Grand Rapids wants grant to help pay for $10 million Grand River property

Posted at 11:30 PM, Mar 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-10 23:30:03-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The Grand Rapids City Commission held a public hearing on Tuesday night after revealing the city's intention to apply for a state grant that will help revitalize an area of riverfront property north of downtown.

A grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources would help the city fund a $10 million dollar acquisition of an area that is mostly parking lots. Currently, the area is a lot of asphalt and not much else, but the city says that buying the properties will allow for a better use of the Grand River in downtown.

The area is along the west side of Monroe Street, on the east side of the Grand River near the I-196 interchange. All six properties are currently being used as parking lots.

As for the grant, "I think our chances are good," said Deputy City Manager Eric DeLong, "but we are competing statewide, and so we have to submit a strong application."

Two of the properties are owned by Michigan State University. Two others are owned by Kent County, and another is owned by the City of Grand Rapids Parking Services.

The city says $7,500,000 dollars from the state would go to acquisition of the properties, but the city would still need to fork over another $2,500,000 of its own money. That does not include the cost of any future developments on the site.

"We have an idea, and the idea is we want more river access, and we want it to be stepped in a way where people can actually get down and use the river and touch the river," said DeLong.

Other than a few ideas, the city has no permanent plan for the project, but the city commission will have to decide whether to apply for the grant soon, with a deadline of April 1.

The city said it expects to know whether the grant is approved by December this year. Funds will be available in October of 2016.

Some of the ideas the city has include a beer garden, an area for food trucks, and a boat landing.

There was also a concern expressed from the public regarding how the city plans on handling parking issued from the loss of several lots.

"There is a parking mobility study going on as part of the GR Forward process, so there will be alternatives, and we have time, because even though we have 18 months to know whether we have the project or not," said DeLong.

The city also said that the project would give the state direct access to the Grand River, which would preserve it.

The commission has not voted on anything yet, but the deadline to apply for the grant is approaching quickly, April 1, 2015.