The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Board of Directors today took the following action:

Authorized Contract for Underground Parking Feasibility Study

The Board approved a contract with Carl Walker, Inc. to assess and understand the potential for underground parking in the area south of Van Andel Arena. The scope of work includes:

§Assessing traffic data, underground utilities, and geologic conditions.

§Developing preliminary concepts for underground parking infrastructure in areas with suitable conditions.

§Estimating construction costs of the preliminary concepts.

The feasibility study was recommended in the May 2013 Arena South Visioning Plan, a community-driven vision for how best to develop several DDA-owned properties south of the Arena which currently serve as surface parking. Below ground structures generally are the preferred parking solution in urban areas as they help preserve prime real estate for more valuable land uses, enhance streetscape aesthetics and the pedestrian environment, support higher density development, and ultimately strengthen the tax base.

The total cost of the study will not exceed $50,000. The City of Grand Rapids Automobile Parking Commission on October 10, 2013 will consider a request to contribute $25,000 to the study from the Parking Enterprise System.

Approved Support for Renovation of the YWCA Building

The Board approved financial incentives to support and enhance the redevelopment of the YWCA building at 25 Sheldon. One grant will provide up to $75,000 to support improved building accessibility, restore the façade, upgrade major infrastructure, and improve the efficiency and sustainability of the building. The YWCA aspires to achieve the equivalent of a Silver Certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system. A second grant not to exceed $19,500 will provide partial funding for the installation of a new sidewalk, decorative pavers, street trees, and modern lighting of the public realm. The renovation project is estimated to cost $4.3 million.

Approved Consultant Selection Committee for Downtown Plan

The Board approved the framework for a roster of citizen volunteers who will evaluate more than 30 proposals submitted by firms interested in providing professional services to develop a new Downtown Plan for the City of Grand Rapids.

The selection committee will work closely with DDA and City staff to review and rate the numerous submissions, select finalists, conduct interviews, and recommend the preferred firm(s). The selection process is scheduled to be completed in November, at which time the DDA Board anticipates considering the committee’s recommendation for approval.

Upon selection of the planning consultant, the DDA and its project partners will organize and seat a larger project steering committee comprised of a representative sample of community businesses and organizations with an interest in downtown planning and growth. The steering committee will help, among other things, design an intensive public engagement strategy that invites all community members to participate in the first comprehensive downtown planning effort since 1993.

The planning process is tentatively scheduled to publicly kickoff in January 2014 and be completed in December 2014.