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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 

Electrical firm Feyen Zylstra celebrates new HQ expansion, renovation at former elementary school

To celebrate the completion of a massive expansion renovation project at its new headquarters – a former Kenowa Hills Public School building in Walker – Grand Rapids-based electrical contractors Feyen Zylstra have announced Dec. 4 as the date of its official ribbon cutting and open house event. 

Feyen Zylstra relocated from its former home at 201 Front Street NW in mid-October after finishing an 8,000-square-foot expansion to the former Fairview Elementary School's gymnasium to create a total of 15,000 square feet of warehouse space. Combined with 29,000 square feet of office space, Feyen Zylstra's new digs at 2396 Hillside Drive NW top out at 44,000 square feet. 

Alongside Erhardt Construction and architects at Progressive AE, Feyen Zylstra reused the wood from the old bleachers and gymnasium floor in the build-out of new walls and fixtures, adding new windows and other exterior updates to help modernize the building's aesthetics. 

CEO Nate Koetje says although Feyen Zylstra had the opportunity to build something brand new from the ground up, the company and its employees made a deliberate decision to repurpose the abandoned elementary school building, which they purchased for $475,000 in late 2013. 

"Our business, in particular, exists to do good," Koetje says. "The chance to do that in a way that benefits not just our employees – which the space certainly does – but also the community as a whole was one that we didn't want to pass up… As an organization we have a long history of community involvement and this just felt like a natural next step for us."

With 330 employees currently on its roster, Feyen Zylstra has added 40 new jobs since 2008 and nearly doubled its revenues since 2009, from around $30 million to nearly $60 million last year. 

The new Feyen Zylstra headquarters is designed as a collaborative workspace, something Koetje describes as facilitating natural situations for its employees to have "impromptu discussions really leading and reinforcing [its] ability to provide creative solutions for customers." 

Koetje says the space not only fits the workplace culture of Feyen Zylstra much better than its old offices, but also has acted as a boost in employee morale. 

"It certainly is a momentum boost and a morale boost for our employees," he says. "The space is open; it's collaborative, a lot of natural daylight and a lot of general energy throughout all of our employees right now." 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Feyen Zylstra 

Third Coast Development partner appointed to MSCA, optimistic for future development on Michigan St.

Over the next five years, Third Coast Development's Max Benedict says he is projecting double the investment in the Michigan Street Corridor from the $60 million that has already been invested over the past decade. 

"Now we have a second wave of investment coming where there's already proof of concept," Benedict says. "Because people are saying, 'We know this is possible, it's a very viable area, so let's jump in and let's join the party.'"

The last decade of investment is two-thirds of the projected total, he says. Spearheaded by Third Coast Development's Mid Towne Village project in 2003-2004, Benedict says national brands like Biggby Coffee and Subway secured their brick and mortar businesses after watching nearly 50 blighted homes become retail and restaurants in the strip of Michigan Street that is now home to The Omelette Shoppe and El Barrio Mexican Grill, the latter of which is owned by Benedict's partners at Third Coast Development, Brad Rosely and Dave Levitt.

"Those people are viewed as pioneers and now other people are saying, 'Hey, they did it and they're still there,' and now they're finding out about their numbers and finding they're doing really well," he says. 

Benedict was recently appointed to the Michigan Street Corridor Association, which started out as the Michigan Street Business Association when redevelopment efforts initially kicked off. He says he and his partners at Third Coast Development have the unique perspective of being both Michigan Street business owners as well as developers. 

"We really kind of see what would benefit the area from a business owner standpoint and we're able to bounce the ideas off of the other members of what is now the Michigan Street Corridor Association," he says. "We take the business owner standpoint, but then we can also say, 'Well, there's just no chance that any developer could build those really high-flying ideas that a business owner may want, it's not feasible for a developer to do it, but what would be the next-best thing?'"

From where he is standing, the future Michigan Street is the Grand Rapids equivalent to Chicago's Lincoln Park. That is, packed with as many retail storefronts as possible, with residential living complexes on the floors above. 

