Michigan St. Corridor Plan OK’d, but debate continues

Medical Mile stretches down Michigan Street in downtown Grand Rapids. (File photo)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The word ‘busy’ is an understatement when talking about the stretch of Michigan Street in Grand Rapids from the Grand River to the east.

About a billion dollars in investment has been made in the area in the last decade. 1.2 million employees and visitors share the street with the area’s 20,000 residents each year.

And more people are moving in. Case in point: The new apartment complex going up near the intersection of Eastern Avenue NE and Michigan Street.

“Understanding how we’re going to balance traffic and new development and the neighborhoods, all of that is really important,” City Planning Director Suzanne Schulz said.

The Michigan Street Corridor Plan — which was approved on Tuesday — is a vision to guide development in the area, but there are a number of questions that come with growing pains.

>>Online: Michigan Street Corridor Plan (PDF)

What about all the traffic? Where are all those people going to park?

“The devil, of course, is always in the details,” Schulz said.

Some of those details were part of the discussion at Tuesday’s City Commission Committee of the Whole session.

“Sounds like we don’t have 100 percent buy-in, or even a majority buy-in,” said First Ward Commissioner Dave Shaffer.

Schulz said the city can’t build its way out of congestion. Part of the corridor plan calls for zoning changes that would make the area more bike and pedestrian friendly, and even limit the number of parking spaces.

So what do residents who still need a car to get back and forth think of the ideas?

“Oh, they’re definitely leery of that,” Second Ward Commissioner Ruth Kelly said.

She says there’s another part to the congestion conversation, like talking to tenants along the Medical Mile about more incentives for their employees to use mass transit and other non-motor vehicle ways to get to work.

While there’s frustration, Kelly said there is also time to work things out.

“There’s a plan and that’s different than zoning. And as developments happen, we’ll take on piece at a time and look at it more carefully,” Kelly said.

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