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As GR Makers plan second location at Pyramid, failure is an option

When the Steelcase Pyramid Campus research facility reopens in the fall, it will be a different kind of learning arena.
Though the architectural pyramid-shaped landmark was operated by Steelcase researchers from 1989 to 2009, the state-of-the-art model shop and testing labs will be made available to schools and businesses located at The Pyramid as well current members, thanks to the innovative GR Makers, which plans to occupy the space by fall.
“We’ve long said there are three pillars to GR Makers - entrepreneurship, creative expression and, of course, education, and those are the core of what we’re about,” says GR Makers Vice President Samuel Bowles. “Education is something we’re very committed to and when we saw an opportunity to extend our reach and help more people, we thought that was an interesting opportunity, especially being so close to these kids.”
Currently, GR Makers operates an 8,500-square-foot open community lab space at 401 Hall Street in downtown Grand Rapids where they allow members access to a full prototyping studio, complete with tools like 3D printers, laser cutters, a CNC mill and other woodworking and power tools.
Bowles says learning through the physical act of building is an element of innovation often lost in our current public education system.
“One of the things we’re seeing in most schools is that shop classes disappeared, so kids aren’t afforded the opportunity to learn with their hands in the same way other generations have been able to,” Bowles says.
The move to The Pyramid Campus is consistent with some of GR Makers other programming, like the summer camp for neighborhood school children that teaches them the chemistry of cooking, tie-dye science and the Grand Rapids Public Museum-hosted GR Maker Fair, which Bowles says was one of the public museum’s most attended events of last year.
Bowles says with the new Pyramid Campus location, GR Makers expects to make over $1,000,000 worth of tools available to up to 6,000 additional students and members. He says his team there is currently meeting with area educators to learn how to better tune new programming and curriculum to the needs of the students.
“We’re already beginning the process of defining what some of that looks like, but we’re also very much looking to connect with many of the local educational institutions to shape that,” Bowles says. “We’ve started and we want their input to make sure that what we’re moving forward with will be the best fit.”
More than anything else, GR Makers facilities strive to bring back the notion that sometimes failure is the best option, because it gives both our students and ourselves a reason to think differently the second (or third) time around.
“I think that our educational system has moved more and more toward teaching kids facts and teaching kids theory and not getting them in contact with real materials and real problems that allow them to experience some of the real challenges they’re going to face once they leave school; because we’ve done that we’re depriving them of really important lessons, lessons on how to fail,” says Bowles.
“Failure in school is a really, really bad thing, it’s something that comes back on a test and if you don’t succeed and if you don’t do it right, you can’t move on,” he says. “But in the real world, failure is something that helps you move on and we know if we can get kids in contact with real material to try something, fail, learn from it, and try again, we’re giving them lessons that just aren’t taught in classrooms.”
For more information, visit www.grmakers.com.
Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Samuel Bowles/GR Makers

Vander Mill Ciders gets official green light to open production facility, taproom in Grand Rapids

With permits approved by the Grand Rapids Planning Commission last week to occupy a 52,000-square-foot former beer distribution facility and open a new taproom, the Spring Lake-based Vander Mill Ciders is looking to start production in the fall after a $4 million redevelopment of the Ball Avenue NE industrial site. 

The expansion would mark the cidery's first physical expansion out of Spring Lake and allow Vander Mill Ciders to quintuple production. With the Spring Lake facility topping out at 200,000 gallons of hard cider production last year, owner Paul Vander Heide says the new Grand Rapids facility will have enough equipment to produce 1 million gallons. 

"We'll be able to produce up to five times what we are now and then past that, even more considerable potential within that facility," Vander Heide says. "The way our brand has been growing over the past five years, we've struggled with space every single time we try to increase capacity, so certainly the opportunity is that we can stay focused on business and regular growth without having to constantly change our process and accommodate the lack of space that we've experienced."