Benedict says current zoning in the Michigan Street Corridor Plan calls for three-story buildings, with wiggle room for four-stories that plan on making the top floor residential. With recent development along Michigan Street's Medical Mile primarily focused on healthcare facilities and academic institutions, future development aims to complement the existing structure, giving the employees and students who frequent the sidewalks somewhere to live, eat, and shop.

"It's not just our plan, it's what the city and what the neighborhood is asking for and we think it's a great idea to help promote the walkability of the area," Benedict says. "The more retail you have on the street the more you're going to see people walking up and down the street and the more retailers that are going to want to be there. It's a snowball effect once you get that going." 

Visit the Grand Rapids Planning Department and Michigan Street Corridor Association websites to learn more about the Michigan Street Corridor Association and its membership or view corridor plan online.  

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Max Benedict, map courtesy of MSCA 

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Repairs on Grand Rapids' oldest mausoleum come nearly a decade after damages, thanks to a GRCF grant

Nearly a decade after a tree limb smashed into the tomb of Sylvester Melville, the Grand Rapids Historic Preservation Commission can finally move forward with restoring what is thought to be Grand Rapids’ oldest mausoleum, estimated to have been built in the 1870s. 

Thanks to a $10,000 Grand Rapids Community Foundation grant, repairs to the historic site at 647 Hall Street SE will include a new slate roof and reinstallation of salvaged brick and stonework. Midtown Craftsman, Grand River Builders, and Milhiem Masonry are donating labor, as well as some materials, to finish the restoration project that began in 2010 when volunteers stabilized the mausoleum’s walls and salvaged the old building materials for future restoration. 

Past Perfect, Inc. Principal Rebecca Smith-Hoffman has worked closely as a consultant with HPC organizers and volunteers on the restoration efforts in the historic Oak Hill Cemetery, and says construction work should kick off in November and has to be finished before the harsh winter weather really kicks in. 

“Getting it done before winter kicks in is crucial,” Smith-Hoffman says. “It’s a fairly small building. It’s been stabilized already, but we were just looking for funding (since then.) However, there has been a lot of time donated by a lot of different people.”

The historic Oak Hill Cemetery is the burial site for some of GRCF’s early leaders, including founder Lee M. Hutchins and early chairman Melville R. Bissell, Jr. 

Smith-Hoffman says restoring the Melville Mausoleum is an important part of preserving a big piece of Grand Rapids’ history. 

“Any kind of perseveration, of course, is the most sustainable thing we can be doing,” she says. “Here in Grand Rapids, we’re preserving whole neighborhoods. This is just another little piece of our history that is extremely important.”

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor

Welcome to The Mitten State: Michigan-themed t-shirt company plans November opening of Eastown store

Will Bransdorfer says he gets emails all of the time from customers requesting his online Michigan-themed apparel company, The Mitten State, open up shop near where they live. 

Though you can find The Mitten State's nostalgic Michigan-themed apparel in over 40 retailers around the state, the Comstock Park-based company has always done business through a virtual medium, handling all sales through its website since it opened in 2009. 

That is, until now. 

With a planned mid-November opening date, Bransdorfer says he is just waiting on display fixtures to arrive this week before moving merchandise into the 1,600-square-foot storefront at 1502 Wealthy Ave., with plans to announce the details of its grand opening event, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 15. 

Although the company has done well over the past year – nearly doubling revenues, Bransdorfer says – he hopes the addition of a physical reference point will help solidify the brand itself as something more than just t-shirts or novelty accessories. 

"We want someone to walk in and almost immediately – within 5, 10, 15 seconds – understand what our brand is all about," he says, adding that those sort of interactions don't necessarily happen when your sales are either online or in a store across the state on a shelf with dozens of other brands.

"There's certainly something to be said for that tangible aspect, where people can actually walk in and see, for example, maybe a bunch of old posters from the '70s," he says. "We're going to have one poster with Gerald R. Ford juggling a soccer ball with Pelé. That's kind of emblematic of the aesthetic we're going for."

The Mitten State's new retail space design is rooted in nostalgia and so is its product; the company bases each new shirt design on both the closets and comfort of generations past. 

