Arts & Entertainment, Economic Development, and Real Estate

Downtown Development Authority approves movie theater project

April 15, 2016
| By Pat Evans |
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partial rendering Studio C! downtown Grand Rapids Loeks Theatres
A partial rendering of the Studio C! movie theater in downtown Grand Rapids, which would be surrounded by a public piazza, retail and residential units. Courtesy Loeks Theatres

A proposed downtown movie theater project has cleared its first hurdle.

The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority, or DDA, unanimously approved today to support the development of parking lots 4 and 5 for the $140-million Studio C! mixed-use project by Loeks Theatres and Grand Rapids-based 616 Development.

With the approval, the DDA has committed to a tax increment financing, or TIF, program, for the project, which would equal $2.65 million over 15 years, and it streamlined the transition of publicly owned parking lots 4 and 5 for development of the project, while protecting the development's proposed public space elements.

Studio C!

The first phase of the project is expected to cost about $100 million and feature a nine-screen movie theater, 187 residential units, 38,000 square feet of retail space, a public piazza and a 900-space parking garage.

The first phase is estimated to have an economic impact of $369 million during its first 10 years, according to Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.

During the DDA meeting today, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. President and CEO Kris Larson said he hopes the $40-million second phase would start soon after the completion of the first phase, which would only increase the economic impact.

“The impact number only gets bigger if you add 150 new residencies,” Larson said, referring to the proposed residential tower in phase two.

There is about $1 million left of architectural work for the development, said J.D. Loeks, president, Loeks Theatres. The work, however, will change very little, if any, material aspects of the project.


DDA board member and Grand Rapids Community Foundation President Diana Sieger told Loeks to wipe off his brow as she supports the project.

She also wanted to clear the air about her stance on parking in the South Arena district, as it has been believed she is pro-parking and against developments that may hinder downtown business parking.

“I want to dispel that narrative,” Sieger said, adding that living without cars is becoming easier. “The dependency on the automobile hopefully will decline in the future, though it will take a number of years to change the habit.”  

Sieger mainly focused on her disappointment in the transparency throughout the development process by the city of Grand Rapids. She has concerns the DDA and city aren’t focusing on retaining and attracting businesses downtown.

“This has been quite the journey,” she said. “The process has been more than frustrating, sometimes downright disrespectful.”

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said that while she can’t change the past, she has learned from it.

“I promise we will learn from this, and we will do better,” Bliss said.

Arena South Visioning

The planning for the land south of Van Andel Arena started in 2013.

Planning for the area calls to prioritize pedestrian movement and help extend the stay of visitors to the entertainment district.

Larson said he expects a parking option to develop behind Van Andel Arena, which would also include retail space to help continue the activation of the land south of the arena.

Arena Place is also included in the space planned, which along with the Studio C! project would equate to nearly $200 million in investment in the Arena South district.

“Not bad for a $50,000 planning project,” Larson said.

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