottawa Avenue SW just west of the arena, as a potential site for a parking ramp. But Parking Services isn’t planning to build a ramp there anytime soon, as its annual debt service equals half its yearly revenue. The department does, however, have $8 million in unreserved funds. Area 1 is the smallest of the three lots, with 102 spaces on one acre.

The appraised value for Area 5, which is 1.6 acres, is $1.13 million higher than the appraised value of Area 1, which is why the DDA is including cash in the transaction. The DDA will pay an interest rate of 4 percent per annum.

Board members also agreed to make a second minor change to an agreement they have with the Grand Action Committee regarding the Urban Market project. The latest one allows Grand Action to begin demolition of the obsolete buildings on the site as early as next month. Fowler said the change was necessary to keep the $30 million year-round market project on schedule to open in spring 2013. The market is targeted for 3.5 acres owned by the DDA on Ionia Avenue just south of Wealthy Street.

Grand Action has hired Pioneer Construction to manage the project. DDA Chairwoman Kayem Dunn said some of the buildings’ materials will be salvaged and used in the construction process.

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