GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapid Planning Commission voted unanimously Thursday to approve a special land use permit for the construction of the $116 million amphitheater proposed for the south side of downtown.

It was just the latest in a series of steps toward realizing the plan for an amphitheater on the riverfront site on Market Avenue where several Grand Rapids City Services like Streets and Sanitation are currently housed.

The vote didn’t come without some spirited discussion from some members of the public. Hal Froot, who lives a short distance from where the amphitheater will be built, is worried about the noise he and his neighbors will have to deal with.

“Especially going past 11 o’clock,” Froot told the commission. “If anything, I would like to see a one-year moratorium at 10 o’clock. If everything goes great, as it’s supposed to, make it at 11 o’clock after that.”

The architect on the project says sound studies have been conducted and the design of the project, including a berm along the perimeter, will reduce excess noise.

“I’m a big fan of this, but it needs a little work,” First Ward resident Lucas Leverett told the Planning Commission.

He’s concerned about a number of things, including parking.

“Currently, the parking is being presented in a vacuum for the most part, with no expressed concern for simultaneous events which impact all of the neighborhoods and nearby overruns,” Leverett said.

Development group Grand Action 2.0, which is backing the project, says there are more than 18,000 parking spots scattered around the immediate downtown area near the site. While concertgoers may not be able to pull up to the front door, Grand Action argues parking won’t be a problem.

“I’d rather see that kind of environment downtown than what I remember 40 years ago when, as (late) Mayor (John) Logie would say, you could roll a bowling ball down Monroe Avenue and nobody would know the difference at 5 o’clock at night because it was empty,” Planning Commission appointee Susan Shannon said in answer to parking and congestion concerns.

A rendering of the proposed amphitheater included in planning documents submitted by Grand Action 2.0 to the city of Grand Rapids.
A rendering of the proposed amphitheater included in planning documents submitted by Grand Action 2.0 to the city of Grand Rapids.

With that, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the special land use permit on 11 acres of the 31-acre Market Avenue site near US-131.

“This was a great milestone for us to achieve, but the project is very complex,” Grand Action 2.0 Executive Director Kara Wood said after the vote. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead. The property needs to be secured by the Arena/Convention Authority and then we continue the design process. We are in the schematic design phase currently and moving into design development will be the next phase.”

Among the next steps is finalizing the agreement between the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority and the city to buy the property. That is expected to happen sometime this summer.