Plans for Ball Avenue NE include a 4,300-square-foot restaurant in Grand Rapids with 24 ciders on tap and seating for 200 indoors, with room to accommodate 60 more people on an outdoor patio. 

While the Spring Lake restaurant and taproom at 14921 Cleveland St. will remain in operation, Vander Heide says most of the apple pressing and fermentation will move to the Grand Rapids facility with the exception of specialty ciders. 

"Grand Rapids is such a captive audience. We see a lot of tourism there already that finds its way out to Spring Lake because of people's awareness of our brand, not just outside of Grand Rapids and in Michigan, but out-of-state in Chicago, Indiana and Ohio," Vander Heide says, adding the presence of other popular West Michigan breweries like Founders, Brewery Vivant and New Holland also contributes to the optimistic forecast for Vander Mill Cider's Grand Rapids future. 

Visit Vander Mill Ciders on Facebook for updates on the new Grand Rapids location. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor 
Images courtesy of Jeff Hage/Green Frog Photography

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Developers, construction crews 'sign off' on final beam in $28M Hampton Inn Hotel & Suites

As Third Coast Development, construction crews and hotel operators scribe their signatures today on the final beam to be set in place for the $28 million Hampton Inn & Suites Hotel, the trio behind Third Coast says construction is still on track for the scheduled fall grand opening.
Third Coast Development and the project's partners at Mt. Pleasant-based Lodgco Management broke ground in May 2014 on the five-story, 143-room hotel, designed by Integrated Architecture and currently being built by crews from Pioneer Construction.
Located at 425 Dudley Place north of Michigan Street and east of College near the Women's Health Center, the new Hampton Inn & Suites Hotel boasts a 200-car, multi-level parking garage and an indoor pool/outdoor terrace overlooking Belknap-Lookout Hill to the west.
As part of Third Coast Development's larger new construction efforts in Mid Towne Village, Principal Dave Levitt says the new hotel is a keystone project in Medical Mile development efforts.
"It really sets the baseline for everything that's going around there," Levitt says. "Obviously it's the tallest building in that area and it's going to bring in a lot of daytime and nighttime traffic to the area as well as drive a lot of business with restaurants and dry cleaners and various other services like that."
The hotel, which will include both standard rooms and upgraded suites, will also offer guests free wireless Internet, complimentary hot breakfast, meeting rooms, and a fitness center.
"I think what's exciting about it is that it really does aim to establish the Michigan Street Corridor in a bigger way as a 'second place' in Grand Rapids," says Third Coast Development's Brad Rosely, drawing a comparison between Grand Rapids' potential future and big cities like New York City, Chicago, and Boston as places with strong downtown cores only made stronger with self-sustaining, characteristically interesting neighborhoods
"What I mean by that is, when you think about Grand Rapids, you think about downtown being the core," Rosely continues. "A lot of cities have a core downtown and suburbs, but it really begins to develop the city in a way that is interesting with a core downtown and then neighborhoods…When you start to see full-service capabilities in those neighborhoods like hotels and other office facilities, it sends a message that Grand Rapids is a collection of neighborhoods as well as a strong downtown."
The final beam and signing event is at 11 a.m. today on the site of the future Hampton Inn Hotel & Suites, located at 425 Dudley Place NE. Details on the grand opening of the Hampton Inn Hotel & Suites will be announced closer to completion this fall.

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Clark Communications

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EGR offers plan to improve street, sidewalk safety on May 5 ballot

When East Grand Rapids voters go to the polls in May, they will be given the option to approve a 10-year dedicated street and sidewalk millage of up to 2.0 mills.   

Following a Citizen Task Force recommendation that the city of East Grand Rapids seek a 10-year, 2.0 mill dedicated street and sidewalk millage, East Grand Rapids City Commissioners voted unanimously Monday night in favor of putting the millage request on the May 5 ballot, tying it to the state's proposal to raise Michigan sales tax. 

