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'Canine boutique salon' Fido & Stitch to open on ground floor of new Belknap Lookout development

As 616 Development prepares to move in the first tenants Nov. 1 at its $22 million, four-story renovation project at 820 Monroe Ave. NW, new “canine boutique salon” Fido & Stitch gears up for its own grand opening later next month in suite 140 on the building’s ground floor. 

The retail portion of the 1,500-square-foot space will feature a boutique shop for specialty brands of dog food and accessories, while the salon will feature one on-site professional groomer alongside a separate self-service dog wash, where Fido & Stitch Co-Owner Alli McDonough says everything from shampoos and conditioners to towels and dryers will be provided for owners who want to bring their pups in for a wash. 

“You’ll be able to go there and find anything you need for your dog. It’s like a big box store, but with us there are more specialty brands and different options,” says McDonough, who co-owns Fido & Stitch with her husband Joe. “It’s more luxury items, but definitely not bank-breaking…I’m a big advocate for treating your dog how you’d want to be treated.”

McDonough, a Grand Rapids native, had the idea to open Fido & Stitch while finishing her MBA at Davenport University, drawing inspiration from the abundance of similarly boutique-style dog stores she used to frequent while living in Chicago. 

Though she says she looked at retail spaces in Eastown and Creston neighborhoods, the space at 820 Monroe Ave. NW seemed like the perfect positioning for Fido & Stitch to tap into a previously untapped market, conveniently located in the same building as 85 one- and two-bedroom apartment units. 

“It all happened pretty quickly,” she says, “A lot of it, I think, due to my excitement and ambition to get this open.” 

McDonough says they expect to hold a grand opening event mid- to late November, but plan to announce the official date on the Fido & Stitch Facebook page soon. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Fido & Stitch

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Planned renovation of 820 Monroe NW into apartments, retails could generate $1.7M in annual spending

Grand Coney begins renovations on third diner location on 28th St. and Madison

Diner-style restaurant Grand Coney is waiting on the city of Grand Rapids to approve building permits for renovations at 401 28th Street SE and Madison St., with plans to house its third location in the 1,800-square-foot building shortly after the new year.

Jeff Lobdell is president of Restaurant Partners, Inc., which owns Grand Coney alongside 13 other West Michigan restaurants. He says the former Sunrise Family Restaurant building is located on a busy intersection with a high-density population within its two-mile radius; in other words, perfect for the Grand Coney brand. 

“We like high-traffic, high-density locations,” says Lobdell, whose Restaurant Partners, Inc. purchased the property over a year ago. “We like places where there are a lot of cars because the Grand Coney diner is a very convenient concept. If you’re hungry you can get in and get out pretty quick, but still have a nice sit-down meal.” 

Grand Coney’s third location at 401 28th Street SE will create 15-20 full-time jobs, with an additional 15-20 part-time positions. Lobdell says he’s already hired a few managers who are currently undergoing training at the downtown Grand Rapids location, but plans on making more hires in the coming months as renovations draw closer to completion. 

Grand Coney’s flagship 24-7 location first opened in 2004 at 809 Michigan St., followed in 2008 by its second Allendale location near Grand Valley State University on Lake Michigan Drive.

Lobdell says initially, the 28th Street location will only offer 24-7 service on Thursday-Saturday to gauge interest there for an all-night diner, operating under normal hours from Sunday-Wednesday.

“I think that this Grand Coney diner restaurant has been very well received in Grand Rapids on Michigan Street and also in Allendale, so based on how well the guests have liked it and how well the restaurants are doing, we decided to open one here at 28th and Madison in that neighborhood and we will be actively looking for additional sites.” 

For more information about the official opening date for the new location, or to learn how to apply for available jobs there, visit www.grandconeygr.com or find Grand Coney on Facebook.

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Restaurant Partners, Inc. 