"The whole idea for the shirts that we love are shirts that maybe you’d find in, say, your dad or grandpas closet and it’s already worn down, you know, and it’s your favorite shirt and you can’t really find one like it anywhere else and it’s got a meaning behind it which is part of the reason you want to wear it all of the time," he says. "We don’t’ see ourselves as just selling t-shirts, we see ourselves as selling a memory, a connection to the state." 

To keep an eye out for details on its grand opening event or to learn more about the brand, visit The Mitten State on Facebook. 
Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of The Mitten State 

Come As You Are: Nov. 14 open house planned for new runaway, homeless youth drop-in center HQ

When the first drop-in center for runaway and homeless teenagers in Grand Rapids holds its first public open house on Nov. 14, director of the new HQ Shandra Steininger says there is one, prevailing message they hope they can convey to any homeless youth that might pass through its doors.  

"It's a space where any young person 14-22 can walk in the door and feel like, 'I'm accepted exactly as I am, regardless of what I've been through or how I self-identify or what I need, I can just be, and let the dust settle in my life for a minute.'" 

HQ is the brainchild of Steininger and Mars Hill Bible Church's Director of Mobilization Andy Soper, whom she connected with while working as supervisor for Arbor Circle's community shelter for homeless youth

On weekdays from 3-6 p.m., HQ is open with the express purpose of helping young people 14-22 connect with the basics and beyond. From housing options and trauma counseling to education and employment, HQ operates around a philosophy that puts a twist on the "three R's": rest, resources and readiness. 

"Resources" refer to the basic needs, like meals and showers, or counseling and therapy through HQ partner Arbor Circle, while "readiness" focuses on GED attainment and job skills. 

And though the trio's first component, rest, may seem the most trivial, Steininger says the lack of a no-strings-attached physical space can sometimes be the biggest barrier of all for youth struggling with (or in the thick of) homelessness.  

Steininger says while she and Soper were still developing the concept for HQ, they went around the country to cities like Seattle and Minneapolis to visit the best drop-in centers and talked to youth living on the streets, both there and at home in Grand Rapids, to better understand what factors create barriers and how they could be as accessible as possible to youth in need.

"There was really a desire to have a place that was just safe, where social workers and people wouldn't make them deal with a three-hour assessment or have this whole list of requirements or things they had to do before they could just get something to eat," she says. "The paperwork and assessments and all of those things can be so overwhelming. Sometimes you just need to talk and need somebody to listen."

The other most difficult part of addressing homeless youth in Grand Rapids is educating the public about the presence of an issue that, in a lot of cases, has no, real physical presence and that crosses more socioeconomic and racial lines than most people think. 

"There's something kind of unique about West Michigan where you just don't see teenagers and younger kids under the bridge or on the corner with a sign," she says. "It is much more hidden. It truly is young people couch surfing or jumping around, or wanting to fit in with or look just like their peers, attend school just like their peers and doing all of that with the fear in the back of their minds saying, 'Where am I going to sleep tonight and is it going to be safe? What am going to have to do or give up in order to have a roof over my head tonight?'"

Nearly 75 volunteers came to help HQ organizers gut the single-story, 93-year-old building at 320 State St. SE until it was just a 5,760-square-foot rectangle ripe for redesign by Pinnacle Construction Group. http://www.askourclients.com/

HQ's drop-in center open house will run from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 14. To learn more about the open house, the square-foot fundraising campaign or any other programming, visit HQ on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images Courtesy of HQ 

'Simple. Social. Sustainable': Tripel Root owners want Zeeland brewpub to reflect motto in community

When their new Zeeland brewpub, Tripel Root, opens before the end of the year, owners Laura and Nate Gentry want the new establishment to reflect their motto: "Simple. Social. Sustainable."

The couple began demolition on the 115-year-old historic building at 146 E. Main Street a few years ago, doing all of the renovations to the old bank building themselves. Laura Gentry says when they first walked into the old building, there were still highlighters and office furniture – nearly three truckloads full – all of which they donated to Habitat for Humanity. 

