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Blue Bridge Ventures

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According to Business Review Western Michigan, Blue Bridge Ventures wants to "embark on a full square-block redevlopment, the first phase of which would cost an estimated $85 million (referring to the block w/ Grand Rapids Spring and Stamping and WAM Inc.)." The project is at a standstill untill they can get additional parking in the neighborhood.

Just lettin' y'all know. :D

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Unfortunately, this is the kind of mentality that we need to seperate from to really start developing the urban core. Instead of relying on the city to come in and bail out the neighborhood with more lots/ramps, why don't the developers take it upon themselves to fix the problem? Ellis Parking doesn't seem to have a problem making money off his properties, why not team up with them to develop what is needed? Just my two cents.

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Unfortunately, this is the kind of mentality that we need to seperate from to really start developing the urban core. Instead of relying on the city to come in and bail out the neighborhood with more lots/ramps, why don't the developers take it upon themselves to fix the problem? Ellis Parking doesn't seem to have a problem making money off his properties, why not team up with them to develop what is needed? Just my two cents.
This project has so much potential to jumpstart this area. Parking had better not be an issue to set back or even cancel this project. Just put a parking ramp in the development design and solve the problem there. This project needs to keep going, and I would think the city would be eager to help get this on its feet.

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Light rail to downtown would really help out the parking situation, atleast thats what I'm hearing from the suburbanites.

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I wonder why Blue Bridge doesn't just include parking in their development?

From the sounds of it, it is because he does not want to pay for it. He (Buchanen) is playing the same game with the city that he always loses. He is in essence saying that he will not build anything until the city builds him public parking.

Should they, well, that would be worth considering, however, it should be very carefully analyzed.

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The problem is the city opened up their big traps and said "You cannot lose money on a parking ramp", "It will make a profit every time". Now all developers have to say is "See, you said it yourself", and wait for the city to build them a ramp. Why build it themselves and take up part of their development.

All I have to add is that if they do put a ramp up in Monroe North, pleeeaaaasse don't put it along the riverfront where those surface lots are now. Bury it or put it in the middle of the block somewhere.

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The problem is the city opened up their big traps and said "You cannot lose money on a parking ramp", "It will make a profit every time". Now all developers have to say is "See, you said it yourself", and wait for the city to build them a ramp. Why build it themselves and take up part of their development.

All I have to add is that if they do put a ramp up in Monroe North, pleeeaaaasse don't put it along the riverfront where those surface lots are now. Bury it or put it in the middle of the block somewhere.

Amen!

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Yes, they may make money, but you need to fund them. The city is neither cash rich or sitting on a great credit rating (it is good but on the edge). There is no way they can release bond after bond to build parking.

After all, they only make money if people use them. What would happen if the city built this ramp and Blue Bridge decided that they did not want to develop. It would be a disaster.

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I would assume the city wouldn't do it without a contract with Blue Bridge. Although that area may already be in the city's crosshairs for parking with all of the increased development in North Monroe.

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At some point I would hope urban development in Grand Rapids could move beyond parking as the central deterrent to development. Each new parking ramp is more space that could have been used to house residential units, offices, and retail. Rather than flittering around with parking ramps, perhaps the DDA, the City, and developers should start seriously examining the potential economic windfall light rail would have for the downtown, the City, the region, and wealthy developers. In the end, advocating for more parking downtown is a losing proposition for the city because the suburbs will always have more of it and it will always be cheaper. Creating something entirely different than the conventional suburban model is the only way to ensure the success of downtown Grand Rapids. Instead of constantly bowing to the car, Grand Rapids must begin to celebrate the pedestrian, the bicyclist, and the transit user, while merely accommodating the automobile. This may sound like high-minded, infeasible rhetoric, but look to the great cities of the United States, Europe, and Asia and they all have rail transit. Brushing off this vision because it will be painful to achieve is merely settling for a mediocre future.

Perhaps we shrug off these ideas because it is too expensive, but look at the latest MDOT transportation plan for 2006-2011 and determine for yourself where the bulk of the money is being spent in the next 5 years. The great majority of it will be spent around the NEWLY built $700 million South Beltline and preparation for the proposed $1 billion US 31 bypass. While it is true that resources allocated for transportation purposes go primarily to the areas growing the fastest, I would counter that if you spent $700 million to $1 billion on a transit system in Grand Rapids you likely would see comparable growth in the long-run within the City, while simultaneously strengthening the region as a whole. People follow the money (MULI), you spend it and they will come. Of course transportation impacts on land use generally take longer to come to fruition in urban areas due to the additional complexities of governmental regulation and greater fragmentation of land ownership but the end result is far more permanent and impacting than suburban transportation investment. While this is purely my opinion, I would argue that suburban transportation investment largely relocates individuals from one place within a region to another. Urban transportation investment has far greater ability to attract new dollars and new people into a region because it is facilitating the creation of a great and unique public place where people desire to go.

