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GRDadof3

Downtown Holland Retail and Streetscape Phototour

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Downtown Holland has a fairly vibrant retail environment, and has been recognized nationally as a "Main Street USA" city. For those who haven't been to downtown Holland recently (or never), here's a little photo tour for your viewing pleasure. I'll highlight some of the interesting features that I noticed:

8th Street is the "Main Street" of downtown Holland, and travels East/West. It is a two-way street with parallel and angled parking on both sides of the street until you reach College, then it transitions to a one way street heading West until you reach Pine, with exclusively angled parking. 7th Street is a one-way heading West, and 9th Street is a one way heading back East, and provides a "loop" around downtown with access to the many surface lots around the perimeter.

There are close to 100 retailers (including restaurants, bars and cafes) on 8th or within a block of 8th. I believe this mass concentration of retail makes it successful, as you only have to go just over a block in any direction from 8th to find heavier retail vacancies.

A Downtown Holland Map to use as a guide.

Starting from the East end of 8th is a new Macatawa Bank branch (there are some businesses East of this at the "gateway" to downtown, but they are sparse and lack any energy)

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Across the street is a fairly new infill project with a bank, Hope College offices and other office users:

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It quickly changes to the older buildings, with some fantastic facades:

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Back on the North side is a vacant lot that is the home to a proposed new boutique hotel. They keep the grass nice and tidy on this lot:

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Next to that is a fairly new infill project featuring a bank, Haworth offices, a bike shop and an Irish pub (with more office users upstairs). Good scale and the oscillating facade is "not bad". The roofline could have used some more detailing to give it a "capped" look.

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You then reach College where the retail density becomes very attractive, the architecture is older, the street gets narrower, and the mature tree canopy makes quite a comfortable clean environment.

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Looking South on College next to a Ben & Jerry's:

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All important greenspace, at least one area per block (it appears). That wall could use some mural art, but something tells me it would be highly scrutinized (you probably wouldn't see any "Heartside art" in this area)

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Probably busier than the mall this morning:

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One of my favorite buildings in Holland:

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One of a few national chains mixed in:

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Many storefronts very effectively said "COME ON IN!"

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Part II:

Looks like a transit stop, but I don't believe it is:

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Love the architectural details (and this door heads to spaces above)

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Another urban park:

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The clock tower provide a great "focal" point, and actually marks the formal end of the retail district at River Street. Beyond River is the police station, courthouse, a few random businesses (no retail) and the 8th Street Market.

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River Ave, which doesn't appear so in the pictures to follow, is the main North/South thoroughfare through downtown, and an important link between the North and South sides of Lake Macatawa. Despite this, however, they were able to greatly narrow the street to allow for better pedestrian access to the area West of River Ave.

This massive sidewalk "bulb-out" greatly reduces River Ave, and makes the pedestrian crossing only about 30 feet wide, which is much less intimidating for pedestrians. In the second photo you can see a corresponding bulb-out at 9th Street one block to the South:

Looking North up River Ave:

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Looking South down River Ave (from the area in the middle of the last photo):

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Looking South toward 9th:

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Unfortunately, the dwindling density at this end seems to affect vacancies. The feeling is also not as warm on River Ave as it is on 8th (perhaps because of the amount of traffic?)

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Holland has worked to extend the downtown area to the West, to link up with the fairly new 8th Street Marketplace (farmers market). The new police station/courthouse at least bridges the gap with a built environment, but it's a long trek that one block to the market. At least they have incorporated the brick sidewalks, planters and benches to ease the transition.

Note to Holland Planners: put up a sign at 8th and River announcing whether the farmers market is open or not. You can't tell from that intersection, and it's a long way to walk and be disappointed. :thumbsup:

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Looking back East at the courthouse:

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The 8th Street Marketplace is essentially a rebuilt streetscape, with vendor stalls on each side with a permanent brick and steel canopy overhead. It is a vast improvement over the massive parking lots that were the only things here before. It gives vendors a place to park, provide parking for the nearby civic center, and customer parking. It lacks the character of a true urban market though (but it's still great).

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Part III, I'll show the surrounding areas around 7th, 9th and College.

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Part III: The surrounding downtown Holland area

One of several theaters in Holland, the Knickerbocker:

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A retailer on River Ave:

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An office building on Central Ave:

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Home and Co. storefront:

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Holland Museum:

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Park Theater on River Ave:

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The Herrick District Library (renovated)

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Lemonjello's on 9th:

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10th Street streetscape

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Hope College off of 10th and College:

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One of many surface lots ringing the downtown:

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Another:

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New residential off of 6th St:

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The new fountain on the plaza at Macatawa Bank's branch:

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If you love crowds and would like to check out the Klompen dancers, go check it out Holland while the Tulip Festival is going on, starting May 5th.

