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Old Posted Feb 22, 2007, 3:10 AM
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Michi Michi is offline
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GR’s proposed $69M streetcar system could spur billions in redevelopment

If development along the proposed streetcar system in downtown Grand Rapids follows the patterns of other metro areas, the city’s current multi-billion dollar building boom could be just the beginning. The successful reintroduction of a streetcar in Portland, Oregon is a case in point.

Since Portland announced its downtown streetcar line in 1997, developers have been busy constructing new buildings and expanding old ones along the route. Today the city enjoys 126 percent more office, retail, residential, and institutional space within just three blocks of the streetcar line. In fact, 55 percent of all downtown development in the city's central business district during the last decade has occured within one block of the streetcar.

The now 4.8 mile streetcar route has cost Portland about $55 million to-date, but the project has helped leverage nearly $3 billion in urban redevelopment investment. And property values have jumped as much as 40 percent near the transit line.

“We’re looking at a new streetcar line for downtown,” said Roland Chlapowski, Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams’ liaison to the office of transportation. “One of the biggest landowners said they’d invest $200 million of development in the area [if we proceed]. And that’s just one landowner.”

The proposed Grand Rapids streetcar route would run nearly 2.5 miles from The Rapid Central Station at 250 Grandville, north along Monroe Avenue to Sixth Street, with six cars running at five-minute intervals.

Based on Portland’s experience, the result for Grand Rapids could be a significant increase in development and in foot traffic from businesses, residences, and educational facilities within about four blocks of the route. Major activity centers such as River House Condominiums, Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Monroe Center, the JW Marriott, and DeVos Place would not only be destinations for passengers, they would provide passengers, as well.

The route would also connect the Grandville Avenue, Heartside, Creston, and potentially, Belknap Lookout neighborhoods.

Local leaders Bing Goei, chairman of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Rick Chapla of The Right Place, Inc., former Mayor John Logie, and others recently visited Portland to get a firsthand view of that city’s streetcar system and the resulting development. A second, larger group of local leaders is planning to visit again this year.

On January 24, The Rapid Board of Commissioners voted to accelerate the study and design of the proposed streetcar system.

Source: Roland Chlapowski, City of Portland; Great Transit Grand Tomorrows Advisory Committee January 10 meeting presentation; Andy Guy, Michigan Land Use Institute
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