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Swedish tech company Configura expands into GRís Blue35 building with high-tech digs

Along with utilizing the company’s CET Design software to streamline space planning and product ordering, Configura interior designer is also holding what she calls “design charrettes” with employees — all in an effort to help create a maximally inclusive work environment for the Swedish tech company’s new digs in downtown Grand Rapids Blue35 building.

A West Michigan native, Steinhaus is drawing on her past experience overseeing the design of Configura’s corporate headquarters in Linköping, and is designing both the 12,000-square-foot space and planned rooftop terrace to accommodate large groups of visitors from the company’s Sweden headquarters and Malaysia offices, as well as those visit for CET Designer software training sessions.

“It’s about creating spaces that attract and retain the best of the best,” Steinhaus says. “Working in Grand Rapids is just as cool as working in Silicon Valley or anywhere in the world.”

Along with workspaces, the two-story office space will feature a large open kitchen area, a dining and recreation space, and “plenty of soft seating,” with a rooftop terrace available for everything from entertaining guests to a relaxation spot for Configura employees.

Created by Rockford Construction as a flexible work environment for modern-age businesses, the 103-year-old building at 35 Oakes St. SW is a fitting place for Swedish tech company Configura’s latest expansion into the Grand Rapids market, says Rockford’s managing partner of real estate development, Mike Mraz.

“Blue35 was created as an innovative environment to meet the ever-changing needs of businesses, right in the heart of our city,” Mraz says. “Welcoming Configura to the building speaks to the flexibility the space offers, and the continued desire for companies to be located in downtown Grand Rapids. This is a perfect addition to Blue35, and a great fit for Configura.”

Leasing two floors at a total of 12,000 square feet, Configura’s new office space is just one fixture in the eight-story Blue35 building, whose remaining six floors are outfitted with rentable private offices, co-working spaces, or other meeting and event rooms.

“To say we’re thrilled to be investing in Grand Rapids and our team for a strong future ahead is an understatement,” says Configura CEO Johan Lyreborn. “Grand Rapids is our second home – we love being here.”

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Configura/Rockford Construction

New $53 million Brix at Midtown opens leasing for 287-unit Medical Mile apartments

Although it may be managed by Georgia-based real estate company RISE, The Brix at Midtown wants to try and keep things as local as possible to create a community in its new 287-unit apartment complex, located at 414 Benson Ave. NE on the corner of Michigan Street and Benson Avenue.

General Manager Angela Brookins says at The Brix’s new 627 Michigan St. leasing office, even the snacks and coffee are purchased from Grand Rapids retailers, like Ferris Nut Coffee & Nut.

“We really, really want to be a neighborhood — that’s a huge priority to us, being that we’re (based) out of Georgia,” says Brookings, who herself from the Grand Rapids area worked with RISE to bring in Grand Rapids-based Wolverine Building Group as project leads for construction and made a conscious effort to pay homage to Midtown’s history in the naming of the complex.

“It’s really important to us to be Grand Rapids based and use Grand Rapids products,” she says. “It ties back to the naming of The Brix and paying homage to Midtown’s history in the early 1900s.”

Taken from the word “brickyatt,” meaning brickyard in Dutch, The Brix is a nod to some of the Medical Mile’s residents at the turn of the 20th century — members of the Polish and Dutch communities who worked together to build up industry in what was then a still budding downtown center, which relied heavily upon the community’s brickyards to support growing demand for clay in the early 1900s.

With more floor plans to choose from than you even knew could exist in one place (28, to be exact) across a total of 287 one-, two-, and three-bedroom units, Brookings says apartments at The Brix afford individual tenants a little bit of customization, using smart design to utilize every inch of square footage in a way that makes sense from a practical standpoint.

“We have a one bedroom that actually has it where you come in and you have your living room, which flows into kitchen — it’s very open concept — and has a half-bath downstairs, but then at the back of the space, there’s a spiral staircase which leads to an upstairs loft with a full-size closet and a full bathroom,” she says.

However, regardless of floor plan, each unit at The Brix features private balcony access, grant counter tops, stainless steel appliances, a full size washer and dyer, and luxury designer cabinets and vinyl plank flooring.