One objective of the Retail Task Force group hopefully will be to meet with other city planners and see what successes and failures they have had, and present ideas to GR city retail leaders. One UPer has already sent me some "off-line" ideas regarding Holland. :thumbsup:

Questions, comments, ideas?

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Holland does have a really great downtown. A lot of credit has to be given to Edgar Prince for painstakingly restoring it on his dime. I really like a lot of the infill. I also think Macatawa builds some of the nicest looking banks.

With that being said, you can venture a couple of blocks into the residential neighborhoods and it gets pretty dicey. It's too bad historic efforts never took off as it reminds me a lot of Traverse City. Not as grand as Heritage Hill but a lot of nicely detailed houses.

Joe

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...

One of my favorite buildings in Holland:

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One of a few national chains mixed in:

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...

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personally, I think GR has a lot of the infrastructure in place to accomplish something very similar, but what we need to do is not be afraid of national retailers. What I'd like to see is an overhead map of downtown Holland vs downtown GR with concerns to parking. I think we'd be surprised.

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How is Holland's nightlife? Bars? not old man pubs (no offense), Nightclubs? (early 20's fun), or is it one of those historic downtowns with a small town charm that doesn't have much to offer other than ice cream and gift shops? Do you see what I mean? I'll be in GR in 2 weeks with some friends and wanna know if it's a 24 hr city or are we better off in GR for that type of fun.

other than that, it's a beautiful downtown, Great pics, GRDadof3.

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How is Holland's nightlife? Bars? not old man pubs (no offense), Nightclubs? (early 20's fun), or is it one of those historic downtowns with a small town charm that doesn't have much to offer other than ice cream and gift shops? Do you see what I mean? I'll be in GR in 2 weeks with some friends and wanna know if it's a 24 hr city or are we better off in GR for that type of fun.

other than that, it's a beautiful downtown, Great pics, GRDadof3.

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How is Holland's nightlife? Bars? not old man pubs (no offense), Nightclubs? (early 20's fun), or is it one of those historic downtowns with a small town charm that doesn't have much to offer other than ice cream and gift shops? Do you see what I mean? I'll be in GR in 2 weeks with some friends and wanna know if it's a 24 hr city or are we better off in GR for that type of fun.

other than that, it's a beautiful downtown, Great pics, GRDadof3.

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personally, I think GR has a lot of the infrastructure in place to accomplish something very similar, but what we need to do is not be afraid of national retailers. What I'd like to see is an overhead map of downtown Holland vs downtown GR with concerns to parking. I think we'd be surprised.

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Great tour GRDadof3.

Now where would the Morton party store go?

:dontknow:

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First link on page downloads a pdf

personally, I think GR has a lot of the infrastructure in place to accomplish something very similar, but what we need to do is not be afraid of national retailers. What I'd like to see is an overhead map of downtown Holland vs downtown GR with concerns to parking. I think we'd be surprised.

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This particular lot will have a 4 story office building. Construction will start after Tulip Time.

The hotel is in the process of being built and is just north and west of this on the NW corner of 7th and College

Back on the North side is a vacant lot that is the home to a proposed new boutique hotel. They keep the grass nice and tidy on this lot:

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This particular lot will have a 4 story office building. Construction will start after Tulip Time.

The hotel is in the process of being built and is just north and west of this on the NW corner of 7th and College

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Most people go to New Holland Brewing Company for a good strong brew and local music. There is also the irish pub across the street. Other than that there are no "nightclubs" in town.

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Yes, and regardless of when you went to college, they haven't spent a dime on the place. Probably even since they opened. :)

Is the Parrot still in business? We used to go watch local music there during college.

New Holland is not a old-man pub....but for early20s fun, GR is a better bet.

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We need to think "sustainability" for downtown residents and visitors.

Retail stores and services need to added that sustain downtown living and downtown visiting.

This means that within the core downtown, one could either walk or take a bus a few stops away to buy; a beef roast, paintbrush or a pair of running shoes, etc...

I can drive to the Family Fare east on Fulton for the bare necessities or walk to Grand Central Market for a specialty item but we usually truck it to Knapp St or Alpine Meijer for large grocery purchases.

By all means there are other issues to explore:

- education of the downtown (not as dangerous as you think, is a cool place)

- public vs auto transportation...

I personally think the bar/restaurant situation in downtown GR is currently saturated. We other things to happen before we add more of these places.

I don't want the downtown to be a seasonal food court.

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We need to think "sustainability" for downtown residents and visitors.

Retail stores and services need to added that sustain downtown living and downtown visiting.

This means that within the core downtown, one could either walk or take a bus a few stops away to buy; a beef roast, paintbrush or a pair of running shoes, etc...

