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Grand Rapids' LightHouse Furnishings shifts direction with new focus, new name

LightHouse Furnishings, a longtime go-to source for many West Michigan antiques collectors, has closed its doors and reopened as Always, Betti, a cozy boutique specializing in vintage and costume jewelry, sterling silver, and fine crystal.

Shop proprietor Betti Allen and her husband, Bob, redesigned the interior of the former LightHouse Furnishings space (1141 E. Fulton, next to the Fulton Street Farmers Market) to create a 200-square-foot boutique for Always, Betti. The remainder of the building is now home to UserEasy Computer Systems, Inc., owned by their son, Paolo Ladomato (see related article here).

"I've wanted to focus on selling smaller items for a while, and with the renovation and reopening of the farmers market, it was an opportune time to restructure our business," Allen says. "We have the best spot in town because of being next to the farmers market. We get a lot of foot traffic from there."

The shop offers an intriguing mix of fine, vintage and costume jewelry, sterling silver flatware, bowls and candlesticks, and high-end crystal and porcelain. The Allens have collected pieces from their travels in India, Hawaii and other U.S. states.

Allen says some of her best sellers are vintage furs, which she'll continue to have on hand. She will also still offer the occasional furniture piece, such as the circa 19th Century handpainted tall case clock by Scottish clock maker George Lumsden.

Store hours: 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Weds. through Sat.

Source: Betti Allen, Always, Betti
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photographs: Deborah Johnson Wood

Longtime computer services company moves back to Midtown Grand Rapids

UserEasy Computer Systems, Inc. used to be a familiar face in the Midtown/Fulton Heights area of Grand Rapids. The one-person shop occupied about 300 square feet in the rear of LightHouse Furnishings next to The Schnitz Deli. Now, after 12 years of operating UserEasy in an industrial area south of 28th St., owner Paolo Ladomato has moved the company and his seven employees back to E. Fulton St.  

Family ties run deep. Ladomato's parents, Bob and Betti Allen, owned LightHouse Furnishings, now located at 1141 E. Fulton, next door to the Fulton Street Farmers Market. Recent changes at LightHouse (see related story here) freed up some 3,500-square-feet in the building for UserEasy Computers.  

The shop, which opened this week, repairs and services desktop and laptop computers, sells computer accessories, sets up networking for residential and corporate needs, custom builds desktop computers and custom designs laptops. UserEasy also designs software businesses can use to track inventory and sales, handle accounting and perform other functions.

Internet sales a large part of the business, with sales coming through UserEasy's website, as well as Amazon and eBay, says Allen.

"We moved back to the city to be more centrally located to our customer base," says Bob Allen, who has worked for his son for the past eight years. "Plus we have more exposure being right on Fulton Street."

Source: Bob Allen, UserEasy Computer Systems, Inc.
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photographs: Deborah Johnson Wood

Perception, longtime Grand Rapids gallery, moves to new Heartside location after 19 years

When Perception opened at 7 Ionia Ave. SW in 1989, owner Kim L. Smith says the only other business was Richmond Stamp across the street. Now, with the thriving entertainment district that's sprung up around the Van Andel Arena and the future Grand Rapids Brewing Company development in Perception's space, Smith, an energetic and passionate lover of art, seized the opportunity to buy a building and relocate the gallery.

The new location at 210 E. Fulton St., in the former EyeCons Gallery, offers 2,000-square-feet of gallery space and 2,200-square-feet of workshop space. The iconic brick building greets visitors with a unique corner entry framed by storefront windows that will give passersby a glimpse of the treasures inside.

The current gallery overflows with original art from America and Europe, with hundreds of oil paintings, watercolors and acrylics, and an eclectic mix of furniture pieces, like the ancient hand-carved chair for royalty that sits next to a 1970s polygraph chair.

Smith, who was constantly on the move during our interview -- pointing out works in the current gallery, then seated, then giving a free appraisal on an Asian carving to a customer, then getting a chart from the backroom, then talking with a utility service technician -- seems to put the same energy into art research and customer service.