"It's cool because we we've gutted the entire thing, so we have a blank canvas to work with," she says. "We turned the drive-thru window into the door to the beer garden. We've been repurposing a ton of other stuff, too. They were taking out a barn so we actually got the beam structure out of the barn and put that up and we've re-used all of the barn wood that we could get, even the metal roofing." 

When Tripel Root opens, it will be the first brewery for a city that only reversed a nearly 100-year ban on alcohol sales in 2006. 

Tripel Root will open with 11 taps, but Gentry says they have the capacity to expand to up to 21 for more variety. 

"Our focus with the beer is that we want to have a blend between good, local craft beer and also kind of that internationally influenced selection because there's a lot of really awesome Belgian breweries that make really good beer, so we want to kind of have that blend of local craft beers with some of those really good beers you can find around the world and maybe (are) not as common," she says. 

Tripel Root will serve fully customizable stone-bread pizzas, made with leftover grains from the brewing process, with classic American appetizers and side dishes.

Though Gentry says there is still no official opening date, they know it'll be before the end of 2014, and in the meantime, Tripel Root will host a Nov. 1 open house with cider and donuts from 10 a.m. to noon at its new location on at 146 E. Main Street. Gentry says the open house has something to do with a new Mug Club Membership they are offering, but details will be released later this week on Tripel Root's Facebook page

"We just have had so much support from all areas of the Zeeland community and it's been totally reaffirming how awesome this project is," she says. "It's just so rewarding to know that we can be integrated into the community and we can make a difference."

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Tripel Root 

The People's Pub: The Ada Pour House is a gastropub for everyone

Located at 6749 E. Fulton, new The Ada Pour House Gastropub is earning the social media hashtag #thepeople'spub for a reason. 

"We did a lot of things with social media and asking people in town and stuff to just get an idea of where they wanted the next restaurant to go, and a lot of people mentioned Ada and Rockford and some of the smaller towns on the outskirt of Grand Rapids because not everybody wanted to drive into town," says owner Rob Aldridge. 

In its final stages of construction, the 3,000-square-foot gastro pub will neighbor the Amway headquarters in Ada and have 800 square feet of additional patio space available for diners in the warmer months, too. 

Aldridge says when they open, patrons can expect 12 of their 16 taps to be dedicated to local craft brews, with the rest allotted for the regular domestics. The Ada Pour House Gastropub will also include a wine list with some Michigan favorites as well as California titles to support a locally sourced, made-from-scratch menu. 

"The big emphasis is on the craft side," Aldridge says. "High-quality crafted beer, wine, liquor and also food. We're going to spend a little bit more money on the ingredients that go into our menu. The area kind of calls for a little bit higher quality as far as that stuff is concerned."

One of the specialty half-pound burgers will run patrons somewhere between $10-$12, Aldridge says, but will be 60-70 percent ground brisket and 30 percent ground chuck – a "higher-end burger." 

"Everything is made from scratch, no frozen foods," he says. 

Aldridge says he started searching for a location for The Ada Pour House about a year ago and said he considered a downtown Grand Rapids location before signing on to 6749 E. Fulton. 

"When it came down to the space downtown or the space out in Ada, honestly the traffic on Fulton Street plus really the saturation as far as restaurants go out in Ada is very limited," he says. "We had the opportunity to take advantage of the fact that there's just not as many choices out this way and people got very excited about the thought of having that extra choice and having that extra nice restaurant in town that they can go to and get good food."

The Ada Pour House will announce its opening date through social media, so visit The Ada Pour House on Facebook to stay updated on its progress and latest announcements. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images Courtesy of The Ada Pour House 

Construction Company: R J Devries Construction, Inc. 

LINC leaders host ribbon cutting on final phase of $13 million Madison Square redevelopment

Leaders from LINC Community Revitalization Inc. are gearing up for tomorrow's 10 a.m. ribbon cutting for phase two of the $13 million Southtown Square development at 413 Hall Street SE. 

The new four-story complex will house 24 market-rate apartments with 6,000 square feet of commercial space. Serenity Boutique, the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute, and the Career Testing Center have already confirmed three out of four commercial spaces. 

