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Harris Building owners wrap up renovations on new S. Division event space, ArtPrize venue

It’s been quite a few years since owner Bob Dykstra began renovations on the historic Harris Building at 111 S. Division, and as the city of Grand Rapids teeters on the cusp of this year’s ArtPrize competition, Dykstra says the downtown storefront built way back in 1892 is scheduled to make its official debut within the month. 

He expects renovations to wrap up within the month as the space also gears up for this year’s ArtPrize, for which it has hosted over 100 works of art in years past— a learning experience for Dykstra that he says will only make the Harris Building that much more dynamic as an ArtPrize venue for this year’s competition. 

“Two years ago we had almost 150 pieces of art in here and we’ve learned a lot from that,” he says, adding that because of the tight construction schedule they weren’t able to accept as many bonafide entries as before. He plans to have many of the official ArtPrize entries in place as of Friday night when they’ll host a craft Detroit event, featuring work by artists from the east side of the state.

At four stories, Dykstra’s initial plans for were to rent out space to individual businesses for office or retail. However, growing interest from groups and organizations looking to use the space as an event venue persuaded Dykstra to retool the interior renovation more exclusively toward hosting, highlighting the historic building’s old character with clean modern lines in the sprawling 38,000-square-foot space that includes a second floor ballroom and with 18-foot domed ceilings. 

In the short-term, he says he’s focused primarily on booking the smaller events for local organizations and corporate groups, but says that he expects the recently announced partnership with Opera Grand Rapids to act as a kind of gateway to similar types of smaller, more culturally diverse events that typically seat anywhere from 150-200 people. 

As his vision for the Harris Building continues to evolve, one thing remains the same — it has for him created an opportunity to add yet another texture to existing cultural fabric of the downtown arts scene.

“We’re really focusing on being a year-round cultural center that is a little bit different than the Grand Rapids Art Museum or the UICA because we’ll be more of a social club than some of those are,” Dykstra says. “We’re going to be a health club for the arts and sciences.” 

Gig Gamaggio, who handles both creative direction and communications for the Harris Building, says she expects the space to prove a perfect backdrop for a whole host of different art forms even after ArtPrize 2015 has run its course.  
 
"The raw-state building definitely lends itself to experimental and more daring art forms," says Gamaggio, citing plans to bring a unique performance workshop to the venue during the last week of October featuring Butoh, an organic, contemporary Japanese dance form. "The modular state of the building is a great advantage for groups who wish to explore their creativity and stylize for their own event needs."
 
For more information on room options and rates, or to see more photos of the Harris Building venue spaces, visit www.theharrisbuilding.com. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of The Harris Building 

Rootdown grows its fresh footprint in downtown Muskegon

When the storefront at 333 W. Western Ave. in downtown Muskegon officially opened its doors back in May, the 2,400-square-foot space now home to Rootdown was a dedicated Vinyasa yoga studio. However, owner and  lead instructor Kelly Seyferth says she’s always had bigger plans for Rootdown,  first adding a juice bar in July and more recently announcing plans to add fresh salads to the menu by the end of October, her efforts rooted in the ideas of both food accessibility and education as part of a larger passion for healthy living. 

“All of our ingredients are local and we’re right next to the Muskegon Farmers’ Market, which is so ideal,” says Seyferth, a Denver transplant whose lactose intolerance made Rootdown’s juice bar addition an almost practical one for both herself and, she thought, other downtown Muskegon residents with dietary restrictions and those who just want more accessible fresh food options. 

“Muskegon was in such a need of something vibrant and fresh and healthy at a place where people can gather,” she says. “I’ve always had a passion for downtown Muskegon, too, so it was a dream.” 

With fresh juice blends created only from seasonal fruits and veggies purchased at the nearby farmers’ market, plans for the new salad menu will echo the farm-to-table, locally-made mentality and accompany the addition of a few more high-energy yoga classes, including a class designed specifically for lunchtime yogis where customers can order their pick of juices or salads before the 45-minute class and walk out the door with a healthy lunch in hand.  

With degrees in health and consumer sciences, Rootdown is very much the realization of a long-time dream for Seyferth, who says she’s excited to watch the city’s downtown continue to grow alongside friends and neighbors who are helping to make it happen. 

“I feel like it’s amazing to see the difference even just over the past three years,” Seyferth says, citing a transformation in both the culture and perception of downtown Muskegon. “The influx of people and just people coming into downtown and gathering together or even walking around between breweries…we have such an awesome location and there’s great people in Muskegon, so it’s just been really cool to see.”

For more information on Rootdown, including specific class programming and schedules, visit www.rootdown.in. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Rootdown/Kelly Seyferth

Rak Thai Bistro to re-open Northland Dr. location with new name, ramen focused menu

Ramen shop Noodle Monkey will host a soft opening next weekend at 5260 Northland Dr. NE, inviting diners to come in and experience a brand-new, ramen-focused menu and interior aesthetic at the former Rak Thai Bistro location. 