Outside of each unit, list goes on with a roster of community amenities that include things like a gated off-street parking deck, a two-story fitness area and yoga studio, an indoor golf simulator, pet park and wash area, heated outdoor pool, bike storage and repair area, community fire pit, and a centrally located outdoor courtyard with a 6,000 square-feet of green space among them.

“Our amenities are going to be a big deal,” says Brookings, who thinks the emphasis on shared space is fitting for The Brix at Midtown’s larger mission of creating a real feeling of community in the downtown Grand Rapids neighborhood.

“We really want to be a part of Midtown…when you talk about Grand Rapids, you know where Eastown is, you know where Heritage Hill is, where the West Side is, downtown — I think Midtown is just an undiscovered neighborhood with a lot of potential,” she says.

To check out available floor plans or find more information on leasing, email live@thebrixatmidtown.com or visit The Brix at Midtown online.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of The Brix at Midtown/RISE

Out with the old, in with the new: Muskegon's Plumbs Market to reopen as Great Lakes Fresh Market

Closing its doors and selling its assets to Menominee-based L.M. Foods early last month, the new owners of the longtime local grocer Plumb Market in downtown Muskegon announced plans to reopen the 80-year-old store as Great Lakes Fresh Market following a revamp of the space at 1680 Apple Avenue.

“We are excited to bring the Great Lakes Fresh Market concept to the area,” L.M. Foods President Dan Gentz says in a statement last week.

Plumb’s other two locations in North Muskegon and Whitehall are also being operated by new owners at L.M. Foods, each store upgraded with improvements like state-of-the-art meat cases for maximum freshness and a wider selection of meat, a bakery, a deli, and produce offerings to keep up with modern grocery trends.

In downtown Muskegon, the renovated Great Lakes Fresh Market space will feature the same wider selection of meat, bakery, deli and produce items, but include additional upgrades that range from more organic and specialty wine options to an overhaul of its interior decor.

Named for the store’s new primary distributors, Great Lakes Foods, Gentz also says the new Great Lakes Fresh Market will hire a customer service specialist for good measure.

“As a customer, you can expect not only high quality produce, bakery, deli, and meat cut fresh in-store, but also the highest level customer service,” he says. “ A customer service specialist is being hired to ensure our patrons are taken care of. We want to be considered leaders in our community, so you can expect a high level of community involvement as well.”

Many of the Plumb Market employees were retained in the transition to Great Lakes Fresh Market, which is now in the process of training staff members in the delivery of consistent customer service — something the company considers as an often overlooked key factor to success as a small-town grocer.

“It was important to us to take care of the folks who have been with Plumb’s and who have been loyal to this community,” L.M. Foods owner Tom Kuber says. “Everyone has maintained their seniority, wages, and benefits. They’ve worked hard, they’ve been through a lot, and we’re happy to have them as part of the Great Lakes Fresh Market team.”

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Great Lakes Fresh Market

Beer geeks, unite! Craft Beer Cellar aims to be a haven for unique brews in Grand Rapids

Not long before Jessica Beeby and her husband, Brian Beaucher, the owners of the newly opened Craft Beer Cellar Grand Rapids on Ionia Avenue, bid adieu to their home on the East Coast to return to Michigan, they were wondering what they were going to do for work once they were back in the Mitten State.

Both beer enthusiasts -- or, really, beer geeks, as they call themselves -- the couple knew they’d love to work together and merge their career experiences: Beaucher had been a small business owner and Beeby’s background is in administrative support. So, they took their business know-how and turned to their love of brews.

“We’d known the owners of the Craft Beer Cellar flagship store in Massachusetts for a long time, and our beer knowledge had expanded exponentially because of them, so we approached them about opening a franchise in Grand Rapids,” says Beeby, who was born and raised in Kalamazoo. “We spent a couple months training with them before we moved to Michigan. We moved here and found a space we loved.”

That space is at 404 Ionia Ave. SW, in the Klingman Lofts Building that's just across from the Downtown Market, where Beeby and Beaucher are celebrating the bottle store’s grand opening this Friday, March 17 and Saturday, March 18.

“When we were first thinking of moving to Grand Rapids, one of the first places we visited was the Downtown Market, and we immediately fell in love with it,” Beeby says. "We love that part of the city, and we’re so excited to be down here.”

