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One year after devastating fire, Rising Grinds Cafe reopens in Madison Square

One year and one day after its original building at 1530 Madison Ave. was lost in a fire, Rising Grinds Cafe is reopening at its new and improved LINC space on 1167 Madison Ave. 

Described as a community-based social enterprise cafe, Rising Grinds Cafe provides job opportunities for young residents in the Madison Square neighborhood, aiming to empower young adults with these employment and training opportunities through meaningful work and community partnerships with organizations including Bethany Christian Services, Building Bridges Professional Services, Double O Supply and Craftsman, and Tabernacle Community Church.

Justin Beene is founder and director of the Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation, which is comprised of the organizations listed above, and says that the fire at Rising Grinds Cafe one year ago was heartbreaking for both the young people who were designing and building it, and those set to work there.

“We have faced and overcome this major setback and now are ready to move forward with the project and be an inspiration in the neighborhood,” he says. “We have added new partners, a great menu and have created over eight sustainable jobs with this venture.”

Completed by neighborhood young and contractors, the renovated kitchen and eating area features furniture provided by Steelcase, complete with free WiFi. The new space also includes a renovated outside eating area for the summer months. The new Rising Grinds Cafe features both a breakfast and lunch menu with coffee drinks designed in partnership with Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. 

All of Rising Grinds Cafe’s youth employees with receive ServSafe Managerial Certification and an additional customer services and sales credential through the National Retail Federation, and the cafe will work very closely with Bethany Christian Services to continue to provide youth with other support services. 

“We are so thankful to all the staff, partners, and community members who have supported us and who have been present with us in our time of loss, encouraging us to get back on our feet to keep this dream alive,” Beene says. “Truly, we are living our name, Rising Grinds, as we rise out of the ashes.”

To learn more about Rising Grinds Cafe or the Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation, visit www.rgcafe.org or www.grcct.com/about/#partners

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor

Images courtesy of Rising Grinds Cafe

Planting the seeds of community: Urban Roots helps grow food justice in Grand Rapids

With a Master’s degree in community sustainability and ecology food and farming systems, experience in bio-intensive and organic growing, and a certification in permaculture design, Levi Gardner is no stranger to the concept that community gardening can be a potential game-changer.

He’s actually seen his fair share of different groups try their hand at small-scale efforts, but the trouble is that most of the time, he says, it doesn’t really end well. 

"We recognize that it's not a lack of interest, people or land, but a lack of tools and agricultural knowledge," says Gardner, who founded the nonprofit Urban Roots initiative with the intention of using community-driven agricultural growth to help address issues of food justice, unemployment, and community place-making. 

After the donation of a new community farm plot and education center by LINC Community Revitalization located at 1316 Madison SE, Urban Roots more recently launched a new mobile classroom initiative that aims to tackle issues of access to adequate tools and knowledge by bringing those educational elements to to people and places with a growing interest in educational gardens, including schools, churches and other organizations.

Supported by a recent awarded YMCA grant related to urban farming efforts, Urban Roots was able to purchase a retired ambulance vehicle to serve as the new mobile classroom, and the group is currently re-outfitting its interior in preparation for the upcoming growing season. 

The launch of the classroom comes nearly a year after Gardner first began piloting the concept, filling the bed of his own truck with as many seeds and fertilizers, hand tools and hoses as he could manage, bringing his collection of physical resources alongside his skill set to those who requested his assistance.

“To run a successful small-scale growing operation, whether it’s 100 square feet or 10 square feet, you need certain tools and implementations and skills to do it well, and we want to help people learn how to do it well,” he says. “We want to help people experience the rewarding upside of growing instead of just the discouraging downside.” 

In essence, the new mobile classroom offers struggling — or more often just curious — community gardeners a chance to familiarize themselves with the tools, required skill set, and best practices of a deceptively complicated ecosystem that can result in a costly blow to morale if executed improperly. 

“What we said was, what if we could come up with something that could seize those assets people bring — because land, interest and need are all assets — but then augment them with the tools and the skills and the kind of connections we have to be able to transform what they hope to see happen into a reality?” he says.