Owner Yace Hang says he spent about a year looking for somewhere to open a new noodle bar — something he’s wanted for awhile now after seeing the success of his winter noodle menu at Rak Thai Bistro’s Downtown Grand Rapids Market location — but wasn’t having any luck finding the right location in downtown Grand Rapids. 

However, with a previously scheduled remodel of the Northland Dr. location interior already in place, Hang says he realized he already had the perfect space — he just needed a new menu and some revamped branding. 

“I was going to remodel the Thai Bistro anyway, and I like this space, so I thought, ‘Why don’t I just turn this into the Noodle Monkey space and see how that goes,'” Hang says. 

His new menu will feature entirely house-made noodles for a variety of ramen dishes, including a vegan broth, as well as more traditional stir-fry noodles, all inspired by the Asian comfort foods Hang grew up eating. 

“I’ve evolved as a cook,” he says. “I wouldn’t consider myself a chef because I’m not classically trained, but I’m a great cook and I cook for all of my restaurants and when you’ve been doing it for so long, you get creative. Noodle Monkey, for me, is a representation of the food that I eat or the food I want to cook. I’m not following any set of guidelines or specific recipes for my menu — everything on there is something I’ve made myself or a version of something I saw that I liked and wanted to make my own take on.”

The remodeled 1,800-square-foot space will feature updated interior fixtures, including new communal seating for diners and a host of brand-new kitchen equipment. 

Hang says though Noodle Monkey plans to locally source as many vegetables and meat products as possible, working with local providers like Byron Center Meats to create some of his dishes, he also wants to be sure his main focus is on the quality of the end product. 

“As a restaurant owner, the end product — your food — is what’s most important," he says.

For more information on the menu or to stay updated on next weekend’s soft opening, visit Noodle Monkey on Facebook here

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Noodle Monkey/Yace Hang 

Holland-based Michigan Pantry to open second location in Downtown GR Market

The Grand Rapids Downtown Market will welcome Michigan Pantry on Sept. 10 as its newest local retailer, a second location for the Holland-based business that launched its first location at 210 S. River Avenue in 2013. 

Michigan Pantry promotes not only a variety of Michigan-made food products, kitchenware, art, jewelry, beer, and wine from local producers, but also sells items from its own growing product line of specialty food products like Michigan honey, maple syrup, salsa and blueberry products. 

“There were some things we wanted and were looking for that were Michigan made, and if we can’t find what we're after or the quality isn’t there, then we think, you know what, why don’t we just do it ourselves,” says Michigan Pantry’s owner Robin Nash. 

Like its original Holland location, Michigan Pantry’s new Downtown Market location will carry entirely Michigan-made food and gifts, too. 

“We love the Market and what it is kind of about there and that whole vibe of what’s going on, and we just felt like we were a really good fit for being over there,” Nash says. “Our products are unique; they’re not things you’re going to find all over the place, a lot of them are just sold here.”

Nash said sometime last year she explored opening a second location in a mall or other location, but never felt as if those kinds of venues quite fit the primary vision of Michigan Pantry, which is to support local entrepreneurs and artisans. 

However, when they began talking with organizers at the Downtown Grand Rapids Market, Nash says a Grand Rapids location started to make more sense. Combined with an existing customer base in the Grand Rapids/Hudsonville area, she says she feels good about taking this next step for expanding the physical presence for Michigan Pantry. 

“I think we just wanted to be able to reach more people,” she says. “We love the whole Downtown Market location and what they’re about. It just seems like a perfect fit for us. There’s really nowhere else that I can picture us being that we would be such good fit, honestly.” 

To learn more about Michigan Pantry and its full product line, visit their website here or find them on Facebook. For more information on the Downtown Grand Rapids Market, visit downtownmarketgr.com/. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Michigan Pantry

Se4sons gastropub opens at Muskegon Country Club to public diners Sept. 8

With an official public opening date of Sept. 8, Se4sons gastropub is the newest addition to the historic Muskegon Country Club, which has received a series of upgrades since undergoing new ownership last year. 

Executive Chef Sean Marr says the new gastropub, which, unlike its former private dining area, is open to the larger public, has a farm-to-table menu designed to bring something new to the Muskegon lakeshore.

“We’re lucky to have amazing farmers in the area and the best produce in the country, so I really take advantage of that when I plan out the menus, which we change every season and sometimes a little more,” Marr says. 

He says the restaurant will source as much local produce, meat, and dairy products as possible, partnering with local West Michigan establishments like Crisp Country Acres, Mud Lake Farm, Creswick Farms, and Otto’s Chicken

“It’s something different,” Marr says. “Even on the lakeshore we don’t have a lot of farm-to-table and I really want to bring that to the area along with some creativity, something they can’t get elsewhere.”

