Downtown parking concerns as GR prepares for theater development

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- If you've ever been to downtown Grand Rapids, it's something you've likely heard people talking about: parking.

Several downtown lots will soon be closed for new developments, including a movie theater.  As more people head to the area, local businesses are concerned about where their employees will park.

Bill Bowling, a Grand Rapids realtor, is just one of the business owners concerned about finding convenient parking for employees.  He's worried some discouraged tenants might leave.

"From a standpoint of where the city was and where we've grown to, this is the most exciting city around right now," Bowling said. "If we lose the anchor to downtown, which is the office people that have their offices here, then the restaurants are going to suffer.  Then the people aren't going to want to live here, and that train can just turn."

The city says it is at 95 percent capacity for monthly parking, and as a solution, they require new developments to construct parking ramps.

"We're not not building parking," said Grand Rapids Mobile Manager Josh Naramore. "The way in which we're trying to provide it to the market is different than the way it had been in the past."

Naramore says one example includes building surface lots on the outskirts of downtown and having people take a shuttle.

"I think there is some frustration in the business community, but I think you're always going to hear people saying that there's never enough parking and we can't build fast enough," Naramore said. "And I think to that end, we're really trying to have a balanced approach.  We don't want to build too much too quickly, and we also don't want to not put it in the right space."

City leaders at Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. say people need to find alternatives to driving to work.  They are even proposing a cash incentive from business that employees can either use to pay for parking or pocket the cash and try something different.

"They can choose to carpool and keep that money for themselves," said Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. President Kris Larson. "They can ride a bus, they can walk, they can live in close to work, they can bicycle, they can take an Uber to work.  There's lots of different ways to access it, but what we're really trying to do is making sure we're not building a parking-only downtown."

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  • steve thomas

    There are those that are bound and determined to turn Grand Rapids into a smaller version of New York City, or Chicago, or Los Angeles, Whether those who live and work in the area want it or not is another matter. I’m guessing that a much larger number of people want no part of that scenario. They either cannot or will not accept mass transit as part of their lives. They demand their mobility and being able to park their vehicle where it’s near their destination for the short or long term is part of that mobility. Controlled growth of the city is great, but the growth rate in Grand Rapids is out of control and has been for several years. Grand Rapids as a great place to live? Hell, it won’t even be a nice place to visit if there’s nowhere to park.