GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A proposal to replace the downtown Grand Rapids Big Boy restaurant with a gas station and convenience store is off the table, at least for now.
The Grand Rapids Planning Commission was scheduled to consider a special land use permit request by Kum & Go, LLC on Thursday. However, during that meeting, Grand Rapids Planning Commission Chair Kyle Van Strien announced the proposal had been withdrawn from the agenda.
Nick Pass, a St. Louis, Missouri-based real estate broker representing the property owner, who is also from St. Louis, said he was unaware the proposal had been withdrawn. However, Grand Rapids City Planner Elizabeth Zeller tells News 8 the developer asked to withdraw their request because “they heard of negative feedback from the community and wanted to work toward addressing those issues.”
News 8 also reached out to the developer directly, but has not yet heard back.
Kum & Go’s original proposal called for demolishing the Big Boy restaurant at the northwest corner of Pearl Street and Mount Vernon Avenue NW, just west of US-131. The developer wanted to build a gas station and 24-hour convenience store that would serve beer and wine during the hours allowed by state law. In documents submitted to the planning commission, Kum & Go said the gas station and store would benefit commuters from the nearby city parking lots, businesses, Grand Valley State University 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 initial 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 indicated the police department was 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 was 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 Big Boy is still operating.
The original Pearl Street restaurant 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.
Pass said redevelopment has been part of the plans since the current owner purchased the property. City records show DSS Real Estate Holdings LLC bought the property in 2018 for $1.5 million.
Van Strein said Kum & Go’s request was not being tabled or rescheduled. He said the developer could reapply for the special land use permit at another date.