Marr, who has worked in country club kitchens for over a decade now, says he’s most looking forward to the somewhat unprecedented open-to-public business model Se4sons will bring to Muskegon, inviting community members to take a seat and experience the lakefront dining there alongside Muskegon Country Club members. 

“I’ve been in country clubs for a little over ten years, so being able to feed anyone who comes into the doors is exciting for me,” he says. “To meet new people and be in a private country club. It’s very nice to get to know everybody, but it’s also nice to get to see new faces every night.”

For more information about Se4sons or to view a full list of menu options, visit www.se4sons.net or find the gastropub on Facebook here

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Se4sons Gastropub/Muskegon Country Club
 

New Kruizenga "teaching" art museum nears debut on Hope College campus

It’s been a long time coming, says Matthew VanderBorgh, but now that the Sept. 8 opening is drawing near, the new Kruizenga Art Museum (KAM) is going to be a big deal for the Hope College community. 

VanderBorgh is director of the Netherlands-based design firm C Concept Design and was the architect of the new $7.8 million art facility on Hope College’s Holland Campus, a project he and co-designer Donald Battjes took on pro-bono as a donation of services to their alma mater. 

“When this project was launched, there was no seed money,” says VanderBorgh, who graduated from Hope College with an art degree before pursuing another degree in architecture at Harvard University. “…they wanted a museum that was a little different than the other buildings on campus, they just didn’t want a brick box. With my relationship to Hope, they pulled me in to loosen things up and eventually said, “Why don’t you design it?’” 

At about 15,000 total square feet, about 4,620 square feet of the museum will be open to the greater public with the remainder reserved for back-of-house facilities. Its “double-lung” floor plan was designed not only to demonstrate a diverse collection of art works, with one gallery focused on showcasing Hope College’s permanent collection, but also to highlight on-campus diversity, with the other side of the KAM reserved for rotating and traveling exhibitions. 

“If you look at the GRAM it’s really a public museum, open to the greater state. With the Kruizenga Art Museum, the canvas is really a teaching museum, and that’s what’s unique about it,” VanderBorgh says. “It’s meant to educate students in the same way a biology lab is or a sports hall. Students should be able to easily walk into it -- it shouldn’t be intimidating…”

VanderBorgh says the flame-cut, exterior charcoal slate panels used to craft the exterior were designed to facilitate a classic, modernist style, using architecture that creates a unique fixture against the grain of the predominately red-brick collegiate architecture of the surrounding campus.

“In this case, most campuses should represent the diversity of their students and especially in West Michigan, a lot of campuses are starting to look international,” he says. “…architecture should represent the international, but each should have an individualistic, expressive style. Our building seeks to do that…What makes campuses unique is when you have a collection of different identities on the campus, the same way it reflects the students with different themes and different backgrounds all coming together.”

VanderBorgh created the new aesthetic for Hope College’s KAM alongside donated services from project managers Lisa Warren and Chad Gould of Progressive AE, just another part of what VanderBorgh describes as a community-wide effort with a lot of donated time and money from both alumni and others. 

He likens the project to a concept in the Netherlands called the “polder model,” which refers to efforts by communities in the Netherlands to reclaim land from the sea to create productive farmland. The continuous pumping and maintenance of the dykes require a greater level of cooperation by the various societies living in the shared polders, and throughout history — even in times of war — these communities have still worked together in service of a greater purpose. 

“No one person could do that and no government could do that. It had to be a community of people  — perhaps self-interested — but a community of people working together,” VanderBorgh says. “The museum is a lot like that, too.”

“It was really a community effort, more so than most of the projects I’ve been involved in,” he says. “In that way, the polder represents the effort of the museum in the larger picture. It wouldn’t have happened without a lot of donors, alumni, students, and interns contributing along the way.”

Click here for more information on the new Kruizenga Art Museum, which opens to the public Sept. 8. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Tom Wagner Photographer


Related articles: 

Charles Mason curates connections at Hope's new art museum

GR Scavenger Hunt game seeks to help participants meet, rediscover Grand Rapids

There’s even more to Grand Rapids than meets the eye, and the new activity-based venture GR Scavenger Hunt wants to help you find it. 

Created by local business owners Jill Wolfe and Carol Distel, GR Scavenger Hunt combines elements of games like photo hunts, trivia, and adventure races to bring participants a unique, competition-style challenge in the heart of the city’s downtown.

“It helps to think about Grand Rapids and the people and the places here,” says co-owner Jill Wolfe. “I usually start with the places downtown — whether it's The Calder, Fountain Street Church, Rosa Parks Circle, or the Grand River — and think about the challenges in a way that engages people with those places differently.” 

