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Planning Commission approves request to allow food trucks downtown

At the public hearing on September 12, the Planning Commission decided to allow food trucks near the Grand Rapids Art Museum.
What the Truck

What the Truck /Yolanda Gonzalez

On September 12, the Planning Commission passed the request of the special land use of food concessions on the corner of the Grand Rapids Art Museum. This was the first request for food concessions on private land in the downtown area. The request was made by Randy Van Antwerp, the Deputy Director of Administration and CFO of the GRAM.

The proposed location was the southwest corner between Rosa Parks Circle and the GRAM. The location is approximately 68 feet by 75 feet. The food trucks would be allowed on a yearly basis and would be permitted to be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays through Thursday. On the weekend, hours extend to 11 p.m.

Van Antwerp presented his and the GRAM's desire for food trucks.

"Right now the plaza hosts a lot of activities that the pubic is welcome to," explained Van Antwerp. "We had experiences duing Art Prize last year that the public enjoyed coming down here and having some food alternatives."

Currently there are multiple ways in which mobile food is available. The mobile vending ordinance would include vehicles that are generally constantly moving, such as an ice cream truck. Then there is the downtown vending ordinance which allows certain streets and corners to be available to sell food like hot dogs, but this permits smaller vendors things like food stands. 

Food trucks operate differently as they generally are parked in one location for many hours. These require special land use which must consider things like electricity, aesthetic appeal and affect on local restaurants.

Local restaurants were considered in the food trucks discussion.

"The regulations attempt to strike a balance between bricks and mortars operations and allowing concession sales on private property," read Elizabeth Zeller.

"We're looking to add diversity. If there's a restaurant across selling yogurt, we wouldn't want to have a yogurt vehicle," explained Van Antwerp.

With the amount of space allocated, limited outdoor seating and trash pickup, there will be only two food trucks allowed at the same time. The GRAM has been discussing the possibility of What the Truck being one of these two. Van Antwerk assures that the process is open to any other food trucks as well.

One of these other food trucks could be Papa Joe's Southern BBQ. Joe Mitchum, who owns this food truck in Grandville, spoke in favor of allowing food trucks downtown.

"I think [my truck] would look beautiful in the city of Grand Rapids. I'd like to see other locations open up," said Mitchum. "I don't think there's anyone in this room that doesn't like Southern barbecue."

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