25/07/2024 8:00 PM

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Car wash to replace shuttered Grand Rapids restaurant

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A plan to replace a shuttered Adobe In & Out restaurant with a car wash is moving forward in Grand Rapids.

On Thursday, the Grand Rapids Planning Commission narrowly approved a special use permit for Quality Car Wash Enterprises 2, LLC to build a Tommy’s Express tunnel car wash near the corner on Leonard Street just east of Fuller Avenue NE.

QCW plans to demolish the Adobe In & Out to build the car wash and a parking lot with self-serve vacuums, which will sit on two lots with a total area of about 35,000 square feet.

Jeff Boorsma, who owned Adobe for decades before handing over the business to his son, addressed commissioners before the vote.

“Bear with me if I get a little emotional. Little history there. We’ve been there operating the Adobe for 20 years. We’ve been in Grand Rapids for 50-plus years… It was with heavy heart that we decided to close this location for health of the family and just the atmosphere we’ve been in for the last two years. Tommy’s, I’ve seen they’re persistent in a positive way. They’ve been looking at this site for the last five to seven years and I’ve put off, and I’ve put off and I’ve put off because we did a good business there. We served the public well. But when it came time to do something, they were still there,” Boorsma said in part.

“I support it so we can move our family along. I think it’s a good use for that area and we’ll keep Fulton Street and our Chicago Drive (restaurants) going and move on from there,” he concluded.

Some community members were not as keen on the change. Two members of the North East Citizen Action Association shared their concerns, saying the car wash, which expected to service 950 vehicles a day, doesn’t meet the city’s vision when it zoned the area for traditional neighborhood-traditional business use.

“If this is approved, the city is abandoning the concept of a walkable neighborhood at the Leonard and Fuller intersection,” said Paul Greenwald of NECAA.

Greenwald also said Family Fare is the only grocery store close to the nearby senior living and assisted living facilities, so wheelchairs are common on the sidewalk that runs over the lot.

At least three commissioners voiced opposition to the proposal early in discussions: Laurel Joseph, Christopher Germain and Lawrence Williams.

“A restaurant that has a drive-thru, something like that and a car wash are two very different things to a neighborhood as well. You go into a restaurant, you may see your friends and it may become a neighborhood gathering place. You’re never going to get that at the car wash. You know you’re going to go there, you’re going to pay you’re going to zoom out. It’s difficult. I think the letter from the neighborhood association carries a lot of weight with me. I think they’re on to something here. I have no doubt that applicants have tried really hard to build a really nice facility. I question whether it fits here,” Germain said.

Williams said the proposal “would be a perfectly good use,” but wouldn’t get the city to its vision of a walkable community.

“I think we’ve got to start somewhere and if we want to see it maybe be more walkable then maybe this is a time to act on that,” Williams said.

Other planning commission members pointed to nearby businesses with drive-thrus that were developed before the new zoning rules, saying this business shouldn’t be an exception.

“This isn’t going to become a more walkable community intersection because of this one use when we already have these existing uses that are inconsistent with the walkability of the intersection,” planning commission member Stacie Behler said.

“This is not Wealthy or Bridge or Leonard down the other way. I guess I don’t have the same expectation for the fulfillment of the TBA (zoning) standard here,” planning commission member Paul Rozeboom said.

A Nederveld employee involved in the project told the commission that car washes are included as an approved use for how the property is currently zoned.

The planning commission added two more conditions to the project, requiring the developer to use landscaping to screen the utility boxes for three out of the four seasons and get approval from the city’s stormwater engineer.

At least two planning commission members voted against the project in the final vote, but the project earned enough support to continue.



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