City buys land along Grand River for future public recreational site

Published on July 02, 2018

Areal map of North Monroe land

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The City of Grand Rapids has completed the purchase of nearly 3.7 acres of land along the Grand River for a future public recreational site. The City purchased property at 511, 519 and 525 Monroe Ave. NW from Kent County for $3.3 million and bought land at 533 and 601 Monroe Ave. NW from Michigan State University for $3.8 million.

The land purchases complete the requirements for the City to obtain a $7.2 million grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund to cover 75 percent of the costs of acquiring the properties as part of the Grand River restoration project. In the short-term, the land will be used as a construction staging area for the river project. It then will become a public site that includes a park and river-related recreational activities. 

“The exceptional collaboration between the City, Kent County and Michigan State University made all the difference,” Interim City Manager Eric DeLong said. “Together, we have been able to deliver a riverfront resource that will support river restoration, provide important new access to the river and create a new recreational resource in Monroe North for all to enjoy.”

The community has called for greater access and opportunities for recreation along the Grand River dating back to the City’s 2002 Master Plan. Green Grand Rapids and later GR Forward – both amendments to the City’s Master Plan – built upon these calls for transformation and established a vision for how it could occur.

The future development of the newly purchased properties ties into a larger vision to reclaim and reactivate the riverfront along the entire Grand River corridor, said David Marquardt, the City’s parks and recreation director.

“This will provide us with a great riverfront amenity for the community to enjoy well into the future,” Marquardt said.

“We could not have accomplished this without the support of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund board. Their farsighted investment in river recreation will pay dividends years into the future for those who live, work and play in Grand Rapids as well as for the region and our state.”

The City submitted an application to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund in 2015 requesting the land acquisition grant, which was awarded later that year. 

“This project is a premier example of partners coming together around a common vision to expand outdoor recreation, encourage healthy lifestyles and enhance the local economy,” DNR Director Keith Creagh said. “The revitalized river and riverfront will benefit citizens and visitors for years to come.”

City leaders have spent the past two and a half years working in partnership with MSU and Kent County to identify current and future land needs and positive outcomes of the land swaps. The City Commission, Kent County Board of Commissioners and MSU Board of Trustees approved the terms and conditions of the property exchanges earlier this year.

“This transaction benefits Kent County on many different levels,” Kent County Administrator/Controller Wayman Britt said. “The uses proposed here will be advantageous to the entire community. The growth of academic institutions and park space will be a benefit to the entire West Michigan area. Getting this deal done required time, patience and hard work, and I am proud of the collaboration that was exhibited to bring it to fruition.”

As part of the land swap, MSU purchased 520 Monroe Ave. NW from the county for $1.65 million. The university has not decided what will go on the site, which is just north of the MSU Research Center at Michigan Street and Monroe Avenue.

 “Michigan State University is pleased that our collaboration with the City of Grand Rapids and Kent County on this land exchange has moved the community a step closer to realizing the vision of the Grand River restoration project,” said Chuck Reid, director of MSU Land Management. “For MSU, the parcel we acquired connects our land along Monroe Avenue, offering new possibilities to consider for future expansion of MSU’s Innovation Park.”