The mobile classroom is part of a series of exciting events happening at Urban Roots. Over the course of the last six months, the nonprofit has established its board of directors; began developing a community farm and education center in the Madison Square neighborhood at 1316 Madison SE, where they now have CSA shares available for purchase; formed community partnerships with various local organizations; overhauled its website and online presence; and received grants from both the YMCA and Slow Food to facilitate the purchase and operation of the ambulance re-outfitted for use as a mobile community classroom.

Inspired by a TEDtalk called “Leaders Eat Last,” which posits the idea that people don’t follow what you do, but rather why you do it, Gardner has committed the past year of his life to building the grassroots effort and has put a lot on the line to make Urban Roots a reality. 

The sense of certainty that pulls him forward, he says, has much less to do with confidence in every aspect of running a nonprofit organization, but instead has more to do with why he’s doing it and who he hopes to affect as a result.

“I’ve lost a lot to be able to make this happen, and I’m not going to say I’ve never doubted myself because I have definitely doubted myself — but yet I’ve always trusted what this is as a larger idea,” he says. “…We say in our tagline that we’re just a group of people trying to become fully human, trying to celebrate all of what it is to be alive and be human, and that’s a reality that permeates what we do and why we do it.”

Over the next year, Gardner says Urban Roots’ most important goal is “to know and be known” by its surrounding community and establish itself there as both an available resource and community asset, beginning on May 14 with a plant sale and resident open house for Madison Square area neighbors from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. 

From there, Gardner wants to extend that goal of connecting and establishing Urban Roots as an available resource and community asset beyond the nonprofit’s home neighborhood and into the larger Grand Rapids community. The group will continue operating with the goal of alleviating issues of food injustice and socioeconomic inequality by meeting people where they’re at with whatever tools they’ve got — even if sometimes all they need is a little bit of optimism. 

“I think at the end of the day, all of us want to be able to hang our hat on some optimism, and there are very few things more optimistic to me than growing something and planting a little seed and then having faith in this thing you have absolutely no control over.” 

To learn more about its May 14 open house or how you can get involved with the new mobile educational classroom, visit www.urbanrootsgr.org or find Urban Roots here on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Levi Gardner/Urban Roots 

Serenity Boutique moves from MoDiv startup to Hall Street storefront

The new Serenity Boutique at 413 Hall St. SE is somewhat of a community effort.

The brainchild of owner Eboné Farely,  Farely says she decided to go looking for a bigger space when the former Serenity Boutique grew out of its startup storefront in the downtown Grand Rapids MoDiv, a retail incubator. Along the way, the opportunity to partner with friend and hairstylist Kristan Lauren arose, so the 1,800-square-foot space features both boutique retail and salon space.

Serenity Boutique also features clothing from a plus-size line designed by another talented friend of Farely’s.

“So it’s kind of collective of all of our friends that we thought were business-minded,” she says, adding that hairstylist Kristan Lauren hasn’t officially opened the salon portion of the space due to maternity leave.

With a price point anywhere between $25 to $150, Farely says her boutique carries unique but still affordable clothing alongside one-of-a-kind, custom-made handbags.

“It’s very rare that we have two of the same item,” she says. “We may have an item that comes in multiple colors, but we don’t ordinarily do two of the same handbags, and we look to keep every woman unique and individuals.”

Farely says the idea for Serenity Boutique is to serve a part of the community that hasn’t had the kind of product for which she knows people are looking.

“I’ve always been a boutique shopper, but there are no boutique stores within the inner city on the southeast side of town, so we’re excited to be in the heart of southeast Grand Rapids, and what we’ve found is when people come in they’re really excited we’re there also,” says Farely, who held an official grand opening for Serenity Boutique Nov. 13. “We’re just excited to be there and looking forward to the opportunity to bring the community items they need and like.”

For more information, visit Serenity Boutique online or find it on here on Facebook.