GR Scavenger Hunt sends competing groups of 2-4 out into the city with treasure hunt checklists and trivia puzzles that typically take about 90 minutes to complete, costing around $20 a head for a private game for events like birthdays or bachelor/bachelorette parties, with a customized gift box from the locally-sourced Boxed GR for first place winners. 

Wolfe says GR Scavenger Hunt has already put on a few events for corporate groups as well, hosting past treasure hunts for groups like Greenstone Financial and Experience GR. For corporate events, they’ll show slideshows of the pictures taken by employees throughout the hunt at the end when they regroup at the meeting spot, which lately have been local establishments like Grand Rapids Brewing Co. and Bistro Bella Vita. 

“With Greenstone, we created a whole list of things…questions like, ‘Find someone born in the year Greenstone was founded.’ Most of them had never been to Grand Rapids so that was fun,” Wolfe says. “We did a treasure hunt for Experience GR, for their team, and that was a little more difficult because they already know everything there is to know about Grand Rapids.”

She says they find ideas for new challenges everywhere, but have had a lot of help from the Grand Rapids Public Library, where librarians have helped them dig through old books and archives in the past. 

“After our first meeting with Experience GR we headed straight for the Grand Rapids Library and the librarians there were very helpful and they pulled out a bunch of books,” she says. “We found a trivia test from like 20 years ago that was a goldmine of things that went on in Grand Rapids that people don’t really know much about or don’t remember.” 

GR Scavenger Hunt is hosting a public event on Sept. 17 in downtown Grand Rapids, with limited spots for participants at $15 per person. 

“It’ll just be a really eclectic set of people that don’t know each other and strangers competing against each other,” she says. “It’s the first public event we’re going to do, so it’s going to be mostly, ‘check off these lists,’ but I think it’ll be awesome and I’m excited to see who comes out.”

The group will also offer a free, downloadable scavenger hunt on its website during ArtPrize 2015, but will still be open to host custom private hunts for both corporate groups and others who want to explore the three-week event from a new perspective. 

“ArtPrize is Grand Rapids, in a lot of ways, and we want to make it more enjoyable for people who maybe don’t pay attention to art very much for the rest of the year and help them get more engaged with ArtPrize at a level of interest that might not be there initially,” she says. 

“I think that Carol and I are just super passionate about Grand Rapids. It’s a great downtown and it's in the middle of a renascence,” Wolfe says. “To be able to interact with the people — that’s, I’ll be honest, one of the best parts of this. The people we interact with have been nothing but helpful and engaged and happy to participate. It’s been really great to see everyone come together and engage in ways they probably wouldn’t have done otherwise.” 

Click here to sign up for the Sept. 17 public event, or to learn more about GR Scavenger Hunt, visit www.grscavengerhunt.com. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of GR Scavenger Hunt

Locally owned Sun Title expands Creston headquarters with 3,000-sq-ft renovation

With four recent hires to Sun Title’s commercial escrow team bringing its total staff roster north of 60 employees, the Creston-based real estate services company is wrapping up new accommodations this week for its steadily increasing commercial title division with a 3,000-square-foot renovation and expansion project.

“Candidly speaking, we’re just out of closing rooms,” says Tom Cronkright, CEO and co-owner of Sun Title. “We did not have enough rooms to accommodate all of the closings we have, especially in month-end.” 

The new office space is connected to Sun Title’s existing 9,000-square-foot headquarters in downtown Grand Rapids’ Creston neighborhood and accessible from its main entrance at 1410 Plainfield Ave. Cronkright says restorations to the 100-year-old building’s original tin ceilings, oyster-tile floors, and original woodwork dictated the interior aesthetic for the new office space, which features four conference rooms, a private lounge and a large staircase to connect the main office of Sun Title and storefront access. 

“It’s a very tasteful expansion and the renovation will flow well with the existing Sun Title building,” he says. 

Cronkright opened Sun Title in 2005 alongside business partner Lawrence Duthler, and he says although they’ve been experiencing steady growth ever since, the past 24 months in the growing region have brought some particularly accelerated growth in the commercial industrial market as retail and rents continue to rise and the sale of vacant land and new commercial construction is up significantly. 

“A lot of the commercial industrial inventory has been absorbed— the spots along hot retail corridors by Woodland Mall, Alpine. Now, we’re still seeing purchase and sale activity, but we’re also seeing a lot of new construction start,” he says, adding that further activity is coming from the many commercial loans in need of renewal as they hit their five-year maturity dates. 

“There’s been so much investment and, I think, good planning that’s taken place throughout West Michigan that we’re really starting to gain traction,” Cronkright says. “We’re hearing about more and more, and experiencing more and more, cases of people from out of the area sending us resumes and saying they’d like to move to West Michigan for work, so from a macro standpoint I think West Michigan is looking good for awhile.”

