As the group watches the Grand Rapids football stadium, questions swirl about housing and the impact on the neighborhood

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — In a growing downtown area where vacant city-owned properties are scarce and housing is in high demand, construction of a football stadium adjacent to the David D. Hunting YMCA is- it a good use of the land available?

That’s a question city leaders may need to answer.

Grand Action 2.0, a private economic development group, wants to bring professional football to West Michigan, and it is considering several parking lots near the corner of Pearl Street NW and Mt. Vernon Avenue NW belonging to the Grand Rapids Downtown as potential sites. Development Authority.

The idea has generated a lot of excitement and curiosity, and is seen as a potential way to boost activity downtown and attract more visitors to the area.

But there are also questions.

What impact would the development have on surrounding neighborhoods and parking availability, and how would it affect the city’s goal of adding nearly 9,000 homes by 2025? Previously, the site envisioned for the stadium was envisioned by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. as a location that could potentially accommodate nearly 1,000 units.

Related: Redevelopment of large downtown parking lots into housing envisioned by Grand Rapids planners

It is unclear to what extent the stadium would reduce the number of accommodations that could be added to it.

“We desperately need housing, so I don’t know how a football stadium is going to achieve that,” said Annette Vandenberg, executive director of the West Grand Neighborhood Organization, located north of the car parks under consideration.

Vandenberg said she doesn’t have a position on the project at this time, and is waiting to hear more if Grand Action is moving forward with the idea.

“I’m not saying we don’t need football,” she said. “I’m just saying we need a lot of housing.

The study parking lots, which some officials said were underutilized, are serviced by the city’s free downtown shuttle.

The concept

Grand Action 2.0, whose co-chairs include Carol Van Andel, Dick DeVos and Tom Welch, Regional Chairman of Fifth Third Bank, was launched in 2020. The original incarnation of the group, Grand Action, has helped create great transformational projects such as Van Andel Arena, DeVos Place, the Grand Rapids Downtown Market, and more.

At this point, Grand Action says it is simply exploring the idea of ​​using public parking lots and adjacent property as the site for the stadium, and has not committed to building it there.

“In late August, Progressive AE submitted documents related to the development of a downtown football stadium and events at a proposed site to the City of Grand Rapids for preliminary and informal review,” the organization said. in a press release.

“While the site for the stadium has not been confirmed and plans for this facility are still in their early stages, this review is an important step in the due diligence process to determine if this site would even be viable.”

The stadium is expected to cost $125 million, according to an application the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority submitted to Kent County for federal stimulus funds to help fund the stadium.

A property near the parking lots, Downtown Big Boy at 407 Pearl St. NW, was purchased in July for $3.2 million by a limited liability company linked to Dan DeVos.

DeVos is president of the Orlando Magic basketball team, co-owner of the Grand Rapids Griffins, and chairman and CEO of DP Fox Ventures.

DeVos could not be reached for comment, and it is unclear whether his purchase was tied to plans to bring a stadium to the site. However, a concept render of the stadium that appeared on social media shows the Big Boy property being used for the project.

Grand Action also contacted the David D. Hunting YMCA about the project and inquired about purchasing its parking lot to use for the stadium, said Scott Lewis, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids. .

He said the idea was “exciting” but he was waiting to hear more, including where downtown YMCA patrons would park if his organization sold its property to Grand Action.

“We’re really, really, really preliminary,” Lewis said. “We had two conversations about it briefly.”

This map depicts the parking lots for which Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. is creating a redevelopment plan. (Map provided by Downtown Grand Rapids. Inc.)

Housing issues

If Grand Action were to select the car parks as the stadium site, it would have to purchase them from the DDA. The DDA is overseen by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., whose original plan for the site included housing.

Rick Winn, president of AHC Hospitality and chairman of the DDA board, said he had no official position on the football stadium concept at this stage. He’s waiting to hear more about the Grand Action idea once more due diligence has been done, he said.

“Hopefully if that’s the chosen site, we’ll incorporate housing as well,” Winn said. “That would be our goal. Once we get to that point, everything will be discussed.

While the housing addition is important, so is the area’s recreational tourism economy, Winn said.

“Any place of entertainment, whether sports-related or otherwise, is a boost for downtown and for the region, for the county,” he said. “I think anything we can do to encourage people to visit Grand Rapids and the area is a boost for everyone.”

The football stadium talk comes amid a push to add more housing to Grand Rapids.

In 2020, Bowen National Research, an Ohio-based real estate market analysis firm, released a study examining the housing needs of Grand Rapids. The study estimates that Grand Rapids needs to add 8,888 housing units — apartments, townhouses, condos, single-family homes — by 2025 to meet demand.

Since then, the city has added 1,045 housing units, with about 1,000 more units in the pipeline, according to figures provided by the City of Grand Rapids in mid-July. However, the city does not appear to be on track to meet the goal of 8,888 units by 2025, officials acknowledge.

Vandenberg said there is a significant need for additional housing in his West Side neighborhood.

‘Any time someone comes to us and says I have a housing plan, I don’t care if it’s four housing units – that’s four more housing units,’ she said , regarding the community adjacent to the proposed stadium site. “That’s how badly we need housing.”

Other questions about the concept include its impact on parking, traffic and other neighborhood quality of life factors, Vandenberg said.

“West Grand loves to see the West Side grow and prosper,” she said. “But at the same time, we want it to be where people already here aren’t kicked out.”

In December 2020, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., which is overseeing development in the urban core, submitted a plan that called for the parking lots—which are now being considered for the football stadium—to be used for housing.

The plans, known as Bridge South, indicated that the car parks could include up to 1,000 housing units depending on their development density, the presentation showed. A rendering of the proposed football stadium showed that at least one large car park, known as parking lot 9, would not be impacted by the football stadium, possibly leaving it open for future housing.

Tim Kelly, president and CEO of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., said his organization would consider the Bridge South plan if discussions about the potential site for the football stadium continue.

A DDA board member said he would like to see land on the site used for housing if Grand Action pushed to build a stadium there.

“One of my interests is housing and ensuring that we have downtown housing that caters to a variety of price points, a variety of opportunities for people,” Jim Talen said. “From what I’ve seen there will be housing, potentially, incorporated, and I know DGRI will push that, staff will, because that was part of the vision” of the site.

Kara Wood, chief executive of Grand Action 2.0, could not be reached to discuss housing on the site.

“It is too early to discuss the development of a football stadium and potential ancillary development related to a specific site at this time,” according to a statement provided by Truscott Rossman public relations on behalf of Grand Action. “The preliminary site plan that was posted online has not been released by Grand Action 2.0, and this site has not been confirmed.”

Another area resident, Peter Carlberg, who sits on the board of the adjacent John Ball Park neighborhood, said he only knew about the football stadium concept from the media.

If the project were to go ahead, he said his questions would focus on factors such as how the project would affect traffic and parking in his neighborhood.

“It’s not a priority for us that there’s necessarily housing on any other use,” Carlberg said. “Although we would prefer the accommodation to, say, more bars.”

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