by Deborah Johnson Wood
It appears that the debate about the vacant lot at 1 South Division/2 West Fulton may soon end. The City of Grand Rapids Engineering department has applied to the City Planning Commission for permission to construct a 98-space surface parking lot on the property.
The corner lot, considered a gateway to downtown, is in a high-traffic location. Proponents for the temporary parking lot would like to temporarily replace the weedy parcel with parking space for the nearby Children’s Museum, Police Station, and Secretary of State’s office.
Waivers to the zoning code are needed to eliminate requirements for six bicycle spaces, screening on the public right of ways, and one shade tree for every forty parking spaces.
If approved, the city plans to grade the parcel, remove the topsoil, and surface the lot with recycled asphalt. The asphalt would be ground up using a cold milling process, spread on the parking surface, and lightly compacted. The porous surface allows rainwater to percolate into the ground, or into the existing rain garden on the property’s west side. The lot would have bumper stops, minimal lighting, and one ingress/egress from Commerce Avenue.
Plans for Second Story Properties and RSC Associates to construct The Gallery on Fulton on the site, a $20 million mixed use development to replace a demolished city parking ramp, have been delayed for months. The developers now intend to begin construction this fall, but delays in closing on the property or breaking ground could set the project back as far as mid-to-late 2008, leaving that highly visible parcel empty for months to come. And that has made some city leaders nervous.
In December, Kurt Hassberger, chair of the Downtown Alliance and power of attorney for the Children’s Museum across the street from the vacant lot, asked the Grand Rapids Parking System to construct a temporary surface parking lot if the site was going to remain vacant for an extended period.
“My opinion is that the lot would be heavily used,” said Pam Ritsema, parking system director, “because people tend to prefer surface parking to ramp parking. But I agree that it’s not the long-term highest and best use of that corner.”
The Planning Commission is expected to vote today on whether or not to approve the temporary parking lot.
Source: Pam Ritsema, Grand Rapids Parking System; Sam Cummings, Second Story Properties; Grand Rapids Planning Commission records