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New Construction and Renovations in the Heartside District

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...It does seem like they would have held off on the park and street re-alignment until the city's cash flow were a little better, but I'd never be a good city official (as indicated by my statement above). ...

Long-range planning; it's been in the works for years. Guessing that there were external funding sources available, and the pretty bricks, columns, benches, and landscaping did not come out of the general fund (nor the police/fire budgets).

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I was told many times about the horrific dangers of the intersection; but when I asked, in return, for the statistics showing the injuries, the deaths, and the accidents in for the intersection compared to others downtown and City wide I discovered that it really wasn't any more dangerous than any other intersection downtown - and much, much safer than almost any intersection on 28th Street. It remains a fact that in any city the most dangerous thing that any of us do is drive our cars.

I'm sure the statistics don't lie, but I know I never felt safe at that intersection, driving or walking. I'm not saying psychology justifies spending money and using land over hard data... but it's clear enough people felt the same way as I did, and they did something about it. Maybe that's the problem with urbanism... Too many feelings sleep.gif

Edited by RegalTDP

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Long-range planning; it's been in the works for years. Guessing that there were external funding sources available, and the pretty bricks, columns, benches, and landscaping did not come out of the general fund (nor the police/fire budgets).

Just to clarify: I'm not against the City making investments in infrastructure - this City needs much more of it. I'm against the conversion of taxable, developable land to non-taxable, non-developable land. The lost revenue is much more important than the cost of the project.

I'm sure the statistics don't lie, but I know I never felt safe at that intersection, driving or walking. I'm not saying psychology justifies spending money and using land over hard data... but it's clear enough people felt the same way as I did, and they did something about it. Maybe that's the problem with urbanism... Too many feelings sleep.gif

But that's the problem, your discomfort wasn't the reason they did this project - it was the excuse.

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Just to clarify: I'm not against the City making investments in infrastructure - this City needs much more of it. I'm against the conversion of taxable, developable land to non-taxable, non-developable land. The lost revenue is much more important than the cost of the project.

Good point.

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Okay, this is a bunch of hog wash. First of all, DDA money can not be used for other city spenditures or budget. The money is automatically generated by property taxes and can not be used for the city's budget. Second, how long has the gravel empty lot on the Southwest corner been undeveloped? Third, the pocket park is a value to local business's as it beautifies the area making it more inviting and entices developers to make use of buildings in the immediate area that haven't been used for many years. Does the area need a new building when there are empty ones? The pocket park also gives people a place to hang out in stead of in front of building entrances. How is an undeveloped gravel lot worth more to the city than improving an area which could increase business and make the city and Heartside look better and increase the city's income? One of the purposes for the DDA is to improve the area to make it more inviting (and easier in this instance) for people to come downtown.

Okay, the reality is that the intersection was not dangerous statistically, but sure was difficult for motorist including bus's having to wait an extra turn of the traffic light due to not being able to turn left in an effecient way due to the misaligned street. I'm convinced that the reason the intersection was not statistically dangerous is because most drivers know to be extra careful and patient in the Heartside Neighborhood. I am grateful that we have kind people in the Greater Grand Rapids area.

With all the apartment developments in Heartside in recent years, it shows that people are willing to live in the area of the "less fortunate". Yes, even right next to Guiding Light Mission. The store fronts are even leased. I believe 101 South Division if full. Heartside's beauty is increasing and the pocket park is an asset for it and the city. I truly believe that this project was done at the right time also.

I feal the only legitimate complaint with the project is that the street lights were not aligned and cross walk signals not installed before re-opening the street.

It was a pleasure seeing toddlers and kids having fun at the pocket park yesterday. I truly believe that the street alignment and the addition of the pocket park will be an asset to Heartside, the city and downtown business's.

~John

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That's the great thing about an open forum. I don't know if anyone is "more right" than someone else, but the differing opinions are interesting and I think it is good to question (or applaud) the way money is being spent in GR. At least people know we are watching. :)

Joe

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That gravel lot is still develop-able. In fact, it might be more appealing now with the park across the street.

Yes, still developable. No, not more appealing.

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Isn't it a general rule of thumb that parks can push the land value up and spark interest in developing nearby properties? Even nice road upgrades like we saw on the adjacent section of Division. Perhaps this park is also a way to try to promote development in the immediate area?

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Isn't it a general rule of thumb that parks can push the land value up and spark interest in developing nearby properties? Even nice road upgrades like we saw on the adjacent section of Division. Perhaps this park is also a way to try to promote development in the immediate area?

