Monroe North business leaders hope new ASP will attract high-tech businesses, create river access

The Grand Rapids Planning Commission recently approved an Area Specific Plan (ASP) for the Monroe North business district that business leaders hope will help spur development of high-tech businesses.

Part of the district lies within the Grand Rapids SmartZone established in 2001. It is one of 15 clusters in the state designed to spur development of life sciences, high tech and advanced manufacturing ventures and jobs.

Although the ASP guides development for the entire Monroe North business district – bounded by Michigan on the south, Division on the east, Leonard on the north and the Grand River on the west – the SmartZone lies only in the area south of Coldbrook.

The ASP study reports that Monroe North's proximity to the Medical Mile and the city's track record for successful private/public partnerships are significant assets to attracting high tech ventures, especially if pedestrian and transit access is improved.

"Not as many life sciences incubators are being developed as we'd hoped," says Jim Zawacki, Sr., owner of Grand Rapids Spring & Stamping and a member of the ASP steering committee. "We're in the SmartZone and thought this would be perfect, but people who own the buildings aren't necessarily interested in creating incubators."

But there's also hope that will change.

"It will take one or two good developments to set the area on fire, just like when the Brass Works renovation started," says Howard Hanson of Parkland Properties and a steering committee member. "People thought that venture was crazy, but development really took hold after that.

"The city has money earmarked to make improvements in the infrastructure," Hanson adds. "Ottawa has a lot of potholes and tired buildings, but if they do the infrastructure repairs they certainly will make it more desirable for developers."

Bonus height incentives are in place to help develop the district, says Suzanne Schulz, planning department director. For instance, the Grand River Overlay Zone allows developers to build taller buildings in exchange for landscaped public access to and along the river.

Source: Jim Zawacki, Grand Rapids Spring & Stamping; Howard Hanson, Parkland Properties; Suzanne Schulz, City of Grand Rapids

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at [email protected].

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