Since this proposal is tied to the state's proposal to raise Michigan sales tax, if the two proposals pass, the city will collect 1.23 mill and 2.0 mills if it fails. If approved, the state proposal would provide less than 1.0 mill of additional revenue. 

Basically, if a 2.0 dedicated street millage passes in May, it will generate approximately $1,170,000 annually for improvements, with an additional $125,000 in road and sidewalk funding depending on the approval of the state proposal.

"This decline would affect safety and aesthetics," said East Grand Rapids Mayor Anna Seidbold in a press release following the Monday night commission meeting. "Poor road conditions can lead to depressed home values, unsafe driving conditions and damage to other city resources and infrastructure. If we don't act now, we will only get further behind on these much-needed repairs." 

Seidbold says it's the safety and navigability of not only the roads, but also the sidewalks that hang in the balance: "The very first thing people say about East Grand Rapids is that we're a walking community, and without being able to keep our sidewalks in walking condition, we don't want there to be safety hazards for the many, many people using our sidewalks."

In a study conducted by the Grand Valley Metro Council, the streets in East Grand Rapids received an average rating of "fair" on the council's Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating scale in 2013, and conditions have only worsened after last year's winter and continue to deteriorate currently. At current funding levels, it would take 70 years to resurface all of the local roads in East Grand Rapids.

East Grand Rapids commissioners say road funding from the state of Michigan has not accounted for the rising costs of asphalt, concrete, salt and other construction expenses, projecting that if the imbalance continues, 95 percent of the city streets will be rated in poor condition – an average rating of 2.3 on the Grand Valley Metro Council's PASER scale – by 2025. 

"I think one of the most important things is that we had a citizens group look at this and anyone was allowed to join it," Seibold says. "We gave them facts and figures, they asked for more and we gave them more facts and figures, but the overwhelming majority of the citizens group was, after the analysis, that we needed to go out for these 2 mills. So, it was a group of citizens that recommended this and it's nice to have that back up."

Seibold says road conditions rank among the top concerns she hears from East Grand Rapids voters, adding that over the next four months, the city commission with "work to ensure all residents have the details they need to make an informed decision in the ballot box." 

"I'm hoping that it will (pass)," she says. "I don't have any statistics, I don't know, we'll see but that's the great thing is that the voters get to decide. I just know that I get many, many calls and concerns and complaints from people wanting our roads to be in better conditions and as mayor, it's my job to look at how we can meet those needs. With our current funding, we can't, and we have to be realistic about that." 

Click here for more information on the proposal or links to supporting documents such as the citizens group findings, budget breakdown and millage proposal fact sheet.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor

New owners seek out tech-driven talent to fill remaining space in revamped West Side landmark

New owners seek out tech-driven talent to fill remaining space in revamped West Side landmark
Property manager Energetix Properties, LLC is making its first foray into commercial office real estate with the purchase of the historic, Civil-War-era John Widdicomb Building at 601 Fifth St. NW -- and looking for fresh, new talent to fill the remaining 30,000 square feet of the new commercial office space.
"It’s a true loft building with a long history in the area," says Colliers International West Michgian's Jason Webb. "…Bob Israels did a great job transforming it from its former use to show room and there are already executive offices up there, but we’ll be using it for a multi-tenant space."
He says the other 32,000 square feet is already spoken for, and though he did say the updated fixtures, exposed brick and open loft ceilings on the fifth floor will be home to digital marketing firm Mindscape, owned by Grand Rapids native Pete Brand. 

