GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — After serving the downtown Grand Rapids for more than half a century, the Big Boy restaurant may soon be leveled and redeveloped into a gas station and convenience store.
That’s the proposal from a developer considering buying the site at the northwest corner of Pearl Street and Mount Vernon Avenue NW, just west of US-131.
Kum & Go, LLC is seeking a special land use permit from the Grand Rapids Planning Commission for the potential project at 407 Pearl St. NW. According to planning commission documents, the developer wants to demolish the restaurant and build a 3,968-square-foot, 24-hour convenience store that will sell beer and wine. The plans also call for four gas pumps that can serve eight vehicles at a time, landscaping, 17 vehicle parking spaces and five bicycle parking spots.
The Grand Rapids Big Boy restaurant is still operating. It’s unclear when it would close if the plan is approved.
The original Big Boy was built in 1964. In 2002, it was reconstructed as a design prototype for new Big Boy restaurants nationwide, according to Grand Rapids Press archive articles unearthed by Grand Rapids Public Library historian Tim Gloege.
Nick Pass, a St. Louis, Missouri-based real estate broker representing the property owner, who is also from St. Louis, said redevelopment has been part of the plans since the restaurant property changed hands. City records show DSS Real Estate Holdings LLC bought the property in 2018 for $1.5 million.
“It’s a great site. Grand Rapids is a great city,” Pass said.
“It’s such a good property. There’s a higher and better use there,” he added.
In paperwork submitted to the city, Kum & Go said the gas station would benefit commuters from the nearby city parking lots, businesses, GVSU campus, YMCA and highway because it “is highly compatible with the surrounding area as it provides a valuable service not currently available in the area.”
The developer said based on discussions with city staff and the nature of the area, Kum & Go limited its community outreach to a representative of the nearby YMCA “who indicated they were in full support of the project.”
However, the city planning department’s summary indicates the police department is concerned a business selling alcohol may “exacerbate” substance use issues among the transient population, which may also lead to more panhandling, traffic issues, “disorderly behavior” and illegal camping.
The police department is also worried about the potential impact on youth drawn to the area by nearby museums and the YMCA, as well as “a general increase in crime with convenience stores/gas stations that offer alcohol sales near interstate highways,” the planning commission documents state.
The Grand Rapids Planning Commission is expected to vote on the proposed redevelopment during its Thursday meeting, which opens to the public at 1 p.m.