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$97M development coming to Michigan St. Hill


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Ramp would be base for new research buildings

Saturday, September 11, 2004

By Jim Harger

The Grand Rapids Press

Grand Rapids' Michigan Street Hill may become home to a $97 million development that could include three or four new medical research towers and a giant 2,000-car parking ramp.

City Economic Development Director Susan Shannon said Friday that a $1 million state grant could be used to leverage construction of a $40 million parking ramp that would become the base for several new medical research towers.

The project would reshape the north side of Michigan Street by replacing the seven-story Towers Medical Building, its parking ramp and a state-owned parking lot, Shannon said.

The project is the brainchild of Christman Capital Development, a Lansing developer that is buying the Towers building and includes Spectrum Health, the Van Andel Institute and the city as partners, Shannon said.

The project's first stage would build a 2,000-space parking ramp, which would serve the needs of Spectrum, Van Andel Institute and Christman's tenants, she said. The ramp would be operated as a public facility by the city's Parking Services Department, Shannon said.

Christman would use the ramp to meet the needs of three or four new medical research buildings it hopes to build on top of the ramp, Shannon said.

Earlier this year, Christman officials said they hoped to redevelop the Towers site for American Physicians Capital, an insurance company based in East Lansing.

A Christman executive declined to comment on the project Friday, saying the company would release more information next week.

Shannon said the site is in the city's SmartZone, which allows it to divert new property taxes from high-tech developments for infrastructure improvements.

On Tuesday, Shannon will ask the City Commission to formally request a $1 million grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp., a state agency that funds development projects.

The grant would kick-start development of the parking ramp, which would be built into the hillside between Michigan Street and Int. 196.

If the ramp is built, it would become downtown's largest parking facility, surpassing a 1,873-space ramp operated by Grand Rapids Community College between Fountain and Lyons streets.

City Parking Director Pam Ritsema said the new ramp could help resolve a 1,700-space parking shortage that has been predicted for the Michigan Street Hill by 2007.

"Depending on the needs of the (Christman) development, there will be space to meet the Michigan Hill demand," Ritsema said. "It's going to be a wonderful addition to the downtown area."

Parking has been in short supply on Michigan Hill recently. Grand Valley State University opened a Health Sciences building last year and Spectrum Health is opening a $100 million heart center this fall.

Michigan State University also is eyeing the neighborhood as a possible site for some or all of its College of Human Medicine.

Spectrum Health recently won city Planning Commission approval to expand its 525-space parking ramp north of Michigan and east of Coit Avenue by 750 spaces.

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Well, they need the ramp, that is for sure. Hard to say what else they will be able to afford after the ramp. Months back I heard something in the 17 storey range to replace the towers building - but I highly doubt that. Considering that they want to build four 'towers', they will need more money for the project.

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Here is the ugly building that will be replaced (along with a Burger King). Richard DeVos is now involved in this project so I would have no doubt that it will be built in Grand Rapids in the next two years. He seems to have entered the "legacy building" phase of his life. Hopefully he will pick a world class architect to complement his partner Jay's Van Andel Institute (built by Rafael Vinoly). We'll see. Either way, bye bye wanky architecture ;)



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