Former owner and furniture retailer Bob Israels invested $11 million in the mid-19th century building about a decade ago to convert the 65,000-square-foot space into a high-end showroom, but defaulted to Fifth Third Bank.
Owner and operator of several industrial facilities in Grand Rapids, Energetix Properties then purchased the building for $1.7 million last year with plans to spend an additional $1.5 million on converting the showroom into usable office space.
Located on the northwest corner of Seward Avenue and Fifth Street, Webb says renovation plans will include the demolition of a two-story addition on the north end of the property for additional surface parking on site. The fifth floor executive office includes six private offices, eight workstations, one conference room, and an executive washroom with shower and access to a patio with a three-season porch boasting panoramic views.
"It’s a loft building with exposed beams and washed brick, so renovations will absolutely still keep the character of the building intact," Webb says. "It's just taking the space from a showroom to a multi-tenant office space. Some of the fixtures there worked well for the building when it was a showroom, but now they’re being converted to something that lends itself more to that office space use, but we are keeping the character of the building - that’s what people are looking for."
Written by Anya Zentmeyer
Images courtesy of Colliers International

Orion reworks plans for two new development projects in 2015 after council feedback

After presenting its initial plans to the East Hills Council of Neighbors meeting last Tuesday, Orion Real Estate Solutions (ORES) - part of the larger Orion Construction Co. - is reworking plans for a proposed development at 1059 Wealthy St. SE.
Plans for the site would include demolition of the existing structure and the addition of 24,000 square feet of new construction along Wealthy St. SE -- two new structures by ORES and another by the building owner and partner on the project, Green Cane Properties.
At 8,00 square feet each, ORES is working with Concept Design to create the designs for a pair of two-story, multi-family apartment buildings while Green Cane Properties is charged with construction on a new, three-story, 7,000-square-foot building with its first floor dedicated to retail, its second to commercial office use and its third to seven new apartment units. 
Representatives from ORES, Concept Design and Green Cane Properties presented initial plans to East Hills Council of Neighbors last Tuesday, and Orion Construction PR Coordinator Jason Wheeler says ORES and its partners are tweaking existing project plans to accommodate some of the feedback they received.
"The feedback was valuable and the team is evolving the design to meet neighborhood considerations," Wheeler says. "We look forward to delivering an updated design to the neighborhood council next month that reflects their feedback to the initial concept.”
New designs will be presented to the EHCN on Feb. 2. and if approved, construction would begin in the summer and wrap up in the spring of 2016.
Wheeler said ORES is pursing brownfield and state incentives for new construction at 1059 Wealthy Street, as well as for another new development the construction company has early plans for called One Carlton. Located near Aquinas College, construction on that 55,000-square-foot, 44-unit apartment complex would total around $7.4 million.
Plans for the lot at 1 Carlton Avenue include splitting the 7,000 square feet of ground floor between a retail and restaurant space while floors two through four would become 44 one- or two-bedroom apartments. Wheeler says this space will also have about 78 on-site parking spaces. 
Wheeler says One Carlton is still in its very earliest stages of development, but can confirm ORES has entered a purchase agreement with F & C Building Co., which owns the property, and is seeking to close sometime next month before submitting any formal proposals or renderings to the EHCN.
One Carlton is slated for the same summer start date and would wrap up the following summer in 2016.
Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Green Cane Properties

Jake's Barber Salon mixes old-fashioned feel with modern services in Madison Square

When Shannon Sawyer opened his Madison Square storefront in November, he knew he wanted it to be much more than just a barbershop and salon. 

At 1151 Madison SE, Sawyer opened Jake’s Barber Salon in the same neighborhood he was raised in, and decorated the walls with framed photos of famous boxers – a tribute to his first love and former profession. 

“I’m an ex-fighter myself; I fought pro in the ‘80s and I train fighters amateur boxing for The Golden Gloves,” says Sawyer, who, in the midst of a year-long hiatus from his other day job, hopes to get back into training within the next six months to a year once Jake’s Barber Salon has settled into the new digs. 

At 1,000 square feet, Jake’s Barber Salon mixes the old-fashioned feel of a classic barbershop with a modern service roster. Sawyer handles the standard haircuts – $10 for kids and $13 for adults – and $20 hot towel shaves while the salon’s cosmetologist brings more contemporary styling to the mix, armed with the skill set to give customers trendier looks above the standard trim and shave. 

