Land swaps pave way for riverside park


Transactions are underway to begin development of a public park along the Grand River, which will be part of the Grand Rapids Whitewater Project, but the deal requires a number of property exchanges among Grand Rapids, Kent County and Michigan State University.

The land deals currently involve the sale of three parcels of county property totaling 1.285 acres. The city will purchase 511, 519 and 525 Monroe Ave. NW from the county for $3.3 million.

According to the deal, Michigan State University also will acquire 520 Monroe Ave. NW for $1.65 million. The property currently is owned by the county and used for employee parking.

MSU’s board of trustee’s recently approved the sale of two parcels of university property to the city for $3.8 million.

Chuck Reid, director of MSU’s Land Management Office, said the university intends to use 520 Monroe to expand its own facilities. The lot is adjacent to property owned by MSU on the east side of Monroe.

“We’re basically trying to develop what we call an innovation park,” Reid said. “By acquiring this county lot, it gives us property relatively contiguous to property we own.”

Reid explained the “innovation park” is in the initial planning phase but will be medically related and may or may not involve additional buildings, like a research base.

“For people who work in that neighborhood, it would clearly be a plus,” he said. “It’s really kind of an exciting process to redevelop some of that area for hopefully cutting-edge medical activity.”

The term sheet for the transactions was reviewed and approved by the Grand Rapids City Commission and the Kent County Finance and Physical Resources Committee on Feb. 20.

With the sale of 520 Monroe, the city intends to move county employee parking to 601 and 617 Ottawa Ave. NW.

During the Feb. 20 Finance and Physical Resources Meeting, Kent County Administrator/Controller Wayman Britt said the county will appropriate $1.65 million to the county’s Capital Improvement Program fund to move employee parking to Ottawa Avenue.

The Business Journal previously reported the county and Mobile GR submitted a special land use request to the Grand Rapids Planning Commission. The request included plans to demolish an existing office building and resurface the adjacent parking garage, creating 80 parking spaces for use by county and city employees and the public.

“The city will also participate in operation of the site, including providing county parkers certain services available at other lots owned or managed by the city,” Britt said.

The county will acquire the parcels from the city for $1.32 million, and the estimated cost of demolition and re-pavement is $318,000.

The planning commission and the Kent County Board of Commissioners are scheduled to review the special land use request for approval March 8.

Steve Guitar, city of Grand Rapids director of communications, said this transaction is one of many steps necessary for the city to complete the process of obtaining a $7.5-million grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources trust fund to help with the cost of acquiring the full 3.68 acres of land intended for the Grand Rapids Whitewater Project.

The city submitted the grant request to the Michigan DNR in 2015 and, in 2016, received the requested funding, with term conditions that the relevant documents be complete by the end of March and transactions closed by the end of April.

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