"I offer a free verbal appraisal for anyone who brings anything through the front door," Smith says. Last year, according to Smith's hash-marked, color-coded chart where he tracks the number of visitors, appraisals and other things, he appraised 881 pieces brought in by 322 people.

Knowledge of his trade -- much of it gained through research, he says -- is crucial to his paying business: written, documented art appraisals for insurance purposes and estate valuations for which he charges $150 per hour.

Smith expects to stay open during the relocation and will have a sale on hundreds of frames and some art at the end of April. He hopes to be in the new shop by April 30.

Source: Kim L. Smith, Perception
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photographs: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

An outdated Heartside building becomes modern guest house for Saint Mary's Health Care families

Saint Mary's Health Care is in the midst of transforming an outdated mid-century building directly behind the hospital into a contemporary and welcoming guest house for the families of patients.

The former St. Luke's House on the corner of Lafayette Avenue SE and Cherry St. SE will soon be the new $3.5 million Sophia's House, named after the mother of lead donor Peter M. Wege.

The guest house features 15 private guest rooms with televisions and wireless Internet access, a larger family-sized guest room, and common areas that include a kitchen, living room/library, a game room with a television and Wii, a children's alcove, computer center and a fitness room.

"The guest house will be for patient families who come from over 30 miles away while their loved one is being cared for at Saint Mary's," says Michelle Rabideau, executive director of the Saint Mary's Foundation, the fundraising arm of Saint Mary's Health Care and overseer of the guest house operations.

"Also, if a patient is coming from over 30 miles away and has an early morning surgery, they can come in the night before and stay at Sophia's House," Rabideau says. "They'll be less anxious, their car is already parked and then can just walk across the street to the hospital."

Rabideau says the design includes a homey feel with all the amenities of a hotel, warm colors and is just yards away from the hospital and Lack's Cancer Center.

An overnight stay is $35 per room, and guests can bring in their own food to prepare in the kitchen, says Rabideau.

The guest house will open on Monday, June 4. Sophia's House will begin taking reservations in May.

Interior design: Progressive AE
Construction manager: Erhardt Construction
Furnishings: Custer

Source: Michelle Rabideau, Saint Mary's Foundation
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

EverMyHart's Enchanted Emporium promotes Michigan artists in new Rockford boutique

Barbara Everhart is a self-proclaimed "glassware diva," and her passion for all things glassware has led her to three new careers as a creator of handpainted glassware, proprietor of two online businesses for handcrafts, and owner of a new art boutique in Rockford.

When Everhart's glassware began to sell a couple of years ago, she established online shops on Etsy and Artfire. Then last November, she opened EverMyHart's Enchanted Emporium, or E3, a two-story shop at 25 Squires Street Square that sells only original artwork created by Michigan artists.

Everhart says E3 represents 37 Michigan artists currently, plus her own art. The store features a "vast array of wall art -- photography, pencil, pastels, watercolors, acrylics and oils," she says. "I walked in the space on October 24 and signed the lease the next day."

The shop has a wide selection of treasures: handpainted silk scarves, purses made from men's suits and sport coats, metal sculpture, pottery by two different artists, hand-sewn baby bibs, pillows, quilts and table runners, and more.

"I have a stone and wood lamp that looks like a fireplace by Jim Boersma," Everhart says. "And acrylic paintings of lighthouses, birds, and landscapes by Holland artist Scott Hamburg. I also have prints of his works of the original Tiger Stadium and Wrigley Field."

Other items include photography of Michigan by Chip Sanch with original inscriptions by his wife Lynn Sanch; Jilly's Jems jewelry, a nonprofit whose earnings go to melanoma research; natural soaps made from rainwater by Karen Avery of The Rainbucket; and Michigan Stone Knobs drawer pulls by Dave Mannes.

"It was always in the back of my mind to have a shop where people could find Michigan artwork by Michigan artists," Everhart says. "Rockford was always my first choice."

Store hours: Mon. - Sat., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sun. noon to 5. But if it's nice weather and there are people out and about, the shop stays open later.

