GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids City Commission met Tuesday, January 21, and approved an option agreement to purchase and develop 22 Ottawa Ave NW. The proposed building by Wheeler Development Group is called City Tower.
When completed, the building would be 24 stories tall. On the ground floor would be a restaurant. There would be five floors of parking, three floors of office space, 10 floors of residential apartments, and 5 floors of condos.
“We’re seeing the influx of younger workers coming to town from other markets to work, play and live downtown,” said John Wheeler, CEO of Wheeler Development Group. “We don’t want to lose momentum. We’ve worked hard to keep it going. This will be a new product, there is not a lot coming out on the residential prospective right now.”
The Committee of the Whole unanimously approved the option agreement on the morning of Jan. 21.
The property is located between Ionia Ave NW and Ottawa Ave NW, across from the Van Andel Arena. The project would cost approximately $55 million and begin construction in the Fall of 2020. Wheeler estimates construction would take 28 months.
Wheeler believes the new residential options is something Grand Rapids needs.
“We fill a need, not create a want,” said Wheeler, “We look at our 350 apartments we have here, Arena Place and Venue Tower, and we have been 99 percent full since we opened. 601 Bond is the last real apartment complex of any size that opened up two years ago. If this project takes two or two and half years, that’s a four to four and a half year gap of no inventory.”
The existing parking lot on the corner of Ottawa and Fulton will remain, and next to it will be the location of City Tower. In addition to the 800 spaces of parking in the lot, the new construction would add about 185 spaces.
“That’s always the balance the City is trying to do,” said Josh Naramore, the parking director for the city, “We have parking for employees who come downtown every day, and for residents, we have a growing downtown residential population. And how do we do that for all the event attendees down here to see a show? That [parking] facility is probably the most popular for anyone going to the Van Andel.”
Naramore believes the development of 22 Ottawa Ave NW is a positive thing for the city’s growth.
“That surface lot has been there a long time,” said Naramore, “I think the idea was there could be a higher or better use in the future. The city has had it for a long time. We’re excited to have some development interest moving forward.”
Even with the new spaces, many Grand Rapids residents are concerned more buildings will bring more parking trouble.
“I will take any parking I can get,” said Karly Schaefers, who works at the Buffalo Wild Wings across from the proposed City Tower, “It’s getting so limited as is, but I don’t think overall it will help.”
Schaefers says parking and going to work every shift has become a problem. Sometimes, she circles around for 30 minutes before finding a spot to park. Others are more optimistic about the new building.
“I think that’s the biggest issue with downtown Grand Rapids,” said Brad Anderson, who works at many buildings downtown, “When ArtPrize happens, and all these events, there’s not enough parking. It depends how much retail, how many people living there. You have to make sure everyone has parking. But it will bring people back living here.”
Some say the parking troubles are just a sign of living in a growing city.
“There’s already a lot of people,” said Marcus Davis, a student at Grand Rapids Community College, “We have a whole bunch of people here, it wouldn’t be a bigger issue.”
Wheeler says at 24 stories, the height of the City Tower will make an impact
“We want to play in a bigger market, as far as drawing attention to our entertainment, employee base, and our youth,” said Wheeler, “Verticality creates excitement. When you first go to a town and see a skylight, you go, ‘wow.’”
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