“I was fortunate for the barber salon to happen,” Sawyer says. “I met with an old friend, Dave Allen, and he had a place that had two store fronts and one was available, and it was just by chance that it happened. It was a blessing.”

Sawyer worked with Allen in the past to rent space for the Grand Rapids-area coffee house he used to run and says he’s excited for the opportunity to bring new business to the neighborhood where he was raised. 

“I’m familiar with the neighborhood and the people are familiar with me,” Sawyer says. ‘“It’s just like being home, opening up a business in your community that you’re from, where you hope to see the younger generation see what you're doing and want to do something, too.” 

And though Jake’s Barber Salon is exactly what its name promises it will be, Sawyer sees so much more potential within its four, modest walls and has the heart to rise to the occasion.   

“I want to try to be that meeting area, where people say, ‘We can go to Jake’s Barber Salon and he might know where to go to get free health insurance,’ or ‘Go to Jake’s Barber Salon if you need help with food or clothing or need something fixed in your home,’” Sawyer says. “Carpenters, doctors, lawyers - everybody comes to a barber shop - so if someone offers their services at a lower cost or for free, I would know about it and be able to connect those people together. That’s what I want; I want to be able to do that for the people in our community.”

Visit Jake’s Barber Salon on Facebook for more information and updates. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor 
Images courtesy of Shannon Sawyer 

New Vintage Place brings urban industrial charm to old West Side smokestack building

When 889 Broadway Avenue reopens as New Vintage Place in March, it will look much different than it has for the past decade. 

The 15,000-square-foot space is adjacent to American Seating Park's Off-Broadway Apartment Complex, and aside from its most recent occupant, Club Sixx, has played host to a handful of other failed nightclubs in the past. 

However, as Pioneer Construction, Co. wraps up renovations over the next month, the building's interior will be all grown up – transformed into a three-story banquet hall, complete with a full second-floor build out and seating for 400 people. 

"Having two distinct, expansive, column-free hall spaces hosted downtown offers a real cool historic feel," says Project Manager Chris Beckering, who is vice president for strategic business operations at Pioneer Construction Co. 

The high ceilings, big windows, exposed brick and steel columns work together to create a genuine urban feel with the benefit of nearly unlimited free, on-site parking, Beckering says, adding that keeping the architectural integrity of the existing building was important in the renovations. 

"We initially worked with the footprint of the existing building, I think this building is an architectural landmark and we want to preserve the architectural integrity of it, but also make it far more accessible and improve the flow for events," he says.  

West Michigan Caterer will be the exclusive caterers for New Vintage Place and West Michigan Caterer President Bob Johnson says the restored historic venue’s central location off expressways, outdoor amphitheater and ample free parking on site are just a few of the features that make the space an exciting new addition for his business.  

“I think it’s a very cool building, it’s actually ah historic buildings so the fact it’s being restored to its natural beauty is just amazing,” Johnson says. “It was actually the power center for the entire American Seating Park when it was originally built, so it’s got a really cool history to it and it’s going to be just an amazing space.” 

Johnson says his team is setting up the state-of-the-art audio visual system now, and plans to open New Vintage Place by March 15. 

“The sky is the limit, anything is possible,” he says. “You bring us an event or an idea and we will make it happen.” 

To learn more about hosting your event at New Vintage Place, call (616) 459-8150 or visit West Michigan Caterer’s website or Facebook page.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Pioneer Construction, Co. 

New DGRI parklet plans give KCAD grad students real-world architectural design experience

Organizers with Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. are working with graduate students from Kendall College of Art and Design's new Master of Architecture program to design a new parklet outside of DGRI's downtown Grand Rapids offices at 21 Pearl Street. 

Tim Kelly is DGRI's planning manager, and he says the idea to use the parklet project as a real world learning experience for KCAD graduate students was the brainchild of DGRI Director Kris Larson and KCAD's Master of Architectures Program Director Brian Craig. 

"It seemed like a natural fit in terms of scale and real world applicability -- something they could design and build that could meet up with their school schedule," Kelly says. 

