GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Plans for a 12,000-seat amphitheater in downtown Grand Rapids cleared another major hurdle Tuesday, after Grand Rapids city commissioners voted to sell a major portion of the city-owned 201 Market Street site to the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority.

While it’s far from a done deal, Tuesday’s vote is a major leap forward in an effort to developing a large portion of land that includes the city public works yard.

“I think it’s transformational,” said Richard Winn, the chairman of the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority.

The authority is moving forward with purchasing 11.6 acres of the Grand River front, 15.8 acres property, which the city has tried to develop for several years. The CAA will vote on authorizing the purchase on Wednesday.

“We look at this very much like the arena 25 years ago,” Winn said. “This could transform another large section of the city.”

The CAA would buy the land for $24.3 million, with the total cost of the amphitheater project set at $116 million.

Some $81 million in funds for the project would come from donor, state and private investment, with the rest coming from a mix of CAA property sales, bonds and Downtown Development Authority revenue.  

The city would put some proceeds from the sale into the relocation of public works to the current Kent County Road Commission yard on Scribner Northwest.

The road commission is moving to a new facility in Walker.

Other proceeds would be used for program like the city’s affordable housing fund.

Another $500 million of private investment is expected at the site, like 1,500 to 1,700 residential units, including some affordable housing.

The 201 Market site has been the subject of a number of attempts at redevelopment over the last 15 years.

“It truly is a public-private partnership,” Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said. “There’s a lot of private dollars going into this. It’s going to generate a lot of revenue. And then it will spur additional economic impact. “ 

The Kent County Board of Commissioners approved a similar resolution last Thursday.


Another major boost to river redevelopment is expected to come from Lansing Wednesday.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to sign a bipartisan state appropriations bill that includes $55 million for trails and parks along the Grand River, tying into the Grand River Greenway Project, which would put in trails all the way to Lake Michigan.

“This is a huge push. These projects take time and take money. Often time you can’t do the big push that makes these things become a reality,” said Tim Kelly, the president and CEO of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. The group is pushing for a major revitalization of the riverfront and downtown Grand Rapids.

The money uses $4.8 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds for infrastructure projects.

“This will enable us to connect trails going along the river’s edge, all the way out to the White Pine Trail, really help us connect to the west side, and then partner with the county as we look at this trail connection from downtown, all the way out to Lowell,” Bliss said.

While the $55 million would be used to develop sites up and down the river, some of those funds would boost the 201 Market development project.

“Looking at parks and trail space on that site in particular. That’s a huge part of that the community has told us they want to see,” Kelly said. “The community has been thinking about opportunities along the river front for decades now. So, there’s a lot of opportunity sites and a lot of trial sites that need to be built out: $55 million will be a tremendous boost to that.”

Another advantage of the plan is that it’s designed with flood control in mind. There would be more space that can handle high water in the spring and recreational areas when the levels recede.