West Side of Grand Rapids could see a major makeover

Posted at 10:45 PM, Mar 12, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-12 22:54:52-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.-- Times are changing for the 'Bridge Street corridor' on Grand Rapids’ Westside. Places like New Holland Brewery are on their way to that area. In addition, there's talk of even more change among city commissioners, specifically dealing with sidewalks and bridges.

Some colorful ideas are circulating as well. Using the same colorful LED’s that were installed on the 6th Street Bridge, now might light underneath the highway overpasses, making it brighter and more welcoming.

There’s also talk of expanding sidewalks in places to allow seating and dining. As well as lowering the speed limit to make the entertainment corridor more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.

Some of these ideas may not be possible or a long way off, others might be right around the corner.

The area of Bridge Street right near US 131 typically has lots of through traffic. There’s very little foot traffic throughout the day. That may all change with plans for new restaurants, breweries, and residential units on that part of Bridge Street. Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and city commissioners are trying to bring a whole new look and atmosphere to the West Side.

An idea was seeded into Commissioner Walt Gutowski’s mind just three days ago when a representative from Chicago came down and talk them about a new concept to Grand Rapids: shared streets.

“This place has great bones, we know that,” said Gutowski about Bridge Street.

Bridge Street is a hot spot for new development with gastropubs like Black Heron, New Holland Brewery, and hundreds of new residential units planned for construction.

Gutowski says shared roads would slow traffic down to make it more accommodating to pedestrians and bicyclists.

“I have gone to all of my neighbors now and I am getting texts from people saying right on and they are some people who are sharing concerns,” said Gutowski.

The concerns are being voiced on the "We Are Westsiders" Facebook page.  The concerns are emergency crews getting through a street that would have traffic crawling at 15 MPH.

“We share the fire station here and we have to make sure that safety is number one,” he said.

Some other concerns are the railroad tracks on the road, established truck routes, and highway traffic congestion that you can see during any 5 PM rush hour. Gutowski says they don’t know all the logistics yet, but they are certainly going to look into it.

Although just an idea right now with no hard numbers for cost or timeframe, Gutowski says it's something that he and most of the businesses of Bridge Street want for their area.

“We are in the very infancy stages and we will certainly do our homework.”

A completely separate idea that Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. are hoping to turn on by this fall: lighting up the West side.

“What it really does is it creates more interesting environment for your eyes and that’s a big part of urbanizing,” said Kris Larson, President of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.

The highway underpass on Bridge Street, which some may call an eye soar, is likely getting a makeover along with the Cherry Street underpass. They are looking into the use of colorful LED lights. The same technology now used on the Blue Bridge downtown.

“We are exploring a similar treatment of these overpasses to create a vibrant and public realm,” said Larson.

Larson estimates lighting a bridge could cost between $50,000 to $100,000, and they are still working to secure the funding.

On March 25th Rockford Construction Community event room on 601 1st St. NW, will have a meeting open to the community about what vibrant lighting designs they would like to see on the underpass from 5:30-7 PM.