The store, which employs eight full- and part-time employees, has been open to the public throughout this week, giving Beeby and Beaucher a chance to get feedback before the big debut at the end of the week. This week, they’ll mark the grand opening with a ribbon cutting and craft beer tastings from such spots as Speciation Ales and Vander Mill on Friday, and more craft beer tastings -- from Brewery Vivant, Saugatuck Brewing and others -- donuts from the Grand Rapids-based Doughrunts, raffles, and WGRD broadcasting live on Saturday.

And, of course, beer drinkers will get a chance to explore the shop, where there’s a seating area in which to drink and eat (there are locally-made snacks in house, and patrons are invited to bring in food from the Downtown Market or other nearby shops). Plus, a section of the store features a walk-in cooler (you can buy a bottle or can from there and drink it in the store), as well as rows upon rows of craft beer. At the bar, there are 20 rotating draft lines from around the globe -- and from our own backyard.

“The draft lines allow us to bring in breweries that are not canning or bottling yet,” Beeby says. “We can feature people who are pretty new and not in full distribution yet. That helps them because they can test out beers they’re making and gauge how well the public is reacting to them so hopefully one day they can do bottling or canning.”

In addition to being able to support local and independent brewers, Beeby and Beaucher say they’re thrilled to contribute to the city’s growing beer community.

“It’s really exciting,” Beeby says of the opening. “The beer industry is amazing, especially here in Grand Rapids. Everyone is so collaborative. It’s so exciting to see people want to work together and truly live up to the ‘Beer City’ name.”

Craft Beer Cellar Grand Rapids (404 Ionia Ave. SW) will celebrate its grand opening from 12pm to 8pm on Friday, March 17 and the same time on Saturday, March 18. Normal business hours will be 10am to 10pm Monday through Saturday and 11am to 7pm Sunday. For more information, you can check out the shop’s Facebook page.

Photos courtesy of Steph Harding

Downtown Muskegonís 321 Go! utilizes pitch competition to incentivize new downtown retail

Since the closing and demolition of the Muskegon Mall over 15 years ago, the downtown business community along the Muskegon lakeshore has focused on the slow and steady revitalization of new businesses and retail in the formerly titled Third Street Business District, now referred to more simply as Midtown.

Executive Director David Alexander of the downtown business improvement district, Downtown Muskegon Now, says bringing in new retailers is the last piece of the live-work-play puzzle that has picked up speed along the lakeshore over the past few years thanks to larger collaborative initiatives between the city, its chamber of commerce, and other local economic developers and community organizations.

“We want to build a diverse downtown that is dynamic; one that has a live, work, play environment for all kinds of talent looking for a staying place, and retail is really just the last of those segments that we need to start rebuilding,” says Alexander, who recently announced the launch of a new pitch competition called 321 Go!, developed in partnership by Downtown Muskegon Now, the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, and Grand Valley State University’s Muskegon Innovation Hub.

“The GVSU Muskegon Innovation Hub has very much wanted and is wanting to get involved with new business development, and to encourage its entrepreneurial class and be a strong partner to Downtown Muskegon and revitalization on the downtown waterfront and nobody has been a bigger support of downtown redevelopment in Muskegon than the Muskegon Chamber,” says Alexander, who worked with partner organizations to model the business competition off of a similar one in Sacramento, California that they came across while brainstorming ideas to kick-start more downtown retail.

“We thought, hey, we can do that here, and we’ll see if we can get the interest from people and find the right tenant to embrace the space,” he says.

With a flexible application deadline set for March 17, 321 Go! partners will select five finalists to go on to the April 13 pitch event, where each will have the opportunity to present a case for their business or business plan to a small panel of judges with the chance to win a basket of business services valued at $15,000 and six months of free rent in a Midtown retail space.

After receiving six months of free rent on the retail space at 1144 Third Street as part of the prize winnings, the winning retailer will need to negotiate a one-year lease with building owner Brad Martell, a Grand Rapids entrepreneur and property developer who began redeveloping the former Oldsmobile dealership showroom and office for new retail space shortly after purchasing the property in 2016.

The competition winner must also be able to open for business by June 2017 and continue to operate in that space for at least 18 months thereafter to receive all the benefits of the massive prize package, which includes legal, accounting, marketing, architectural and design services as well as a commitment from Downtown Muskegon Now, GVSU’s Muskegon Innovation Hub and the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce to promote and mentor the winning business/business owner.