All of us who love Grand Rapids must start advocating for something far greater than what we currently have. Begin demanding it from the DDA, the City planners, the Mayor, our State Representatives, MDOT, and our U.S. Representatives and Senators. They have all become complacent and lack the vision of what could come to be. Yes, I know there is a current feasibility study to examine this very issue, but to ensure its success the public must be made aware of what it could mean for all of us. The citizens need to know how they will benefit economically, environmentally, with their time, and what they can do. If our leaders or you feel passionately about this issue, then we must educate what its impact could be. More parking ramps will never lead to the downtown Grand Rapids we all desire. The money is out there to build it. If you don't demand it, then suburban Holland or the suburban townships of Grand Rapids will. People follow where the investment dollars go. What do you want to see?

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At some point I would hope urban development in Grand Rapids could move beyond parking as the central deterrent to development. Each new parking ramp is more space that could have been used to house residential units, offices, and retail.

Instead of constantly bowing to the car, Grand Rapids must begin to celebrate the pedestrian, the bicyclist, and the transit user, while merely accommodating the automobile.

AMEN! Couldn't have said it better myself! :D

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I agree, especially when I was thinking about all the parking structures around the new hotel. Downtowns, if seen as merely a "destination", will not survive. If so, then downtowns will get beat by low-cost suburbs with plenty of open land and free parking. Even if GR could get 75 - 80% of the people who WORK downtown to take mass transit, especially light rail, it would alleviate the need to have half of downtown earmarked for parking ramps.

Any word on how the matching funds for expanded transit studies is going in the State legislature? I lost track of that.

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And to look for an example of a city our size that has successful light rail, look no further than Salt Lake City. Granted, they have the Mormon church that helps back the city, but it still works because downtown is still a major destination for workers, shoppers and residents.

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This is interesting. Blue Bridge came back to the city already with a parking proposal. They would build an UNDERGROUND parking ramp, and then sell it to the city for $20 million and the city would get the revenue. Jack Buchanan turned down an offer for the city to build an above ground parking facilty next to his proposed development, because "Buchanan said his "very contemporary" project required that he build a below-ground deck that would leave ground-level access to his project." Way to go Jack!!

http://www.mlive.com/news/grpress/index.ss...ll=6&thispage=1

The city attorney thinks the price is too high for a parking ramp, but underground parking is always way more expensive. The city should do it.

Here's another interesting qoute from Commissioner James White (one of two pushing for the deal):

"the city's inaction could scotch Buchanan's deal with "some of the biggest corporations in town.""

:blink:

They tabled the discussion for two week.

For $85 million, I think this project (if unveiled) will make us all go :shok:

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I don't know that I completly agree with the city paying that much for the ramp. I do feel the city is cash strapped so much right now, I do know that the city could easily make decent revenue off of a parking ramp. I just hope that what ever comes of this is positive, and ends in more developement, not just another page in our quickly becoming, huge book of never was.

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With a little diggin by Golscorer on SP, here is what he came up with:

"Buchanan's consultant, Noah Seifullah, argued the city's investment would be protected by guarantees Buchanan was willing to post until the project generated enough new taxes to capture."

I was curious to see who this "consultant" was so I did a quick Google search. I thought he might be an artchitect or urban planner, but I was wrong. Turns out he's a local Imam who has had some shady dealings recently...

http://www.woodtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=2726014

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With a little diggin by Golscorer on SP, here is what he came up with:

"Buchanan's consultant, Noah Seifullah, argued the city's investment would be protected by guarantees Buchanan was willing to post until the project generated enough new taxes to capture."

I was curious to see who this "consultant" was so I did a quick Google search. I thought he might be an artchitect or urban planner, but I was wrong. Turns out he's a local Imam who has had some shady dealings recently...

http://www.woodtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=2726014

I wondered who that Seifullah guy is in the article. Interesting find Rizzo. Do we know if this guy was ever found guilty of fraud?

Besides that, $85 million is something big. I'm just looking at the coincidence of the timing, and the fact that before this latest meeting with the city, there were several "closed-door" sessions with the city commission, meaning that they were discussing proprietary information about whoever the tenants were going to be. It might explain why all the commissioners said "their heads were spinning about the whole deal". Mine is too :wacko:

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a little hypothetical here - Say the city agrees to buy this ramp at $43,000/space. They need a reasonable return, let's say 6%. That means each space must generate $2,580/year or $215/month. I think that's a lot. If they were to accept a 5% return those numbers become $2,150 and $179; at 4% $1,720 and $143.

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I'm Jack Buchanan and I thought and hoped you would be interested in the real facts on this topic, project and the people involved.

First of all, another member recently told me about your site and I'm excited to see that there's a group talking about this stuff, so I hope you don't mind if I visit your forum from time to time. I promise to obey the rules.

