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GRCentro

Convention Center Area Develpoment?

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I'm new to the forum and am so happy to find a place where people are actively discussing the development in downtown Grand Rapids. I am a former student member of the GR City Planning Commission, so I used to be in the inside loop of all the new happenings downtown. However, I have only recently returned from living 6 months in Argentina. Imagine my delight to return and find all these new things in progress!

I see great things happening in the Monroe and Heartside areas. My biggest question, though is concerning the convention center. Ok, so now we have a world class center... but with comparatively inadequate city features to help support it. It has been a complaint from convention organizers. Perhaps you all have already talked about this? The biggest problem, as I see it, is the area directly around the center. A first-time visitor walks out the front doors and is greeted by the stone wall of a parking garage and some of the coldest, ugliest buildings in the city (don't get me started about the 60's disaster, 'urban renewal'.)

A short while ago, a proposal was put out to build new city and county gov't offices on a different site and redevelop Calder Plaza with a 25 story hotel, among other things. It was heavily criticized for potentially placing a lump of the cost on taxpayers and I never heard much about it again. What ever happened to it? Can't the gov't relocate to the riverfront lot it already owns? Seems to me they could sell the current site at a fortune. I'd love to see the site redeveloped (with the Calder sculpture in the plan) as a tourist-friendly urban park with retail, dinning, and lodging. Are there any more plans for the site in the air?

There is also the vacant (and gorgeous) Olds Manor building and the horrendous, insufficient post office. I thought the post office already bought land near the airport, right? DeVos owns Olds Manor, almost certainly to become a hotel, but I'm sure they want to wait on construction until they can get the post office out too.

The GR Press lot is also of great value. They really don't need all the space anymore as they have the new (and very impressive) printing building in Walker. They now just have their writers and newsroom in the downtown location. I haven't heard anything, but I'd guess they're waiting for the right offer before relocating to a smaller, more appropriate site.

Anyone know anything more on these sites or other convention center development ideas?

-Michael

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Welcome Michael!

As I said in a previous post, I agree with you on the fieldstone wall. It is horrendous. Unfortunately, I think the city and county will be moving soon (and of course, not taking the opportunity to work in a Keating-Kang designed building like they could have).

One thought that crosses my mind a lot is developing the front portion of the wall into ground level retail/office. Sure, they'd lose a couple of parking spaces, but some nice compact two to three story buildings hugging the area between the wall and sidewalk would give a feeling of accessibility to the city. Mayor Logie always talked about people getting inventive with the use of space we have. Building into the Lookout hill area around Plainfield, absorbing dead space, etc. I would love to see something like this happen.

Keep your ear to the ground and keep posting. The forum is getting exciting with all these new people. :)

Joe

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these are all interesting things to watch in the next five years. a few questions for whomever might know - is the city definitely planning to leave the city/county site? and if the county is planning to move where is it considering going? as for the press, do they have their sights set anywhere yet?

it would be a shame if the newspaper left for the suburbs, and also disturbing in its implications for the focus of media reporting in the area and hence the long-term vitality of city communications and the image of the city in the (ever-sprawling) metropolitan context.

as for the city/county changing their base of operations, my thoughts are that the mies van der rohe buildings will stay forever. it would be great to see the parking deck and horrible wall replaced with something real. also if some of the plaza were filled in with some mixed-used construction, it would be in instant success (since the neighborhood is a single-use white collar ghetto with few services thanks to good ol' urban renewal in the 1960s)

anyway if someone knows the answer to any or all of my questions - hit me.

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I definitely agree that calder plaza, if nothing else, should be chopped in half and put the real estate up for development. It is underutilized, and actually looks depressing to see this big open plaza with no one around. Cutting it down in size and improving the amenities would go a long way to making it more usable.

The interesting thing about the City and County buildings is that while they are separate buildings, the city actually relies on the county for some of it's utilities. If the County moves, the city will HAVE to buy the building, or form some sort of agreement with the new owners. The city building is not self-sufficient (I can't remember exactly, but I think it may be the heating/cooling system).

Joe

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The interesting thing about the City and County buildings is that while they are separate buildings, the city actually relies on the county for some of it's utilities. If the County moves, the city will HAVE to buy the building, or form some sort of agreement with the new owners. The city building is not self-sufficient (I can't remember exactly, but I think it may be the heating/cooling system).

Joe

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Well thats just setting themselves up for a disaster. Personally I hope that sometime in the future GR does decide to rebuild its City Hall. Whether its on Calder Plaza, or somewhere else We need a new one soon.

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