The Right Place, Inc. celebrates 30th anniversary with local music, business leaders

Vice President of Marketing Tim Mroz still remembers the first big economic development project The Right Place, Inc. undertook back in 1990, when the organization helped to facilitate $20 million worth of investment alongside the creation of 200 new jobs at the Comstock Park company formerly named Behr Industries, now known as NBHX Trim

“I think it really solidified to the public what The Right Place does and what we were able to accomplish as an organization,” says Mroz, adding that additionally the project proved how effective the concept of economic development could be in having a major impact on West Michigan’s long-term economy. 

Next week, Mroz will join a few hundred others at the Amway headquarters in Ada to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the regional economic development organization. The sold-out event kicking off with a performance by indie-rock/soul musicians Vox Vidorra before a few remarks from Gov. Rick Snyder and other West Michigan business leaders such as Doug DeVos, Dave VanAndel, and TRP board chair/Spectrum Health CEO Richard Breon, 

“We truly want to provide a night where the business community and The Right Place can come together and celebrate 30 years of economic development, job creation, and investment in West Michigan,” Mroz says. 

Mroz says in the past 30 years, the organization has helped foster $4 billion of investment and 40,000 new jobs, recently driving forward more regional initiatives throughout West Michigan in Newaygo, Montcalm, Ionia, and Lake counties, to name a few. 

In 2012, TRP worked with Gov. Snyder’s administration to form a “13-county West Michigan prosperity region,” which now into its fourth year has worked with counties on initiatives that range from workforce development to industrial infrastructure. 

“We’ve been really working to push economic growth and job creation outside just Kent County to make sure there are opportunities throughout West Michigan.”

To learn more about TRP, visit www.rightplace.org. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of The Right Place, Inc. 

New restaurant concept IRON to open at 25 Ottawa this holiday season

Grand Rapids developers Franklin Partners, LLC announced the addition of a new restaurant to the ground floor of its 25 Ottawa building last week. 

IRON, a concept restaurant by award-winning chef Chris Perkey, is expected to open in the space during the holiday season with a “modern Midwestern-themed menu” based on seasonal produce and regional proteins, paired with hand-picked wines and craft cocktails.

“The IRON concept paired with the atmosphere and location of 25 Ottawa is off-the-charts, and I can’t wait to get in the kitchen and create,” says Perkey, whose Osteria Rossa was named 2015 Best New Restaurant by Grand Rapids Magazine. 

Franklin Partners’ Director of Marketing Julie Maue says renovations at 25 Ottawa are designed to reduce the footprints of previous failed restaurant concepts in the 5,000-square-foot space. The intimate interior will be custom designed to strip the space back to its original architecture with exposed brick, distressed wood, and kitchen-view seating. 

“As we began walking people through 25 Ottawa, it became clear that they mainly knew the building based on the revolving door of unsuccessful restaurant concepts,” Maue says. “We had to recast public perception, and by engaging the public, many of the design decisions and how the building was repositioned was based on their feedback.”

IRON is expected to open during the upcoming holiday season. For more information, visit www.IRONGR.com. 

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

Bold Socks plans Nov. pop-up shop in advance of spring opening for new S. Division retail space

This holiday season, Bold Socks wants you to live boldly.

This new S. Division retailer is hoping to make your steps matter more with a November pop-up shop that will give customers a taste of its distinct and unique merchandise — top-notch socks. 

Formerly an online-only retailer, Bold Socks began five years ago as a competition between co-workers who, at the time, worked on staff at Gordon Food Services. 

“It turned into this idea that there wasn’t enough selling of socks online and no one was bringing the best brands together,” says Ryan Roff, co-owner and director of creative and marketing. “The opportunity was identified to try to start our own website, and it grew from $3,000 in sales the first year to $180,000 the next year and it’s just taken off since then.”

Though eventually Bold Socks owners will make17 S. Division its permanent physical retail space, Roff says a pop-up shop made more sense with the timeframe they’re working under, having just recently signed the lease on the 1,700-square-foot storefront.

“…to try to put that all together in a month’s time, we felt, just wasn’t worth it; but we do want to get our socks showcased and get the backbone of what our store will look like up (for the holiday season),” Roff says. 

