Reimagine Plainfield reveals plans to transform corridor

Kent County

An undated courtesy photo provided by Plainfield Township shows Plainfield Avenue in Plainfield Township.

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Plainfield Township is sharing plans to transform its bustling commuter corridor into a more attractive place for visitors and residents.

The Plainfield Corridor Redevelopment Advisory Committee recently released its 76-page proposal to transform the Plainfield Avenue corridor from 4 Mile Road to the East Beltline Avenue junction.

(An undated image provided by Plainfield Township shows the sign greeting visitors to the Plainfield Corridor.)

The public will get its chance to weigh in on the 20-year plan during online forums starting Wednesday at noon and 7 p.m. Additional online meetings will happen at the same times on April 14 and April 21. Those planning to attend must pre-register online.

Covid-19 has exacerbated the decline of large and small retailers. When combined with older housing stock, aging infrastructure, rising costs to provide basic services, and increased demand for those services due to shifting demographics, Plainfield Township faces a daunting reality. A new approach is needed to encourage high-value redevelopment and new investment along the Plainfield Avenue corridor,” the report states.

The Reimagine Plainfield proposal suggests adding three town hubs for pedestrian-friendly mixed-use development: the Versluis Town Center, Plainfield Village Center and Meijer Mixed Use site.

Versluis Town Center, located between Versluis Lake and the Coit Avenue Pond, would emphasize the nearby park and trails. In a nod to the community’s history, Plainfield Village Center would take over the former North Kent Mall and include a town square. The Meijer Mixed Use site would take advantage of a large triangular vacant piece of land and bus route near the Plainfield Township Meijer store.

The steering committee’s vision also includes shifting development to mixed-use centers and focusing on luring non-auto retail to the area, since research shows the corridor has a surplus of vehicle dealers, auto parts stores and tire shops.

“Many people complained about needing to leave the corridor to go clothes shopping,” the report concluded from community surveys.

The report says answering the demand for more clothing and general merchandise stores in Plainfield Township represents a potential of more than $23 million for the community.

Reimagine Plainfield also calls for making the corridor more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, redesigning the roadway for smoother and safer traffic flows and beautifying the corridor with median and curbside landscaping.

Plainfield Township began its revisioning process in 2019 by creating the steering committee. In July of 2020, the township board of trustees approved a one-year moratorium on permits, licensing and zoning for any new one-story commercial businesses on Plainfield Avenue between Northland Drive and 4 Mile Road NE as the steering committee addressed community concerns about the lower-value development.

The advisory committee says to encourage a shift away from single-use, single-story buildings on individual lots, the township will need to allow developers to construct four- to five-story buildings so they can recover their investment.

The committee’s report says shifting to a new format in development is “critically important.” That’s because the pandemic’s impact and the rise of Amazon could lead to the collapse of many retail businesses with slim odds that storefronts or “existing, tired strip malls found on Plainfield Avenue will see substantial reinvestment.”

“We must bravely face this reality with creativity, time-tested approaches, and a willingness to try something new and different,” the report states.

The advisory committee says moving to more sustainable development would also “improve livability” and help commercial property values, which remained flat for a decade until modest growth in 2019.

A spokesperson for Reimagine Plainfield says the township is starting to work on updating its zoning regulations to support the new approach for building placement, street layouts, parking, sidewalk connections and landscaping. The new zoning rules are expected to go to the planning commission and township board for review in the coming months.

An open house focused on the Reimagine Plainfield plan is scheduled for April 28 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Plainfield Fire Station. Visitors must wear a face covering and social distance. Questions can also be shared with the township by emailing or by calling 616.364.8466.

The Corridor Redevelopment Advisory Committee expects to send its final Reimagine Plainfield plan to the township board later this spring.

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