City nixes surface lot ban


Grand Rapids’ new zoning code eliminates implementing a recommendation that would ban the construction of new surface parking lots downtown, as indicated in the GR Forward plan.

The final GR Forward plan recommended the city ban the construction of surface lots in the area bounded by Michigan and Wealthy streets and Division and Seward avenues. As such, the city’s initial revised zoning ordinance, which was scheduled to be voted on by the city commission last month, prohibited the construction of primary use surface parking lots in the City Center Zone district.

However, after the commission’s vote was postponed due to debate over building height, the extra time allowed the city to overhaul some other aspects in the zoning code, including the portion that would prevent surface lot construction. Based on a suggestion from Mobile GR and the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce to continue the city’s current policy, which allows surface lots as a special land use in the district, the prohibition was removed by city commissioners.

“Given the high demand for immediate parking solutions, the use of surface lots will provide the quickest and most cost-effective relief,” Chamber Director of Government Affairs Josh Lunger wrote in his recommendations to the commission.

The process for building surface area parking lots remains the exact same as it has in the past, with developers required to submit a special use permit with the planning commission.

The change comes on the heels of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s Feb. 8 meeting with more than 100 members and city staff addressing the city’s parking issues, as well as follow-up surveys, one-on-one meetings with business owners and workgroup sessions.

“When we got this group of members together and started talking about what we wanted to do in the short-term to provide more immediate relief, we set a vision, and that’s that parking and mobility should not be an obstacle to our downtown,” Lunger said. “There is going to be a change in how parking works downtown, and there will be some steps taken this year that will really help our members in the long term.”

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