Students spent the first semester designing the parklet, and will spend next semester working out cost estimations and building details. Kelly says he's met with KCAD's architectural grad students a handful of times throughout the process to give them an overview of the parklet program, and other local architectural firms have come in to help review designs, give feedback on new ideas and answer questions about the process. 

"We try to give them as close to real world experience as we can and treat them like a normal contractor or client," says Kelly. "There’s always that component of wanting to give them the learning experience, too, so we might give a little bit more direction in terms of the process and the best way to go through design or development phases, groups you need to make sure you're talking to." 
The DGRI parklet will be different from past parklet projects by Barfly Ventures, both in its modern, almost abstract aesthetics and in regards to its public accessibility. In other words, you don't have to be a patron to use the parklet's seating or space. 

"I think, really, when the parklet program started we really wanted to explore some interesting and creative uses for those spaces that were formerly just for automobiles," Kelly says. "I think this speaks to the intent of the program. We love the parklets Barfly did and they’re pioneers in terms of getting them installed and available for people to use, but the students recognize that there is an opportunity for creativity and making things that are aesthetically pleasing for those walking by and those able to sit in and use them." 

Costs of the parklet and construction details will be hashed out by KCAD students over coming months, with construction slated to start in April near the close of the spring semester, which is also the beginning of the city's build season. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images Courtesy of Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc./Kendall College of Art & Design 

Creative Many moves HQ to TechTown Detroit, sets sights on Grand Rapids for 2015

On the heels of its announcement confirming the relocation of its organizational headquarters from Wixom, Mich. to TechTown Detroit this week, CEO Jennifer Goulet of Creative Many Michigan says the nonprofit is looking eagerly toward Grand Rapids in 2015 for a new satellite campus. 

The organization, formerly ArtServe Michigan, is a statewide economic development organization "focused on the mission to develop creative people, creative places and the creative economy for a competitive Michigan," and although there are no formal plans set in motion to establish a Grand Rapids satellite campus, Goulet says it is a top priority for the organization's board of directors in 2015. 

"First and foremost, the Grand Rapids region is one of the top leading communities in terms of the extent and presence of cultural institutions – individual artists as well as individuals and businesses in the creative and design industries," Goulet says. "The creative sector is alive and thriving in Grand Rapids, and in order for us to be really strategic about where we have a presence on the ground, it's an important thing to consider." 

Though Creative Many doesn't have offices in Grand Rapids yet, Goulet says they have been getting to know the city's creative community through programmatic activities in past years, including professional practice seminars, summits and dialogue networking events through programs that include the new Lawyers for the Creative Economy Initiative, which provides pro-bono and low cost legal resources to artists and creative businesses.

“We've already been on the ground and excited about the prospect of having a physical presence in the Grand Rapids community,” she says, adding that she hopes to garner more support in the coming months from the existing creative community in Grand Rapids to help in making Creative Many Grand Rapids a reality. 

Goulet says the organization sees Grand Rapids as second only to Detroit as being one of Michigan's key hubs for the arts, creative and design industries.

"We really have been focusing our work in the key hubs for the arts and for the creative and design industries statewide," she says. "Detroit clearly is one of those regions and Grand Rapids would have the second lead on that." 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images Courtesy of Sarah Nesbitt 

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Pigeon Hill Brewing plans $1M expansion project for 10,000-sq-ft Muskegon space

Though Pigeon Hill Brewing Co. is only as far as a signed purchase agreement on the downtown Muskegon building at 441 W. Western Avenue, Co-Owner Joel Kamp says locking in the new space was just an early opportunity at implementing a $1 million, multi-phase expansion plan by the freshman craft brewery. 

Currently located nearby at the 2,500-square-foot storefront at 500 W. Western Avenue, Kamp says he doesn't expect any kind of real production to begin in the new space for at least a year. However, at 10,000 square feet, Kamp says 441 W. Western Avenue accommodates a much larger brewing system and plans for upgraded equipment that, in its first year, will allow Pigeon Hill to quadruple production volume and eventually produce 10 times what they do now, with the intention to start hiking up its distribution capabilities. 