With offices in Ionia, Grand Haven, Grandville, Cedar Springs and Rockford, Cronkright says Sun Title’s four recent hires all come with strong backgrounds in the industry, adding to the seasoned team of professionals there that have worked in tandem with the rebounding market to see the company through a successful decade of growth. 

“The old saying really is true that if you’ve got a good culture and you surround yourself with great people then you tend to grow, and that’s really what’s happening here,” he says. “Growth wasn’t really a goal, it has just been a byproduct of just trying to do the best job on every file.”

Cronkright sees plenty of opportunities for further growth in West Michigan, and moving forward, he says Sun Title will be focused on improving their communications as well as building up both new and existing talent in the area.  

“Over the next few years, Lawrence and I will be focused on building a great client base and investing in the people within our organization — building leaders, so to speak,” he says. “We have a philosophy that we treat every deal like it’s our last deal. You can’t take the business for granted, not one day. Not in our industry, for sure.”

Designed by Richard Craig from Craig Architects, Inc. with lead construction/project managers from Karns Construction, final touches on the new space will be completed by the end of this week, with next Monday slated for move in. 

For more information about Sun Title, visit www.suntitle.com. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Sun Title


Related Articles: 

Despite down housing market, Grand Rapids title company adds jobs, profitability

Creston-based title company innovates new business model, adds eight jobs

90-year-old building in Grand Rapids' Creston district renovated for Sun Title expansion

Sun Title's 30 percent growth spurs hiring of 15; three more positions left to fill

Creston Market re-opens after renovation with fresh produce, craft beer selection, new look

New commercial kitchen at the Muskegon Farmers Market promotes entrepreneurship, nutrition, and food


Housed at the Muskegon Farmers' Market, the new rentable commercial kitchen, Kitchen 242, was designed in the spirit of a two-fold mission: first, create a space where food entrepreneurs can make a low-risk investment in developing their new business and centralize other strategic resources that can help them succeed along the way; and secondly, provide a more engaging avenue for educating the community about nutrition and healthy food. 

“It was modeled as 60 percent entrepreneurs and 40 percent education, and what we’re hoping is that we can start to build on the education piece,” says Dana Gannon, education and event coordinator for Kitchen 242 and a nutritionist with the Muskegon County Health Department. 

At 1,520 square feet, Kitchen 242 boasts all of the fixings of a fully-furnished commercial kitchen, including a range, griddle, convection and conventional ovens, cooler, workspace, and cold/dry storage. The kitchen is equipped with professional quality appliances for cooking and refrigeration and includes a selection of pots, pans, and sheet trays that can be used onsite, but all other small wares like foil or plastic wrap are left to the individual renters. 

The space is available to individuals, organizations, and new businesses at hourly rates of $20 for prep work, and $25 for baking, processing, or catering. Block rates are also available for the kitchen space with advanced reservation, designed largely to eliminate long-term leases and facility management/maintenance costs for new entrepreneurs looking for a workspace. 

Gannon says as a bonus feature, any individual who rents out Kitchen 242 is also eligible for a free stall at the Muskegon Farmers' Market, complete with a promotional banner. 

Kitchen 242 was formed in a collaboration between the Downtown Development Corporation, the Muskegon County Health Department and Pioneer Resources, who received a $200,000 appropriation form the budget of the Department of Agricultural and Rural Development to help fund the project, with additional donations from Trinity Health and other area organizations. 

Kitchen 242 comes during a campaign for federal funding launched by the city to create a new downtown food hub, Gannon says. Both the community kitchen space and plans for a future food hub crafted in a collaborative effort are intended not only to spark more economic growth in downtown Muskegon, but also to help address the disparity in access to fresh food and nutrition education that has put the region near the bottom of the county health rankings for the past decade. 

“If we can make this a education kitchen, as well, then we can change the dynamic and the face of Muskegon, working to make Muskegon one of the healthiest counties by 2021,” Gannon says. 

For more information, visit Kitchen 242's website or find them on Facebook here.  To learn more about how to start your own food-related business, check the Michigan State University Product Center online and explore its how-to guide for getting started. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Kitchen 242

Ferris Coffee plans to test drive new Trust Building location with ArtPrize pop-up shop

Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. announced plans last week to create a pop-up coffee shop for the three-week ArtPrize 2015 event in downtown Grand Rapids, with the intention of making its new space on the ground floor of the historic Trust Building a permanent second location by next spring. 

“We’re thrilled with the location. It’s a very historic building with very old bones,” says David VanTongeren, director of retail at Ferris Coffee & Nut.

Almost one year after successfully launching its flagship location on Grand Rapids’ west side at 227 Winter Ave., VanTongeren says the coffee roasters feel perfectly poised to expand the Ferris Coffee brand — and with ArtPrize 2015 promising some guaranteed foot traffic, there was no time like the present.

