GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids skyline could see some changes in the years ahead. The city is looking at an ordinance that would allow for taller buildings in certain areas.

The Grand Rapids Planning Commission approved amendments Thursday that would increase the building height downtown from 10 stories to 20.

Grand Rapids Planning Director Kristin Turkelson said the change would make investments in the community and help bring population density to downtown.

A map of proposed floor limits in downtown Grand Rapids. (May 25, 2023)

The core downtown area, in dark pink, does not currently have a height limit on buildings.

The yellow area is currently capped at 4 stories but is proposed expand to 5 stories or 7 when buildings are located along the river.

The height increase applies to the area in light pink — from west of Seward Avenue, east of Lafayette Avenue, south of Wealthy Street and north of downtown, along the Grand River.

Right now, the limit in that area is 10 floors. Developers can get an exception that allow up to 16 floors but they must include amenities like mixed-income and affordable housing and green elements.

With the proposed change, that height could increase to 20 floors and incentivize developers to include more public and trail access to and along the river. That incentive is also included for buildings near the river that are highlighted in blue. 

“What we were finding was those incentives really weren’t working. We weren’t seeing that happen. And so this is really looking at, what are the market conditions? What are the construction costs? And saying it actually makes more sense to not just keep it at 16, but to go to 20,” said Turkelson.

The city’s planning director hopes the amendment will help the downtown community by addressing housing, construction costs and river access. 

“We have those challenges in place and this responds to those challenges by making it easier to build taller,” said Turkelson.

The proposal will now go to the full city commission. The next meeting is June 6.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the number of stories the yellow area would allow. We regret the error, which has since been corrected.