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CityFlatsHotel adds second event location to its brand

In the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, CityFlatsHotel is adding another event space at the former Louis Benton Steakhouse at 77 Monroe Center St. NW near its existing Ballroom @ CityFlatsHotel. 

"Since we opened the ballroom in 2012, we’ve had tremendous success and really positive feedback," says Jack Peaphone, Marketing Coordinator. "We have our guests booked well in advance. There are only so many days people are looking to book space and we really hated having to turn people away, so when the space became available, we jumped on the chance to add more rooms so we can kind of continue that success and able to provide more guests with more rooms." 

The new space will be a 13,000-square-foot space with a larger room for events and two smaller meeting spaces intended for about 20 people each. 

Although it's difficult to design the interior of Events @CityFlatsHotel with the same historic feel as the Ballroom @CityFlatsHotel, the former Michigan National Bank located next to its main hotel building at 83 Monroe Ave. NW, Peaphone says the new digs will be consistent with the rest of the CityFlatsHotel brand. 

"The ballroom definitely has its own look and feel. We renovated that from a 1920-1930’s era bank, so we obviously can’t replicate that look," he says. "However, we’ll still have full-service catering available for all of the new rooms and all of the same audio-visual equipment - we'll just have more to offer our clients by way of how many bookings we can fit." 

The boutique hotel has also announced the addition of a new "blowdry bar", which will be staffed with trained hairstylists under the CityFlats brand and offer blowout and salon services to both guests and residents in the area. 

"We’re still working on the design of that, but we’ll basically have a blow-dry bar; you’ll be able to get blowouts, but other salon services will also be available," Peaphone says. "We’ll have make-up and lashes and we’ll also do cuts and colors, as well as manicures."

He says there are no concrete numbers on how many jobs the two new spaces will create quite yet, but knows they will be hiring for numerous open positions within both the salon and the event space. In the meantime, CityFlatsHotel is working with its parent company Charter House Innovations to begin renovations on the former Louis Benton Steakhouse, with the expansion slated for completion this summer. 

We think it’s a great option for the downtown area because of how centrally located we are," Peaphone says. "Not only will it be great for guests of the hotel who are there for events to be able to get services at the blow-dry bar or take over some of our meeting space, but also really the walkability of the location. It’s great for anyone living or working downtown or working, to be able to get appointments and come in and get these services."

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of CityFlatsHotel

Related articles:
CityFlatsHotel in Holland eyes downtown Grand Rapids for next boutique hotel venture 

CityFlatsHotel opens modernized 1920s ballroom, event space in downtown Grand Rapids

Moving supplies company simplifies the chaos of relocating with unique plastic boxes

Chris Marsman knows what a pain the whole process of moving from one city to another can be. He's moved 13 times in the past 9 years himself, and said one day he found himself thinking about how he could 'uncomplicate' the process. 

"I thought, 'There's got a be a way to help people out; there's got a be away to make this easier,'" he says. 

And so, moving supplies company Boxzilla was born. 

Boxzilla finds its unique value in the 100% recycled plastic moving boxes, which Marsman says can be used about 400 times before being recycled again, whereas cardboard boxes have a much shorter lifespan.

"You don't have to use the tape or assemble them," he says. "We drop them off at somebody's door and then they just pack them up and then finish their move and we come and pick them up from wherever they unpacked them at," he says. 

Boxzilla's industrial-strength plastic moving boxes are designed with a subtle groove in the top for easy stacking, so Marsman says about 25 unpacked boxes only stand about 6 feet tall, "nested" in each other like plastic cups. It helps not only with easy storage, but also allows customers a more flexible packing regime, saving space while taking the worry out of stacking boxes with fragile items. 

The way Boxzilla's business model is a simple one - Boxzilla drops off your plastic moving boxes at your requested location, you "pack, stack, and roll to your destination, and when you're finished unpacking, Boxzilla comes to your new destination and picks the boxes up. 

Each plastic moving box is sanitized between uses and rates are up to 50 percent cheaper than other traditional moving supply store boxes, Marsman says, at $1.75 per box for the first week, which is cut in half each additional week. 

