City tightens parking noose, ignores business retention


The ever-widening gap between the city of Grand Rapids and its constituent business community is increasing by the day, as is loss of businesses (and city income tax and property revenues and service fees and licenses). The city Mobile GR department is blindfolded by its bureaucracy and city objectives, neither of which provide incentive for businesses currently in the downtown districts nor future employers who might otherwise have agreed to higher rents and fees to be part of the downtown community. The suburbs are not far in West Michigan.

The more-than-two-year struggle of the central downtown businesses has been represented — and ignored — and few, if any, of their concerns were represented in the “community” meetings hosted by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. to promote a grand plan recommended by outside consultants to resolve potential problems 20 years down the road.

Mike DeVries of DeVries Companies, 1345 Monroe Ave. NW, could not have been more succinct during a meeting of the Monroe North Business Association, now suffering the same fate, and noted the city’s move to solve a problem that has not fully manifested itself is premature. “It’s almost the reverse of typical business to government interactions, where instead of addressing a current problem, we’re trying to address a future problem, and now we’re here talking about the current ramifications of that solution,” he said. “To me, it’s just inverted. I haven’t ever heard anyone in the North Monroe area say this is a current problem we need to change right now. It’s more of the city trying to address a future problem, and we’re reacting. So, it’s backwards.”

Mobile GR Parking Director Josh Naramore ignored the business summary. He responded that an “outreach strategy” would be developed quickly, and the city will offer businesses a chance to purchase parking permits for employee on-street parking (but the cost of those permits has not yet been determined). MNBA employees currently have free parking in the district north of the central downtown.

During city budget discussions in late May, Naramore requested $8.57 million (a $2.65 million increase) in addition to $550,000 from the general fund for the next three years to implement a 2018 “Transportation Solutions” program to pay for “employer outreach and programs,” and exploratory options to facilitate more carpooling, and car sharing programs and transit passes.

Summary: The city will continue to ignore the struggle of downtown businesses to attract, maintain and recruit employees and serve customers who need a place to park; it will proceed with destruction of two more parking lots for new developments and eliminate another 595 parking spots in an area with a waiting list and 95 percent parking occupancy.

Bureaucracy is blind, deaf and dumb.

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