With a revised project outline, the proposed warehouse and distribution center put forth by the mysterious “Project Rapids” is one step closer to reality.
The Gaines Township Planning Commission late last month recommended the township board approve Project Rapids’ request to build an 855,000-square-foot warehousing and distribution center on a Steelcase-owned property at 4500 68th St. SE.
Since first being reviewed by the planning commission March 22, Project Rapids provided additional details in its project outline to answer concerns about the township’s zoning restrictions.
“So far, I estimate this going pretty much in line with their schedule,” Gaines Township Planning Director Mark Sisson said.
According to the planning commission documents, Project Rapids proposed to install 30-foot light poles along 68th Street and 40-foot poles within the compound. These exceeded the township’s zoning restriction of 20 feet, but Project Rapids argued an increased fixture height would result in more illumination with fewer fixtures, thus reducing energy demand.
The plan also detailed 2,685 on-site parking spaces, which are more than double the ordinance standard. Project Rapids argued the number was based on the need to accommodate overlap in shifts and a high peak seasonal employment.
Project Rapids also requested permission to install a 300-square-foot wall sign for the building and two 100-square-foot monument signs along 68th Street and Patterson Avenue.
These signs fell outside of the township’s restrictions for signage in an industrial district, but Project Rapids argued the size was necessary given the scale of the complex.
Lastly, Project Rapids offered revisions to the site’s internal pedestrian walkways. Instead of a conventional sidewalk along 68th Street, the applicant proposed a multipurpose trail with the ultimate intent to have the trail completed west to East Paris Avenue, where it will connect to the Paul Henry Trail.
The Paul Henry Trail currently is under construction and will be a 42-mile recreational trail, from Grand Rapids to Vermontville.
The planning commission found these specific waiver requests to be “reasonable, justified and within the intent of the flexibility to be granted under the PUD concept of zoning.”
The planning commission also reviewed the results of a traffic impact study, conducted by Project Rapids, detailing the predicted traffic increases of the operation and proposing improvements to the intersections at Broadmoor Avenue and 60th Street, Broadmoor Avenue and 68th Street, Patterson Avenue and 68th Street, 68th Street and NE Site Drive and Patterson Avenue and E Site Drive.
Improvements include optimizing existing signal hardware, installing new hardware, providing new turn lanes and restriping existing lanes to accommodate increased traffic flow.
All delivery trucks would be diverted to a new spine road on the property to segregate truck traffic from car traffic.
Sisson said Project Rapids also indicated its willingness to finance these improvements.
Earlier Business Journal reporting noted the main obstacles to the project’s approval, when it was initially reviewed March 22, were two parcels in the northwest and southwest sections of the Steelcase property that were zoned as residential rather than industrial properties. The Gaines Township Board approved the rezoning of the parcels during its regular meeting April 9.
The Business Journal also noted media reports claiming Project Rapids was a developer tied to Amazon, but Amazon, Steelcase and the township did not speak on the applicant’s identity.
The planning commission recommended the township board approve the final plan during its next meeting, scheduled for May 14.