As the group looks to the football stadium in Grand Rapids, questions revolve around housing and the impact of the neighborhood

Grand Rapids, Michigan – In the middle of a growing city, where there is a shortage of vacant city-owned properties and housing demand is high, Building a soccer field adjacent to David D. Hunting YMCA Good use of available land?

It’s a question city leaders may have to answer.

Grand Action 2.0, a private economic development group, wants to bring professional football to West Michigan, and is looking at a potential site for several parking lots near the corner of Pearl Street NW and Mt.Vernon Avenue NW owned by the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority.

The idea has generated a lot of enthusiasm and curiosity, and is seen as a potential way to boost activity in the city center and attract more visitors to the area.

But there are also questions.

How will the development affect surrounding neighborhoods and parking availability, and how will it affect the city’s goal of adding nearly 9,000 housing units by 2025? Previously, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. The site under study envisioned the stadium as a site that could accommodate approximately 1,000 units.

Related: Redevelopment of large downtown car parks into residences seen by Grand Rapids planners

It is unclear how much the stadium will reduce the amount of housing that can be added there.

“We are in desperate need of housing, so I am not sure how the football field will achieve that goal,” said Annette Vandenberg, executive director of West Grand Neighborhood, which is located north of the car parks under consideration.

Vandenberg said she does not have a position on the project at this time, and is waiting to learn more should Grand Action push the idea forward.

“I’m not saying we don’t need football,” she said. “I’m just saying we need a lot of housing.”

The parking lots under consideration, which some officials said are underutilized, are serviced by the free downtown shuttle.


Grand Action 2.0, whose co-chairs include Carol Van Andel, Dick DeVos, and the fifth regional president of Third Bank Tom Welch, was launched in 2020. The group’s original incarnation, Grand Action, helped create major transformational projects such as Van Andel Arena, DeVos Place, and Grand Rapids Market Downtown and more.

At this point, Grand Action says it is simply exploring the idea of ​​using publicly owned parking lots and adjacent properties as a stadium site, and has not committed to building them there.

“In late August, Progressive AE submitted materials related to the development of a downtown football stadium and event stadium on a proposed Grand Rapids site for initial and informal review,” the organization said in a statement.

“While the location of the stadium has not been confirmed and plans for this facility are still in the very early stages, this review is an important step in the due diligence process to determine whether or not this site will be viable.”

The stadium is expected to cost $125 million, according to a request by the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority to Kent County for federal stimulus dollars to help fund the stadium.

One property was purchased near the parking lot, the downtown Big Boy at 407 Pearl St. NW, in July for $3.2 million by an LLC associated with Dan DeVos.

DeVos is president of the Orlando Magic basketball team, co-owner of Grand Rapids Griffins, and chairman and CEO of DP Fox Ventures.

DeVos cannot be reached for comment, and it’s not clear if his purchase is related to plans to bring a stadium to the site. However, the concept render of the stadium that appeared on social media shows the use of the Big Boy property in the project.

Scott Lewis, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids, said Grand Action also reached out to David D. Hunting YMCA about the project and inquired about purchasing a parking lot for use in the stadium.

He said the idea was “exciting,” but he was waiting to hear more, including where he would park YMCA sponsors downtown if his organization were to sell their property to Grand Action

“We’re really, really, really primer,” Lewis said. “We had a couple of conversations about it briefly.”

This map identifies the parking lots that Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. Develop a plan for its redevelopment. (Map provided by Downtown Grand Rapids. Inc.)

Housing questions

If Grand Action had to choose parking as the location for the stadium, it would have to purchase it from the DDA. Downtown Grand Rapids is overseen by the Department of Disarmament Affairs, whose initial plan for the site included housing.

Rick Wayne, president of AHC Hospitality and chairman of the DDA board of directors, said he had no official position on the football stadium concept at this point. He said he’s waiting to hear more about the idea from Grand Action once more due diligence is done.

“I hope, if this is the site of choice, we’ll incorporate housing as well,” Wayne said. “That will be our goal. Once we get to this point, it will all be discussed.”

Wynn said that while adding housing is important, raising the region’s leisure and tourism economy is important.

“Any recreational place, whether it’s sports-related or otherwise, is a boost to downtown, the district and the county,” he said. “I think anything we can do to encourage people to visit Grand Rapids and the area is a boost for everyone.”

The discussion around the football field comes amid a push to add more housing in Grand Rapids.

In 2020, Bowen National Research, an Ohio-based real estate market analysis firm, released a study looking at the housing needs of Grand Rapids. The study estimated that Grand Rapids would need to add 8,888 housing units — apartments, townhouses, condos, and single family homes — by 2025 to meet demand.

Since then, the city has added 1,045 housing units, with another 1,000 or so units in the pipeline, according to figures provided by the city of Grand Rapids in mid-July. However, the city does not appear to be on track to meet the target of 8,888 units by 2025, officials acknowledged.

Vandenberg said there is an urgent need for more housing in her West Side neighborhood.

“Anytime someone comes to us and says I have a housing plan, I don’t care if it’s four condominiums – it’s four more condominiums,” she said, regarding the community being near the proposed stadium site. “That’s how badly we need housing.”

Vandenberg said other questions about the concept include how it will affect parking, traffic and other quality of life factors in the neighborhood.

“West Grand loves to see the West Side grow and flourish,” she said. “But at the same time, we want it to be a place where people who are already here aren’t being kicked out.”

In December 2020, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. , which oversees development in the urban core, has developed a plan that envisions the use of parking lots – now being considered for a football field – for housing.

The presentation showed that the plans, known as Bridge South, indicated that the parking lots could include up to 1,000 housing units depending on how intensively they are developed. A view of the proposed football stadium showed that the football field would not touch at least one large parking lot, known as Car Park 9, which could leave it open for future housing.

Tim Kelly, President and CEO of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. His organization will consider the Bridge South plan if discussions continue over the location of the potential football stadium.

One DDA board member said he would like to see some of the land on the site used for housing in case Grand Action pushes to build a stadium there.

“One of my interests is housing and making sure we have downtown housing that caters to a variety of price points, and a variety of opportunities for people,” said Jim Tallinn. “From what I’ve seen, there’s going to be some housing, probably, built in, and I know the DGRI is going to pay that, it’s going to be the staff, because that was part of the vision” for the site.

Kara Wood, CEO of Grand Action 2.0, cannot be reached to discuss the issue of housing on the site.

“It is too early to discuss the development of the football stadium and the potential further development associated with any specific site at this time,” according to a statement provided by Truscott Rossman PR on behalf of Grand Action. “The initial site plan posted online by Grand Action 2.0 has not been released, and this site has not been confirmed.”

Another area resident Peter Karlberg, who sits on the board of the neighboring John Ball Park neighborhood, said he’s familiar with the football stadium concept only through media reports.

If the project is going forward, he said his questions will focus on factors such as how the project will affect traffic and parking in his neighborhood.

“It is not our priority to have housing necessarily over any other use,” Karlberg said. “Although we would prefer housing over, let’s say, more bars.”

Read more:

Meet the kind new employee who brings smiles to Muskegon Elementary School

The first weekend of ArtPrize brings crowds to downtown Grand Rapids

ArtPrize means big crowds, big business

Best Local Michigan Food: Café Mamo in Grand Rapids serves up American farms to table food and wine from around the world.