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Pedestrian bridge, $65M private development are the catalysts for Wyoming’s new downtown

Posted By: mlive on April 24, 2023.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

The 28th Street corridor in Wyoming was once a hub of entertainment and shopping in the greater Grand Rapids area.

With West Michigan’s first multiplex cinema and first shopping mall, it was the place for family and friends to gather for a weekend outing.

But as new malls opened, namely RiverTown Crossings, and other entertainment options sprung up, the 28th Street corridor in Wyoming saw a decline, with changing stores and less traffic at Rogers Plaza and the eventual closure of the Studio 28 movie theater complex.

“28th Street – it’s a little bit of a bygone era. It’s become kind of this automobile centric node that really bifurcates our community,” said Nicole Hofert, the city’s director of Community and Economic Development.

Now, Wyoming city leaders are embarking on an effort to revitalize 28th Street between Burlingame and Clyde Park avenues with the aim of eventually creating the city’s first downtown area where family and friends can shop, gather in public spaces and more.

The undertaking is dubbed “City Center.”

“Wyoming has been working on this effort for decades. 28th Street has continued to decline over the last 30, 40, 50 years,” Hofert said. “We’ve seen Rogers Plaza change from what it was back in the 50s and 60s and 70s. We’ve seen Studio 28 close and some disinvestment in the corridor.

“And so when we hear our residents say they want a place to go and spend time with their families and they want shopping opportunities and places to eat, this is an opportunity to provide that to them.”

The “catalyst” for the city’s new downtown is a pedestrian bridge over 28th Street, an adjacent, roughly $65 million planned private development with commercial spaces and housing and 3.1 miles of trails connecting nearby neighborhoods and other area trails and parks.

The bridge and planned development off of Hook Avenue on the former Studio 28 property will serve as the marker around which the new downtown will be built, Hofert said.

Then, in six or eight years, the city will assess the development pattern and potentially build another pedestrian bridge over 28th Street to serve as the other cap to the city’s downtown.

“We refer to this as a transformational project for Wyoming, and I truly believe that,” Hofert said. “This project has the potential of not only bringing hundreds of new residents to the community and locating them in a new downtown, but also making connectivity to the neighborhoods to provide safe crossings over 28th Street with new commercial, office space, etc.

“I absolutely believe this is going to be the catalyst that is going to launch that effort.”

With 76,501 residents in the 2020 U.S. Census, Wyoming is Kent County’s second-largest city.

Hofert said while the city had popular gathering places, like Rogers Plaza, a downtown was never really developed in the city. As a suburb of Grand Rapids, she said the city’s development pattern along 28th Street has been more linear, aligned with the sprawl of strip malls to the east.

The first phase of the City Center project on the public investment side is to construct the 600-foot-long pedestrian bridge over 28th Street and bury utility and communications lines in the area – a move that will not only make room for the bridge but also provide a better aesthetic for the downtown feel, Hofert said.

The bridge, which Hofert says will reunify the city’s northern and southern portions, is expected to be open to the public in spring 2024.

The City Center project’s first phase – estimated around $30 to $40 million – also will include constructing the 3.1 miles of trails, although some stretches of those trails could come later depending on available funding. The bridge and associated utility line work accounts for about $8.02 million of that estimate.

Kent County has allocated $6 million in federal stimulus funds to the project, and Wyoming has put forward $10 million in city funds. The city is also seeking federal dollars for the project.

On the private development side, Magnus Capital Partners is tentatively planning to construct three buildings, each measuring five stories, on the former Studio 28 movie theater complex property off of 28 W Place (Hook Avenue) in the area of the new pedestrian bridge.

The city is also talking with other developers and property owners along 28th Street, examining what they can do to their sites and possibly make new investments, Hofert said.

The roughly $65 million development would be just north of Magnus Capital’s recently built HOM Flats at 28 West apartment complex that also occupies a portion of the former movie theater property.

Jason Chronowski, associate marketing manager at Magnus Capital, said the developer currently doesn’t have a timeline for construction or when they might bring their plans before the city’s planning commission.

The upper floors of the buildings would have housing, with the bottom floors having commercial space. Office space is also something being considered for the buildings, Chronowski said.

What exactly will be offered in the commercial spaces is still being worked out, but Chronowski said a focus on local ownership and feedback from residents will help guide that.

He said he could envision a cafe and potentially a dog groomer or pet store occupying some of the space.

“It will be really nice to be potentially near a walking trail and the bridge crossing over 28th Street, that could allow for a really nice getaway if someone goes and they walk the bridge, come over and get a cup of coffee, maybe they get their pet groomed,” Chronowski said. “There’s just potential to build that, really that feel of community and bringing people together and really allowing people to get the most out of where they live.

“We’re excited for the city, we’re excited for our residents. If it comes to fruition, we’re very excited, because it even opens up possibilities for our current residents.”

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