“There is a host of business support services the winner will be able to access through our sponsors and the Muskegon Innovation Hub,” says Kevin Ricco, executive director of GVSU’s Muskegon Innovation Hub.

Alexander says any and all retailers, both for and non-profit, as well on-site service operations are encouraged and welcome to apply to be a 321 Go! finalist with the exception of restaurants/restauranteurs, who are only disqualified because the space at 1144 Third Street doesn’t have the commercial kitchen required for food service operations.

For more information on 321 Go! or two submit an application for your business or start-up idea, visit downtownmuskegon.org/321go/.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Downtown Muskegon Now

Neighborhood Match Fund to award small contracts with big impacts to resident-led community projects

With a focus on addressing and promoting equitable outcomes that support resident leaders and build stronger connections between community members and their neighborhoods, Grand Rapids city officials announced the creation of a new Neighborhood Match Fund. Approved by the City Commission with the 2017 budget, the fund is intentionally designed as a new avenue for lifting up small community-based or grassroots organizations and groups in historically marginalized neighborhoods.

Stacy Stout, assistant to the city manager, says the March 30 deadline for proposal submissions marks the first round of the quarterly award process that will give winning applicants small contracts of between $200-$2,500, factoring in the amount originally requested, project scope, alignment with NMF objectives, and balance of funds.

Once awarded with a NMF contract, contractors must “match” the money dollar for dollar, and match contributions can be made in any combination of volunteer labor, in-kind goods and services, and cash donations.

The first of two scheduled information sessions was held earlier this week at Martin Luther King Elementary School,and community members interested in learning more about the Neighborhood Matching Fund are invited to attend the second session on March 14 at 2 p.m., hosted by GRPS University at 1400 Fuller Ave. NE.

“We encourage neighbors to learn about the fund and collaborate with their neighbors to submit a proposal,” says Stout, adding that projects applying for NMF contracts must be led by Grand Rapids resident that live in the community that the project will impact.

“Through our Neighborhood Match Fund Program, we want to build resident leadership, strengthen relationships between neighbors and increase the overall quality of life in our Grand Rapids neighborhoods,” Stout says.

Click here for more information on the Neighborhood Matching Fund, including application guidelines and eligibility requirements.

For more information on the upcoming March 14 information session, visit the event page on Facebook here or visit the city of Grand Rapids’ website for the Neighborhood Matching Fund to learn more information about the fund itself, including application guidelines, eligibility requirements for submission, and quarterly submission deadlines.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Artwork courtesy of Micah Bezant

The new Embassy Suites by Hilton hopes to bring strong upscale option to GR hotel market

With demolition of the former Western American Mailers plant underway on the corner of Bond Avenue and Newberry Street, developers at Suburban Inns have officially kicked off construction for its long-awaited upscale hotel, Embassy Suites by Hilton -- plans for which first began in 2009 with the purchase of the old Belknap Lookout plant. 

First derailed by the housing crash in 2009 and then again in 2014, build-out plans for the seven-story Embassy Suites have been in limbo for quite some time, but Suburban Inns is confident about its future with its new construction managers, Pioneer Construction. The company has set the new tentative completion date for summer 2019. 

Suburban Inns CEO Peter Beukema says with those setbacks now in the past, his team is only looking forward to the hotel’s future as one of downtown’s newest major players.

“There have been a number of roadblocks on this project, but we have been committed to the project from day one,” Beukema said. “It is important to us to do this right to be a positive asset in the community.”

Located at 710 Monroe Ave. NW in Grand Rapids’ North Monroe business district, the seven-story Embassy Suites is being touted as the first of its kind — not only with regards to the brand name, but also the upscale, all-suite style option it brings to the market. It will feature 246 suites in total, and many of those units will be equipped with individual balconies to take in views of the Grand River or the downtown Grand Rapids’ skyline.

Embassy Suites amenities include the second level’s indoor pool overlooking the Grand River, a lobby bar, an indoor/outdoor spa to a banquet facility for meetings and events, and a restaurant, Big E’s Sports Bar and Grill.

“Embassy Suites is a very unique brand, and we’re happy to work with Hilton on this project,” says Peter Beukema, chief executive officer at Suburban Inns. “The value that this hotel offers makes it a destination sought out by not only corporate travelers but also weekend leisure and sport teams as well.” 