“We were approached by Sam Cummings at CWD (Real Estate Investment) with the opportunity and after talking with them, it all fell into place that this was the perfect time to expand our coffee footprint and build a shop on the other side of the river,” he says. 

Family-owned and operated since 1924, Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. operated a mobile coffee truck outside of the B.O.B. for the past two ArtPrize seasons in 2013 and 2014, using the opening of its Winter. Ave location last fall to not only increase production capacity, but also open a new coffee education center called The Foundry, intended to create a more mindful and collaborative coffee community. 

It’s part of an arguably growing trend in the downtown Grand Rapids business community to gain brand recognition for small businesses through collaborative event-based efforts such as the recent July 12 Great Vegan Grand Rapids Pop-Up Bakery, for example, which was hosted by Grand Rapids Coffee Roasters at its home on Godfrey Ave. SW and, over the course of three hours, drew hundreds of customers to help increase sales and brand recognition for six area bakeries. 

The new Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. pop-up shop will sell a limited menu of classic espresso beverages and brewed coffees from Ferris’ tier two and tier three offerings during the three-week ArtPrize event, alongside seasonal, non-alcoholic coffee-based cocktails. 

“I think Ferris is unique in having the quality of coffee we offer and [being] able to do it in a very high-volume setting,” VanTongeren says, adding that when the new location becomes permanent in March 2016, the roasters are exploring the addition of new menu items. 

“We are looking at non-coffee options for beverages so whether that’s something alcoholic or non-alcoholic, we’re open to branching beyond just coffee,” he says.

For more information, visit Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. on the web or find them on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Ferris Coffee & Nut

Calvin CRC opens doors to bigger, better Eastown clothing distribution center

Nearly a year after beginning construction on an expanded clothing distribution center at 1515 Franklin SE, Calvin Christian Reformed Church celebrated the completion of the new 5,500-square-foot space with a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony last week. 

Launched over 45 years ago as part of the church’s Family Assistance Program, Calvin CRC’s clothing distribution center serves 3,000 Kent County families annually through a network of service agencies ranging from Head Start to the Kent County Health Department. 

Bobbie Talsma is director of the Family Assistance Program, and says by the end of 2014, the entirely volunteer-run operation was able to serve 3,300 through 34 agencies and 79 caseworkers, poising the organization’s efforts for another 30 percent growth in the coming year. 

This year, the congregation has served 1,137 people despite being partially closed for the relocation during the months of January and February. 

With double the storage space, separate designated donation and pickup areas, on-premise laundry facilities, a playroom for volunteers with children, and other overall efficiency upgrades, the Calvin CRC congregation raised $600,000 to cover the total cost of the project.

“Every dime we get in contribution goes to the Family Assistance Program, not a dime of overhead costs come from the donations,” says Talsma, who works alongside and directs the anywhere between 28-35 volunteers who make the program possible. 

Calvin CRC’s Family Assistance Program has also adopted new hours with the new location. Though they’re still open only twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, hours have been extended later into the afternoon, now operating from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in an effort to accommodate the schedules of professional caseworkers who are responsible for picking up orders placed via email system for the families they work with. 

“There are things we have to do to be more accessible if we want to serve more people — and we do, we want to serve more people,” Talsma says. “When you read in the paper that 22 percent of our children are homeless and they’re going from place to place, church to church; we really want to serve those people…we are blessed to bless others and we will bless as many people as we possibly can.”

Though the program has no intention of opening up to the public in general, the new space is allowing them to strengthen a relatively new partnership formed between Calvin CRC’s Family Assistance Program and the Grand Rapids Jaycees to bring winter coats, snow pants, mittens, hats and boots to students in the Grand Rapids Public School district. 

“Public schools aren’t so much aware of us, NOT only because they didn’t ask, but a teacher can see if a child has a need,” she says. “I understand that some of their resources have kind of closed down, so we’re open to serve them, too, along with our professional counselors from Head Start and other professional services like Arbor Circle and Bethany Christian Services.”

Designed by congregation member Dan Bode of The Architectural Group, Talsma says the new space brings about a few a welcome — and fitting — changes from the older, cramped southeast side home volunteers used to operate the program from. 

“We didn’t have to fit into place, the place was made to fit us,” she says. 

For more information about the church's new clothing distribution center or its Family Assistance Program, visit Calvin CRC online

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Calvin Christian Reformed Church

Related articles: 
Calvin CRC's expansion project hopes to build on outreach programs, record service numbers

Developers gear up for opening of The Morton in heart of downtown Grand Rapids

With only one month until The Morton’s official opening date, Rockford Construction’s Vice President of Real Estate Development Mike Mraz says he looks forward to the project’s completion as the last piece of the puzzle for downtown Grand Rapids’ core redevelopment. 

