GRAND RAPIDS, MI — It might not be until spring 2023 or later that construction could begin on a proposed 14,000-seat amphitheater in downtown along the Grand River.
That earliest possible start date for potential construction is due to a number of moving parts, specifically the relocation of county and city departments and the ongoing construction of a new Kent County Road Commission central complex in Walker that won’t be completed until spring 2023.
In February, the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention Arena/Authority (CAA) and Grand Rapids entered into an option agreement that allows the authority to purchase a large portion of the city’s 201 Market Ave. SW riverfront property to construct the outdoor amphitheater.
The problem, though, is the city won’t sell the property until they can move the operations housed there — the Public Works Department, Parks and Recreation Department and Office of Special Events — to another location.
And that could take awhile under the current plan.
Tentatively, that other location is the Kent County Road Commission’s central complex at 1500 Scribner Ave. NW along the Grand River.
Grand Rapids has an option agreement with Kent County allowing the city to purchase that property for $7,750,000. The Grand Rapids City Commission is expected to decide Tuesday, June 15, whether to exercise the option to purchase the property.
For its part, the Kent County Road Commission would move its operations to a new, roughly $50 million central complex currently under construction off of Northridge Drive in Walker.
County road commission officials say they’ve outgrown the Scribner location, in that they are unable to modernize the salt storage there and can’t expand their garages to fit their operations and fleet, leaving some expensive vehicles out in the elements.
Steve Warren, managing director of the county road commission, said he’s anticipating the new central complex will be completed in early 2023, with his department moving in sometime around late spring 2023.
That means the city wouldn’t be able to move its departments housed at 201 Market until then.
“Any move would be predicated on the sale of at least a portion of the 201 Market site and would be timed to KCRC progress,” said city spokesperson Steve Guitar.
Guitar said the city would need to secure another location before it vacates 201 Market.
Rick Winn, the president of Amway Hotel Corporation and chair of the CAA, said there’s no timeline currently outlined for the construction of the amphitheater.
Grand Action 2.0, a private economic development group whose members include Tom Welch, Carol Van Andel and Dick DeVos, is currently studying the viability of both the amphitheater and the primary tentative location for it at 201 Market.
“It’s too early to really talk about specific timelines at this point and budget and all that,” Winn said, adding that Grand Action’s study will illuminate many of those unknowns.
The CAA has until June 30 to exercise its option on 201 Market, but that deadline can be extended. Under the option agreement, the authority is able to purchase 11.6 acres of the property on the northern end for an estimated $24.5 million.
Earlier this year, a public-private partnership was developed to relocate a sewer trunk line currently barring redevelopment of the Market Avenue corridor, including the proposed amphitheater space, at a cost of $18.6 million.
The relocation cost will be split between Grand Rapids, the CAA, Amway Hotel Corporation and a DeVos family company.
The first phase of construction work on the Kent County Road Commission’s new central complex on Northridge Drive NW between Shippers and Bristol began in March.
The location, and new buildout, will increase the commission’s garage capacity for storage, vehicle maintenance and truck assembly. Among other benefits and efficiencies, Warren said the new location will provide vehicles with better access to the freeway system.
The $50 million estimated price tag will be paid for with about half from bond proceeds and the other half from saved, earmarked dollars, Warren said.
The managing director said his department is able to plan and spend for the future, all while maintaining good levels of service.
“We’re on track, even with the construction of this complex, to get our roads to 90% good or fair condition on our primary system by 2025,” he said. “We’re not sacrificing anything in terms of our first priorities, our mission to keep people safe and keep our roads in good condition.
“We’re able to accomplish those objectives and still get out there and build for the future.”