In total, construction on the new hotel is expected to take anywhere from 18 to 24 months, with its estimated completion date set for summer 2019. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Suburban Inns

Sanford House on John Street brings old house charm to modern recovery

The new owners of 221 John St. in Heritage Hill are paying close attention to detail in the rehab of the historic mansion, which was originally built in 1891 and boasts hand carved wood finishes, nine bathrooms, and seven and a half bathrooms. 

When renovations are completed this June, the home where lavish, turn-of-the-20th-century parties were thrown by the first owner, Dr. Charles Hazeltine, will reopen as an addiction recovery center for men. The incoming “Sanford House on John Street” will serve as a residential and outpatient drug and alcohol treatment center for men and will have a 20-person capacity.

“Basically every surface in that house in being touched with the idea of preservation and return to its original grandeur,” says Rae Green, a lawyer and addiction counselor who decided to restore the home and reopen it as Sanford House on John Street following the success of she and her husband’s first recovery and treatment center for women, Sanford House on Cherry Street. 

“There was a beautiful stained glass window that had started to bow because of the leaded nature with which stained glass windows were made in 1800s…it’s being taken apart like a puzzle and being put back together,” she says. “Those are the depths we’re going to in order to touch and preserve every inch of the house.”

With much of the millwork and flooring intact and restorable, an expert team of craftsmen will also work to restore all 88 windows, refinish both interior and exterior woodwork, update the landscaping, and install new bathrooms and a new roof.

“The structure and the nature of the house lends well to a residential treatment setting,” Green says, highlighting floor plans that call for a house manager office, first floor handicap bedroom and bathroom, a larger kitchen and dining room, several group therapy rooms, outdoor porches and decks, a doctor’s office and secure medication storage, and a basement fitness room to boot. 

Fitness, Green says, will be among the many techniques utilized for the couple’s evidence-based gender specific recovery methods, which she says is about giving women and, in this case, men, a sense of environmental safety and freedom required to have the kind of honest conversations with each other that ultimately lead to healing. 

“The tendency is that when men are in a group with the absence of women, they can also speak more freely, although the topics might be different,” Green says. “…There’s that freedom within a gender specific setting, the pursuit of mutual goals and concerns.” 

For more information on the upcoming Sanford House on John Street or Sanford House on Cherry Street, visit Sanford House online at www.sanfordhousegr.com

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Sanford House Grand Rapids 

GR tech company Envoy celebrates expansion in upgraded Front Avenue space

Located on the western bank of the Grand River, the expanded offices of the Grand Rapids-based technology company Envoy boast more than just great views of downtown from its office space at 678 Front Avenue NW. 

Renovations to upgrade the venue wrapped up earlier this month, resulting in 8,500 square feet of new open office floorspace, new conference rooms, a new reception area, and a brand-new 1,400-square-foot photography studio — all geared at accommodating Envoy’s growing content services department, which had previously operated out of separate buildings. 

“This bigger space enables us to produce even more high-volume, high-quality product documentation for our footwear and apparel clients and help them go to market with their products even faster than before,” says Jon Faber, CEO of Envoy. 

The technology company, which provides wholesale B2B software solutions, find strength in its content services — a unique product documentation services that allows clients to display high-quality photos of products across different wholesale channels, which includes everything from online product catalogs, look books, and advertisements. 

For more information, visit www.envoyplatform.com

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Envoy/Ghost Code Studios

Good Pizza Co. brings Detroit-style deep dish downtown with new Jefferson Ave. digs

There are a few details to work out before owners of the new pizzeria, Good Pizza Company, can set an exact date for any kind of official grand opening, but with health inspections slated for the end of this week and a menu in the home stretches of finalization, Good Pizza Co. chef Derek Copp says they’ll most likely kick things off with a soft opening in March. 

Located at 10 Jefferson Ave. SE, the 1,000-square-foot storefront was formerly home to the collectively-owned Cult Pizza, which made setting up shop an easy decision for Copp and his business partner, Alexander Atkin, owner of the upcoming Good Pizza Co. 

“It's pretty much a turnkey operation, we got a pizza oven and everything all set to go,” says Copp, who was approached by Atkin last year with the idea for the pizzeria following a major life event that inspired him to switch gears. 

