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Spectrum told to come back with its 'best shot' at revising Blodgett plans - Updated Mar 22;

Updated: Apr 9, 2018

Spectrum told to come back with its 'best shot' at revising Blodgett plans Updated Mar 22;

By Madison Bennett

Despite Spectrum Health's revisions to its plans for Blodgett Hospital, East Grand Rapids residents still remain opposed to the changes -- particularly the size of the parking ramp proposed for the site.

In fact, some residents went as far as hiring an architect to create a plan they believe better fits in with the neighborhood. They presented their plan to the city Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday, March 20.

At that meeting, Rick Redetzke, special vice president of facilities and real estate for Spectrum, presented Spectrum's revised plans for Blodgett Hospital, located at 1840 Wealthy St. SE.

The key changes, as presented on Tuesday, included increased green space and site landscaping along Sherman Street; an enhanced Plymouth Avenue entrance with landscaping and signage; improved traffic circulation within the site; a revised design of the egress stair on the north parking deck; and several changes to the south parking ramp.

To address the concerns raised with the south ramp, the new plans eliminated one level and partially replaced it with underground parking at the north deck, adjusted traffic flow to further reduce height, and increased the setback from Plymouth Avenue.

But residents still had issues with the size of the south structure and said the plan they had designed addressed that issue.

"The biggest difference is the height of the wall (south parking ramp)...Our plan would be significantly lower," resident David Brown said. "They would maintain basically the footage that they have or the footings that they have on the ground. They wouldn't come out as far, we'd just kind of widened it a little bit so it would be more on their land rather than imposing on our land."

Resident Lynn Chadfield said it wasn't the residents' intention "to design a plan for Blodgett. We want to demonstrate to the city and to Blodgett Hospital that it is possible to rebuild Blodgett's parking without requesting all these variances."

Planner Paul LeBlanc, of PLB Planning Group, has been working with the city to review and make recommendations on Spectrum's plans.

He told the Planning Commission Tuesday that Spectrum had "significantly" reduced the height on the south parking structure, but it still exceeded the 35-foot height limit along the Sherman Street side by about five feet. LeBlanc also noted that the setbacks should remain a concern for the city.

Spectrum officials first presented their plans during a meeting on Feb. 6; objections then were based on the size of the south parking ramp and lack of setback from the street. LeBlanc had called it "imposing" and Planning Commission Chairman John Barbour agreed.

Spectrum had another scheduled meeting for Feb. 20 to continue review and discussion with the Planning Commission, but instead asked to cancel the meeting to make changes and further listen to neighbors, Redetzke said.

In the six weeks that followed, Spectrum held two open house sessions at Blodgett Hospital and formed a Neighbor Advisory Group. Redetzke said Blodgett shared the changes with the neighborhood group and solicited more feedback.

"In my experience in almost 20 years of sitting on this side of the desk that there's not a single project that with enough dialogue and with enough community input...that we don't get to a good solution, a good end product, a win-win for everybody," Planning Commissioner Jeff Dills said. "I think this is on track for that."

While Planning Commissioners said they felt that the revised plans were an overall improvement, they ultimately made the decision to give Spectrum Health three weeks to bring its best plans forward before making a final decision at the next scheduled meeting on April 10.

"You ought to have your best shot, I'm not suggesting it's going to be any different, but if it's going to be any different, bring it to us; we need your best shot," Planning Commission Chairman John Barbour said.

Redetzke said they will continue to listen to the neighbors and try to ultimately propose something that is the right compromise for all parties involved.

"We will listen to the neighbors some more; we'll invite them to sit down when we have a fresh mind not so late in the evening and certainly consider all the aspects of the idea that they obviously put a lot of thought into and the folks that helped them with (it)," Redetzke said.

The next Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 10, in the commission chambers at the East Grand Rapids Community Center, 746 Lakeside Drive SE.

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