As a general rule, it was this kind of thinking that lead to the sterile wide open plazas in the urban renewal projects of the sixties. Open gaps, such as this park , de-stabilizes the streetscape. In this regard this little park is no better than a surface parking lot (and maybe a little worse if you are looking for a place to park.) Remember John E. has already designated this park as a gathering place for the homeless. Whatever merits that may have, it is a use that certainly will not positively affect adjacent property values or development.

If I were at home and my library was not in disarray, I’d find and throw in a pithy quote from Jane Jacobs on this topic.

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Isn't it a general rule of thumb that parks can push the land value up and spark interest in developing nearby properties? Even nice road upgrades like we saw on the adjacent section of Division. Perhaps this park is also a way to try to promote development in the immediate area?

You could be correct - all things being equal.

However, in this case the question is would it be better - for the City and random developer - to have 1 acre of land in the Central Business District or 1/2 acre of land across the street from a small park in the Central Business District. I think the answer, every day is: 1 acre, no park.

Edited by Ted

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Okay, the reality is that the intersection was not dangerous statistically, but sure was difficult for motorist including bus's having to wait an extra turn of the traffic light due to not being able to turn left in an effecient way due to the misaligned street. I'm convinced that the reason the intersection was not statistically dangerous is because most drivers know to be extra careful and patient in the Heartside Neighborhood. I am grateful that we have kind people in the Greater Grand Rapids area.

Drivers needed to be extra careful and patient, not because they were in Heartside, but because the street grid forced them to be - and I think that is exactly the point. It was difficult for motorist to move through this intersection but now they can just zip right through because they are much more comfotable with the queues that have been presented to them. This whole realignment seems as nothing more than an extension of the 131 on-ramp, built to traffic engineer standards for efficiently moving cars from point a to point b. That alone compromises the urbansim.

As far as the previous interesection not being safe for pedestrians, I walked it many times on my way to work prior to the realignment and a couple of times since. I think ultimately I felt safer prior to the realignment if only because the drivers felt a bit more tentative and drove slower. Traffic now moves too fast to be compatible with someone on foot.

This is the same problem with the round-a-bouts on Wealthy. They are infrastructure for the auto first, built to make it easier for distracted drivers to move about the city without thinking. Both of these "improvements" have made the public realm more difficult for pedestrians to use and thus made the urbanism more single-use, which is the opposite of good urbanism.

Okay, this is a bunch of hog wash. First of all, DDA money can not be used for other city spenditures or budget. The money is automatically generated by property taxes and can not be used for the city's budget. Second, how long has the gravel empty lot on the Southwest corner been undeveloped? Third, the pocket park is a value to local business's as it beautifies the area making it more inviting and entices developers to make use of buildings in the immediate area that haven't been used for many years. Does the area need a new building when there are empty ones? The pocket park also gives people a place to hang out in stead of in front of building entrances. How is an undeveloped gravel lot worth more to the city than improving an area which could increase business and make the city and Heartside look better and increase the city's income? One of the purposes for the DDA is to improve the area to make it more inviting (and easier in this instance) for people to come downtown.

I feal the only legitimate complaint with the project is that the street lights were not aligned and cross walk signals not installed before re-opening the street.

Good points have already been made about the park being a magnate for the homeless, I think the shear fact that there are armrests on the benches every 18" prove that the designers felt a concern for people sleeping on these benches. Maybe someday that will change, but as far as this being an asset is questionable. Sure, parks in general give us all a warm fuzzy feeling... at least in concept, but in practicality they are not always the best solution.

A mixed-use building in a location such as this will always be the best use of land and resources, both financially and urbanistically. To remove or compromise the ability to place one here - even if the lot was empty for 50 years and there are twenty other empty buildings does not justify what was done here.

Gaps in the urbanism, whether they are represented by empty lots, parking lots, misplaced parks or "plazas" are problematic in a location such as this, where commerce in the form of activated mixed-use buildings should be paramount.

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There was an interesting piece about it yesterday in the Press. Mlive lurkers, please get the electronic version out so we can all enjoy it, thanks.

(subscriber)

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I'm a little late to the party, but the reason this intersection was safe as-is is probably the same reason it felt unsafe. Some of you have probably read about a European city that experimented with removing all traffic signage. (It may have been posted here.) The results were surprising. The city was actually much safer without the signage, but the people felt less safe. Without the signs people had to be more alert to what they were doing rather than mindlessly following directions.

Edited by AlexPKeaton

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I had no idea this place existed until it popped up on a Google ad above my Gmail inbox.

http://mosaicspace.com/?gclid=CIGq7fevvZ4CFRMhDQodbUOPRA

It looks pretty nice. I liked how you could click the "switch" on the wall in the virtual tour to turn the lights down.

I've been to an event there. It's not bad, pretty non-descript though.

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