Downtown GR development nearing $1B mark

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — If you need proof of Grand Rapids’ recovery from the Great Recession, just look up: you’ll find large construction cranes dotting the downtown skyline.

“We’re approaching 1,000 housing units, close to 800 hotel rooms that are, either just come on line or will be opening soon, then around 450,000 square feet of office space,” said Tim Kelly, the vice president for planning and development with Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. “We’re approaching that three quarters of a billion dollars with everything that’s either being built or planned to be built.”

Developers also expect to turn the first piles of dirt on the $110 million Studio C movie theater, residential and hotel complex south of Van Andel Arena.

And the city is mulling over an Indianapolis developer’s plan to turn the current Grand Rapids Public Works site into a 16-acre mixed-use development.

“There’s quite a few things in the pipeline, obviously have to go through their approvals and permits and things, but there’s quite a bit more that’s on the way, we hope,” Kelly said.

But amid all the success building in Grand Rapids, there are concerns. Like where is everyone going to park?

“I have heard from a lot of folks it is an urgent issue. That’s the word I hear a lot,” said Josh Lunger, director of government affairs for the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.

Even with the 3,500 spaces that are included in the various new developments, some business owners have argued the City needs to create more space.

The City’s philosophy is that you can’t build your way out of a parking shortage and that more emphasis needs to be put on public transit, along with walk- and bike-ability.

The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, along with the City, recently took a parking census.

More than 2,000 respondents provided information including from where they drive in to the city, where they park and other habits. The data from that census is still being analyzed.

Chamber officials are hoping the results of the census help convince policy makers on the Grand Rapids City Commission that the need for more parking can’t be ignored.

“That kind of tackles those issues of being data driven, but also of having a more robust kind of stakeholder engagement process that’s going to be meaningful for those folks who are struggling with parking downtown,” Lunger said. “We don’t want this kind of not having those options on the table burden the employer or do anything to throw up obstacles towards job growth in the downtown.”

While parking remains a concern for the Chamber, Lunger agrees the robust growth downtown is the envy of other metro areas.

But how long can that growth continue? Part of the answer depends on the health of the national economy.

Tim Kelly with Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. remains optimistic, saying that with the new construction that will be underway in the next 12 to 16 months, there will be a significant amount of completed projects.

“With things like the Studio C project and some of the other ones that are planned, there could be a lot of this that will continue in the near future,” he said.

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