Though Roff says big-box retailers like Target are more recently selling similarly expressive sock fashions, he’s not worried about the competition. Not only does Bold Socks hold a unique niche in the market as one of very few exclusive retailers for statement-making socks, its parent company Bold Endeavors also has two of its own brands sold through boldsocks.com — the basic Bold Socks label compromised primarily of solid color socks, and a second private label called Statement Sockwear, which reaches beyond just revenue in its mission. 

“Your purchase goes so much further than just buying a pair of socks,” Roff says. “With our socks, you’re able to contribute 100 days of clean water with each pair you purchase.” 

To date, Bold Socks has been able to contribute 2.5 million days of clean water to African villages by way of its partner organization 20 Liters, which focuses not only on bringing clean water to specific communities, but also on helping those communities build their own sustainable infrastructure by spearheading new partnerships between business owners and churches in the area and making sure community leaders are properly trained to continue a slow but steady trend of economic growth. 

“The social enterprise business model is something we believe really strongly in; in fact, we believe all companies should consider a social enterprise model if they have that opportunity,” he says, adding that they liked the idea of being a part of helping to build sustainable systems versus just donating money to a charity. 

After its scheduled grand opening this spring, Bold Socks’ new 17 S. Division space will give owners approximately 1,000 square feet for inventory with the remaining 700 allocated to retail space. 

He says he and CEO Ryan Preisner, alongside business partners Dan Manshaem and Adam Whitmore, are looking forward to not only consolidating operations from their respective basements, but also to new opportunities to get involved in the community and be a part of South Division’s renaissance, so to speak. 

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity here. Not only is it extremely central to Grand Rapids – I think that corner is something people think of as iconic to the essential downtown area — but there’s an opportunity to participate in the community,” says Roff, adding that choosing a location based on sales demographic alone does little to foster the diversity of brand when you compare it to actual engagement. 

“We believe strongly in the growth of Grand Rapids and I think in order to attract people that actually want to walk around and be in downtown as part of a retail sector, it requires businesses like ours that are unique and offer a one-of-a-kind experience to be able to continue to progress that area downtown.” 

To check out Bold Socks’ full inventory online, visit Bold Socks online or find Bold Socks on Facebook for more updates on its November pop-up shop and spring grand opening. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Bold Socks Endeavors

Dead Solez brings new life to rare sports sneakers phenomena in downtown GR

Riding on the wave of growing national interest in high-end and luxury sports footwear, Dead Solez has opened for business at 53 Monroe Center St. with a focus on both sales and trade-ins for high-end, luxury athletic brand sneakers.

At Dead Solez, customers can shop the curated selection of rare discontinued styles like the Air Jordan 11, Nike Foamposite, and Jordan 1 Collaborations, or bring in their own rare sneakers to trade in for cash or new kicks after passing an evaluation by one of two resident “sneaker experts” on staff there. 

“We’re really excited to set up shop right in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids with heavy foot traffic, easy access, terrific customers and near other great boutique stores,” says co-owner Angelo Martinez.

Dead Solez also sells and accepts trades for similarly high-end brands of baseball caps such as New Era hats. 

Originally started earlier this year by Tim Datema inside Capz on Rackz in Comstock Park, the rapid growth and popularity of the service prompted Dead Solez to move into its own downtown location.

Chris Prins, associate with Colliers International who helped broker Dead Solez’s three-year lease on the 1,200-square-foot space, says Dead Solez offers something different to the growing boutique retail market in Grand Rapids’ downtown core. 

“I think it’s something that the specific downtown market hasn’t seen yet,” Prins says. “Dead Solez sells to a customer base that’s already down here so it’s an easier commute, you get a lot of foot traffic up and down that corridor and they’re kind of exclusive in terms of what they sell and what the brand is.”

For more information, visit Dead Solez online or find them here on Facebook. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Dead Solez

Switchback Gear Exchange opens on Plainfield Ave. with community-focused mission

For the owners of Switchback Gear Exchange, located at 2166 Plainfield Ave. NW in the Creston-Cheshire district, the enterprise is as much about building a business as it about building a community. 

“We have always tried to use Switchback as a means to improve our community,” says co-owner Rachel Posthumus, who initially started Switchback about five years ago in Marquette, Mich. with her husband Mike until life brought them  back down to their hometown of Grand Rapids. 

