As parking debate continues, GR opens new lot

The parking lot at Ionia Avenue and McConnell Street SW, across from the Downtown Market in Grand Rapids. (Dec. 13, 2017)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — While the debate continues on how much parking is enough for downtown Grand Rapids, city officials cut the ribbon Wednesday on new a lot that will provide 300 new spaces on the south side of downtown.

The lot is located at Ionia Avenue and McConnell Street SW, across the street from the Downtown Market. It was made possible through a public-private partnership with Spectrum Industries, which owns the site.

Grand Rapids, Ionia Avenue SW, parking lot
Photo: The ribbon-cutting for the new lot. (Dec. 13, 2017)

City officials says the lot is one of many short-term solutions to the downtown’s parking dilemma.

“But we still have more work to do,” Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said. “And you’re right, there’s still a lot of talk about parking downtown. We know it’s an issue and we’re actively working on that.”

The opening of the new lot came less than 24 hours after city commissioners rejected a move to put more pressure on the group that controls public parking in downtown Grand Rapids.

“It was a statement from the commission saying to the community, ‘We hear you and we’re working on it,'” Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce Director of Governmental Affairs Josh Lunger said.

The resolution asked commissioners to instruct Mobile GR, the city agency that oversees parking and mobility in Grand Rapids, to analyze various ideas to create more parking options and report back to the commission. The motion failed.

“Mobile GR is moving forward on some stuff, and we’re excited for that,” said Lunger, who’s a member of the Mobile GR Commission. “But at the same time, it’s disappointed that we’re unable to have a statement from the city commission to our members saying that we know this is a huge concern for you.”

Mayor Bliss was among the no votes.

“The resolution implied that we weren’t working on this problem, and we are,” she said.

It’s the latest salvo in the back and forth between the city and the business community over parking.

Downtown Grand Rapids is going through another economic development spurt. That’s the good news.

Businesses say the bad news is that factors like ramps at 95 percent capacity during the work day are driving business away and that the city doesn’t have a plan to deal with the problem.

City leaders say that’s not true, and use the 3,200 new spaces either under construction or on the drawing board to prove their point.

On Thursday, the city Parking Commission will consider a proposal for a $12.5 million to $15 million parking structure on the site of the main library parking lot.

Grand Rapids, downtown, library, parking structure
Rendering: The proposed parking structure next to the public library in downtown Grand Rapids (Courtesy)

City leaders continue to say they’re listening to the concerns while trying to spend money wisely.

“Building a parking structure can cost anywhere from $15 million to $30 million, so it’s a huge investment,” Bliss said. “And we need to make those decisions really thoughtfully.”