"When we get into this space we won’t be fully utilizing all 10,000 square feet," Kamp says. "It allows us to grow within that. Once we get in there, we’ll be able to add fermenter by fermenter by fermenter." 

Kamp says he and co-owner Chad Doane, who opened Pigeon Hill less than a year ago along with third business partner Michael Brower, always knew they wanted to expand eventually, but didn't think they would have the budget to pull it off so soon. But thanks to his CPA background, Kamp says he was able to crunch the numbers right and secure financing on the space much earlier than expected, but is still waiting on a few permitting and inspection green lights before singing anything official.  

"What we wanted to do was announce this expansion publicly so we could go to the city and start working on development incentives," he says. "We should be able to close on this thing next month."

Kamp says they considered moving operations to an industrial park outside of Muskegon, but a combination of confidence and opportunity make staying downtown a better choice for Pigeon Hill and downtown Muskegon, allowing them to draw in more foot traffic as well as have more creative control over a building they own instead of lease. 

"To be able to package in the retail area with the production area all under one roof would really help bring people downtown," Kamp says. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images Courtesy of Pigeon Hill Brewing Co.  

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MSU's new biomedical research center plans unveiled

East Lansing - After years of speculation and anticipation in the downtown community, Michigan State University's Board of Trustees today approved the next step in furthering MSU's College of Human Medicine's presence in downtown Grand Rapids, with the demolition of the old Press building and the addition of a new biomedical research center at the corner of Monroe Avenue and Michigan Street. The new five story Grand Rapids Biomedical Research Building will anchor the corner, with the remainder of the site being offered to public/private partner-developers for possible additional residential, commercial and retail opportunities.

After the medical school opened their new headquarters in the MSU Secchia Center on the Medical Mile in 2010, they have been working to expand their offerings in the Grand Rapids area, as well as ramp up life sciences research in the region. In 2012, MSU purchased 7.85 acres of land in downtown Grand Rapids and the Monroe North area, previously owned by The Grand Rapids Press. The university had not made a final decision as to the fate of the 173,000 square foot Press building until today.

"Demolition allows MSU to build a facility that best achieves the goals inherent in biomedical research that requires high tech laboratories and allows for the site to have maximum flexibility for future development" said Vennie Gore, MSU Vice President for Auxiliary Entrerprises.

Preliminary plans call for space for 36 principal investigator teams, 146,500 gross square feet, five stories, with the Press building demolition commencement beginning in March 2015 and completion of the research center in 2017. A planned second phase could include 12 more principal investigator teams. The Grand Rapids Medical Research Building will allow the CHM to advance its trajectory of NIH-funded research growth.

MSU is still investigating the build out of the remainder of the site with several public/private (p3) partnerships being pursued. According to Vennie Gore, finalized plans and renderings will be unveiled at February's Board of Trustees meeting.

Jeff Hill is the Publisher of Rapid Growth Media

Studio Blue brings multi-use work, retail and showroom space to heart of Grand Rapids

Earlier this week, Interphase Interiors announced plans to open a new multi-use space called Studio Blue in the first quarter of 20015 at 35 Oakes Street SW. 

Studio Blue will serve as a meeting and workspace for Interphase Interior employees as well as a showroom for customers and a collaboration space for partner interior designers and architects. 

The 1,600-square-foot space will be managed by developers at Rockford Construction Co. and owned by Haworth, Inc., with interior design by Interphase Interiors and structural design by GMB Architecture. The urban-industrial interior is met with custom woodwork designed around the building's original 1914 tilting, with modern furniture created by Haworth designers from around the globe.

The space will also come equipped with Haworth's collaborative technology solution, work ware, which Interphase spokesperson Adam Russo describes as a "technology solution that allows an unlimited number of users to wirelessly share their computer screens to a monitor."