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Ebonee Farely


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

GR Red Project adds second Madison Square office near mobile unit

Over the past three years, the Grand Rapids Red Project has seen tremendous growth. 

"We've doubled our annual revenues and our budget with grant funding from the state and Network 180 for our programming," says Brian Kelley, development and volunteer coordinator with GR Red Project, a nonprofit organization "dedicated to improving health, reducing risk, and preventing HIV." 

During that same time, GRRP's staff has grown from one to eight, and as a result, the organization is increasing its presence in downtown Grand Rapids, expanding its offices to include a second location at 401 Hall St. SE in the Madison Square neighborhood. 

"It's great location for us to be for the community we serve and services we provide," Kelley says. "It's a current location for our mobile unit, which is there once a week."

Kelley says a few years ago, GR Red Project did an assessment of community needs to determine the location for the mobile unit, which will now be able to service another downtown location yet to be determined. 

GR Red Project will keep its current office at 343 Atlas SW and begin moving part of its staff into the expanded offices throughout this month. 

The 1,500-square-foot space at 401 Hall St. SW is fittingly painted a fire engine red, with space inside to create four closed office spaces and one large community room, geared at being visible and accessible for those facing issues that are still very taboo in most communities. 

Kelley says creating a safe, accessible place where people can come find help free of judgment is important to the overall mission of GR Red Project and important to the overall health of the communities they serve. 

"Having a space to do it makes it a lot easier and provides those opportunities," he says. "It's important for us to be in these communities and to have a presence in each of the different areas of Grand Rapids to build those relationships with individuals." 

For more information, visit www.redproject.org. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of  Brian Kelley

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 

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

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 

Grand Rapids brewer renews efforts to open ELK Brewing on Wealthy St. despite two years of delays

Eric and Lisa Karns began working to transform a former fish fry restaurant at 700 Wealthy St. SE into a brewpub way back in 2011. No matter how much they tapped the market, bank funding was out of reach because of the high failure rate of restaurants -- a business classification the brewpub couldn't get out of, even though there are no plans to make or serve food.

So Eric Karns reached out to private investors, and now, with financing in place, Karns and business partner Taylor Carroll are busy getting ELK Brewing (ELK = Eric and Lisa's initials) ready for a late winter 2013/early spring 2014 opening.

"[Brewing beer] is the only thing I've ever wanted to do," Karns says. "I wanted to share my passion, so I just had to stick with it. It's been a struggle sometimes to keep a positive attitude, but our location is perfect; the area around it is growing. There are so many positives of what we wanted to do here, I just couldn't let it die."

ELK Brewing's location near The Winchester, Johnny B'z Dogs and More, and Wealthy Street Bakery is a growing economic district. The brewery sits on the corner of Wealthy St. SE and Henry St. SE, and will have a 100-seat patio along Henry Street. Karns will extend the front of the building 10 feet to bring it right up to the sidewalk. The front and sides of the expansion will have window walls.

The pub's three-barrel brewing system allows Karns, who will be head brewer, to brew 93 gallons at a time. He plans to open with six beers on tap: an India Pale Ale, Scotch Ale, Brown Ale, a Porter, an ESB (Extra Special Bitter), and probably a seasonal beer.

The pub's liquor license allows ELK Brewing to distribute its product, but only sell its own beers onsite.

"The brewer community is really awesome," Karns says. "I've gone in to Mitten Brewing and Harmony Brewing to see their systems and process, and they're right there to help any time I have any questions. They don't look at it as competition, but as 'the more, the merrier.'"

Source: Eric Karns, ELK Brewing
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Creative Youth Center keeps writing, reading, and books alive at former Literary Life Bookstore

It seems fitting that a young nonprofit dedicated to helping children find their literary voice would occupy the same space as a former bookstore -- a space where the muse was, and is, nurtured and called upon for inspiration.

That's what's happening with the Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center (CYC), an after-school program dedicated to helping kids aged 6 to 16 learn to write and publish fiction, plays, screenplays, poetry, and all manner of creative literature. The former Literary Life Bookstore at 758 Wealthy St. SE is the new home of the venture begun by Schuler Books & Music owner Cecile Fehsenfeld and CYC Executive Director Lori Slager.