Source: Barbara Everhart, EverMyHart's Enchanted Emporium
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Downtown movie theater proposed for the Heartside District

Grab the popcorn and the Mike & Ikes. Many residents of Grand Rapids have long been clamoring for a downtown movie theater as one of many "must haves," and it appears as though that may become a reality in the coming years. J.D. Loeks, President of Loeks Theatres, Inc and Celebration Cinemas presented conceptual designs of a new 60,000 square foot movie theater and retail complex to the Downtown Development Authority this week, capping off weeks of rumors that a new entertainment complex might be coming to the Heartside area.

The city-owned parking lot where the development is proposed, known as Area 5, is located south of the Van Andel Arena near Ionia Ave. and Oakes Street. The lot was listed by the DDA in February of 2012 to solicit potential development proposals. Jackson Entertainment LLC, representing Loeks, presented an offer on the property, and was seeking approval of the option before the board (which was approved) at this week's meeting. 

In addition to showing first-run movies on eight or nine screens using advanced audio/visual technology, Loeks is hoping that the theater will provide multi-use functionality for the growing convention and life sciences industries in downtown Grand Rapids. This sentiment was echoed by Doug Small of Experience GR at the DDA meeting. Their goal is to attract over 400,000 visitors to the theater each year.

Dating back to 1944, the Loeks family has had a movie theater presence in Grand Rapids, beginning with the purchase of the Midtown Cinema at the corner of Pearl St. and Ionia Avenue. Though the downtown area has not had a working stand-alone movie theater in over 50 years, Loeks Theatres operates four movie theaters in the Grand Rapids area, as well as numerous other locations around the State.

No specific timeline was given by Loeks for when the project would start, but optimistically,  construction would begin within a year.

A similar movie theater, retail and nine-story condo complex was proposed in 2006 for the same parcel by a Farmington Hills based developer, but never materialized. The Heartside Historic District surrounding Area 5 has seen over $500 Million in new and redevelopment projects in the last 15 years, much of which was initiated after the building of the Van Andel Arena in 1996.

Source: Anne Marie Bessette, Downtown Development Authority

Pincushn's Custom Tattooing and Body Piercing first shop of its kind in downtown Holland

Brett Giroux, owner of Pincushn's Custom Tattooing and Body Piercing, says his shop's recent move to a very visible storefront in downtown Holland will show the community that the studio is a legitimate business. According to a media release from Downtown Holland, the shop is the first of its kind in the downtown district.
 
Pincushn's has been in Holland for five years, but was "tucked around the corner and not very visible," Giroux says. The shop opened in its new 1,000-square-foot space at 214 College Ave. on March 20, just a short distance from Hope College.
 
"We're seeing a lot of new faces who haven't been in before," Giroux says. "It seems to be making a lot of noise and curiosity. Most studios are kind of hidden and we're finally coming out on the main street here and showing that we're a legitimate business."
 
Beside Giroux, the shop employs two tattoo artists, one piercing technician and one apprentice, all of whom are licensed by the State of Michigan.
 
Giroux says the majority of the tattoo side of the business is custom work, designed by the artists. Customers come in with pictures or ideas of what they want. An artist will work with them to design it based on where the customer wants it on their body, colors, intricacies and so on. Average pricing runs about $125/hr., but large, multiple-session tats are about $75/hr. with a four-hour minimum.
 
"A lot of the piercings are rarely original anymore," Giroux says. "As far as tattoos go, if something has been done a lot, we encourage them to think about doing something else."
 
Giroux welcomes inquiries. "Every curious person can stop into the studio and see how we operate. I'd like to see every person being more comfortable about having a tattoo shop in town."
 
Store hours: Mon. - Sat., noon to 9 p.m.
 
Source: Brett Giroux, Pincushn's Custom Tattoo and Body Piercing; Media Release, Downtown Holland
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Pillows By Dezign, a new online source for Grand Rapids-made custom decorator pillows

A new online business has become an in-demand source for handmade custom decorator pillows constructed in Grand Rapids. Pillows By Dezign, a sister business of The Home Studio (6744 Cascade Rd. SE), launched last summer and has since garnered accolades on designer blogs across the country and even TV's Nate Berkus.
 