Boxzilla also offers custom, four-wheel dollies for easy transportation during move-in, bubble wrap, packing paper and zip ties. 

Marsman says currently, Boxzilla's 4920 Plainfield NE office space is only used by administrative staff while their storage warehouse is located off-site. However, with Boxzilla's consumer base of both residential and commercial movers growing steadily since he opened last month, he says he's in the process of finding a larger space - possibly a little closer to downtown Grand Rapids - where he can house an office space, warehouse facility and new storefront for customers.  

Boxzilla's service area covers most of greater Grand Rapids and out to the lakeshore, but on its website users can key delivery and pickup locations into a form that will confirm service area eligibility. Marsman says Boxzilla will also deliver outside of those specified service areas for a small fee upon request. 

"It's awesome, people are loving it and it makes their lives way easier," Marsman says. 

For more information on Boxzilla products and service areas, visit www.rentboxzilla.com. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer
Images courtesy of Boxzilla, LLC

Family-owned Reynolds & Sons plans modern revamp to downtown Grand Rapids storefront

With almost 90 years under its belt, the Grand Rapids family-owned Reynolds & Sons Sporting Goods is ready for a new look. 

Inspired by the last few years of increased redevelopment activity in Grand Rapids' downtown core, owner of the historic storefront at 12 Monroe Center St. NE Jeff Reynolds says construction is scheduled to begin in the spring to give both the exterior and interior a new, more modern feel. 

"Downtown, from where it started, to where it’s been and where it’s going now, is totally different," Reynolds says. 

Although the past decade has brought competition in the form of big-box retail outlets, the sporting goods store that first sprang up in the late 1920s is now owned solely by the Reynolds family, who say they've had to change some of their inventory to keep up with the population's specific demand. 

Though the store still sells a variety of general sporting equipment, they have made a shift toward more niche products and urban clothing brands like Nike and Jordan. 

"That was a big transition for us and our retail that helped us grow," Reynolds says. "What we're looking at in the future is not to go away from that, but to expand on that and try to captivate and create some more clients with more people now living downtown or wanting to live downtown and capture some of that market, as well." 

He says he's looking at supplying more equipment for customers interested in practicing yoga, for example, to help diversify his customer base and draw in different demographics of downtown clientele. 

Pioneer Construction will begin renovation on the exterior in the spring; however, Reynolds says he's still working on locking in the designs for the interior revamp before scheduling a construction timeline for the second phase. 

"It’s really kind of happened within the last two years – just all the sudden, bang, it was here," Reynolds says. "The buildings are filled up, businesses have moved into the places across the street. With the city redoing Monument Park and that transition, it really inspired me to say, ‘Alright, maybe now it’s time to make that change.'" 

Visit Reynolds & Sons on Facebook to see weekly Jordan releases or find them online at www.reynoldsandsons.com

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Pioneer Construction, Inc. 

Everything in its Right Place: Economic developers relocate downtown HQ to Ledyard Building

After nearly 20 years at its fourth floor Waters Building office space, the economic development nonprofit The Right Place, Inc. opened its new downtown Grand Rapids headquarters last month in the historic Ledyard Building at 125 Ottawa Avenue NW.
"It’s a great historic building," says Tim Mroz, vice president of marketing and communication at The Right Place, Inc.  "The architecture is unique, the core layout is more interesting and it provides for an interesting experience for our business prospects both inside West Michigan and those visiting West Michigan."
Though its Waters Building office played a faithful host to The Right Place, Inc., Mroz says for nearly a decade now, they've not been able to centralize its entire 22-member staff and since it was established in 1985, they also have not been able to accommodate the entire Board of Directors around one table – that is, until now.
"One of the best things about our new headquarters is that over the years, our organization has continued to grow and for the last eight years of our existence, we’ve actually operated in two separate suites at the Waters Building - our organization was literally split in half," he says. "This new office, for the first time again, brings our entire organization back together…Now for the first time in 30 years we’ll actually be able to hold a board meeting at our facility and be able to seat all members."
With a large part of the organization's mission centralized around hosting business prospects from outside of the West Michigan region, Mroz says they wanted the new headquarters to reflect both the history and the vibrant forward motion of the Grand Rapids community. So, with help from architects at Progressive AE, construction crews at Triangle Associates, Inc., state of the art audio-visuals by Custer and furniture provided by Steelcase, Mroz says The Right Place, Inc.'s new 10,280-square-foot office space maintains the building's history while creating a more flexible work environment than ever before.
"It’s an interesting mix," he says. "We obviously tried to stay true to some of the historical significance of the space, so much of the existing original trim work and molding and doors remained throughout the remodel. The finished office is an interesting mix of acknowledgment to the original historic elements of the building with a very modern, sleek finish."
For more information, visit www.rightplace.org.
By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of The Right Place, Inc. 