"We left the fireplace in place, and brought in furniture," Slager says. "We want an inspiring space for the kids to come and work, a place that's not institutional after being in school all day. We have a theme of 'adventure,' sort of an Indiana Jones explorer adventure theme. We made hot air balloons from paper lanterns hanging all over. We want them to think about traveling, exploring, and discovering new things."

The Creative Youth Center offers free, age-specific writing classes taught by experienced writers, playwrights, and others in the writing arts and publishing industry. Slager says future plans include a small bookstore that sells the CYC's own books, written by students, and other items.

The store will be named Captain H. Tanny's Adventure Trade & Supply after the organization's elusive adventurer and world-traveling mascot, Captain H. Tanny.

"Captain H. Tanny is gender-neutral and open to kids' interpretations," Slager says. "We never show a picture of the captain. The captain's is always traveling and when people we know are off traveling, we have them send a postcard from the captain from wherever they are."

The first summer classes to be offered in the new location are for high school-aged kids -- one is on the spoken word and will be taught by Grand Rapids poet Azizi Jasper; the other is about screenwriting and will coordinate with the Mosaic Film Experience 2013.

Source: Lori Slager, Creative Youth Center
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Images by Lisa Beth Anderson

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Proposed project could bring $10M in new housing, storefronts to Grand Rapids' Madison Square

LINC Community Revitalization, Inc. might be busily wrapping up construction of nine affordable-rate townhomes and prepping to break ground on seven more yet this year, but that seems to be just the steam behind the momentum for the group's next aggressive project -- a $10 million residential and commercial development in the heart of the Madison Square neighborhood.

LINC landed $9 million in Low-Income Housing Tax Credit funds from the state, and will use that money to redevelop the property at 413 Hall St. SE (formerly TJ's Appliance) into a four-story building with 24 apartments and 6,000 square feet of storefront commercial space. The property is just one building east of the intersection of Hall and Madison Avenue SE, the core of the neighborhood's business district.

In addition, 20 townhouses with attached garages are part of the plan, encompassing four obsolete properties in the 400-500 block of Gilbert St. SE and one at 443 Umatilla St. SE.

Vacant buildings on the properties will be razed, making way for energy-efficient structures for residents and business owners looking for a storefront location, says Stephanie Gingerich, LINC real estate development director.

"Having that huge new building right there at the intersection will create new energy and new vibrancy," Gingerich says. "People who work in the neighborhood will have an opportunity to rent decent housing right in the neighborhood. We've estimated that having the new retail spaces will create 30 jobs. It's about breathing new life and energy into the major corridor in the neighborhood on the southeast side of Grand Rapids."

Twenty-one of the apartments will be one and two bedrooms; the rest will offer three bedrooms. Gingerich says smaller apartments are in demand and LINC is listening to the neighborhood's needs.

Madison Square is about two miles from the core city, with new bike lanes along Hall St. connecting cyclists with Division Avenue and downtown.

Construction will begin in March 2013 with a Dec. 2013 completion.

Source: Stephanie Gingerich, LINC Community Revitalization, Inc.; Tyler Lecceadone, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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LINC to break ground on $1M apartment development in Grand Rapids' Madison Square

LINC to break ground on $1M apartment development in Grand Rapids' Madison Square

The paint isn't dry yet on a nine-townhouse project in Grand Rapids' Madison Square neighborhood, but one area nonprofit is ready to break ground on another seven apartments -- a $1 million continuation of an ongoing project to bring contemporary affordable housing to an area blighted by home foreclosures.

LINC Community Revitalization, Inc., is wrapping up construction on Southtown Square, and will begin construction later this month on Prospect Place (1335 to 1407 Prospect Ave. SE), bringing to the city's housing market two four-bedroom A.D.A. accessible apartments, three three-bedroom apartments and two two-bedroom apartments.

