Landmark Parking Study Ready To Start

    GRAND RAPIDS — The most expensive and most extensive parking study in the city’s history gets underway next week with a kickoff meeting for the payers and participants.

    Walker Parking Consultants of Kalamazoo and the city’s Parking Services Department will host the meeting for the $153,800 study that will aim to determine the traffic patterns and parking needs of the Michigan Street Hill Area, part of the Michigan Street Business District that roughly runs south from Michigan to Fountain and east from Bostwick to College.

    As of late last week, the meeting was tentatively set for next week Thursday.

    Attending the meeting will be representatives from the Van Andel Institute, Spectrum Health, Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University, the Interurban Transit Partnership, the business association and the city.

    Another interested party is the Heritage Hill Neighborhood Association, one of at least two residential groups that will likely be affected by the results of the study.

    Acting Parking Services Director Pam Ritsema said some members of the neighborhood association told the city that GRCC students park on the district’s streets, leaving residents without places to park. They suggested the city add the neighborhood’s parking problems to the study.

    They also suggested that the city think about creating a residential parking program in the neighborhood, something the city has never done. A program could restrict parking on one side of the streets in the northwest section of Heritage Hill to residents only. That portion of the neighborhood is the closest to GRCC.

    Signs could identify the blocks with restricted parking and a permit sticker could identify vehicles belonging to residents. Cars without these stickers could be ticketed for parking on those blocks. Ritsema said the program was in the concept stage, and added that she wasn’t sure whether residents would be willing to pay for the parking permits.

    “Let’s do this carefully,” said Parking Commission Chairman Jack Hoffman, one of a handful of commissioners who live in the neighborhood. “These are all options that have to be managed carefully.”

    Those paying for the study include the VAI, Spectrum Health, GRCC, GVSU, the ITP and the city. Each will contribute up to $25,633. The business association, which called for the study, also gave $500 toward it.

    Business owners in the district raised the issue last year by citing the traffic tie-ups and parking problems in the hill area, especially when GRCC is in session. They warned that the situation could get worse when construction on the Spectrum Health heart center and the GVSU nursing school was finished.

    Mayor John Logie noted that building projects on the Butterworth campus of Spectrum Health could continue well past the completion of the heart center. The mayor explained that the hospital is expected to take over the Burger King property at Michigan and Coit, which is across Michigan from the Butterworth main building, by the end of this year. He also said the VAI was likely to begin construction on a 260,000-square-foot addition to its medical research and education center on Bostwick within five years

    Logie felt that someone from the study should talk with officials at Spectrum Health and the VAI about their future building plans before work on the data collection gets started so those plans can be included in the study.

    Ritsema said Walker Parking would begin holding focus groups in October and that the study would take six months to complete. It is possible that retired Parking Services Director Ted Perez may serve as a consultant on the project. Perez led the department for 10 years, a period of tremendous expansion for the city-owned system.

    Parking commissioners will get progress reports throughout the study period and will have input into the process.

    “It’s a comprehensive plan that covers the Michigan hill area that looks at the supply and demand in the neighborhood,” said Ritsema. “And where there is excess demand, we hope it comes up with appropriate solutions.”           

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