The ramp, which closed at the end of last year, sits on a key downtown parcel at Fulton Street and Division Avenue. The city sees the site as ideal for a mixed-use project and wants to hear from developers who might be interested in the property — but sooner rather than later.
Parking Services Director Pam Ritsema said it would cost the city $300,000 to level the obsolete ramp and slightly more than $400,000 to build a 107-space surface parking lot on the site. But before the city goes ahead with that plan, officials want to know if anyone might be interested in buying the property.
Ritsema added that her biggest fear was that a developer wouldn’t come forward until after the city spends $700,000 to demolish the ramp and build a new surface lot. If that scenario did play itself out, the price tag for the site would rise to accommodate the city’s expense.
So far, one proposal has been made for the site. About a year ago, the Ellis Parking Co. told the city it was interested in razing the ramp, building a lot, and operating it on a short-term basis.
Ellis Parking President Michael Ellis told the Business Journal last week that his company hadn’t offered to buy the property and that the proposal the firm made would allow the city to opt out of it, if an acceptable offer was made on the site.
“As long as we got back the unamortized portion of our capital costs,” he said of the proposal’s out clause. “It was not a proposal for a development other than parking.”
Ritsema felt there was enough demand in the district to warrant building a ramp on the site with the Children’s Museum, the police department and state offices in the immediate area. Her department estimated that annual revenue for the lot would reach almost $385,000, meaning the construction cost could be covered in about 14 months.
Ritsema said the city would likely equip the lot with an automated machine, like the one the city has in its lot at Michigan and Ionia, which would keep yearly maintenance and operating costs under $37,000.
“But parking isn’t the highest and best use for that site, it’s a necessary one,” said John Logie, a parking commissioner.
Chances are a request for a proposal to take down the ramp and build the lot won’t be issued until the Heartside parking and transit study is done. The same timeframe is likely true for the listing of the ramp. The City Centre ramp was the Heartside Business District’s largest, single source of parking.
“I don’t see any harm in slowing the process down,” said Jack Hoffman, chairman of the Parking Commission. “Maybe we can put out an RFP in a month.”
Deputy City Manager Eric DeLong told commissioners that they would probably have a timetable detailing the ramp’s future by their next meeting.
“We want the best use for that site,” he said.
The City Centre ramp opened in 1962 and cost $1.1 million to construct.