We are attempting to build the first of several phases of a project in the North Monroe area - starting with the block between Monroe and Bond, from Newberry to the Brass Works Building. If the first phase goes forward we would end up owning the second block (Bond to Ottawa) and plan to develop that at some point as well. We're not speaking publicly about the project because we know how facts get distorted - especially when there's too much information out there and especially by Grand Rapids City staff and the Grand Rapids Press. Our first hurdle is parking and once we get past that then we'll be able to talk about the project.

We've engaged a prominent New York design team and intend to build a very contemporary yet urban mixed use project - including residential, office and entertainment use (a little over 300,000 SF). We've designed it in such a way to maintain our ability to create a visual and natural conectivity to the second block so that could be a natural future extension of the neghborhood.

Sorry - just realized I'm starting to pitch the project and break the rules.

But here is the real story on the parking. We want to build density in the area so that the project overall will be more attractive. Greater density means it can better support the entertainment and other amenities we plan for the area. We want to build an urban neighborhood - where retail works - and to do that you need a lot of people living and working there. Surface parking eats up a lot of land and looks like crap. Ramps look like crap and eat up chunks of land and air space. But underground space takes up space that nobody wants - and no one enjoys looking at parking lots or structures. From the City's perspective - that land used for parking won't generate any tax dollars - income taxes or property taxes - so it's a wasted site for them.

By putting parking below ground and a private (tax generating) use on top, we both can better utilize the property. And we can develop an area where parking isn't a distraction to the design or the neighborhood - and it's also a convinient way to access the project that will make it more attractive to residents, employers and patrons of the project.

Building this ramp is expensive. It's all below ground (which drives up the construction cost dramatically), it's also next to the river; all the soil is heavily polluted; and bedrock is 7' below the surface. But the private project above will create new taxes - the City's share alone from real property taxes starts at $450,000 in the first year to reduce the costs of parking - bringing the real cost of parking below $21K per spot. The City would also have a new source of income taxes above the garage. The City's Parking Services Dept. projected that the garage will also make money for the City - with rates at that point of $125 per space per month (adjusted for inflation based on their cheapest garage today).

Another major fact missing from the cost per spot comparison is the real cost of building the other ramps the City has built. The cost to build this below grade ramp is what staff proposed to us in July - and a number we committed to build it for. When the City announces to the public what it cost them to build a ramp - they only disclose the actual construction costs. They don't include land costs (becuase they usually already have ownership of the land) nor do they include other soft costs such as architectural, engineering, financing... so the per spot they quote as a historic comparison isn't entirely accurate. They proposed the number to us based on their historic experience for construction of above ground ramps (they used $27K per spot) and then they added the soft costs which got it to the number of $42k per space. This number is accurate for all in costs - but deducting the TIF they gain by the project above the costs are reduced to less than $21K.

Today's projects virtually never involve privately owned parking. Ellis only built one ramp downtown because he got a cash subsidy from the County. The City is in the parking business for a good reason - in most cases it's necessary for them to develop and own them because the economics don't wrok for the private sector to do so. Private garages pay property taxes, City's are able to get tax exempt financing, and they can get tax increment financing (TIF) to offset the cost of parking. That's how they can charge rates in the ranges they do and still make money. If the private sector did it we would have to charge well over $200 per space just to break even. You'll find some projects that can include them (in fact we're doing one) but circumstances are incredibly rare for this to work. When we can - we do it because it's better for us to have control of where our customers park (they're subject to rate changes and terms that only the City controls).

The story you read in the Press isn't accurate. The numbers, the project, even the tone of the meeting the other day. There was no balance to it. The road blocks we're running into are not about the project, the numbers or the legality of it - it's a lot deeper than that. Our meetings with the commissioners and the STAFF were typical meetings you go through when trying to work on a project - nothing sinister. And we asked Commissioners to participate because we learned not to trust this staff - we're very glad for thier participation.

We're optimistic about the project because the majority of the Commissioners understand the project, the numbers and why it's a unique approach to parking in the City.

Please don't take what you read in the Press about this project or the people involved as accurate. They want to tell a story - not the facts. And regarding Noah; when we work on a project with the City of GR (unlike any other place) it's like running a political campaign (more becuase of the gamesmanship palyed by staff - not the Commisioners). Politics is not our game - so we need help getting through that junk to get a project accurately understood. A lot of people in this town get bad raps over bad facts. I've just gotten to know Noah and I'm absolutely convinced Noah is one of those guys.

I've rambled too long and I'm sorry. I won't try and sell you on the project but I would like the opportunity to answer your questions so you know the othe side of the story (we don't know why but the Press hasn't been willing or intersted in any balance in their "reporting").

Thanks for your interest in this topic. Happy Thanksgiving!

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