“We’ve been active in downtown real estate redevelopment for over 15 years and to see the vast number of changes that have occurred in the city center in that time period is really remarkable, especially with a recession in the middle of that,” says Mraz, whose firm began initial cleanup work on the building in December 2013.

Originally opened in 1972 as the Morton Hotel after the former National Hotel was destroyed by a fire, the hotel was remodeled in the 1970s to become the 220-unit Morton House Apartments, which closed in 2011.

The developers bought the 170,000-square-foot building at the end of 2011 for $5.8 million, receiving funding in part from the Downtown Development Authority, who awarded Rockford Construction Co. with a $50,000 building reuse grant for the renovation of the facade, a $35,000 grant to help fill the areaway, and another $35,000 grant for a new sidewalk and streetscape work along Ionia Avenue.

Additionally, the DDA agreed to reimburse Rockford partners 75 percent of the tax revenue the building will generate, which over the next decade totals out at $1.5 million. The Brownfield Redevelopment Authority also chipped in, providing a no-interest loan of $400,000 for the remediation work — asbestos removal and other cleanup — from its U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated Revolving Loan Fund.

With a fourth floor outdoor courtyard and an approximately 500-square-foot indoor space for residents to exercise and bathe their pets, The Morton will also feature amenities like a 24-hour fitness center and an exclusive discounted membership to the nearby MVP.

Originally 13 stories, Rockford Construction developers added a 14th floor to house luxury condominiums, with the lower levels featuring 25,000 square feet of commercial space and the second floor a handful of apartment units and other building amenities. The third floor has 15,000 square feet of commercial office space, and the remaining floors are all reserved for residential units. 

“There’s an indoor community room so people can host an event or a birthday party or anything there and that’s coordinated through our staff.” Mraz says. “We have the indoor pet play area and wash area and I think that’s going to be really popular. We’re attracting people with pets already and that was quite a nice amenity they mentioned by name and partially the reason they wanted to live there.”

Expected to draw 175-200 new residents who will live, dine, and shop at The Morton, Mraz says the new mixed-use is the perfect topper to a decade of redevelopment that is dramatically changing the city’s urban core. 

“So, seeing this building’s redevelopment as really the last piece of the puzzle — it’s not only just a building, but it’s more than that. It’s bringing that level of critical mass that is needed to keep a street like Monroe Center active and engaged,” he says.

For more information on The Morton, or to see floor plans for specific apartment styles, visit www.themortongr.com or visit The Morton on Facebook.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Rockford Construction Co. 

www.rockfordconstruction.com
http://www.themortongr.com/

Global design strategy consultant ThoughtFull opens new flexible studio space in East Hills

It’s only been a little over two weeks since global design strategy and innovation consultants at ThoughtFull opened the doors to its new Grand Rapids offices, but ThoughtFull Partner Tom DeVries says having a physical location in town has already made an “amazing impact” on how the firm is able to engage with clients on a local level. 

“It’s resulted in an explosion of new business for us locally,” says DeVries, who started Thoughtfull abroad alongside partners Geoff Suvalko and Hudson Smales before opening its second location in the 1,200-square-foot space at 975 Cherry St. SE.

“We wanted a neighborhood that was turning around or had begun the process of turning around and we wanted a neighborhood where businesses were catering to empowering trend behaviors and attitudes,” he says. “Something more progressive; all things we represent to our clients.”

Though the firm first found its footing in the global market working with clients that include Air New Zealand, Amway, Auckland Public Transportation System and World Vision, the partners want to move ThoughtFull forward by working backwards -- that is, by taking their global experience to local clients as part of a larger mission of community revitalization.

With enough workspace to accommodate a roster of research, design and strategy team members that ranges from anywhere between 8-14 strong, DeVries says ThoughtFull's new East Hills office isn't intended to be as much of an office space as it is a studio space, the minimal interior design deliberately chosen to afford total flexibility with how the space is used. 

“The way we think about it is as a blank canvas…We can transition the entire space into something that it’s not right now at a moment’s notice,” he says. 

“For example we might be working on a project where we discover that there’s a challenge between how a retail customer engages on a cell phone and in physical retail store, so what we would do in that circumstance — after having researched human behavior activity and what approaches other businesses are taking — we would create a retail environment where we build prototypes of solutions where we could engage the customer and make the whole thing real in less than a day,” he says. 

By simulating the actual environments in which customers will engage with organizations, ThoughtFull’s approach to building client’s design strategies represents both a practical and philosophical commitment to making things tangible. 

“The knock on design and designers working in business environments is that designers don’t finish things and they don’t make things, they just work in concepts,” DeVries says. “We have a lot of designers on our team, so I wanted to be very explicit with our team and say, ‘We make things, we make ideas reality.’” 

