New Holland Brewing Co.’s plan for a new development on the west side of Grand Rapids has cleared its first hurdle, but not without plenty of discussion.
The Grand Rapids Planning Commission recently hosted a public hearing to discuss the $10 million project slated for Bridge Street NW. While most people who made comments during the hearing were supportive of the overall project, there were questions concerning parking, noise and the western façade and outdoor elements of the building.
Jim Reminga, a senior vice president at Rockford Construction, spoke about the planned project in detail.
As proposed, Rockford Construction plans to construct two buildings on Bridge Street between Turner and Broadway. The four-story building that will sit on the western edge of the site will house New Holland Brewing on its first two floors and commercial office space on the top two floors. The five-story building on the east will house ground floor retail and 36 apartments, which will consist of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. Between the two buildings there will be space for outdoor seating with a concert stage for live entertainment.
The plans include 11 parking spaces, located behind the eastern building. That number is a couple of hundred spaces fewer than what is required. In its request to the planning commission, Rockford Construction asked for a full waiver of the parking space requirement.
Reminga noted Rockford Construction is not requesting the waiver because it does not think parking is needed, but because it will be impossible to meet the requirement, which calls for more than 200 spaces within 300 feet of the project site. He said Rockford Construction is exploring several solutions to ensure adequate parking for its apartment dwellers and for New Holland customers.
Without going into a lot of detail, Reminga said Rockford Construction owns two additional sites on the west side where a parking structure could be built. The company also is eyeing a city lot located on Scribner within walking distance of the buildings that could be leased for apartment residents. Reminga said there are 70 permits available in that lot.
Another parking solution would be to create a shared parking agreement with commercial businesses for lots in the area that have heavy day use but are virtually abandoned come 5 p.m.
“This is an urban area and it requires urban solutions,” Reminga said.
Residents who said parking was one of their concerns with the project are worried that, without designated parking for apartment and brewery customers, they will lose the on-street parking spaces on which they rely.
Reminga said Rockford Construction would be happy to facilitate a discussion with the city’s Parking Services about setting up a permit parking program for residents in the area.
The city currently has instituted permit parking in the Belknap Lookout neighborhood due to the influx of parkers coming and going from Spectrum Health, and potentially could do the same thing in the west side neighborhood.
Reminga emphasized Rockford Construction’s commitment to solve the parking issue by spring.
“We want parking figured out before we break ground,” he said.
Noise was another bone of contention for residents closest to the New Holland Brewing site. As proposed, outdoor music could go as late as 2 a.m., when the establishment closes.
One resident noted he could hear concert noise coming from Ah-Nab-Awen Park, located across U.S. 131, during events held in the summer so he has no doubt concerts held in New Holland’s outdoor space would keep him up.
Plans for the western façade of New Holland Brewing also garnered criticism for lack of transparency and an overly industrial look. Suggestions of making the building more similar in design to Founders Brewing Co., which has more windows, were mentioned.
Following the public hearing, the planning commission voted to recommend Rockford’s proposal, with several conditions.
Rockford received a full waiver for onsite parking, and city planning director Suzanne Schultz said she would waive 50 percent of the spaces required for the project, leaving Rockford responsible for identifying approximately 140 offsite parking spaces. The project will not be able to break ground until those spaces are secured.
Rockford also is to facilitate discussions for a residential parking permit program in the area around the brewery.
The planning commission also said Rockford Construction will have to address concerns about the western façade and make efforts to create a more appealing design. It will have to address concerns about its generator, tanks and loading dock, as well, by enclosing the generator, screening the tanks from view, and implementing a delivery period of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to minimize noise disturbances to area residents.
Finally, the planning commission voted to limit the outdoor entertainment hours and prohibit outdoor amplification systems.