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localtalent

The Ideal Urban Development Project

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I've read UPGR topics for the past year and a half or so. Some of you may recall I had strong opinions on the "mystery development".

In reading through things, it seems that the general tone of commentary here is negative on almost every proposed or "in progress" project. Granted, not everyone is negative about every project. But it just seems like there's a lot of angst and hand-wringing going on.

Examples....RiverGrand, JW Marriott garage/conference center, Children's Hospital, GRAM, the parking lot "scheme", anything with Joe Moch's name attached, 920 Cherry, downtown casino, lifestyle villages...

Everyone's entitled to their opinions, and the point of the forum is to discuss these projects. But the pervasive negativity leaves me wondering....can you guys post some links to projects (in Grand Rapids or elsewhere) that you think are high quality, productive urban developments that you'd like to see more of in Grand Rapids?

I know there are quite a few developers that participate or at least observe these forums. Maybe a topic like this could become inspirational.

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While I don't necessarily agree that the overall tone is negative in UP-land (certainly when a project gets slammed, it gets slammed hard and over and over and over...)

My personal favorite project going in at the moment is Uptown Village. I think it is as close to perfect as you get in the real world. I'm also a big fan of the adaptive reuse going on in buildings like the Fitz and the Icehouse

If you want to talk about ideals... since Trader Joes won't come... Let's have someone local start an even better neighborhood grocer and start putting them in the underserved neighborhood districts with a flagship store downtown (area 4/5 or whatever).

I've read UPGR topics for the past year and a half or so. Some of you may recall I had strong opinions on the "mystery development".

In reading through things, it seems that the general tone of commentary here is negative on almost every proposed or "in progress" project. Granted, not everyone is negative about every project. But it just seems like there's a lot of angst and hand-wringing going on.

Examples....RiverGrand, JW Marriott garage/conference center, Children's Hospital, GRAM, the parking lot "scheme", anything with Joe Moch's name attached, 920 Cherry, downtown casino, lifestyle villages...

Everyone's entitled to their opinions, and the point of the forum is to discuss these projects. But the pervasive negativity leaves me wondering....can you guys post some links to projects (in Grand Rapids or elsewhere) that you think are high quality, productive urban developments that you'd like to see more of in Grand Rapids?

I know there are quite a few developers that participate or at least observe these forums. Maybe a topic like this could become inspirational.

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I'll post some thoughts then gotta run.

- Every ground floor of every new building in the downtown area (Leonard to Wealthy, Seward to Lafayette) MUST have 75 - 85% "ground-floor transparency", meaning no blank walls. It doesn't have to be retail, because retail may not always be appropriate. It can be windows or openings, even if it means looking at cars. It has been proven in study after study that transparency makes for a more vibrant streetscape, and makes for a safer more attractive environment for pedestrians (which I would think is what we all want).

- In certain areas of downtown, ground-floor retail should be REQUIRED, no matter what the market for retail is. If you don't like it, build elsewhere. The boundaries of that area would be determined by the concensus of the Downtown Alliance and the city with public input.

- NO concrete panel systems on any new buildings downtown like the Marriott Conference Center. Brick, glass, stone, metal or other natural materials only. Cast-in-place concrete (like GRAM) only under strict design guidelines. In fact, it probably wouldn't work on anything other than some kind of museum.

- Any new parking ramps MUST have ground-floor retail, period. Even if it's just one corner, or 30 - 45%.

- No pedestrian skywalks unless it connects two buildings that are separated by a thoroughfare that has xxx amount of traffic per day (maybe 20 - 30,000 cars).

- Buildings must be built out to the street for at least 75% - 85% of the site (in other words small plazas are allowed for a corner, for instance).

- All new buildings MUST abide by the new streetscape guidelines. Don't like it, tough. We're building a city here, not a tree fort.

- Oh, parking requirements will be cut in 1/2, if not more, for new commercial projects, as light rail transit is introduced to the metro area.

If all new projects abide by these guidelines, the businesses that choose downtown will actually benefit from them, in being part of one of the most vibrant mid-sized downtowns in the Midwest, if not the country.

I'll probably think of more later.

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I've read UPGR topics for the past year and a half or so. Some of you may recall I had strong opinions on the "mystery development".

In reading through things, it seems that the general tone of commentary here is negative on almost every proposed or "in progress" project. Granted, not everyone is negative about every project. But it just seems like there's a lot of angst and hand-wringing going on.

Examples....RiverGrand, JW Marriott garage/conference center, Children's Hospital, GRAM, the parking lot "scheme", anything with Joe Moch's name attached, 920 Cherry, downtown casino, lifestyle villages...

Everyone's entitled to their opinions, and the point of the forum is to discuss these projects. But the pervasive negativity leaves me wondering....can you guys post some links to projects (in Grand Rapids or elsewhere) that you think are high quality, productive urban developments that you'd like to see more of in Grand Rapids?

I know there are quite a few developers that participate or at least observe these forums. Maybe a topic like this could become inspirational.

