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Grand Rapids City Commission approves purchase of land for riverfront amphitheater

Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention Arena Authority buying 11.6 acres for $24.3 million
Grand Rapids riverfront amphitheater
Posted at 6:57 PM, Mar 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-29 19:27:11-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Some big changes are coming to downtown Grand Rapids. City commissioners approved the purchase of an 11.6-acre plot of land along the Grand River, the next step toward building an amphitheater in the area.

"It's a game changer, for sure," said Senita Lenear, the Third Ward Commissioner for Grand Rapids.

Many others share her sentiment.

Richard MacKeigan, the executive director for the Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention/Arena Authority, said, “It’s another step that’s great, wonderful, progressive, moving forward, but a lot of steps still to go.”

RELATED: GR City Commission to vote on purchasing land for amphitheater

CAA is hoping to redevelop 31 acres of land along the river downtown. It would reportedly be the largest riverfront site in the county, including 1,500–1,700 new affordable housing units and 10 acres of new recreation space, bringing 725 new jobs to the area.

It all revolves around a 12,000-seat amphitheater.

MacKeigan called the project transformational.

“It truly will be, with the restoration of the river, something that will be probably more than once in a generation," he told FOX 17 Tuesday. “This is going to be something that will be transformative for the entire region for, I would say, the next 50–75 years.”

RELATED: Sales agreement by city could lead to amphitheater on the Grand River in Grand Rapids

The price tag on the amphitheater: $116 million. However, before CAA can begin building, it had to buy the 11.6 acres of land where the amphitheater is proposed.

Before Tuesday, the city owned that area of 201 Market Avenue. CAA offered to buy it for $24.3 million, and Tuesday morning, during a Committee of the Whole meeting, city commissioners gave their first approval.

A final vote came Tuesday night during the city commission meeting.

Lenear said, “I have frequented an outdoor amphitheater in the Detroit area for concerts and it’s a great experience. It’s also on a body of water. I’m eager to have something like that here in our backyard.”

Lenear's big concerns, however, are equity and inclusion.

As the Third Ward Commissioner, she represents the city's largest Black population in an area that isn't connected to downtown.

She's worried her region won't benefit like the others.

Lenear did offer a solution during Tuesday morning's meeting. Since $10 million of the $24.3 million purchase will go straight to the Community Investment Fund, Lenear said a majority of that should be dedicated to the Third Ward specifically.

“In my neighborhoods, they’re saying they want a vibrant business district and walkable business district just like downtown," said Lenear. "So, we can take those dollars and do similar things so that we can have recreation happening in the neighborhoods as well.”

The goal is to put a shovel in the ground within the next 12 months and have the amphitheater ready to go by 2025.

Another key item on the agenda Tuesday addressed the 20 Monroe Live property downtown.

That property was in the process of being sold at the end of last year, with the purchase becoming official earlier this month.

RELATED: 20 Monroe Live sold, records show bought by company out of NYC

It's still unclear what the new owners plan on doing with that space. They did ask city commissioners permission to go into a lease agreement with CAA, allowing CAA to take over the building.

On Tuesday, commissioners gave that an initial approval as well.

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