“(Alex) was in a motorcycle accident last year that injured his spine, so he’s in a wheelchair now indefinitely,” Copp says. “He does brewing consultations, but instead of just doing that and going stir crazy at home and trying to figure out what to do with his home life, he’s like, ‘Well, I need to get out and do something like run a business,' so he decided to go in this direction.”

Since signing the lease with Atkin at the beginning of the new year, Copp says he’s tried out some 60-odd recipes while setting the final menu, which will include classic pizzeria items like hand-tossed pizza, bread sticks, and cheese sticks in addition to the more unique thin crust and Detroit-style deep dish options. 

Sourdough crust for the regular recipe as well as a gluten free option will be made in house, while Copp says he plans on using locally sourced ingredients in their pizzas — including weekly rotating signature flavors — and hopes to work directly with farmers and other local distributors as much as possible.

“We're using local companies for cheese and meats and try and source direct from farmers as much as we can,” he says. “We want to utilize things like local hot sauces and hope to collaborate with other restaurants, too, for special items.” 

Good Pizza Co. also recently secured a license to operate as a BYOB wine and cider establishment, with plans to offer anywhere between five to seven by-the-slice options to help bring in more of the lunch crowd and those looking for a quick bite before hitting the nearby bar scene. 

“This is a pretty good location because it's so close to downtown…We want to be a hub for pre-bar hopping and that kind of thing.” 

Though the two also have plans to eventually expand into offering a delivery service, Good Pizza Co.’s brick-and-mortar aesthetic promises something unique and sort of playful for dine-in customers, with ideas floating around for everything from allocated wall space for photos of celebrity diners and a sort of “take-a-pizza, give-a-pizza” program to more goofy murals that would feature well-known personalities like John Lennon with pizza’s painted over his eyes and the words “Give Pizza Chance” or Homer Simpson spinning out pizza dough above his head with his signature catchphrase “D’oh” nearby. 

“It’s got kind of a surreal vibe, a lot of humor and a lot of puns,” Copp says. “We’re really big into puns.” 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images by Anya Zentmeyer/courtesy of Good Pizza Co. 

From Grand Rapids' land of movies & music videos, Deano's Studios prepares for new chapter

Considering Deano's Studios is the only purpose-built production studio in West Michigan, a lot went into the construction of the site located at 2450 Airway NE in Grand Rapids. 

The brainchild of husband-and-wife team Dean Horn and Rene Anderson, who have co-owned the facility since its conception in 1998, Deano’s Studios were originally built to accommodate production around the car industry, but has since helped to create commercial, corporate television, and feature-length films in its space. 

After nearly 20 years at the helm, Horn and Anderson announced the sale of Deano’s Studios last week to owners David and Matthew Lowing of the Wyoming film production rental company Lowing Light & Grip, which plans to reopen the studio under the name Lowing Studios. 

“We’re excited to have breakfast be breakfast again—not a business meeting,” Anderson says. “The timing is right for us to step away and refocus—this is a big place to keep going—and we’ve been doing it for 20 years.”

Lowing Light & Grip President David Lowing says the investment in Lowing Light & Grip presents a unique growth opportunity to expand their product offering to clients, diversify business, and invest in new opportunities while reemphasizing his company’s commitment to West Michigan film and commercial production community. 

“We have been seeking ways to diversify our business and invest in new opportunities, and expanding into sound stages is the right fit for our business to capitalize on,” Lowing says. “We’re looking forward to carrying on the quality of management and service Dean and René have always provided.”

While Lowing Light & Grip will continue to offer equipment sales and service, expendable sales, equipment rentals, and administrative offices at their Wyoming location at 1500 Whiting St. SW, Horn says he’ll also continue to work on creative projects in the future through Lowing Light & Grip and Lowing Studios. 

“It was also important to us that we find new owners that would be the right fit,” he says.

Meanwhile, son Matthew Lowing says the new Lowing Studios will look for ways to expand and further improve on the solid foundations Horn and Anderson lay down in the production community so many years ago. 

“Our priority will first be to continue our commitment to making this a world-class environment,” said Matthew Lowing. “We will also look for ways to expand on what Dean and René have built; this expansion means we will also be hiring additional staff who will help ensure the quality service we provide the production community.”

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Lowing Light & Grip

Blandford Nature Center breathes new life into Highlands Golf Course with plans for recreation space

After operating for more than 100 years as a private golf course, The Highlands Golf Course at 2715 Leonard St. NW was back on the market, with the new proposed land use initially leaning toward a housing development.

