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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 

New pour-over coffee house, Lyon Street Cafe, joins the Chamelly family business

As Director of Operations of the new Lyon Street Café, Alex Chamelly says she wants the new coffee shop to be a place for everybody.  

"Simple, but still warm and inviting," she says. "Someplace you want to sit for the day and do homework, somewhere comfortable for people of all ages." 

The space at 617 Lyon Street NE has seating for about 50 people, with furniture made from reclaimed wood sourced from places around Michigan and Edison light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. The brick walls are painted a bright white and work well as the backdrop for a modern-industrial gathering space. 

Lyon Street Café's Nov. 22 opening marks the third neighborhood venture on Lyon Street for Chamelly's father, Kameel Chamelly, who owns the café as well as Martha's Vineyard and the recently consolidated Nantucket Bakery in neighboring storefronts. 

"I think that at Martha's and Nantucket we get a variety of people who come in, from kids who are in college to older regulars who come every week for bread - we're just doing the same thing here and having a place where anyone can come and feel comfortable and welcome," Alex Chamelly says. "We have little kids coming in for hot chocolate."

Lyon Street Café serves Mad Cap brand coffee, and brought in one of the fellow coffee retailer's pour-over masters to train seven new employees in the art prior to opening. Alongside brewed coffee, Lyon Street Café offers a host of espresso drinks.

Chamelly says right now, her favorite drink on the menu is the honey and cinnamon latte, but did also say Lyon Street Café is working on creating a signature drink using Bourbon Barelled Bliss Maple Syrup in a latte. 

With no real grocery stores or existing coffee shops in the immediate area, Chamelly says what she and her father are doing with Lyon Street Café, as well as Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Baking Co., is providing the community with something that otherwise would be missing. 

"I definitely think that all of our businesses provide a space where people can come and shop local," she says. "…We've got groceries, we've got wine, beer, pastries, bread, pizza and now coffee, as well, so I think we're covering a lot of bases. There's no immediate grocery stores or anything like that near Lyon Street, so we're just providing something for the community and I like to think that it's a good place to come. People are friendly and if you can't find what you need, then we'll find it for you."

Check out Lyon Street's Facebook page for more information. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images Courtesy of Carter Brown 

Big things for Bartertown

Though this week Bartertown Diner may be closed for renovations, there are big things on the horizon for the storefront at 6 Jefferson Avenue and its neighbors at Cult (Cvlt) Pizza, according to owner Ryan Cappeletti.

"…When we first built out Bartertown, we had a very tight budget, which we still have, but it's a little bit looser," he says. "Especially since we started working with Rockford [Construction Co.], who have been really great with putting a lot of work into the building and making the building actually stand out with its exterior." 

Cappeletti says Bartertown is about to sign a 10-year lease with the major construction and development company, including plans for renovations that will create open, interior archways that link Bartertown and Cult Pizza with a new juice bar called The Live Food Bar, tentatively slated for a January opening. 

"We're putting an archway all of the way through so that all three will be individual spaces, but accessible from the inside," Capeletti says. "We're building all of that out so people can come in and flow in and out of each space, but our goal is to have a different feeling in each space but still open to everybody."

Bartertown will also add a patio with seating for about 25 this spring, and Capeletti says they'll go before the Grand Rapids City Commission on Dec. 10 seeking approval for a new liquor license. 

"When we first opened Bartertown, I was hoping to see more young entrepreneurs," says Capeletti, who added that many of his friends are leaving Grand Rapids in favor of cities like Portland and Los Angeles. 

He says what makes Grand Rapids a difficult city for businesses like Bartertown isn't the community of customers, but the community of business owners who can, financially speaking, afford to overcome some of the obstacles Bartertown has faced as if they weren't obstacles at all.  

"Grand Rapids is a difficult city because it's run by people with a lot of money and things are really expensive," he says, comparing the $1,045 Grand Rapids fee for a liquor license with the $400 fee posted to Portland businesses. He says he hopes what they're doing on Jefferson Avenue proves to younger entrepreneurs that you don't have to be wealthy to bring your business to Grand Rapids.

"If you're determined and want to work at something, I'd like to see it as the catalyst for young entrepreneurs that don't have a lot of money to really be able to stay here and if they have a passion, make it happen."

Cappeletti, who opened both of the vegetarian-focused restaurants now operating as collectives, added that if the interior renovations go smoothly this week, Bartertown will re-open to customers on Sunday with a new and improved look. 