"What makes this building so special for the district is the fact that it's a combination of commercial and residential and both those things are a positive for the neighborhood," says Jeremy DeRoo, co-executive director of LINC Community Revitalization Inc. 

In the past few years, DeRoo says, over 100 new jobs have been created in the Madison Square neighborhood as a result of redevelopment efforts. The ribbon cutting marks the final step of the Madison Square neighborhood redevelopment project for the nonprofit housing developers LINC Community Revitalization Inc., who earlier in the project added 20 new town homes to replace sub-standard housing in the neighborhood. 

"People are excited," DeRoo says. "They've been watching the building going up and I've had a lot of great comments from people as the finishing touches are put on the building…Residents and neighbors have been really excited to see the old building that used to be there come down and get replaced by such a nice building; it's been very well received."

With 250 applications already in hand, the one-, two-, and three-bedroom units will be allocated with a lottery system and rented through Section 8 subsidized housing vouchers. 

"I think it has the ability to change the neighborhood in a very positive way," DeRoo says. "It's a beautiful building and the neighborhood has just had a lot of investment over the past few years and I think that capstone that will help change the way the neighborhood looks." 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Seyferth PR 

Parks with benefits: How neighborhood identity factors into planning a socially productive park

"Who are you? What do you want to become? What do you want to preserve? What do you want to transform? What do you think will usher in who you want to be?" 

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks' Executive Director Steve Faber knows these are big questions. However, although he says they are questions that admittedly sound a bit "metaphysical" for a conversation about parks, he also thinks they're the kind you find at the heart of most transformational public spaces. The kind that work in balance of research-based strategic planning, and the kind he, alongside the Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department and Advisory Board, hopes to find some answers for through a series of eight neighborhood design workshops they will continue to host through Nov. 8.  

These community forums will include the assistance of local design firms VIRIDIS and Progressive AE in verifying concept plans and identifying priority improvement projects for each park based on public comment and come nearly a year after 60 percent of voters approved a 0.98-mil, 7-year property tax expected to generate an estimated $4 million annually for city parks.  

Water resources, Faber says, are one of the first things the city and friends of the community wanted to tackle after the tax millage was approved last November. Faber says Friends of Grand Rapids Parks intentionally selected the parks included in the workshop series largely based on lack of functional water resources. 

"A lot of these parks have never been formally designed, or at least haven't had their designs revisited in decades, so instead of just putting in a splash pad we wanted to have a broader discussion with the community about what's working and what's not working," Faber says.

Neighborhood Planning Teams were established for each park at the beginning of the process to help consultants and community leaders better understand the parks and their surrounding neighborhoods. Faber says the neighborhood park design workshops are essentially designed to create a more cohesive level of understanding through the kind perspective only a neighborhood resident could offer.

"They're the ones who really see how that park gets used day in and day out, and they can to say to us, 'At 9 o'clock every Friday night, there's people using this basketball court,' or, 'Nobody ever uses that thing and we think it would be great to have this other thing,'" Faber says. "With the Cherry Park neighborhood, they want to preserve some of the best things about their park – the playground and things like that – but they also want more gathering spaces, places where they can throw events and come together, because that's kind of an extension of who they are right now and who they're becoming."

So, although understanding who Cherry Park neighbors are right now and who they are becoming may sound like a big, abstract undertaking, it has everything to do with how these revitalization projects can be a huge part of facilitating that positive transformation. 

It creates intuitive concepts that can be implemented with realistic, existing parameters in mind and tailored to each neighborhood's unique context so that communities can build their own answers not only to abstract questions like collective identity, but also the more quantifiable ones like reduced crime rates, increased property values and cleaner air to breathe. 

"Parks can work for a city," he says. "They can help us clean our water and keep our basements dry and clean out particular matter in the air…there's the really tangible stuff and there's the intangible." 

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board will unveil final plans to general public at a Plan Review Open House on Dec. 3 from 6-8 p.m. at the Gerald R. Ford Middle School gymnasium.