Specializing in second-hand outdoor recreation equipment, Switchback opened its 1,000-square-foot space in May. It has since added an additional 1,000 square feet for a new full-service bicycle repair shop, paying homage to residents who came in to share nostalgia about the Swchinn retailer that used to reside across the street. 

“A lot of our sellers were coming in and being nostalgic about buying their family bikes,” Posthumus says. “…we had full leeway to make the space exactly the way we needed it to be, and we just kind of dove in.” 

A general contractor by trade, Posthumus says renovations were tailored to their specific vision. The couple restored the original tin ceilings and hardwood floors to bring the space back to life just in time for its Give Gear program, which they established as a way for local residents with extra gear to donate gear on behalf of a nonprofit for two months out of the year. 

This month all donations, aside from the small percentage they use for overhead and operational costs, will go directly to nonprofits including Blindfold Nature Center, Grand Rapids Public Museum, West Michigan Humane Society, American Cancer Society, CA Frost Environmental School, and Forest Hills Eastern Middle School, though Switchback is facilitating separate fundraising efforts for the last two schools that run alongside the Give Gear month. 
“It’s just been so cool to hear about all of the other things happening down the Plainfield Corridor between us and Leonard St. We are really glad we got to be on the ground floor of all of the redevelopment that is happening,” she says. “…we have seen a huge resurgence of people moving back to our neighborhood and we’re excited to see the positive momentum building and excited by the fact we got to be the early adopters.”

“I am excited that with living here, I will be able to ride my bike or walk to a place I would want to go to on a regular basis. It’s like downtown living outside of downtown,” she says. “I feel very proud of that in terms of participating as a business and having access to all of these cool things as a person who lives here.” 

For more information, visit www.goswitchback.com. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Switchback Gear Exchange 

Malamiah Juice Bar opens second location in Grandville

Malamiah Juice Bar held a ribbon cutting last week to celebrate the opening of its second West Michigan location, this one in the new space shared with Peacelab Yoga Studio at 5570 Wilson Ave. SW in Grandville. 

“The opportunity for the actual space came to us,” says Anissa Eddie, who co-owns Malamiah with husband Jermale. “Peacelab Yoga Studio asked if we would consider placing a juice bar in there, and that’s something we’ve been looking at for a while…to have a space that was already move-in ready was such a blessing.” 

The Eddies launched Malamiah Juice Bar as one of the first tenants in the Grand Rapids Downtown Market in 2013 — an opportunity Anissa says has allowed them to flourish to the point they’re at now. 

“It was really an ideal place for us to start; we were an unknown entity,” she says. “To be a brand new family-owned startup, the market gave us a perfect platform to really launch our brand and develop who we were with a lot of support. Not only from the general market staff but it was really a community story among other tenants.”

She says starting their business alongside other small, family-owned entrepreneurs allowed them to brainstorm and troubleshoot together, to lean on each other for support. 

“It was really, really helpful because I think if we would have started in any other spot on our own, it would have made the process more difficult. I definitely don’t think we’d be at the point of a second location without that.” 

Alongside its juice bar menu, Malamiah seeks to root itself in the community with a larger mission of health education and youth empowerment, working alongside community organizations to offer educational opportunities as well as internships. Both are the kind of programs they're looking to expand further as their Grandville location becomes more established.  

“[It’s] really exciting to look at how these things we’ve piloted in Grand Rapids can work in Grandville,” she says. 

For hours and more information, visit www.malamiahjuicebar.com. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Malamiah Juice Bar

CWD Real Estate plans big renovations for Calder Plaza Building in downtown GR

CWD Real Estate Investment, owners of the downtown Grand Rapids Calder Plaza Building, has announced renovation plans that include both an interior redesign and facelift to the building’s facade, located in the city’s central business district near Calder Plaza at 250 Monroe NW. 

Sam Cummings, managing partner at CWD, says the current redesign plans for the Calder Plaza Building mark the first significant renovation the building has seen in 30 years. 