Additionally, the technology's quad view feature allows up to four users to wirelessly share their screens at the same time. 

"We are excited to be a part of the downtown Grand Rapids creative community," says Interphase Interiors President Randy DeBoer. "With Blue35 being a  joint-venture between Rockford Development and Haworth, Studio Blue will give us a presence in a building with eight floors of Haworth product for showroom purposes plus member access to meting rooms, bluescape technology and shared collaborative workspaces." 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Studio Blue 

Brown Paper Package opens interior rehab storefront in Creston neighborhood

The mother-daughter team behind Brown Paper Package started their interior design business in the vendor-based antique shop Changing Times in Grandville back in 2012. Two years later, the pair took the leap and celebrated the grand opening of their new location at 1503 Plainfield NE on Dec. 6 under the motto, "Limited edition is not perfect!"
"We really try to find that unique item and make it one of a kind and price it so that it's affordable and not crazy expensive," says Alyssa Price, who co-owns the store with her mother, Holly Grondman.
Price says a while back, she and Grondman purchased an entire storage unit full of antiques ripe for refurbishing, but after pricing out storage units and storefronts, they fell in love with the latter, and were able to open a workspace and retail space for the same price as a storage unit in the Creston neighborhood.
"We actually had fallen in love with that spot awhile ago," says Price, who added that they jumped on the 1,200-square-foot storefront after finally getting the rental price down to fall within their budget. "We really got excited because we know that area is really coming up and we would just like to see something on that side of town. It wasn't necessarily the place for foot traffic, but it's more the area coming up and we would like to be somewhere where there isn't a hundred other places to compete with."
When it comes to their products, Price says they've got a little bit of everything.
"We've got the things that are typical classic antiques all of the way to the more contemporary, modern pieces," she says. "We have industrial, we have the really shabby chic stuff, we've got some bohemian stuff. So, it's definitely eclectic, I would think."
For more information, visit Brown Paper Package on Facebook.
Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Brown Paper Package 

Franklin Partners plan 16th redevelopment project at 1340 Monroe Avenue NW

Don Shoemaker, managing partner at Franklin Partners, says the firm found the seven-acre, 375,000-square-foot building at 1340 Monroe Avenue NW the same way most of us find anything in 2014 – a Google search. 

"We actually found that building looking on Google at downtown Grand Rapids, thinking, where is a big enough site with a big enough building that we could do something that would really be a draw, where we could really create this whole environment within the site, and that's how our conversation started," says Shoemaker. 

Alongside Concept Design, Franklin Partners toured other buildings in Chicago – more high-tech-focused spaces typically seen in bigger cities like New York and San Francisco – to get ideas for the new space, and although plans aren't finalized enough to release publically, he says the new space at 1340 Monroe Avenue NW will be modeled after those kinds of contemporary, high-tech spaces. 

Shoemaker says right now, Franklin Partners is reaching out to a couple of different local groups and a couple of places not currently in the Grand Rapids market to gauge interest in late December or early next year before making any final decisions on how the space will be used. 

"Depending on how much interest we get in that direction, we'll kind of decide whether we'll go with a commercial office use or whether we'll go with a residential use, but it's unlikely we'll go with a mixed-use," he says. 

What he does know is that 75,000 square feet of the building will be demolished to make room for the high-end amenities Franklin Partners has earned its reputation by, leaving 300,000 square-feet of the five-story building left for redevelopment. 

"Really, the thing that we've done with 99 Monroe and we're doing with 25 Ottawa…all of them have the similarity that we build high-end amenities. We have good food service options; we have nice, high-quality fitness centers and conference spaces," Shoemaker says. "We really like to study what the amenity packages are that we can bring to buildings." 

Shoemaker says the group hopes to have plans finalized by the first quarter of 2015, start redevelopment by the second quarter of 2015 and have the space ready for use by early 2016. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Franklin Partners, LLC 
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