Vote Coming Blue Bridge Parking


    GRAND RAPIDS — City commissioners are likely to decide next week whether the city will be part of an $85 million office, residential and entertainment development proposed by Blue Bridge Ventures LLC for the Monroe North Business District.

    “It will come back to us for a vote on the 20th,” said Mayor George Heartwell last week.

    The issue before the commission is whether the city should build, own and operate an underground parking garage located beneath a 300,000-square-foot mixed-use structure that Blue Bridge Ventures would put up on Newberry Street NW, just east of Monroe Avenue.

    Blue Bridge CEO Jack Buchanan has said the project wouldn’t go forward without the city building the garage, which has a reported cost of $20.6 million. The parking structure would have 480 parking spaces, for a per-space cost of $43,000.

    But the city has agreed to buy 149 parking spaces from Two West Fulton for $4 million as part of a mixed-use development planned for Division Avenue and Fulton Street, a per-space cost of $27,000.

    The city used that per-space figure as its standard, or maximum fixed cost, in its talks with Blue Bridge and said the garage’s price tag is $7 million more than the $13 million the city is able to invest — a figure based on $27,000 for each of the 480 spaces.

    Deputy City Manager Eric DeLong, the city’s point man in those talks, had little to say last week about what came out of the discussions, other than headway has been made.

    “We’ve made good progress in those meetings,” he told commissioners, while adding that they would receive a detailed outcome of the talks before next week’s vote.

    Buchanan doesn’t agree that each space would end up costing the city $43,000.

    He said the city’s debt payment for the garage would run about $925,000 each year. But he added that the city would collect about $450,000 in real property taxes from the building’s tenants in the first year — and that revenue alone would cut the annual per-space cost in half, to $21,000, which is $6,000 below the city’s maximum fixed cost.

    Buchanan also said the city would get income-tax receipts from those working and living in the building, along with parking revenue from tenants, residents and visitors to the building. He said those two income sources would lower the per-space cost for the city to less than $21,000.

    Blue Bridge is doing business as Split Rock Development V LLC for the Newberry Street project and has hired a New York firm to design it.

    That project isn’t the only one Buchanan is working on in the North Monroe area. Last week, city commissioners gave the Irish Twins Group LLC a zoning change for the old Imperial Metals building at 801-803 Ionia Ave. NW. Buchanan and his brother, attorney Rob Buchanan, comprise the Irish Twins Group, and they plan to renovate the 60,000-square-foot site into office space, a new home for Founder’s Brewery and a restaurant.

    Commissioners also approved a request last week that will allow the Women’s Health Center of West Michigan to have a larger building in the Mid Towne Village project being built north of Michigan Street between College and Union avenues. The revised structure will be seven stories tall and 88 feet high, with 91,774 square feet of retail and office space, and 385 parking spaces. The center is one of six buildings going up in Mid Towne Village.

    Commissioners also gave Division Properties Management LLC permission last week to turn a pair of two-story buildings into three-story buildings, as part of an $11.2 million development planned for the former Erb Lumber site at 2850 S. Division Ave. In addition to the two structures, which will contain office and residential space, the project plans to include 23 townhouses on the property’s 8.7 acres.    

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