GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A development that would bring more apartments to Grand Rapids and allow The Peoples Cider Co. to expand cleared a key hurdle Thursday.

The Grand Rapids Planning Commission approved plans by Indigo Design + Development to transform a four-property site at Leonard Street and Gezon Avenue NW from two homes and a gravel lot into a mixed-use facility.

The new three-story building would contain 20 apartments, including two accessible one-bedroom units on the ground floor.

The Peoples Cider Co. also plans to move into the ground floor, consolidating its production and tasting room. The hard cider producer currently runs a tasting room two doors down, with fermentation operations at 600 Maryland Ave. NE. The new space would more than double its production space, grow the tasting room from 480 square feet to 750 square feet, and create formal outdoor seating for up to 26 guests.

(A conceptual rendering Indigo Design + Development provided to the Grand Rapids Planning Commission shows what the new development at 555 Leonard Street NW may look like.)

The development’s 40-space parking lot would include two spots to accommodate food trucks up to 12 times a year, according to the plans.

Ryan Schmidt with Indigo Design + Development said the project has been in the works for several years.

“I think this is moving in the right direction to revitalize the neighborhood. There still are a lot of vacancies, but these are the kind of initiatives that I think will then carry through to making sure other storefronts are occupied in the near future,” said planning commission member Susan Shannon.

The project earned support from the area neighborhood and business associations. However, the development raised concerns from some neighbors about added traffic on an already narrow Gezon Avenue and eliminating the gravel lot people have been informally using for parking.

“One of the problems that I see from time to time is that neighborhoods get used to using property that is private property, and somehow assumes that when that property is no longer available, they have sometime been wronged. And I don’t know what we do to deal with that an expectation that is in fact unreal,” said planning commission member Walter Brame. “There are some realities of owning private property in a capitalistic system which often I disagree with, but that is the nature of the system in which we live.”

Developers said they plan to include outdoor bike racks, an indoor bike storage room and are in talks with The Rapid about adding a covered shelter at the nearby bus stop.

When asked if his firm reached out to the adjacent Taco Bell about potentially sharing its parking lot, Schmidt said “We’ve not had any success with that.”

“The excessive amounts of parking in the adjacent use is frustrating for everybody to see, all of the capacity there and the efforts to make the most on the applicant’s site. But I think this is a good use and appreciate the net increase in available housing,” said planning commission member Stacie Behler.

All the planning commission members who spoke agreed parking is an issue in the area. Planning commission member Lawrence Williams said he was “on the fence” about the project because of it.

“I love the project; I want to see it happen. But I feel like we’re adding to this neighborhood’s problems rather than helping out in the long run,” he said.

Planning commission member Paul Greenwald said this project has “done better than most” in accommodating parking.

“Overall, I think this project is adding to the vitality of Leonard Street and I think that it’s a very good improvement and would be very good for the neighborhood,” he said.