He says ideally, ThoughtFull will find more nearby real estate to expand operations into, allowing the current space to be dedicated exclusively to staging. He also hopes they'll be able to equip the space with tools for building the kind of pseudo retail environments that ultimately arm ThoughtFull with the unique perspectives and insight it has made its name by. 

DeVries says he and his partners see a lot of room for growth in the local market and as a Grand Rapids native, he feels inherently invested in the success of the city’s larger downtown redevelopment and the growth of the region in general.

“There are politics everywhere, but it’s still a small enough community that if you’re doing the right things, people will respond and you can build momentum from there,” he says. “There’s already a momentum building here and it’s an exciting thing to wake up and say, ‘How can we help?’” 

Visit www.thoughtfulldesign.com to learn more. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor 
Images courtesy of ThoughtFull 

Kilwin's downtown GR chocolate kitchen bounces back from February flooding with upgraded space

Kilwin’s Grand Rapids owners Julie and Tim Calderone just did not see it coming.

“It was a water pipe in the ceiling,” says Julie Calderone, who opened the downtown Grand Rapids chocolate kitchen at 146 Monroe Center St. NW just four years ago on the ground floor of the historic McKay Towers. 

“We had pipes literally freeze in the ceiling, so when they ruptured, all of the water from McKay Towers came flooding in and we lost everything,” she says. “Walls, ceiling, floors — everything.”

It’s taken a few months to complete renovations on the 2,210-square-foot retail space, but Kilwin’s is back in business — this time boasting some upgraded interior fixtures and more hand-made confections to choose from than ever before. 

The revamped Kilwin’s will still carry the same breadth of Tillman’s property products they have in the past, only now Calderone says they’ve doubled the store’s fudge selection and allocated more floorspace for their “fudge window,” where customers can look in and watch expert artisans making signature Mackinac Island Fudge on a new 1,100-lb. marble table. 

She says business has really taken off again since Kilwin’s June 30 reopening, partially attributed to their four-month absence, but also, she says, to a very productive convention season in downtown Grand Rapids. 

“Anytime Grand Rapids does something to bring people downtown we do better as a business, so we’re always appreciative of that,” she says. “We’ve just had a really nice welcome back from the community,” Calderone says. “I think the community missed their sweet treats.”

Kilwin’s downtown Grand Rapids location is currently open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and on Sundays from noon to 8 p.m., but hours change seasonally, so visit www.kilwins.com for more information. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Julie Calderone 

Habitat Kent partners with GRCC students to wrap up construction on MI's first LEED Gold v4 home

Dedicated back in April, Habitat for Humanity of Kent County has completed construction on the first home in Michigan to meet new LEED Gold v4 standards from the U.S. Green Building Council located at 730 Oakland Ave. SW. 

“We had a started this process looking at LEED v4 when USGBC was announcing it was going to come out as mandatory within this year,” says Corri Sandwick, a Habitat Kent construction team member and LEED standard specialist. “We started going down his path and then USGBC has delayed the official date until October 2016, but we decided to go ahead to continue to pursue LEED v4.”

In additional to the previous LEED requirements, the updated standards include higher energy, water and resource efficiency standards. Under the new LEED Gold v4 standards, Habitat Kent homes are armed with specific features that reduce carbon footprints; for example, water heaters that use a closed combustion system to pull fresh combustion air in from the outside, reducing the need for fresh air intake and improving efficiency and additional testing measures — including pre-drywall, infra-red camera testing and blower door tests, which help ensure quality of the thermal envelope. 

Brandyn Deckinga is project manager for Habitat Kent’s 730 Oakland Ave. SW project and says the newly certified LEED Gold v4 home was part of the Grand Rapids Community College 100th anniversary build, with the majority of construction led by students studying green construction in the GRCC Tassell M-Tec program. 

“We brought the class, along with their professor, out (to the home) and they did all of the things we do with the volunteers,”  says Deckinga, adding that during the build, students gained more practical experience in learning about sustainable design, the LEED for Homes program and efficient building practices that go beyond typical code-built homes. 

“One of the big parts in making a house energy efficient is the air seal, so we took an extra step and did blower door tests, which basically test how air-tight the home is,” Deckinga says. “With the students, we could look with an infrared camera and a smoke pen to see where the leaks were.”

Though USGBC will not officially launch LEED v4 until October 2016, Deckinga and Sandwick say Habitat Kent plans to continue to certify all new homes using the upgraded standards.

“We want our homeowners to be able to live in our homes comfortably and we want them to be able to live them 40 or 50 years. We want our homes to be safe and energy efficient so they can afford the utilities,” Deckinga says. “…When people stay in their homes, we see that helping the community by people taking ownership of their homes.” 

Click here for more information on LEED v4 standards or visit www.habitatkent.org

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Habitat for Humanity of Kent County
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