GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Food trucks, those controversial purveyors of gourmet street fare, are poised for a return to the city center after a yearlong absence.

Rightous Cuisine Food Truck

Righteous Cuisine, a Lakeshore-based food truck owned by Nicholas Mika and Matt Varley, is expected to be at Rosa Parks Circle for ArtPrize 2013. (Courtesy Photo | Matt Varley)

On Thursday, city planners will consider a request by the Grand Rapids Art Museum to host food trucks on its Wege Plaza property next to Rosa Parks Circle, where a pair of local trucks were stationed last year for ArtPrize.

While the public hearing comes just in time for ArtPrize 2013, the approval would allow the museum to host food trucks up to 200 days annually, effectively giving them solid footing in the center of downtown for much of the year.

“We like the variety,” said Randy Van Antwerp, deputy director at the museum. “The food they bring is food that is not normally available downtown. It can be picked up quick. People can grab it and go.”

The development is the latest in Michigan’s growing embrace of food trucks. In the past few years, trucks selling everything from tacos to squash tarts have appeared in cities like Detroit, Kalamazoo and Traverse City, the latter of which is home to a bar with a dedicated food truck court and some of the most truck-friendly rules in the state.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation even got behind the trend this year by awarding $77,775 in grants to help launch or expand eight food trucks throughout the state.

In Grand Rapids, the museum’s request is the first by a private landowner downtown since the city amended the zoning rules in June 2012 to allow food trucks on private property in the downtown district boundaries for extended periods of time.

Planners at the time chose the “lowest hanging fruit” to facilitate food trucks downtown by opening up private land to the mobile kitchens rather than trying to untangle the various ordinances that prohibit them on public land and streets, said Suzanne Schulz, city planning director.

“We tried to strike a balance,” she said. ”It’s not perfect, but we thought it was a reasonable compromise.”

Find the entire article by Garret Ellison at <here>