GRAND RAPIDS, MI-A proposal to replace a former orchard with an open-air mall is moving forward. The city’s planning commission has approved a zoning change that could transform the northeast corner of Knapp Street and East Beltline from orchards to a lifestyle center, complete with retail shops, two anchor stores and seven restaurants, said developer Steve Benner of locally based Evergreen Properties.

If approved, the 32-acre site would be known as the Village at Knapp’s Crossing, Benner said. The project next moves to the city commission for a vote on the zoning change. It’s anticipated that a major storm-water pond that serves the area would need to be relocated across the city border to Grand Rapids Township in order to secure approval, but that the move could be accommodated. The planning commission suggested the 355,820-sf development be trimmed to 300,000 sf, but approved the project overall.

“It’s the right project for the city,” Benner says. “It will be open-air, inviting.” The development would be directly across from Celebration Cinema. Plans call for the two to be connected by a road across the Beltline. Benner promised “high-end” stores, but he could not disclose specific tenant names.

City officials said a similar project just to the north at Three Mile Road and the East Beltline has been proposed by a Detroit-area developer, but that project has not been formalized. Grand Rapids Township recently passed an ordinance that could accommodate it, though “nobody has applied for anything,” supervisor Mike DeVries says. “Whether both of them get built, I have no idea,” he says.

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