However, thanks to a partnership between Blandford Nature Center and the Land Conservancy of West Michigan with support from Arlington, Virginia-based nonprofit The Conservation Fund, Blandford Nature Center obtained a $3 million short-term loan to purchase the 121-acre property. With the funding, Blandford plans to transform it into a new community green space for recreation and education.

“The Highlands offers an extraordinary opportunity to foster a stronger connection to the natural world through habitat restoration, environmental education, volunteerism, and recreation—all things that will make sure that our city is a great place to learn, live, play and work for generations,” says Jason Meyer, president and CEO of Blandford Nature Center, an independent, charitable non-profit that has a mission to “engage and empower the community through enriching experiences in nature.”

Joe Engel, Executive Director of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, says moving forward, Blandford will work alongside his organization and the surrounding community to secure funding for the repayment of the loans and continue with plans for future use and improvement of the property.

“We are off to a great start, with generous grants from the Ken and Judy Betz Family, the Wege Foundation, Grand Rapids Community Foundation and the Cook Foundation,” says Engel, whose organization will be taking the lead role in raising funds for the project. “We look forward to continued support from the entire community to help bring this project to fruition as it transforms from golf course to natural area.”

Third Coast Development and Pioneer Construction initially obtained an option to purchase the golf course to build condominiums and homes on the site, but the companies are now working alongside both land conservationists to help financially back Blandford’s project.

“Once we started talking to Blandford about the future of the property, we realized that sometimes development needs to take a back seat to an idea that benefits our entire community,” says Brad Rosely, partner at Third Coast Development.

The project’s first phase will include land acquisition, biodiversity studies, and preparation for initial public access while working to pay off the short-term loan, at which point the Land Conservancy will take ownership of a portion of the property. After gathering input from the surrounding community, the second phase will be the launch of habitat restoration projects, trail development, and public programs.

Mary Jane Dockeray, founder of Blandford Nature Center and former board member of the Land Conservancy, says the old Highlands Golf Course represents Blandford Nature Center’s last and only chance to expand in Grand Rapids and create additional educational and recreational opportunities not available elsewhere in the city.

“The community of Grand Rapids has been waiting patiently for something like this to come along—we will be able to serve more students, families, and friends as a result,” she says.

Visit Blandford Nature Center here on Facebook, or find Blandford online at blandfordnaturecenter.org.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Blandford Nature Center

$42M Diamond Place breaks ground on Michigan St., promises more affordable housing for Medical Mile

Third Coast Development and PK Development Group celebrated alongside Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss and other project collaborators for the official groundbreaking of the $42 million Diamond Place project along the eastern edges of Grand Rapids’ Medical Mile.

Located on 2.8 acres in the northeast corner of Michigan and Diamond street, the land was acquired by Third Coast Development from its former owners, Proos Manufacturing, in 2015, The company spent the better part of last year figuring out the financing and design packages for the development before demolition and environmental cleanup could begin.

“We are excited to bring this development to the Michigan Street corridor and contribute to the city’s Great Housing Strategies plan,” says Brad Rosely, partner at Third Coast Development. “The Michigan Street Corridor Association, City of Grand Rapids and State of Michigan have been terrific to work with so we are very appreciative of their support.”
 
When Pioneer Construction completes the build-out on the Diamond Place project, the new development will feature 165 total one- and two-bedroom units, with 100 of those apartments designated as rent-restricted by Third Coast Development, which worked alongside Okemos-based PK Development Group to earn tax credits for affordable housing options.
 
“The city made it clear they wanted a development along this corridor that was affordable and sustainable for people of all income levels. We hope that Diamond Place will serve as an example of how this approach can be successful,” says PK Development Group partner Pete Potterpin.
 
Design plans by architects at Progressive AE for the new four-story mixed-use also show a 240-car parking ramp and enough ground floor retail space to earmark 15,000 square feet of it for a downtown grocery store. Though no specific ground floor tenants have been confirmed quite yet, partners at Third Coast say they are hopeful to land some retailers and grocers in this coming year and plan to make those public announcements as new developments are confirmed.

“This has been one of our largest and most complex projects,” says Third Coast partner Max Benedict. “But it has been terrific working with so many partners who share in our vision of creating a vibrant Michigan Street corridor.”