"This can still be a place for dreamers and people who want to rebuild neighborhoods," he says. "When we went there four years ago, we rented a space where we had no money and we just signed a lease and built it out from scratch. We really want to convey to people that Bartertown and Cvlt Pizza – we’re still the same, we’re doing the same thing – we don't want to be the best vegetarian restaurant in Grand Rapids, we want to be the best restaurant in Grand Rapids, and we want to do it from the ground up."

In the coming months, Cappeletti says Bartertown will most likely launch a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign to help with fundraising for all of the upgrades ahead, but in the meantime, they have partnered with Cult Pizza to sell $200 punch cards equal in value to 30 meals. 

"It’s really important for us to let our customers know that we’re not big time people in the restaurant business, as far as money goes, so we really just depend on our clientele," he says. "If they want us here, it’s a way to show it."

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Bartertown & Cult Pizza

CrossFit Luminary re-opens improved gym facility after major fire last spring

It may not have been an easy process, but owners of Grand Rapids' CrossFit Luminary have officially reopened their facility at 610 Maryland Avenue after it was temporarily closed in April following a fire with causes still unknown. 

"The budget was a great obstacle, being shut down was a great obstacle, keeping in touch with our clientele and staying connected with our community - that was a tremendous obstacle," says Michael Livingston, trainer and co-owner of CrossFit Luminary. "The construction itself was still a tremendous obstacle. Completing building our business and launching as something different was, too." 

However, despite the challenges, the gym is back in business and sporting new and improved ADA-compliant bathroom, shower, and kitchen areas as well as a few new programs, to boot. 

"Throughout the process we were able to make some upgrades in terms of how we use our available space," says Livingston. "We haven’t technically changed (in physical space) but through the rebuild we've optimized our space here." 

With new Olympic lifting platforms as well as traditional CrossFit equipment, CrossFit Luminary is now the first and only CrossFit gym in Grand Rapids with a dedicated strength and conditioning program added to their available classes. Additionally, CrossFit is offering a new competition program to challenge more advanced athletes and both Livingston and his co-owner, Shane Davis, say they plan to expand programming with an Olympic weight lifting class this summer. 

Livingston said CrossFit has hired an additional three part-time trainers to accommodate the increased programming, and he hopes to make those positions, as well as more hires, full-time as the gym continues to grow. 

CrossFit is a mixed model physical training program that incorporates strength training, gymnastics, plyometrics and metabolic conditioning in a variety of combinations. CrossFit Luminary offers 60-minute small group, instructor led classes, as well as an open gym for Grand Rapids trainees. 

CrossFit Luminary will host a grand re-opening celebration on Dec. 13 from 12:30-3:30 p.m. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of CrossFit Luminary, Marisa Livingston & Kyle Bowman

Owner of new Roosevelt Park neighborhood's Rodriguez Supermarket reinvests in his stomping grounds

Pablo Rodriguez remembers what the building at 2211 S. Division Avenue SE looked like nearly 30 years ago, before he purchased and renovated the 18,000-square-foot space and reopened it in September as his own Rodriguez Supermarket, or Rodriguez Supermercado.

He remembers because as a kid, he used to live on the adjacent Cordelia Street, and he used to shop at what used to be a Dutch market and watched as a handful of corner stores renovated and remodeled, slowly wearing down the building's infrastructure.

When he bought the building and began the remodel with Dixon Architecture and Pinnacle Construction Group, he says half of the building's foundation was not structurally sound enough to support the Rodriguez Supermarket remodel designs, so while the new half was ready for renovations, the older half was demolished and rebuilt from the ground up.

“For me it was important that we keep the character of the neighborhood and the look of an older Mexican supermercado to the extent of our signage out front,” Rodriguez says. “Ken (Dixon) did a really good job with the design, from the colors he used down to the windows and even some of the awnings, where we have the old clay roofing materials.” 

The new Rodriguez Supermarket is a full-service grocery with fresh produce, a full-time butcher and a commercial bakery that specializes in authentic Hispanic grocery - foods that Rodriguez says first and second generation Hispanics left at home; foods they miss. 

“I would say that about 70 percent of the grocery aisles are actually imported goods and imported brands from either Mexico, Central/South America or even the Caribbean,” he says. “Included in that would also be product that is a staple in most Hispanic recipes and meals that they’re preparing.” 

Rodriguez Supermarket took home the 2014 Gerald R. Helmholdt Award at the recent Neighborhood Business Awards, which brought in a total of 96 nominations for its 15 categories. 