Times, dates and locations for the eight neighborhood park design workshops are included below, but for more specific details on each individual park plans, links to individual Facebook event pages, or to keep up with Master Plan's progress, visit www.friendsofgrparks.org. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks  

Roosevelt Park 
October 18, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Park Lodge Building
739 Van Raalte Drive SW

Cherry Park 
October 20, 6:30-9 p.m.
Inner City Christian Federation
920 Cherry SE

Highland Park 
October 25, 1-4 p.m.
East Leonard Elementary School
410 Barnett NE 

Wilcox Park
October 27, 6-8 p.m. 
Calvin Christian Reformed Church
700 Ethel SE

Lincoln Park
November 1, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. 
Sibley Elementary School
943 Sibley NW

Westown Commons
November 1, 1-3 p.m. 
The Other Way Ministries
710 W. Fulton 

Fuller Park
November 6, 6-8:15 p.m. 
Mayfair Christian Reformed Church
1736 Lyon NE 

Garfield Park
November 8, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Garfield Park Gym

'Last Frontier': Avenue for the Arts kicks off crowd-funding campaign for new HQ on South Division

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Avenue for the Arts launched a new crowdfunding campaign through Michigan-based platform Patronicity on Monday that will support new headquarters at 307 S. Division for the community-led organization that has worked to transform the South Division corridor for the past 10 years. 

Though a series of live-work spaces have cropped up along the street's 100- and 200-blocks, the Dwelling Place's Jenn Schaub says the 300-block is "sort of the last frontier" for Avenue for the Arts. 

"We've always said the Avenue of the Arts stretches from Fulton Avenue to Wealthy Street, but most development has happened in the blocks leading up to Williams," she says. "This new 300-block activity we felt really needs to be anchored, so we were looking at different opportunities in that block and this is a space that's in the newest in-fill building along that block." 

Dwelling Place's Neighborhood Revitalization Department worked with the MEDC to secure a $10,000 matching grant, contingent on the crowdfunding goal of $10,000 being met by November 17. The money will be used to cover costs like rent, Internet, utilities, furnishings and other office supplies and technology and will be secured through MEDC's Public Spaces Community Places effort. 

"The MEDC portion of the funding really helps us sort of take it to the next level and have a complete project versus having a partial project where we're going to have different pieces and cobble it together as we go," she says. "It'll really help us make a more profound impact at the beginning."

At a little under 1,000 square feet, the new space will operate as office space for Avenue for the Arts learning lab staff to manage events and meet, as well as a new community meeting place for the variety of public forums and program meetings hosted by the organization each year, which Schaub says range in attendance from six to 45 people. 

It also presents the first-ever opportunity for the organization to showcase its membership, allowing space for a gallery that will have 12 or more show opportunities throughout the course of the year. 

"It isn't a live-work space and it's an interesting space commercially because it has a lot of storefront footage that faces out to the street, so it has a high visibility," she says. "Lots of windows; we're hoping that it will help attract people into the space." 

She says the crowdfunding campaign, in many ways, is the same thing as a National Public Radio pledge drive or other similar user-based nonprofit public services. It is asking the community to support something that offers its population support. It's a reciprocal relationship, she says, and in this case, an "all or nothing campaign." 

"If we don't get the funding we simply won't be using that space and it will probably . . . remain dormant for (an) extended amount of time," she says, adding that this is the first time Avenue for the Arts has ever approached fundraising on such a grand scale. Schaub hopes its decade-long track record of programming committed to revitalizing the South Division corridor speaks to the influence it's had on the Heartside neighborhood and its future commitment to growth. 

"People will be able to walk in off the street and say, 'Hey I have this idea,' so by having this really publically accessible space, people will be able to stop in on a regular basis and on an on-going basis, and we will be able to connect them with the resources already existing on the street," Schaub says. "It will really open doors for connecting people together and that, I think, is going to be one of the most exciting outcomes of having a publically visible space."

To donate and help support Avenue for the Arts, click here or visit www.patronicity.com/project/avenue_for_the_arts_work_space. To keep up with the campaign on social media, search for #ArtMatters

Written by Anya Zentmeyer
Images courtesy of Dwelling Place 
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