“The front of the building was built in a more urban-renewal period, when everything was to become auto-friendly and mimic vehicular access as much as possible and that was really the design thought that people were after,” says Cummings, adding that the north side of the building — the side currently facing the main stretch of street — was designed to be the back of the house. 

“We want to not only better engage the street, but also, from a financial perspective, increase the amount of revenue-contributing space to the building economically,” Cummings says. “It’s a super fun project because the fundamentals of the building are extraordinary — it just suffers from a very outdated design, which hasn't stood the test of time.”

Interior renovation plans include the relocation of the lobby’s central staircase — which Cummings refers to in its current state as “that space-eating stairway” — where the original design plans called for an escalator that never came to fruition. 

“It just sort of stayed there…it doesn’t, in and of itself, provide enough architectural interest to hold the space,” he says. 

He says CWD, alongside Detroit-based Hamilton Anderson, will gut both the first and second floors of its lobby to create a more open space, relocating the staircase to the south end of the building. Exterior redesigns include an overall update of the facade to let in more natural light through the addition of a floor-to-ceiling window on the north corner that will also be mimicked on the east side of the building. 

“The whole idea is that you actually have a view of corridors from a public area, or when you are in a public area or first come into a suite, that there will be a ‘wow space,’ or the opportunity to have something like that where the natural light just fills the space,” Cummings says. 

The renovation of a 160,000-square-foot building is consistent with CWD’s existing portfolio of projects, says Cummings, saying its redevelopment as a centerpiece in downtown Grand Rapids is part of the company and the city’s shared vision of sustained economic viability in the coming years. 

“Our goal is, in the long term, sustainability,” he says. “I mean that economically, I mean it in every sense of the word. Right now, everything we have is really on the back of philanthropy. The past 25 years we have been blessed by (the fact that) every major project has had a secondary or tertiary goal central to it as the revitalization of the city. The goal of that was not to perpetuate philanthropy, but to be an anchor and to be a catalyst for long-term economic sustainability, and that’s really what we’re after.”

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of CWD Real Estate 

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Renovation makes Grand Rapids' Calder Plaza Building ready for 21st Century businesses

Elzinga & Volkers celebrates anniversary milestone with continued office revamp, growth in 2016

On the cusp of its 70th anniversary celebration, construction company Elzinga & Volkers plans, among other things, to continue renovations that originally began in 2013 to its downtown Holland offices at 86 E 6th St.

“We had outdated space and the nature of our business is really changing,” says Vice President of Project Development at Elzinga & Volkers, John Parker. “There’s a lot more interaction at our office than we used to have for a construction company.”

Over the past three years, the total 15,000-square-foot building has seen renovations to about 70 percent of its useable space, with the redesign starting with a 20 percent increase in its first floor project management offices geared toward creating a better work environment for its growing staff. 

Parker says though a lot of companies undergoing renovation projects are going with more open floor-plans and collaborative workspaces, Elzinga & Volkers needed something different for its staff to focus more effectively — a quiet place to do head-down work in contrast to their busy day-to-day schedules of client meetings and in-the-field work. 

“We chose to do a more private space for our project managers,” he says. “Updating it, but also creating a better work environment.”

Currently, Elzinga & Volkers is undergoing renovations to add two more office spaces and a private meeting room alongside new restrooms and a new “history wall” to commemorate the company’s 70th anniversary, including information, awards and other memorabilia.

With two more construction phases left in 2016 to update its kitchen/commons area as well as the last 3,000 square feet of office and meeting space, Elzinga & Volkers’ most recent renovations come on the heels of around 20 new hires locally, with much of the job creation driven by a 30 percent increase in backlog from both new and existing clients. 

“We have right now the best backlog in the company’s history,” Parker says, adding that in 2016 they are looking at over $100 million in backlogged business revenue, with around $50 million of those projects expected to break ground by spring 2016. 

Parker attributes growth to the nature of the rebounding construction industry in the region, but also to the fact the construction company has been able to find its niche in the healthcare, senior living and commercial sectors and forge client relationships that require large-scale, continued renovation projects stewarded with skill by its talented staff. 