Locally-owned financial planning firm opens in renovated East Hills storefront

After opening up a fully renovated new office location at 922 Wealthy St. SE in December, Sytsma Wealth Strategies' Tamara Sytsma says she's excited to finally be a part of the East Hills neighborhood renaissance. 

"It's an up-and-coming neighborhood with a lot of activity and I wanted to be a part of the revitalization of the neighborhood," says Sytsma, who has lived on the southeast side of Grand Rapids with her husband and two young children since 2004. 

The financial planning and investment advisory firm marks Sytsma's departure from The Sytsma Group, which has operated from its Grandville offices for the past 26 years under her father Ronald until her brother Thomas purchased the business in 2009. 

Although Sytsma Wealth Strategies is a branch office under the Tampa-based broker Raymond James, it operates as an independent firm, which means all of its clients and profits stay local. 

Sytsma did a complete build-out and renovation to create separate rooms in the 1,200-square-foot storefront and former nail salon prior to Sytsma Wealth Strategies' Dec. 29 re-opening. 

"The space used to be one big, open box, so we had to build off of that and the interior is completely new," Sytsma says, adding that she liked the benefit of having a welcoming window front of her own versus just another suite in a big office building. "We wanted to be part of a neighborhood, so I didn't want it to feel like an office." 

While moving close to her home allows Sytsma to maintain a better work-life balance, Sytsma's other primary motivation for the move is a much less obvious one. 

"Probably one of the biggest reasons was having more female business owners in the area," says Sytsma, who grew into the family business as a CFP/financial strategist alongside her father and brother in a male-dominated industry. "I know several females in the area that are business owners, so from that perspective, being here offered a good support system that I wanted to be around."

So, as Sytsma Wealth Strategies is welcomed into its new home in the East Hills business community, Sytsma says she hopes her bright, open storefront welcomes the community into her firm, too.

"The best way to describe it is welcoming, because we want it to be a place where people feel comfortable coming in and sharing and hanging out," she says. 

Sytsma Wealth Strategies is currently looking to hire for a new full-time position in marketing and client relations. Interested applicants can contact the firm's client service coordinator, Christine Lindeman, at christine.lindeman@sytsmawealth.com or visit Sytsma Wealth Strategies online for more information. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Sytsma Wealth Strategies 

Thinkbox Creative brings modern sensibility to historic spot as latest Widdicomb Building tenant

Grand Rapids design and branding agency Thinkbox Creative is the most recent addition to the roster of tech-driven companies making the renovated historic John Widdicomb building at 601 Fifth St. its new home. 

"We were looking for a space close to downtown and also nice and accessible for our clients and the Widdicomb building presented an opportunity to do a 100 percent build out with Copper Rock Construction, so we could really think about how our team works and how we work best with our clients and design a space around how our business flows and how we work," says Travis Fahlen, partner of Thinkbox Creative.

The 15-person team moved into Widdicomb's 3,700-square-foot Suite 301 during the first week of November, designing the space to serve two main purposes – a private team meeting space for phone calls and strategizing, and a second more open, collaborative space to meet with clients and brainstorm. 

