WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — Wyoming is rolling out a new plan to revitalize its 28th Street corridor.
After 16 months of work sessions and community forums, Wyoming city commissioners approved a new master plan for the city on March 1. The 88-page plan mentions 28th Street 100 times.
“Specifically 28th Street has been one of the areas where we were hearing the biggest buzz… not only from the property owners who are already on the corridor, but from residents who are saying, ‘We’re starting to see the improvements on 28th Street.’ And that makes us very happy. We’re very proud to be in Wyoming and seeing this happen,” said Nicole Hofert, director of planning and economic development for the city of Wyoming.
The 2021 master plan includes revisions to the city’s Turn on 28th Street plan, which spawned a new street and form-based code since it was introduced four years ago.
“The Turn on 28th Street plan was a fantastic plan at its time. I think that the master plan today is more rooted in kind of the economics of what’s possible and recognizing what we’re really trying to achieve as a community,” Hofert said.
She said the previous plan for redevelopment partly hinged on some commercial businesses bottoming out on 28th Street.
“Luckily we didn’t see that — we saw businesses just continue to be successful. So there wasn’t necessarily that impetus to implement all aspects of that plan. You saw aspects of it start off with the creation a crescent street and some of the redesign here. Now we’re just kind of stepping into that next phase,” she explained.
Hofert is hopeful the new housing development taking shape on the former site of Studio 28 will be the catalyst for change 28th Street has needed for nearly a decade.
“You can have grand plans and you can sketch all you want on paper. But what it does take is someone like Magnus Capital coming in on HO̅M Flats (at 28 West) and making that investment to be the spark. What we needed was a spark, and hopefully this development is that spark. And then hopefully from that, we’ll start to see other development come around,” she said.
HO̅M Flats at 28 West expects to wrap up its first phase of construction this month. The next phase will double the apartment buildings on site and add more amenities, including an indoor dog area, an indoor child play area, a game space and community workspace.
When the development is finished, HO̅M Flats at 28 West expects to house about 400 residents, packing a big economic punch for the area.
“It’s an awesome opportunity to be a part of a larger city development plan,” said Jenna Morton, director of marketing and business development for Magnus Capital Partners. “It is so awesome to have partners that are so warm and welcoming to us and want to work with us to activate the space, the amenity programming, the outdoor plaza… it just makes a better community and it makes all of our jobs easier when we’re all willing to be friends and work together.”
Hofert said that since the master plan’s approval, developers have been reaching out who are “really energized” by the goals. She’s hoping the excitement will translate to new projects in partnership with the city, including developing 5 acres just north of the HO̅M Flats site.
“The hope there would be to…start to see some local restaurants come in, maybe a little bit of commercials, some office space, but start to build a city center,” Hofert explained.
Her optimism is fueled by several restaurants that opened on 28th Street during the pandemic and are thriving.
“Even though HO̅M Flats has only been here for a short period of time and the master plan is relatively new, I have a lot of faith and hope in what could become possible on the site,” she said.
NEW PLAN FOR 28TH STREET
The new master plan sticks with a previous priority: revitalizing or redeveloping Rogers Plaza “as the economic and community anchor of the corridor.” It also emphasizes improving walkability, like the Turn on 28th Street plan.
But the vision to carry Wyoming into 2040 also comes with some changes.
Activity hubs: The new master plan moves away from creating one downtown area in Wyoming to building neighborhood centers where residents can gather “and strengthen their sense of community, enhanced with features like public art and outdoor seating areas.”
“We recognize that we’re not going to have a true downtown, the definition of a Grand Rapids downtown, but we want a place where our residents can come and they can congregate with each other and they can just have a great time,” Hofert said.
Each hub would have a different mix of amenities, including green space, community or fitness centers, housing, office space and local retailers, even a food truck gathering area near HO̅M Flats at 28 West.
Prioritizing pedestrians: Hofert says Wyoming’s master plan follows the national trend of moving away from a car-centric lifestyle with “incremental development to start introducing the pedestrian back onto 28th Street.”
Steps include shortening city blocks, widening sidewalks and expanding the walkways to connect businesses, adding more landscaping between the road and sidewalks, removing curb cuts, extending curbs to shorten crosswalks, creating more crosswalks, and shifting parking to behind businesses, so storefronts border the sidewalk.
“We have a tremendous amount of local talent right here on 28th Street. Even during (the) COVID (pandemic), we saw some new restaurants open up: Poncho’s Tacos, we have Fresh Coast, Lindo Mexico. So we’ve got some great opportunities already popping up on the corridor, but it’s… how to connect those, how to get people to them more easily so that they don’t have to hop in a car all the time to go to these places,” explained Hofert.
Eliminating vacancies: Stakeholders collected best practices from across the country for the city to consider during the redesign rollout, including considering medical or office uses for empty retail spaces, transforming vacant spaces into short-term business incubators or pop-up event spaces and a potential vacancy fee for owners of empty buildings.
New zoning rules: The master plan also outlines changes to the city’s zoning code to make redevelopment possible, from small scale changes like landscaping to larger amendments like allowing mixed used development in city districts where it’s currently prohibited.
The master plan makes redeveloping 28th Street a top priority, but also ranks it among the most difficult recommendations to act on.
“As a developed commercial corridor, it does provide a whole host of challenges,” Hofert acknowledged.
The sheer size of 28th Street and amount of traffic it handles is an obstacle in creating a more pedestrian-friendly corridor. And if the city wants to alter the roadway or reduce the speed limit, it must go through the Michigan Department of Transportation because 28th Street is also a state highway (M-11).
While the city has its own wish list for redevelopment, “you’re at the demands of what the economy is doing and what developers are interested in doing,” Hofert said.
Redeveloping the former Klingman’s Furniture Store and Rogers Plaza into what the city envisioned would involve creating city blocks and whittling down the massive parking lots.
“That takes time, and it takes the right type of people to come in and be interested in doing that,” said Hofert.
But Hofert remains hopeful and positive about the bustling corridor’s future.
“I think that 28th Street has tremendous potential. I’ve been in Wyoming for just over three years now, and since I’ve been here, I’ve seen tremendous change on 28th Street,” she said.
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