Park, shop and nest in new downtown buildings

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Capital News Service
LANSING—Medium-sized cities looking for ways to expand parking in cramped downtowns are turning to mixed-use structures that combine retail and housing with parking.
The Holland City Council is considering a proposal from Burton Katzman, an Ann Arbor developer, and Rockford Construction of Grand Rapids, to buy a surface parking lot and replace it with a parking ramp wrapped by apartments. The council agreed to take the proposal under advisement.
The city council hosted an open house recently for 10 to 15 developers, residents and merchants to gauge the public’s reaction, said Joel Dye, the director of community and neighborhood services.
“Millennials, empty nesters, single people and young professionals without kids” make up the list of potential users, Dye said.
One of the most important issues is designing a facade to hide the parking deck within an apartment complex.
That’s a struggle downtown development authorities across the state are talking about.
“One thing the city of Holland prides itself on is that we have a pretty city,” Dye said.
“We’re an automobile-centric world in the Midwest, so parking in urban and downtown areas is something the cities need to keep a watchful eye on.”
Studies show fewer young people are getting drivers’ licenses, which downshifts demand for parking in the future.
Many other communities, including Petoskey, Traverse City, Jackson, Mason and Royal Oak, are considering expanded parking through a non-traditional, mixed-use approach. The model involves ground level retail space with housing on top and parking in the middle.
Petoskey is considering drawings for two parking structures. At a recent meeting with the Downtown Management Board, Walker Parking Consultants of Kalamazoo revealed a plan to build one four-tiered, 280-space structure, and another five-tiered, mixed-use building in Petoskey. The proposed site has 103 parking spaces.
While many business owners are excited about more parking, others are concerned about funding, time of construction and external design.
Traverse City’s Downtown Development Authority recently approved a $94,000 contract to study downtown transit, said Nicole VanNess, the city’s parking administrator. The study would last through October 2017 and will consider increasing parking while reducing traffic and increasing walking and biking.
“The housing market is struggling right now, with not a lot of affordable rentals,” VanNess said.
The new parking structures would serve downtown residents who walk to work. These kind of low-cost, leasing options are “what minimum wage workers need, so we’re trying to provide options that would eliminate their burden of buying permits to pay for parking,” she said.
Mixed-use buildings also allow for sidewalks and reduce curb cuts from driveways which deter pedestrians, VanNess said, and curb-cutting forces pedestrians to cross streets, creating traffic congestion and safety issues.

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