Sponsored by the Neighborhood Business Alliance and Neighborhood Ventures, the Gerald R. Helmholdt Award spotlights new businesses that exemplify proactive renovation and reinvestment in neighborhood business districts and have the potential to spark transformational change in much-deserving communities. 

Rodriguez says Pinnacle Construction Group President Michael Garrett also took a special interest in developing the Rodriguez Supermarket. 

“We all saw it as more than just another business, we saw it as an opportunity to improve a neighborhood that drastically needed investment, so the job that Pinnacle Construction did was just incredible,” he says. “They paid a lot of attention to detail - every detail was important to them.”

Now that he has his own neighborhood grocery store, he wants to raise the standards - the standards of customer service, the standards of appearance, and the standards of the selection offered - because he doesn’t see investment as a risk. He knows his community and he knows they will rise to the occasion if it means supporting something better, but they can only do that if something better is made available to them. 

“When I decided to design the store a lot of people questioned why we went above and beyond so much, and my answer was that I think this neighborhood will support it and they deserve to have this caliber of a store built in their neighborhood,” he says. “ We’ve seen growth in sales absolutely every single week since the first week we opened, and we don’t expect that to end anytime soon.” 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor 
Images courtesy of Pablo Rodriguez

Rockford bike shop hopes for increased foot traffic with new bike parking awning, exterior facelift

Speed Merchants Bike Shop has been at 106 E. Bridge Street in Rockford for a long time now, but when construction on an exterior facelift and bike parking awning addition wrap up at the end of this month, Speed Merchants Bike Shop’s George Swanzy says anybody who didn’t notice the bike shop before most definitely will now. 

“It’ll definitely have a positive effect on walk-in traffic,” Swanzy says. “It’ll be pretty impressive when it’s done. We’re looking forward to it.”

Thornapple Timber Frame began construction in September to build the new awning that will offer shelter for bike parking when winter and spring bring harsher weather conditions for cyclists, extending about 20 feet from the side of the building to wrap around the entirety of the building’s front. 

“That’s going to be an overhang for bike parking, so instead of having tarps on bikes in the spring time when it’s raining, we’ll have a much more protected area,” Swanzy says. 

Corrugated steel siding will also be installed on the side of Speed Merchant Bike Shop's exterior to create an updated look that Swanzy thinks is more consistent with Rockford’s overall aesthetic. 

“It was just that time. We haven’t done anything to the facade in quite a while and so we wanted to give (the building) an updated look to fit in with the Rockford community a little better,” Swanzy says.

To see more pictures of construction progress, visit Speed Merchants Bike Shop on Facebook. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Speed Merchants Bike Shop 

Applications available for C.A. Frost Environmental Science Academy high school expansion

The Grand Rapids Public School Board of Education unanimously approved major expansion plans for C.A. Frost Environmental Science Academy Monday night as part of Superintendent Theresa Weatherall Neal's comprehensive district Transformation Plan developed last year.

With the start of next school year, C.A. Frost will add preschool, alongside two 30-seat ninth grade sections, at its existing building on 1460 Laughlin Drive NW, followed in 2016 by three sections of 10th grade, and three sections for both 11th and 12th grade each year after that. 

GRPS Executive Director of Communications and External Affairs John Helmholdt says when the high school expansion is finished, the goal is to have three 30-seat sections of each grade level. C.A. Frost currently enrolls 487 students, but will increase capacity by a total of 360 seats – 90 in each grade level – by 2018.  

Along with the expansion, the new and improved C.A. Frost would become one of the Grand Rapids Public School District’s Centers of Innovation, dedicated to innovative partnerships that offer students and parents more school choices and opportunities for improving student achievement. 

With a reputation for practicing challenging, hands-on education methods and integrated curriculum, C.A. Frost focuses on environmental stewardship, a theme that will carry into the high school grade levels with an added leadership component infused. 

Helmholdt says the district was losing a lot of eighth-grade students after graduation due to a lack of options that met the educational and learning standards students and parents grew accustomed to at C.A. Frost Environmental Science Academy. 

"What we heard loud and clear is that the parents love Frost, but it ends at eighth grade and they wanted continuity beyond eighth grade," he says. "A lot of the families were not even staying all of the way to eighth grade because if they didn’t get into City High Middle School or another option that was viable to them, they left the district."

Helmholdt says what C.A. Frost parents want, more than anything else, is the same thing their students need: consistency. 