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I would disagree with UP being down (hah) on new projects. I personally like most projects that are going on downtown. The problem is, I don't like every aspect of every project that is going on downtown. The devil is in the details.

- If you build a parking ramp that looks great and has some architectural interest, I like it (because I don't believe cars are going away anytime soon). Forget street level retail? I don't like that.

- Build a nine story condo project in Monroe North. Nice brickwork, good infill. I like it! No transparency on the street level. I don't like that aspect.

- Build a shiny new tower that makes our skyline look fantastic. I absolutely love it. Build a ballroom with no transparency (or many other redeeming qualities for that matter) on a heavily travelled corner, I don't like it.

I think you can find project after project in Grand Rapids that is *SO* close to being "perfect" in my books, but they flub one of the most important aspects. Street level access (ie. Monroe Center).

I am one of downtown GR's biggest cheerleaders. But that also means I anguish over the little things. Is it bad to try to get developers to realize that people in Grand Rpaids expect the extra 10% that will make this city outshine others? I don't think so.

Joe

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I would disagree with UP being down (hah) on new projects. I personally like most projects that are going on downtown. The problem is, I don't like every aspect of every project that is going on downtown. The devil is in the details.

- If you build a parking ramp that looks great and has some architectural interest, I like it (because I don't believe cars are going away anytime soon). Forget street level retail? I don't like that.

- Build a nine story condo project in Monroe North. Nice brickwork, good infill. I like it! No transparency on the street level. I don't like that aspect.

- Build a shiny new tower that makes our skyline look fantastic. I absolutely love it. Build a ballroom with no transparency (or many other redeeming qualities for that matter) on a heavily travelled corner, I don't like it.

I think you can find project after project in Grand Rapids that is *SO* close to being "perfect" in my books, but they flub one of the most important aspects. Street level access (ie. Monroe Center).

I am one of downtown GR's biggest cheerleaders. But that also means I anguish over the little things. Is it bad to try to get developers to realize that people in Grand Rpaids expect the extra 10% that will make this city outshine others? I don't think so.

Joe

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Allot of it to is that many people on UP have a more keen eye about the urban jungle and how to make that jungle a more hospitable place for people. Thus, many here are able to look beyond the fluff, buff, and smoke blowing of local media, to see a proposed development or development under construction for what it really is and compile a fairly good idea of both positive and negative effects it will have on the city. Threads like River Grand and The Selling of the City lots seem negative because anybody with a keen sense of urbanism is nervous and worried about the high stakes where its one wrong move from any parties involved and its disaster for GR for years to come. The 60's urban renewal is historically the most vivid case and point I can think of. I believe is safe to say that everybody on this forum only wants the best for GR and the surrounding metro. But there is no such thing as a perfectly designed, and administered, Utopian city. Grand Rapids is no exception to that.

As for my view point on the state of the city, given that GR resides in a state where the economic climate is not nor ever has been conducive to sustainable prosperity for long periods of time. Grand Rapids has held its own. However, work needs to be done to make this city into the best it can be.

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It's interesting to see people's opinions of why UP is the way it is.

However, I'm actually more interested in examples of quality urban development that you think would be desirable in Grand Rapids.

I'm asking if anyone has real world examples from other cities that they'd like to see in GR or think would work in GR.

Something like "I love Navy Pier in Chicago and wish the city would find a developer to turn the 16 acre city services land into a GR version of that"

Guidelines for good development are nice, but I'm not an administrator....I'd like to know what projects people would like to see.

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LT:

I have always enjoyed Ybor City in Tampa when there on business. Here is a link to a website that describes this area in detail. I would love to see something like this here in GR.

http://www.ybor.org/

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The Las Vegas Strip with all those nice casinos would be nice...

***ducking from GRDad****

Local Talent, are you looking for specific developments (i.e.: nice loft building in XXXX city) or are you looking for broader urban examples (i.e.:this neighborhood really came together when they...)?

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Local Talent, are you looking for specific developments (i.e.: nice loft building in XXXX city) or are you looking for broader urban examples (i.e.:this neighborhood really came together when they...)?

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Sorry localtalent, I had to go back and re-read what it actually is you are asking.

I think you're jumbling a bunch of "negativity for different reasons" together.

- People aren't thrilled with the Marriott bunker not because of what it is, but because of how it looks.

- Some people, not all, are not thrilled about the unique architecture of the GRAM, not so much because of what it is

- No one likes the ground floor of ICON because of how it looks

- Some are against the casinos because of the talk of them being publicly funded. I'm against it because I don't want GR to become Atlantic City of Michigan (why ruin our momentum?)