"It's a client-centric move," Fahlen says. "For our clients, we wanted to build a place where our team can be creative and successful and focus on building great work. When we have multiple clients here at the same time, we have private space to hold meetings and conference calls and then we also have a space where our team can communicate and continue to do their jobs."

A decade ago, former owner and furniture retailer Bob Israels invested around $11 million to convert the 65,000-square-foot building into a high-end showroom, but later defaulted to Fifth Third Bank. Energetix Properties invested $1.5 million in converting the showroom to commercial office space after purchased the mid-19th century building for $1.7 million last year. 

Fahlen says Thinkbox loved the design options presented by the Widdicomb Building, which, with elements of its historic designs still intact, allowed the design team to marry their modern sensibility with the more ornate aesthetic of the old building.

"The Widdicomb Building on the West Side, it has a lot of history it has a lot of character, so we wanted to take those elements and use them," he says. "We're a design agency, so we could design our colors, our floor plan and our layout using the historic, cool elements already in the building and add our modern feel right around them."

He says Thinkbox is excited to be a member of the West Side business community, who, from their perspective, share a blue-collar mentality that creates an atmosphere of a no-nonsense, hard work ethic the creative design firm can rally behind.  

"The vibe on the West Side is a key piece," Fahlen says. "There are a lot of creators here, there's a lot of technology. There are a lot of people here who want to work hard and get the job done and sort of this blue-collar mentality, which is also our mentality as a company. As we researched the other things around here, we thought we fit in really well with the other companies and the mentality of the West Side, as well."

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Thinkbox Creative

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Construction on affordable, ownership-driven townhomes begins on Wealthy St. at Tapestry Square

CEO Jonathan Bradford of the Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF) will tell you that even in urban districts, strong neighborhoods should look – and even operate – a lot like a forest does.

"If you were to take a walk through the woods, it's impossible to have a healthy woods composed only of maple trees," he says. "There will be all kinds of plants in the woods – some live a long time and some only live a short time – but there is this cycle of growing and dying and decomposing and more growing. It's quite comparable to the way the strength of a neighborhood is to be found in its diversity."
Though Bradford admits this particular metaphor isn't his to claim, the idea that incorporating key elements of diversity is at the heart of fueling urban revitalization is very much at the forefront of the nonprofit developer's Tapestry Square, where construction is finally underway on the first seven of 15 affordable townhomes under "Phase A" of the project. 

"The entire vision for this development is to achieve a newfound stability in the neighborhood and we believe that's best accomplished when we have a lot of use-diversity and economic diversity," Bradford says, adding that each of the new townhome units that stretch along Wealthy St. SW between Sheldon and LaGrave avenues will be sold in a condo association configuration for owner occupancy. 

Phase A's 15 townhomes are only half of the eventual 30 total ICCF has planned for Tapestry Square and the seven currently under construction include three four-unit buildings and one three-unit building. 

While eight of these units will be market-rate, homebuyer assistance will be made available for the first seven Phase A units at two different levels, adjusted according to family size. 

Five will be made affordable to households making less than 80 percent of that average medium income, which works out to roughly $43,000 for a family of three, while the remaining two townhomes will be available for ownership through homebuyer assistance at 60 percent of the average medium income, or about $36,000 for a family of four.

"We know that ownership is important for the long-term stability of a neighborhood and we've done rental and we will do more rental, but we also want to do ownership," Bradford says. "We know there's a demand for ownership units and from the very first dialogue we've had with local stakeholders 12 years ago, we made very sure of that." 

Phase B includes the other half of the 30 townhomes, the construction timeline for which Bradford says is contingent on how the first 15 Phase A townhomes sell. 

Tapestry Square Townhomes marks another move toward final fruition of a decade-long renovation project spearheaded by ICCF in the early 2000s, when the stretch of Wealthy St., once packed with 30-some retail businesses in the 1950s, had only two operational storefronts – a liquor store and a tire store. 

"If a neighborhood is nothing but institutions – hospitals and schools and churches and more hospitals, you have just one use happening and you don't have much human activity happening around the clock," he says. "…We will eventually have ownership and rental activity, educational activity, retail activity of several kinds, green space for recreation, etc."

