Construction and Real Estate

Time to get creative on parking in Grand Rapids

June 7, 2017
TAGS Rover / Rowe
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It’s no secret downtown parking lots have been reaching capacity in recent years, both in space and price.

According to a 2017 parking study, the downtown parking system has reached 95 percent capacity, a number not likely to decrease. The city also has reduced the required number of parking spaces that developers must provide for their downtown projects. With fewer parking options available, companies and residents are finding creative solutions to keep their businesses and homes within the downtown limits.

The primary choice is to supplement the need for parking by taking advantage of mass transportation. Parking in an off-site — often free — parking lot and riding the bus is a viable option for many city commuters. An unlimited monthly pass for the Rapid costs drivers $47 a month versus the average $132 monthly parking permit for Grand Rapids. Of course, the sacrifice of adhering to the bus schedule can be tough for busy commuters or workers who travel outside of downtown for meetings throughout the work day.

Another solution is the idea of shared parking, which is similar to owning a time share but with a parking space. Shared parking involves an agreement with the private parking space owner and another individual who share the space based on scheduling. If a city dweller works outside of Grand Rapids, they rent out their space during working hours to someone who works within the city. These arrangements can be made online, with apps like Rover, and help supplement income for the owner while cutting down on costs and travel time for the renter.

Developers also are getting creative when it comes to finding parking solutions. Our recent project at the Rowe on Michigan Avenue required the construction of underground parking for residents, which was not without its challenges. When it was discovered the foundation rested on an existing river canal wall that would need to be stabilized and required extensive dewatering, it was decided that solving these problems would be worth the investment rather than forgo the connected parking.

In cities across Europe and Asia faced with similar parking crises, automated vertical parking has been able to save one-third of the parking space when compared to a traditional parking ramp. U.S. cities in New York, New Jersey, and in a more limited nature, Chicago, have begun implementing these inventive parking systems, allowing developers to meet their strict parking requirements for housing and commercial buildings.

The parking dilemma hasn’t been all bad for business, however, as it has encouraged the growth of emerging companies like Grubhub, Uber and Meijer’s grocery delivery service, Shipt. Concierge and delivery service-based companies are able to thrive in environments where parking is slim and people are willing to pay for convenience.

There always will be an imminent need for parking, and for a growing city like Grand Rapids, it will continue to be a hot topic of conversation. As the construction industry continues to evolve to meet these parking challenges, it will be interesting to see what creative solutions come forward in the future.

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