Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss has joined the discussion while City View Condo residents battle with the city over the parking places they claim are rightfully theirs.
The City View Condo Association invited Bliss to a meet and greet to discuss the topic of parking at a residents meeting this past week at the First Community Bank building on 60 Monroe Center NW.
Bliss told condo owners the city’s ultimate goal for downtown is to make it more attractive for people to live there. The GR Forward plan has outlined a goal to have about 10,000 people living downtown, which Bliss said is necessary to support the retail and other commercial aspects of the metro area.
“We know that there’s a tipping point, that you need a certain number of people in a space to attract the amenities that are really needed in an urban area,” she said.
Kathy Steindler, president of the City View Condo Association board, agreed, saying the original condo owners were attracted to living in the city center because of the walkability aspect but added many people who live downtown may have jobs outside of the urban core and still rely on their cars.
“People understood it was not free parking … but that there would be some availability of parking,” Steindler said.
Earlier Business Journal reports noted, in 2004, prior to the construction of the Monroe Center ramp and the renovation of the 60 Monroe building into City View Condos, the condo association pursued an agreement to commit 18 parking spaces in the Louis Street-level lot to a long-term lease agreement for the life of the structure.
The Business Journal also previously reported the city relocated the City View residents’ 18 designated residential parking spaces in the street-level lot of the Monroe Center structure to the second level of the structure in August of this year. According to a letter from the city to the residents, the move was intended to free those spaces for use by Mobile GR employees.
Brian Roelof, one of the original condo owners, said Mobile GR and Parking Services Director Josh Naramore sent the signal he did not want to negotiate with residents over the spaces.
“Mr. Naramore came and talked to our board, and just presented, ‘We’re taking your spots away …’ and said, ‘We’ll come back and talk to you after we think about it some more,’” Roelof said. “Suddenly, the letters went out that the parking was done. I don’t think he really considered … ‘Hey, there are actual people living downtown.’”
Residents still are protesting the move, saying not only did they buy their condos under the impression they were guaranteed parking in a certain location but also that the city is underutilizing the spaces that previously belonged to them.
Ann Aldritch, a City View Condo resident, said she consistently has people parking in her new spot and has to go through several layers of communication to get that vehicle moved. If someone is parked there during the weekend when parking services is not issuing tickets, she would be out of a parking spot for two days waiting for it to be removed, she said.
Aldritch also said she discovered the parking spot she has now is not connected to her condo, which devalues her property.
“If I were to sell my condo right now, I do not have a designated parking spot, so that reduces my property value significantly,” she said.
Bliss said she was not aware of the discrepancy.
To return to Bliss’ original point, Aldritch said the condo owners bring significant value to the city in the form of property taxes and where they spend their money.
Condo owner Bart Steindler added he discovered the total property taxes generated by City View Condos’ 24 residential units comes to about $155,000 a year.
In response to Aldritch’s concerns, Bliss said she was under the impression the new assigned spot was indeed attached to the condo and would roll over to a new owner.
The condo owners also told Bliss the lower lot is hardly being used by the city now that they’ve been removed from it.
“I check that lot almost every day,” condo owner Nancy Ayres said. “The most cars that have ever been there is five. They can’t move five people up so the 18 of us have parking?”
Ayers said when the move happened, she decided to start parking in the triangular lot at 10 Ionia Ave. NW until Hinman Company recently told all residents to leave because it was beginning construction of a new hotel.
“So I went to city parking services and I asked them if I could get residential parking,” Ayers said, “and I was told the city no longer provides any residential parking in any of the city ramps, period. Like Ann, you may have that spot until you move. Once you move, you lose that spot.”
Bliss said she also was not aware the city no longer provides residential parking in parking ramps.
Based on the discrepancies the condo owners revealed to her, Bliss said she will follow up with City Manager Mark Washington, to whom Naramore reports directly.
“I believe government should be here to make your lives easier, not harder,” Bliss said. “Clearly, there are problems to be solved. I’m not saying I have all the answers. I can’t unilaterally make decisions. If I could, sometimes I would.”
Bliss said she will commit to reconnecting with condo owners by the end of the year to discuss possible solutions.