Three of the units are set aside for persons making up to 50 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) and the remaining four are for persons making between 51 percent and 120 percent of the AMI, says Alicia Dorr, LINC communications coordinator.

The project site is the former Madison Square Co-Op Apartments, which sat vacant since going into foreclosure. LINC purchased the property with the vision of creating fresh new housing options for a variety of income levels.

"The idea is to make this into a neighborhood where anybody would like to live, and to make sure housing is affordable to keep the people who live here," Dorr says. "We believe that places that are unsafe and crumbling deserve revitalization as much as any other area in the city. We are always looking for new ways to green the neighborhood, and have included landscaping plans to beautify the blocks that these units will be on."

The apartments will be LEED-certified, which will help reduce energy costs to residents, said Stephanie Gingerich, LINC real estate development director, in an August 20, 2012 interview.

The project is funded through a grant from theCity of Grand Rapids' Neighborhood Stabilization Program 3 (NSP3).

Construction manager: Orion II Construction
Architect: Isaac V. Norris & Associates, P.C.

Source: Alicia Dorr and Stephanie Gingerich, LINC Community Revitalization, Inc.
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Nine new LEED townhouses nearly ready in Southtown Grand Rapids, part of much larger project

Nine new LEED townhouses nearly ready in Southtown Grand Rapids, part of much larger project

Nine new LEED-certified townhomes in Southeast Grand Rapids are under construction as the first leg of a much larger proposed project by LINC Community Revitalization, Inc. to replace abandoned foreclosed homes with modern, energy efficient townhomes.

The project, Southtown Square, demolished two dilapidated townhouses and a vacant commercial printing business and remediated contaminated soil. Now, nine affordable-rate townhomes are heading for completion, part of a project that could replace some 20 foreclosed properties with 41 modern homes in a neighborhood where many families have struggled to keep their homes, and lost.

The nine two-story townhomes (537 and 539 Hall St. SE; 454 and 456 Umatilla St. SE; 429, 431 and 433 Umatilla St. SE; and 428 and 430 Woodlawn St. SE) will run 800 to 1,150 square feet. Most offer three bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths, says Stephanie Gingeritch, LINC real estate development director. All of them will have full appliance packages and in-home laundry. One home will have a handicap accessible main floor bathroom and bedroom.

LINC purchased the properties from the Michigan Land Bank, Gingeritch says. Work on another two-building townhouse project near Hall and Madison Avenue SE begins in September.

"This is part of a larger redevelopment project where we will be purchasing additional foreclosed townhouses from the State of Michigan and redeveloping those as affordable units," Gingeritch says. "We recently submitted an application for tax credit financing for an additional 41 units of housing (five additional sites, 20 buildings) on Umatilla and Gilbert. We'll hear in March 2013 if that is awarded.

"We're glad we can bring this quality development to the neighborhood where there are already families who are established and don't have to move out of the neighborhood to have this," Gingeritch says.

The project is part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 to stabilize neighborhoods damaged by the economic effects of properties that have been foreclosed upon and abandoned.

Architect: Isaac V. Norris & Associates, P.C.
Construction: Orion II Construction Inc.

Source: Stephanie Gingeritch, LINC Community Revitalization, Inc.
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Rapids' Reflections senior housing project re-opens after $6.5 million renovation

Senior citizens in Grand Rapids' Madison Square neighborhood have something to be excited about with the reopening of the area's senior housing apartment building, renamed Reflections.

Located at 500 Hall Street SE, the $6.5 million renovation was a gut rehabilitation of the former Madison Square Apartments by Dwelling Place, Inc. The project was undertaken following Dwelling Place's purchase of the building from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority in 2011.

The renovation includes two additions, a new front entrance, and an upgrade to all of the systems in the facility. The building was expanded from 45,811 square feet to 65,486 square feet.

New and returning residents will find that 25 of the 60 units have been expanded and the community room and sitting areas are larger. There are now three laundry rooms instead of one, the building now has a large craft room, a deck and energy-efficient geothermal heating.