"The district been in a state of churn for more than 20 years," he says. "We’ve eliminated one thousand positions, slashed the budget by more than $100 million and closed almost 30 schools. For parents, what they need is stability, predictability. They want to know who the principal is going to be next year, they want to know who the teacher is going to be next year. They want to know early and often, not two or three weeks before school starts."

Helmholdt says the next step for the Transformation Plan is to convene a district team that will explore plans to renovate 1417 Covell Avenue NW, where the former Covell Elementary closed in 2014 due to low capacity, to create more space for the C.A. Frost expansion.

As of today, updated applications for the 2015-2016 school year are available in both English and Spanish on the district's website and administrative offices located at 1331 Franklin St. SE. The deadline for submission is February. 27, 2015. 
 
On Nov. 20, GRPS will hold a School of Choice Expo from 4-7 p.m. at the Gerald R. Ford Museum to educate parents about the choices available within the GRPS district, including theme schools and COI's. 

"It just makes sense," Helmholdt says. "We have 52 kids in eighth grade ready to go into the high school who have basically said, 'If you build it, we will come.' This is really the dawn of a new day; with Theresa Weatherall Neal, we are being responsive to our customers, we are being responsive to our community, and we are investing in what’s working."

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Grand Rapids Public School District 

Start Garden to triple its downtown footprint to serve more startups


Rick DeVos' latest venture, Start Garden, is set to take a huge step in 2015. The early stage venture capital fund, the largest in Michigan with over $2 million in funding over the last two years, will open a Startup Village on the 2nd floor of the historic Trust Building on Pearl Street.

The new space in the Trust Building will be nearly triple the size of Start Garden's existing space on the ground floor of the Trade Center Building at the corner of Louis and Ionia. In addition to providing funding, the current Start Garden space has been home to classes for entrepreneurs, Update Nights and pitch events, as well as large scale seminars on growing small companies.

"After more than two years, this move is not just a relocation of Start Garden, but a major step in our growth," says Rick DeVos, CEO of Start Garden. “This move is a response to our ecosystem as it matures from experimenting with ideas, to building fast-growth startups. Two years ago we didn't have a portfolio. Now, we have a substantial number of companies into which we've invested. Enough to populate a startup village for the region. We expect to make additional announcements after the first of the year.”

The historic Trust Building in downtown Grand Rapids is one of the most notable landmarks on Pearl Street, and was purchased by CWD Real Estate several years ago and underwent a multi-million dollar interior makeover. Earlier in November, CWD announced that Huntington Bank will move its regional headquarters from 50 Monroe into the Trust Building.

Construction partners for the Start Garden build-out include include Lorenz & Co. Interior Design, AMDG Architects and Triangle Associates, Inc.

Photos courtesy of Start Garden

Cinerrific seeks full-time video editor, looks ahead to future expansion of Heartside studio

Film and video start-up Cinerrific is in the midst of a lot of changes. As it looks ahead to more potential expansion on the 900 total square feet of its Heartside studio at 337 and 341 S. Division Avenue, Cinerrific's owners say they're currently looking to hire a new full-time editor to help their company transition smoothly from the live video streaming they've done in the past to a more lucrative focus – producing high-quality cinematography and color grading to new corporate clients like Mercy Health. 

"The trick is really recognizing who you are as a company and we've really begun, I think, to do well with that," says Nick Davidson, who co-owns Cinerrific alongside business partner and cinematographer Andrew Tingley. "It's really fun and enjoyable to be able to bring that artistic, high-quality, professional cinematography and color grading to our corporate clients. We're doing interview-based work. Just giving it a look and a feel that you may not normally see with your typical talking-head style video." 

Cinerrific initially started back in 2012, but since moving from its first offices on Leonard Street last March, rents the new office space at 337 S. Division Avenue through Dwelling Place. About two months after opening, Tingley and Davidson expanded into the neighboring storefront at 341 S. Division Avenue and renovated the space to include a full color grading and client preview suite with theater seating, as well as grading and projection monitors. 

"We really feel like this is a great part of town," Tingley says. "It's growing. We've got first floor storefronts, as well. We really like the opportunity to grow in Heartside. It's also a very artistic area." 

Tingley and Davidson say there is an opportunity to keep expanding the square footage of Cinerrific's studio, but that is a bridge they're not concerned with crossing quite yet.

"There is another portion below us, so if we were able to keep growing before that space gets rented out, we could possibly expand physically, but we're not going to rush that," Tingley says. "We have to grow the business first."

To learn more about the new video editor position at Cinerrific or to apply for the position, email jobs@cinerrific.com. 

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