Plan aims to reimagine, refresh Plainfield Corridor

Kent County

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Robert Maleport, who has been cutting hair along the Plainfield Avenue corridor for 26 years, sees the need for change.

“I’d like to see them do something with these empty spaces, like Witmark and the empty lot across Plainfield,” Maleport said.

The old Witmark Catalog store along Plainfield at Jupiter Avenue, which closed in 1997, is perhaps the most visible example of why the Plainfield Corridor needs a new plan of action.

The corridor is the area along Plainfield Avenue from Four Mile Road to East Beltline Avenue and Northland Drive, continuing north to the Grand River and south on East Beltline to Grand River Avenue.

Like so many communities, Plainfield’s business corridor was designed to for the needs of the post-World War II generation, when cars took people out of the cities and into the suburbs. North Kent Mall was an example of that development.

“The North Kent Mall opened 50 years ago this year — and 20 years ago, it closed,” Suzanne Schulz, an urban planner with Progressive AE, said.

Today, much of the corridor is pockmarked with retail space, vacant buildings and empty lots. So the township reached out to property owners and others with interest in the corridor.

“Really, this idea of old, tired, worn out, needs something new and different, is something that’s been reinforced by the feedback we’ve received,” said Schulz, whose firm is helping the township develop the Reimagine Plainfield plan.

Developed through a series of surveys and community meetings, the plan is patterned after what’s happening in other West Michigan communities like Hudsonville and Ada, where planned retail space is combined with residential space and other amenities, like parks and other green space.

“Focusing on mixed-use and creating vibrant places, including mini-downtowns along the corridor,” Schulz listed.

Zoning changes would encourage private investment to create new retail and residential space. A special district would capture property taxes along the corridors and put them back into infrastructure and other public improvements.

“For residents, their property taxes are capped…” Schulz said. “So it doesn’t increase residential property taxes.”

The township board will hold a virtual public forum on the 20-year plan at 7 p.m. Monday.

The Plainfield Township Redevelopment Committee and Planning Commission have already recommended the plan. A final vote by the township board is set for May 24.

While he still has some lingering questions on some of the plans details, Maleport is watching the plan unfold with a positive outlook.

“Especially the greening up part,” Maleport said. “I think that would make as world of difference in the corridor here.”

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