- Many are against the parking lot scheme because it's a bad business decision for the future potential of those lots to have them in the hands of ANY one particular developer

- I haven't read anyone against the Children's Hospital, except for its ground floor treatment (and the development across the street's ground floor walls)

- People are against the lifestyle villages because of where they are located, not really for what they are (OK a few are against them altogether)

I brought up design principles because I feel that is where the city is falling flat on its face. There have been pages after pages on here of ideas for downtown, from a downtown Meijer (or at least a full-service grocery store), a new larger farmer's/meat/fish market, a downtown indoor waterpark, a multi-story retail complex, less expensive residential projects, more apartments for GVSU students, LIGHT RAIL, more companies relocating downtown into new mid or high-rises, a performing arts center, a bookstore, a full-service pharmacy (Walgreen type), a House of Blues type theater, a boutique hotel or two, a science center, a Dave & Busters type adult gaming center, more GVSU classrooms downtown, a movie theater, a performing arts center, a Vespa dealer, a jazz club, all without adding one more parking space (OK, maybe for the residential projects, but THAT'S IT :) ).

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It's interesting to see people's opinions of why UP is the way it is.

However, I'm actually more interested in examples of quality urban development that you think would be desirable in Grand Rapids.

I'm asking if anyone has real world examples from other cities that they'd like to see in GR or think would work in GR.

Something like "I love Navy Pier in Chicago and wish the city would find a developer to turn the 16 acre city services land into a GR version of that"

Guidelines for good development are nice, but I'm not an administrator....I'd like to know what projects people would like to see.

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Ever been to San Antonio? The riverwalk is fantastic. Now our river is much more turbulent than the tame little river that they've built their city around, but I'd still love to see our riverfront developed into a more pedestrian-friendly environment up and down both banks where you can stop for a bite or drink on a deck overlooking the rapids that give the city it's name. The weather is getting nice and I love that outdoor seating thing. People love dining outdoors. That's why Rose's on Reeds Lake is expanding their deck. We need places like that dotting the riverfront downtown. Just my two cents. :shades:

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As a single project, the Chelsea Market in NYC and the Ferry Building Market in SF come to mind. Centers of the food universes.

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give me the density of any medium sized city in Europe and id be happy :shades:

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As a single project, the Chelsea Market in NYC and the Ferry Building Market in SF come to mind. Centers of the food universes.

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I admit that I am critical of an awful lot these days. For example:

- I don't like the look of the art museum, but that's just me. I am trying to reserve judgement until it is finished, but generally, I don't like the look of buildings made out of concrete. For the record, I think VAI is butt-ugly too.

- I like the JW except for that stupid ballroom bunker

- I would like Icon on Bond if the wall wasn't a wall

- I would like everything on the hill if it was built more pedestrian-friendly.

As for projects here I do like, I like the renderings for 240 Ionia, Tall House, Riverhouse (sort of), and most everything I've seen from lighthousedave. I also like what's going on in EGR. I also like the look of many of the medical projects in Heartside. I also like a lot of the redevlopment/facade improvements, such as the Civic, 126 Ottawa, and Founders Trust.

Finally, here are some renderings from some stuff happening in Denver that looks pretty good to me. As long as the building follows some basic tenets of urban design, such as street-level transparency, zero-setbacks, interesting facades with lots of windows, pedestrian orientation, etc., I'm not going to complain. Unfortunately, it seems that all of the high-profile development projects around here have a hard time fulfilling all of that.

109_residence_inn.jpg

049_corum3.jpg

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Where would something like this go in Grand Rapids?

It's about 515,000 sq ft on 13 stories. 300 apartments with retail below.

It's exactly the kind of thing I think GR needs more of (interesting other examples on that Denver Infill site)....infill to support density in the core via market-rate residential units and basic service oriented retail (drugstore/market as also suggested more than once on this site).

Could downtown Grand Rapids currently support a building of this scale?

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I think he was referring to the design aspects of it, not so much the scale and marketability of it. I think there is room for more apartments downtown, but they would have to be at a low price point to attract GVSU students, and probably at a much smaller scale. A condo project as large as that would not do well right now, unless they could magically get the price down to $100 - $120/sf. Then you'd probably sell out (purchase agreements) the first weekend.

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I admit that I am critical of an awful lot these days. For example:

- I don't like the look of the art museum, but that's just me. I am trying to reserve judgement until it is finished, but generally, I don't like the look of buildings made out of concrete. For the record, I think VAI is butt-ugly too.

- I like the JW except for that stupid ballroom bunker

- I would like Icon on Bond if the wall wasn't a wall

- I would like everything on the hill if it was built more pedestrian-friendly.

As for projects here I do like, I like the renderings for 240 Ionia, Tall House, Riverhouse (sort of), and most everything I've seen from lighthousedave. I also like what's going on in EGR. I also like the look of many of the medical projects in Heartside. I also like a lot of the redevlopment/facade improvements, such as the Civic, 126 Ottawa, and Founders Trust.

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Where would something like this go in Grand Rapids?

It's about 515,000 sq ft on 13 stories. 300 apartments with retail below.

It's exactly the kind of thing I think GR needs more of (interesting other examples on that Denver Infill site)....infill to support density in the core via market-rate residential units and basic service oriented retail (drugstore/market as also suggested more than once on this site).

Could downtown Grand Rapids currently support a building of this scale?

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