After nearly a decade, Grand Rapids officials once again are looking to put about 18 acres at 201 Market Ave. SW up for sale, along with four other city-owned properties, also along the riverfront.
City commissioners voted last week to invest $350,000 from the Transformation Fund to retain a consultant team to prepare the city-owned properties for site relocation, lean assessment of current operations, lean design of replacement facilities, marketing and disposition.
The city properties proposed for marketing and sale include the Public Service Center at 201 Market Ave. SW, the 1101 Monroe Ave. NW Coldbrook pumping and storage facility, the Monroe North Storage Yard and Wealthy Street Pole Storage Yard, and the 1120 Monroe Ave. NW Development Center.
City departments housed at the 201 Market Ave. and 1120 Monroe Ave. facilities are: building inspections; code compliance; development center; parks, recreation and forestry; planning department; public services; recycling and refuse; sidewalks; street maintenance; and zoning.
Eric DeLong, deputy city manager, said the Transformation Fund investment will allow the city to market the sites and put them up for sale.
“In order to do that we have to prepare the marketing documents; we have to also look at where we may move to … so lean analysis of our current operations and lean design of future location would be required, as well,” said DeLong.
DeLong indicated the solicitation would be for the 201 Market facility initially and then, as the market “absorbs” the site, the focus would move on to the other properties.
The $350,000 would cover consulting, architecture, lean design, administration and contingency at an estimated cost of $290,000, plus a brokerage fee of $60,000. All of the costs are expected to be recovered at the completion of the project “if a successful sale is made,” according to DeLong.
“We recommend retaining an integrated consultant team to help with this,” said DeLong. “It would include brokerage, design, marketing, and we would be retaining an experienced national firm that would help us.”
The overall project outlined in the proposal would include completing a needs assessment and lean analysis of current operations to help identify site selection criteria, an evaluation of 201 Market Ave. SW as a redevelopment opportunity, preparing a request for proposals, and assessing submissions to ultimately recommend to the city.
The consultant team is expected to partner with city staff and additional stakeholders on the project, which spans nearly 30 acres of property.
Potential redevelopment would “reflect the influences of the GR Forward Downtown and River Action Plan” and could potentially incorporate a “green living room” to provide public access to the river and private development.
The GR Forward plan identifies 201 Market as an opportunity site for creating a “destination and large-scale programmable open space” adjacent to one of the remaining river islands near downtown and also accommodate new development. Goals outlined in the plan for the site ranged from an ecological edge to manage on-site storm water to providing boat access and establishing new housing.
Dave Shaffer, commissioner for the city’s First Ward, suggested while the city is not entertaining an offer at this time, it is important to think about how the site would be used in the future and the part it plays in the overall infrastructure needs of the city.
“This isn’t just ‘get off the island at any cost,’ but what do we do with it and how do we best use city assets, overall,” said Shaffer.
Other proposed uses of any proceeds from the properties include supporting middle-rate and affordable housing options in the city.
Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said the city is in a very different place in time than 10 years ago when she served on the 201 Market Steering Committee developed by then-mayor George Heartwell.
“One thing that came up multiple times during those discussions was, when you have public land, you are in a position to embed some values in how that land is going to be developed and it should be looking at overall community benefit,” said Bliss.
“I do think this is a tremendous opportunity, not just on the 201 Market site, but on the other sites identified, as well.”
Bliss said what makes the project unique is it will provide an “overarching analysis” of what the city’s current needs are for space and where there are opportunities to partner.
A budget amendment is expected to be presented to the city commission, along with a recommended contract for the project. The project is anticipated to take 40 to 44 weeks.
“The time is right to move forward,” said Bliss. “This is part of the GR Forward plan. We have all of these opportunity sites along the river we need to start looking at seriously, and it goes along with our larger community vision of the river restoration.”