Although the past decade has ushered a slow but steady catalyst of urban redevelopment through the city of Grand Rapids, Bradford says recent meetings with local stakeholders and area residents are only serving as further proof that the mission of Tapestry Square, the foundation of what the ICCF project set out to do all those years ago, is still relevant.   

"We learned that the opinions and the hopes that were voiced to us back in 2002 had really not changed much at all," he says. "In other words, people said, there had to be affordable units, which we knew and that's what were all about anyway, but there had to be more rental and ownership units, more retail and hopefully a grocery store. The needs, the concerns, the ideas of 2002 were substantially reinforced."

Though Bradford says ICCF's working "very, very hard" to make the ultimate goal of having grocery, commercial, and residential forces at work in Tapestry Square, he says at this point in the process, the organization isn't ready to make any kind of public comment on the details. 

The seven units pioneering Tapestry Square Townhomes will officially open for reservation within 30 days of March 1, though Bradford says ICCF has already got a waiting list of people who emailed in hopes of claiming the handful of affordable housing available. 

He says, "They are very eager to sign up." 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Inner City Christian Federation 

Related stories:
Grand Rapids $45M Wealthy-Jefferson project gets new name, launches Phase 2
Grand Rapids Wealthy-Jefferson development to break ground at last on $7.5M Phase 1
Long awaited $15M Wealthy/Jefferson development project ready to move ahead in GR

Sheldon Cleaners pilots new French-inspired bistro Cafe Louis at Grand Rapids HQ

When owners of Sheldon Dry Cleaners initially reached out to Sue Chaitin with their idea to build a French-inspired bistro alongside existing plans for an all-new self-service laundromat, the restaurant consultant admits she wasn't 100 percent convinced such a foreign concept would work for the area.  

"To be honest when they came to me with the concept I was a little skeptical, but as I continued to talk to them and saw the space they were building, I thought, 'Man this could really be something cool.'" says Chaitin, who authored a book and hosted a cooking show under "Sue Chef" prior to taking up restaurant consulting with her husband more recently. "It's pretty much been a full-time job for the past three months, getting everything built and designing the menu."

Owners and consultants drew on similar establishments, like one called Brainwash in California, to conceptualize the new Café Louis, whose menu includes soups, sandwiches, pastries, and coffee from the Holland-based roaster Simpatico, along with hot tea and a selection of cold beverages.

To top it off, Chaitin handpicked a selection of sweet and savory crepe recipes to include on Café Louis' menu, tying together the stylish ambiance of the combined 6,000-square-foot café at 3000 Breton Rd., including a laundry and lounge area with booths, tables, chairs, TVs and free Wi-Fi, with plans to add additional outdoor seating with a new patio in the warmer months. 

Though part of the motivation behind the Café Louis renovation was the result of opportunity – new high-efficiency dry cleaning equipment created extra floor space at the Sheldon Cleaners HQ – the other part of the company's pilot concept is rooted in finding the same thing most traditional businesses are gunning for – the loyal patronage of Millennials who are moving the industry away from full-service dry cleaning by virtue of the changing times.

"The dry cleaning business has changed a lot throughout the last 20-30 years," Chaitin says. "It isn't as big of a business as it used to be, so they're innovating and listening to what the market says it's doing -- and more people, especially the younger generation, are doing their own laundry." 

Chaitin says Café Louis hopes to bring in the demographic of renters – college students and young professionals – living in the area that are already looking for what the remodeled location is now offering: a clean place to do laundry and a comfortable spot to get some work done. 

"We're filling a gap that is necessary, but also making it more fun to do laundry," she says. "It's not a typical laundromat where you go and sit on moldy chairs and you're afraid to put your clothes in the washing machine. These are state-of-the-art machines, eco-friendly, they wash and dry your clothes in half the time."

Though Café Louis quietly opened its doors on Jan. 15, last Thursday was the official grand opening. Stay in the loop with Café Louis on Facebook, or visit their website here. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Sue Chaitin/Sheldon Dry Cleaners 

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 
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