Walker shifts focus to Standale


Approximately 30% of Walker’s residents live in the Standale neighborhood, which features a mix of residential and business properties. Photo by Ehren Wynder

As the city of Walker is formulating its 2040 Master Plan, it’s calling on residents to participate in the latest round of discussion, which is now focused on the Standale neighborhood.

The Standale “neighborhood cluster” is a focus area, which broadly includes the portions of Walker extending from roughly Leonard Street (north) to roughly O’Brien Road (south), and from Tallmadge Township in Ottawa County (west) to the city of Grand Rapids (east). About 30% of Walker’s roughly 24,600 residents live in the Standale neighborhood cluster, according to 2018 census estimates.

The discussion will include residential and business growth, the impact of Grand Valley State University, community identity, transportation, recreation and past and future planning efforts.

As far as residential growth is concerned, the 868-lot Chesterfield Heights subdivision north of Lake Michigan Drive/M-45 is an item of interest. The development was approved in 1928, and a subdivision and many other homes were built over the course of nine decades.

Apartments and townhome condominiums now under construction in Standale hope to bring new residents to the area. The city looks to manage this growth and find appropriate solutions for designing growth into the fabric of existing neighborhoods.

Standale’s small business environment can be attributed to the rebuilding efforts following a devastating 1956 tornado. Today, small business defines the stretch of Lake Michigan Drive between Kinney and Wilson avenues.

Along and to the west of Wilson Avenue/M-11, roughly 100 acres of property extending half a mile south of Lake Michigan Drive remain undeveloped. As older, small-scale businesses transition to larger commercial and mixed-use sites from east to west, the city seeks guidance on how these sites should relate to one another, relate to nearby homes and flourish.

Lake Michigan Drive/M-45 also functions as a conduit between GVSU’s Allendale and Grand Rapids campuses. GVSU is a strong presence in Standale with many of its students and faculty living in and commuting within the Standale boundary.

City stakeholders also seek to respond to the desire for Standale to become a place with a strong identity, building on events and public facilities in the district, such as Walker Community Park.

At the intersection of two regionally important MDOT roads, the movement of people and goods through the Standale neighborhood must be balanced with the need to forge connections within the neighborhood.

Mobility also will be on the table for discussion. The Rapid’s now-under-construction Laker Line BRT route is expected to increase the efficiency of transit service to and through the neighborhood. As development continues, MDOT, the city, The Rapid and developers will grapple with the challenge of ensuring safe and responsible development patterns via essential road connections and other transportation improvements. 

According to an earlier Business Journal report, Laker Line service is expected to begin August 2020. The new BRT will replace The Rapid’s current Route 50 – GVSU Campus Connector and will connect the GVSU campus in Allendale to the downtown Grand Rapids GVSU Pew Campus and Michigan Street Medical Mile with stops along Lake Michigan Drive.

The Laker Line is expected to average 10,000 to 13,000 rides per day.

The Fred Meijer Standale Trail also will continue to bring cyclists into the transportation network of Standale.

The city of Walker adopted a Standale/Downtown Walker and West Standale sub-area master plan in 2007. The plan includes large-scale planned commercial and mixed residential development west of Wilson Avenue and south of Lake Michigan Drive, and a smaller-scaled mixed-use district to emerge from the existing and future built environment east of Wilson Avenue. 

The “Standale Downtown District” form-based zoning code and Standale Downtown District zoning extending from Wilson Avenue to Kinney Avenue emerged as an outcome of this planning effort. The city wishes to explore whether new land-use forms should emerge as the area continues to grow and invites new focus on areas within the broader “Standale neighborhood cluster” that were not closely explored in the past.

The Standale Open House will be held from 5-7 p.m. Aug. 21 on the second floor of Walker’s Fire Station No. 2 at 4101 Lake Michigan Drive NW. 

This is the third neighborhood open house hosted by the city of Walker. The Business Journal previously reported the first of four neighborhood open houses centered on the Alpine Avenue neighborhood in mid-June. The discussion focused around changing trends in retail and transportation affecting the Alpine corridor.

Most recently, Walker residents discussed growth opportunities in south Walker, which is a traditional rural community. While growth may not occur in the traditional sense with new subdivisions, businesses, roads or supporting infrastructure, connections to the Grand River, Millennium Park and Johnson Park can be strengthened.

Community members are invited to participate for as much of the meeting as they would like. The open house will involve several activities that attendees can participate in at their own pace.

After completion of each neighborhood cluster plan, the full 2040 master plan likely will be ready for final review and approval by spring 2020, said Frank Wash, Walker assistant city manager.

The Walker 2040 master plan is an update of the city’s 1998 plan. The 1998 plan, which has been updated with neighborhood-level planning efforts, has guided development in Walker for over 20 years.

McKenna Associates is the planning consultancy firm that is assisting the city with its 2040 master plan efforts. McKenna is managing the Walker plan out of its office in downtown Grand Rapids, which opened in September 2018.

Grand Rapids-based Prein & Newhof also will be providing consulting services for the master plan, specifically in the areas of infrastructure and engineering.

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