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Third Coast Development 

 

The Green Well evolution: Gastropub's Rockford debut is beginning of possible regional expansion

Since opening at 924 Cherry St. SE in 2007, Essence Restaurant Group’s all-American gastropub, The Green Well, has become a staple in the East Hills community. Hoping that same balanced growth can evolve in more communities outside of Grand Rapids, ERG recently announced plans to open a second Green Well in the Rockford Promenade Building.
 
The Grand Rapids-based Honor Construction is handling renovations on the building that previously housed Reds on the River  at 8 East Bridge St. in downtown Rockford, with scheduled completion and opening for the new Green Well slated for summer 2017.
 
With enough indoor space to seat 160 people and additional outdoor patio seating for 60, The Green Well Rockford will start with the same concept as the popular East Hills original, but plans to add some fresh, local flair to the restaurant as it becomes better acquainted with the surrounding Rockford community.
 
Building owner Daniel Trierweiler of DJT Properties, LLC says he sees similarities between the growing Rockford downtown and the East Hills community, where The Green Well has been met with success for the past decade, namely an all-around growth in population and business, coupled with residents’ focus on local retail and dining options.
 
“Since the space went vacant last summer, I have been determined to find the best next tenant for this beautiful setting,” says Trierweiler, giving credit to Ben Muller Realty Company for helping him find Restaurant Essence Group, whose Victoria Mitchell assisted in securing The Green Well Rockford to a 10-year lease on the space.
 
“Essence is all about local, from sourcing local ingredients to committing to supporting local communities, so Ben Muller Realty did a fine job in securing Essence,” he says.
 
The renovated space will also include two additional retail spaces on either side of the new Green Well Rockford restaurant, with hopes to draw in more interest from upscale local retailers for potential tenancy.
 
With plans to hire 35 to 40 new employees to operate the new facility, Essence Restaurant Group Managing Partner, James Berg, says this second location is just the start for The Green Well pub brand, with ERG leaders beginning to think about the possibility of planting additional locations across the region.
 
“Our Rockford location will allow the start of future growth for The Green Well brand without diluting what we have created on Cherry Street in Grand Rapids," Berg says.

For more information on The Green Well or any of Essence Restaurant Group’s other eateries, visit www.essencerestaurants.com.
 
Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Essence Restaurant Grou

The Parliament Collective launches new Ave. for the Arts boutique during February First Fridays

It may only be a few doors down from its current home along Grand Rapids’ Avenue for the Arts, but The Parliament Collective’s new local makers retail space at 136 S. Division Ave. promises an even deeper look into the creative process behind the products and workshops held within its walls.

Selling handcrafted work by dozens of local makers — products that range from leather, jewelry and other accessories to home goods, ceramics, and cards — the new Parliament the Boutique has enough space for a retail storefront and separate studio spaces for each of its three collective co-owners, giving customers the opportunity not only to see products quite literally in the making, but also participate in the community workshops that will be held there. 

At its current home on South Division, co-founder Elyse Marie Welcher  originally opened the Parliament Collective boutique in 2013 as a studio space and founding store for her brand, Littlewing Designs.

“Operating a studio separate from our shop was a necessary step for us to grow, but it wasn’t necessarily sustainable,” says Welcher, who owns the space alongside Harbinger Leather Design’s Jacob Vroon and Megan Roach of Adventure Textiles. “Finding a new space where both our studio and storefront could flourish together was an important step for the long-term existence of Parliament.”

Roach says the new space affords both the artists and their customers a unique avenue for transparency into the creative process of the products they sell there. 

“It gives us a way deeper and more meaningful way to connect with the people who love our goods,” says Roach, who is a business owner and Parliament Collective co-founder. “You can explain what a loom is and what it means to weave to a certain extent, but seeing the loom in action, that is a completely different level of experience.”

Hosted by Avenue for the Arts on as part of its First Fridays monthly gallery and shop hop, The Parliament Collective will hold a grand-reopening event of its new boutique on Feb. 3 from 5-9 p.m. The event will give attendees a chance to not only check out Parliament’s new digs, but also learn more about upcoming community workshops that will include lessons on things like basic leather craft and natural dyeing. 

To learn more about The Parliament Collective or its new boutique space, visit www.parliamenttheboutique.com or find it here on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Parliament the Boutique 
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