Grand Rapids proposes property fee to fund $731,000 Pleasant Park in Heritage Hill

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A proposed fee on 400 parcels near a planned park at the edge of Heritage Hill would cost landowners $50 annually for 10 years.

Grand Rapids City Commission is expected to set a hearing on a special assessment for Tuesday, Dec. 18. Revenue from the fee would generate $200,000 to fund about one-fourth of the cost to develop Pleasant Park on a former county parking lot.

The proposed special assessment district includes properties within about 750 feet of the park site at the southeast corner of Madison Avenue and Pleasant Street SE, where the Heritage Hill and South Hill neighborhoods meet. The district’s boundaries are between Logan and Franklin streets, between Lafayette and Union avenues.

Neighborhood leaders support an assessment to help fund the park.

“If it’s what it takes to make this project continue and get finished then we feel that it’s the right thing,” said Tim England, president of the South Hill Neighborhood Association. “The biggest part of it is getting rid of a huge expanse of blacktop and bringing it into green space – having a large open space for running, for playing, for gathering for picnics.

“I haven’t heard anything negative (about the assessment), yet. Everyone seems to be excited about it. People understand the importance of having some green space.”

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Grand Rapids took ownership of the parking lot, which had been used by employees of a former Department of Human Services building at 415 Franklin St. SE, in a land swap with Kent County and developer Ed DeVries. City leaders eyed the site as potential green space for a section of Grand Rapids deemed deficient in parkland, then sought – and won – a $300,000 state grant for development of Pleasant Park.

Grand Rapids administrators say the city cannot afford to provide much fundingfor neighborhood improvement projects, so a city ordinance was amended in October to allow for a special assessment in this case.

In an MLive poll, 56 percent of respondents expressed support for paying an assessment of $100 per year.

“Most everyone I have talked with is excited for the park and supports the assessment,” said Jan Earl, executive director of the Heritage Hill Neighborhood Association.

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Other funding sources for Pleasant Park include the grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, $112,240 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds and $118,660 in voluntary contributions expected from various sources.

City Commission’s Community Development Committee on Tuesday, Nov. 27 is expected to schedule the hearing on the special assessment.

Steve Faber, executive director of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, said Pleasant Park is the only new park development project considering a special assessment at this point.

“It is primarily a tool for neighborhood park development,” he said. “There are several park redevelopment projects that could use this funding mechanism, but they aren’t far enough along where a special assessment has been considered.”

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