Why GR outdoor movies are moving to parking lot

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As soon as it was announced Wednesday that the annual Movies in the Park series in Grand Rapids was moving to a parking lot, complaints started flowing in.

Many didn’t understand the reason for the move. The parking lot at 555 Monroe Ave. NW near I-196 where the newly renamed Movies on Monroe will be shown this summer doesn’t appear to be a relaxing location.

“Nope, nope,” downtown resident Jeanette Tibstra said. “The parking lot is dirty. There is broken glass and garbage laying around.”

It’s a stark contrast to the event’s previous home, the grassy Ah-Nab-Awen Park, where kids enjoyed rolling down the hill and people liked taking their shoes off and bringing along their dogs.

“I don’t want to go. I don’t want to sit on a hot parking lot,” Tibstra said.

When Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc., which organizes the outdoor movie series, announced the site switch, it cited easy access to parking and bus routes and close proximity to restaurants. But that wasn’t the actual reason for the move.

When 24 Hour News 8 asked Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. whose idea it was to move the location, the organization said it did so after being contacted by the city.

“They (the city) acquired this land so it was part of their agreement that in a number of days it had to be activated,” Jennie Schumacher, the communication specialist for the organization, explained.

Schumacher said the city utilized a Natural Resources Trust Fund to consolidate ownership of the parking lots as part of a riverfront revitalization project. One of the conditions of the grant is that it had to be utilized within about 60 days.

So why not choose another event for the space and keep Movies in the Park at Ah-Nab-Awen or another city park?

“That was the thought, but everything that we learned, we wanted to stay along the river,” Schumacher said.

She said Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. has a “lot of tricks’ up its sleeve to green up the space and make it feel less like a parking lot. The plan includes murals and plants.

“Please just trust us,” she said, adding that a rendering will be released soon.

The first movie night is June 8.

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