"The residents love it," says Jarrett DeWyse, director of housing development at Dwelling Place. "It is so much improved. It's so bright and cheery. We used light wells, so the natural light comes in from the ceiling. It's very well insulated, so the utility bills will be a lot lower. It's just a beautiful building."

All the units are one-bedroom apartments and residents must be 62 or older and meet the requirements for subsidized housing. The project is one of several attempts to revitalize the area.

"It's really important," DeWyse says. "It's a whole revitalization of the neighborhood . . . we changed the name to give it the status of being new. Across the street, LINC Community Revitalization is also doing some new housing in that neighborhood and there's some other housing around there that is being redone as well."

Source: Jarrett DeWyse, Dwelling Place, Inc.
Writer: Charlsie Dewey, Freelance Reporter

Klipper Kingdom barbershop brings inspiration to Grand Rapids' Madison Square neighborhood

The buzz of hair clippers hums through the air Tuesdays through Saturdays at Klipper Kingdom, where owner Israel Johnson says his business is growing.

Having opened in fall 2011 as part of the LINC Community Revitalization retail incubator, Klipper Kingdom is among eight new businesses to set up shop at the LINC Business Center (1258 Madison Ave. SE). The incubator program assists entrepreneurs in building the foundation for a successful business and hopes to revitalize the neighborhood through creating a thriving business community.

"I'm proud to be down here because, number one, it brings a positive atmosphere to this community," Johnson says. "A lot of people look at this community and just see negative. I'm proud to be a young, black business owner and show kids that they are able to achieve their goals when they apply themselves."

To create an inspirational environment, Johnson has filled the 700-square-foot space with boxing memorabilia collected through the local boxing community. Clients will find boxing gloves hanging from the walls, photos of Little Floyd (Mayweather), Floyd Mayweather, Sr., and Larry Holmes, as well as a TV that is almost always tuned to a boxing match.

Johnson invested $3,000 to convert the one-time clothing store into a barbershop. The renovation included gutting the space, electrical and plumbing upgrades, the creation of hair cutting stations and building a break room.

So far the investment is paying off. Johnson is looking to add a third employee to help keep up with demand.

Johnson is taking advantage of all of the opportunities provided by the incubator program, which include several classes and resources, so that within three years he will graduate the program and possibly continue his business in a new permanent location.

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tues. - Sat.

Source: Israel Johnson, Klipper Kingdom
Writer: Charlsie Dewey, Freelance Reporter

Sydney's Boutique brings a new shopping experience to Grand Rapids' Madison Square

Bringing women's fashions and accessories to the Madison Square business district in southeast Grand Rapids wasn't what owner Kristian Grant thought she'd be doing when she hit age 25. But the budding entrepreneur says she couldn't pass up the opportunity LINC Community Revitalization's retail incubator program provided. So she opened Sydney's Boutique (1258 Madison Ave. SE) a few months ago and hasn't looked back.

"I thought this [store] would be something I'd do when I was retired and sitting on a beach," Grant says with a laugh. "I was blogging about being a young professional in West Michigan and was looking for a reason to stay here. I wanted to do something that would leave a mark. When I sat down with LINC and talked to them about their [incubator] program, I thought this would be perfect."

The shop, named after Grant's eight-year-old daughter Sydney, has a unique selection of women's business, casual and evening attire in sizes zero to 28. Shoppers will find delightful jewelry items, chic purses, phone accessories and other fashion-forward items, as well. The boutique also offers an extensive online shopping selection at www.sydneysboutiquegr.com.

LINC's business incubator program is a three-year program that offers business owners one-on-one assistance with marketing, legal advice, accounting and other business services at reduced rates or free. All participants meet as a group each month, and many have storefront spaces at reduced rates.

"I could have started my own store and decided to create some change myself," Grant says. "But LINC has a real niche in this community. Ten years ago, Madison Square wasn't like this. LINC is really creating a space where kids and families can be, and I decided to be a part of it."

Hours: Thurs. and Fri., 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Sat. noon to 7; and open by appointment.

Source: Kristian Grant, Sydney's Boutique
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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