“We’re excited for the coming years,” Parker says. “The growth in our office is exciting, too, and it’s just an extension of what’s going on in the economy. We feel very good about business operations in the foreseeable future.”

He says over the next year, Elzinga & Volkers is looking to make 3-4 new hires for project management personnel, and expects a handful of new positions in skilled trade field operations to open up with new construction in the spring.

To learn more about careers at Elzinga & Volkers, visit www.elzinga-volkers.com/careers.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Elzinga & Volkers 

CityFlatsHotel announces plans for more hotel rooms at salon, event space opening in downtown GR

Though the new 2,500-square-foot blow dry bar The Parlour @ CityFlatsHotel opened to new clients back in July, hotel administrators celebrated its public grand opening earlier this month at 77 Monroe Center.

The Parlour’s grand opening, which brings alongside it 10 new members to the CityFlatsHotel team, was celebrated in conjunction with Events @ CityFlatsHotel, which shares the remaining 10,500 square feet of the former Louis Benton Steakhouse for its new reception space and two conference rooms. 

Specializing in event hairstyling and professional make-up application, The Parlour @ CityFlatsHotel offers full salon services such as cuts, colors, manicures and more, with a styling lounge created to be easily transformed and customized into a private space for wedding parties and other special events.

“Were excited now that both spaces are open,” says Marketing Coordinator Jack Peaphon of CityFlatsHotel. “We’ve had a lot of great luck with new clients coming into The Parlour and we’ve had a lot of brides booking bridal parties staying at the hotel beforehand.” 

CityFlatsHotel announced plans to open the new blow dry bar and event space at 77 Monroe Center in February. Combined with the existing Ballroom @ CityFlatsHotel, the new event space will provide three additional areas available for weddings, special events and business functions. 

CityFlatsHotel also announced plans to add 20 additional hotel rooms to the existing 28 currently offered by the downtown Grand Rapids boutique lodging brand, though Peaphone says no additional details on the construction timeframe are available quite yet. 

However, he says CityFlatsHotel is poised for big business as ArtPrize 2015 brings both new and returning visitors to the downtown area. 

“It’s actually been pretty tremendous,” Peaphone says. “We’ve been picking up both walk-in traffic just because of how much downtown has grown and how many more tourists and people are living downtown and it’s really great to be in the spot we are because we’re so centrally located.”

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of CityFlats Hotel 

GVSU celebrates opening of Grand Villages on Allendale Campus

Grand Valley State University students, staff, and community members joined representatives from Orion Construction last week for a ribbon cutting event to celebrate the opening of The Grand Villages, a 20-acre “Greek Village” located at 5050 Pierce Road near the university’s Allendale Campus. 

10 multi-unit buildings were constructed by Orion, in conjunction with its Orion Real Estate Solutions and majority partner Alan Hoffman of Grand Villages, LLC., to provide a total of 265 new beds between the homes, each containing between 13-16 bedrooms with floor plans ranging from 9,870-12,100 square feet.

Jason Wheeler is a spokesperson for Orion Construction/ORES and says the Allendale-based project was not only an opportunity to continue a lucrative business partnership with Hoffman, but to also be a part of bringing together a community of students in a rapidly growing campus context. 

“We’re also motivated by the fact that GVSU really has such a great program going with its Greek organizations and helping them to relocate to a centralized area really kind of brings an identity to the school, especially since the rest of the school is growing so much,” Wheeler says. 

The initial phase of the project began in January 2014, with architecture designs by Johnson/Newhoff and financing provided by Wolverine Bank. Wheeler says the 20-acre site has space for additional growth, though the developer currently has no concrete plans in place at this time. 

The new buildings are fully occupied by members of GVSU’s 10 different Greek organizations

“With almost every other university you go to, you can sort of identify the student groups, including Greek organizations — but at GVSU, at least prior to this, those groups have been pretty scattered,” Wheeler says. “There was not a lot of housing to tie them into one cohesive unit, so that was really one thing we liked about this project, helping to bring some cohesion to those groups and build a sense of community there.” 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Orion Construction/Orion Real Estate Solutions 

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 
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