I can drive to the Family Fare east on Fulton for the bare necessities or walk to Grand Central Market for a specialty item but we usually truck it to Knapp St or Alpine Meijer for large grocery purchases.

By all means there are other issues to explore:

- education of the downtown (not as dangerous as you think, is a cool place)

- public vs auto transportation...

I personally think the bar/restaurant situation in downtown GR is currently saturated. We other things to happen before we add more of these places.

I don't want the downtown to be a seasonal food court.

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I can drive to the Family Fare east on Fulton for the bare necessities or walk to Grand Central Market for a specialty item but we usually truck it to Knapp St or Alpine Meijer for large grocery purchases.

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Dad, welcome to my town! I felt very proud reading your posting and seeing all the great photos. As a 4th generation (non-Dutch) Hollander, I think it it helps to look at ones own backyard through someone else's eyes every now and then.

In response to some of the comments:

The city partnered with Lumir (Ed and Else Prince's development company) back in the late 80's. The city re-did all the streets, added snowmelt, pavers, "hard-scaping" etc, while the Princes purchased and re-modeled perhaps up to 20% of downtown real estate. They also recruited businesses (indeed gave some of them free or reduced rent for the first few years) until they could fly on their own.

Parking meters were removed in the 80s. Merchants agreed to an assessment to maintain the downtown parking system and a potential multi-story structure is being contemplated -- perhaps as the lower levels of the next large building or perhaps as a stand-alone structure -- I tend to hope not. (Working in DT GR I constantly remind my neighbors, friends and city hall folks how GOOD we've got it in downtown Holland).

The downtown snowmelt system has been expanded every year since its installation and is augmented by a dozen privately owned systems. It now extends south on River avenue to City Hall and the Herrick District library.

Downtown merchants also support a PSD (Principal Shopping District) millage mostly used for marketing purposes and a DDA (Downtown Developemnt Authority).

A DRB (Design Review Board) takes a look at all facade plans, etc.

The city council, planning commission and zoning board of review all have played major roles in the renaissance of downtown Holland. And one cannot underestimate the positive impact of Hope College on downtown -- both in their student population and their ownership of a number of properties (Haworth Inn & Conference Center, Knickerbocker Theatre, etc.)

The eastern gateway is next, with a proposed roundabout at 8th/Chicago Drive/Fairbanks -- right where the new DeVos Field House of Hope College is.

Another project on the middle burner is the renovation/replacement of the civic center. Built in 1954 (and NEVER air-conditioned!) it leaves a lot to be desired. Cutbacks in state revenue sharing is stressing the city's budget and this project may take a hit for now.

Also in the works is a charette for the Window on the Waterfront/Town Park area north of 6th street from River Avenue to Windmill Island. (Witness last week's "move the Windmill" brainstorming sesssion). Hopefully this will be another public-private partnership involving an ice skating facility, retail and office development. Pat of the area is the old city dump and a river dredging landfill, so a few challenges exist.

New private development is expected to occur on West 8th Street across from the new police/court complex as there are 4 or 5 under-utilized buildings/lots there. Also expected is renewed development on River Avenue from 8th to 6th and beyond due to the new roadway and streetscape improvements in that area. Public investment usually brings private investment soon afterwards.

Already improving is East 8th between Columbia and Fairbanks. Several new office buildings have been built over the past two years and the city just removed an old Wendy's restaurant to expand the use of the renovated train depot as a true multi-modal transportation facility supporting AMTRAK, the recently expanded MAX Transportation System (local transit) and Indian Trails bus line.

The new hotel and other planned structures on 7th and 6th streets will truly make downtown Holland a multi-block, three-dimensional place.

As for night life....I'm one of those "old men" so the Curragh Irish Pub is just fine with me. 20-somethings tend to gravitate to New Holland BrewPub. Skiles is a traditional beer and pizza place. Parrot's is a bit of a dive, but attracts a young crowd.

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I think the reason why downtown GR is starting to resemble a food-court is because the businesses that can survive in the current environment downtown are fueled by the thousands of workers and students there from 9 to 5, who eat out for lunch. That's why many of these places are also only open for limited hours on weekends. It costs more for them to be open than they would make in that time period (I know we've covered this before), because the great majority of metro GR residents do not view downtown as a retail destination.

One difference to note between Holland and GR is that Holland really has no mall to speak of. Westshore Mall is a lot like Centerpointe Mall here in GR, in that it has a lot of vacancies and the selection is limited. Downtown Holland is a viable alternative for shoppers, especially older people who don't like the malls and don't want to travel to Grandville. I also should add that probably 3/4's of downtown Holland shops have GIFTS that you can buy. Even the corner drug store is probably 80% gift shop, 20% pharmacy. They've created a niche for people looking to stroll around in gift shops and high-end unique clothing stores, mixed with a few national chains to add "legitimacy".

For those who might say that "we just need more residential density, then retail will pop", I offer this recent article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune: They built it....but they didn't come. Downtown Mpls has thousands more residents than GR has (even on the drawing board), yet ground floor retail in new condo projects is struggling in that city. Even in Minneapolis, downtown residents drive to the suburbs to shop at Target and other big box retail.

I think you have to pick one or two retail corridors in a downtown and concentrate all efforts on those. Small onesee twosee retail stores away from the main retail center are going to struggle to be viable, IMO. Even in Holland, if you travel up River, or even as you first enter Holland on Chicago Drive, there are a lot of retail vacancies (because they are away from the "destination" corridor).

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Yesterday Bob Gibbs was in town and gave about a 1-hour presentation on urban retail.

In another life, Bob worked for Taubman. He is now a nationally recognized retail consultant and planner. He works for downtowns, for lifestyle center developers and everything in between. He is very knowledgable about how retail works and doesn't work and has years of research to back it up.

It is absolutely amazing how much goes into retailing and how manipulative it really is.

In most enclosed malls, very little is left to chance. The mall controls what retailers put in their windows. The lease usually requires that retailers' doors are cleaned once an hour and that windows are cleaned once per day. Lighting and ceiling material is controlled. The mall developers know that it takes 8 seconds to walk past the typical storefront and they know that the store has about 1.5 seconds to get the shopper to walk into the store, before they are past the door.

The mall developers know that most shoppers will not walk more that 1000 feet, which is how the anchor stores are placed.

Statistically most people will go right when they enter a store.

Some other interesting statistics about retail and the typical American's shopping habits:

90% of Americans shop at least once per year at Walmart and this is because Walmart sells what people want and they sell it at a price that people want to pay.

10% of the market will shop regularly at Whole Foods, the other 90% feel that it is too much of a luxury.

When Whole Foods comes into a market, the apartment rental rates go up 12%.

J.C. Penny is considered a luxury by a majority of Americans.

When a Crate and Barrell locates anywhere, typically 40 other retailers will follow.

75% of people shop after 5:30pm

Each on street parking space equals between $170,000 to $200,000 in retail revenue per year - which is enough to support one retailer.

6 out of 10 shoppers will pay to park in front of a store on a street.

The average local retailer has retail revenue of $80.00 / square foot per year.

The average mall retailer has retail revenue of $275.00 / square foot per year.

The average Taubman retailer has retail revenue of $500.00 / square foot per year.

The point is that downtowns need to think like this. They can not leave things to chance and they can not mandate that they want no national chains. Independent local retailers typically close at 5pm, when 75% of the people shop, national chains are open past 5pm and on Sundays.

The current trend for American shopping, is that customers want an "authenic urban experience". In lieu of actually getting one, they settle for lifestyle centers (which Bob feels is the biggest threat to downtown retail). Most national retailers would prefer to locate downtown, because statistically they have higher sales per square foot when they move downtown.

Harvard Square in Cambridge does over $500 per square foot per year of retail revenue and over 90% of it is owned by a single developer. Looking at it, you would never guess this, as it looks like a normal downtown, with a variety of building owners.

There are simple ways to have retail work for a downtown, according to Bob.

The ideal mix....

1/3 national retailers

1/3 regional retailers

1/3 local retailers

On-street parking in front of the retail

20,000 to 30,000 cars per day passing by the retail.

Of course following the Walmart principal of selling what people want to buy is important as well.

Overall, Holland is doing a lot of things well, but there was a patron there to help it along. Holland also has a very definitive "main street" whereas GR does not. Holland is smaller and more manageable than GR.

Grand Rapids can certainly make a go of it, they just need to start thinking about these things.

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Dad, welcome to my town! I felt very proud reading your posting and seeing all the great photos. As a 4th generation (non-Dutch) Hollander, I think it it helps to look at ones own backyard through someone else's eyes every now and then....snip

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Downtown Holland has a fairly vibrant retail environment, and has been recognized nationally as a "Main Street USA" city. For those who haven't been to downtown Holland recently (or never), here's a little photo tour for your viewing pleasure. I'll highlight some of the interesting features that I noticed:

8th Street is the "Main Street" of downtown Holland, and travels East/West. It is a two-way street with parallel and angled parking on both sides of the street until you reach College, then it transitions to a one way street heading West until you reach Pine, with exclusively angled parking. 7th Street is a one-way heading West, and 9th Street is a one way heading back East, and provides a "loop" around downtown with access to the many surface lots around the perimeter.

There are close to 100 retailers (including restaurants, bars and cafes) on 8th or within a block of 8th. I believe this mass concentration of retail makes it successful, as you only have to go just over a block in any direction from 8th to find heavier retail vacancies.

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Well alrighty, let's take this from the top. We are Grand Rapids, not Holland....

..

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