Mother and son owners Marian Silverman and Brian Manley took the business to a wider online audience after local designers started buying pillows by the dozens for their customers.
 
"The easiest way to change a room is with pillows," says Silverman. "But the biggest complaint I used to get from clients is 'This pillow cost me $150.' I thought, I can help people have beautiful pillows in their homes and change them seasonally, and yet not spend $150 for a pillow."
 
Silverman made the first 50 pillows herself, using attractive designer fabrics and comfy pillow forms of a down and feather blend. "They started selling, so I made more and they sold," she says.
 
The pillows are now constructed in Grand Rapids using the same high-quality forms and designer fabrics that Silverman hand selects. They are offered in three standard sizes (custom sizes can be ordered) of 20-in.-sq. which averages $59; 13-in. by 19-in. rectangular, which averages $42; and a long lumbar, which averages $129, says Brian Manley.
 
Silverman says another advantage is that the pillow covers have zippers. Owners can purchase just the pillow covers and change them with the seasons. The removed cases can be stored on a closet shelf, which takes up less space than storing an entire pillow.
 
The pillows are available online at PillowsByDezign.com where shoppers can use the site's innovative sofa color selector to see how the pillows will look on their home sofa. The Home Studio also keeps hundreds of pillows in stock, so customers and designers can stop in and pick up what they want.
 
Editor's Note: Deborah Johnson Wood was introduced to Pillows By Dezign when she won a $250 gift certificate from the company. She has yet to use it because she can't decide which pillows to get.
 
Source: Marian Silverman, Brian Manley, Pillows By Dezign and The Home Studio
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Brewery Vivant expands brewing operations, eyes Chicago microbrew market

Brewery Vivant is awaiting anxiously the delivery of $300,000 in new brewing equipment that will double its brewing capacity in preparation for the company's first out-of-state foray -- the Chicago market.
 
The announcement came the same day as Brewery Vivant's (925 Cherry St. SE) notice of recognition by the Michigan Business and Professional Association as one of the 101 Best and Brightest Sustainable Companies.
 
"We're adding three 60-barrel fermenters, which will get us to 5,000 barrels, and this will put us there 18 months ahead of schedule," says Kris Spaulding, who co-owns the brewery with her husband, Jason Spaulding. "We started distributing about a year ago, and now we're throughout all of Michigan. Now we're expanding to Chicago and feel we'll be able to meet the demand."
 
The brewery will be ready to offer beer-loving Chicagoans its three signature beers by July or August -- Farm Hand, a French farmhouse-style ale; Triomphe, a Belgian-style IPA; and Solitude, an abbey-style ale. This summer's seasonal Zaison, a Swiss-style brew, could be distributed as well.
 
The growing brewing operations could result in another job or two later this year, but Kris Spaulding says the company won't ever be huge.
 
"As a husband and wife team, we made a concerted effort to say at what point we'll be big enough to be practical," Spaulding says. "Rather than focus on getting bigger, we can just get better and better and have time to spend together as a family. In Chicago, there are definitely a lot of Grand Rapids roots there and this is a natural progression for us."
 
Source: Kris Spaulding, Brewery Vivant
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor


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Morris Builders remodels 125-year-old building, brings new energy to downtown Rockford

When Morris Builders decided to move their family-owned home remodeling business to downtown Rockford, they did it with style.

Owners Kirk and Joy Morris had been operating a six-person company out of 400 square feet they built above their garage on Bostwick Lake. As the company looks to add at least four employees in coming months, they purchased a 125-year-old building at 143 Courtland St. and completely revamped it from top to bottom.

The two-story building had a 900-square-foot two-bedroom apartment upstairs that Morris Builders gutted and rebuilt, with the addition of a laundry room and a second-story deck.

"We had a tenant before it was finished," says Kirk Morris. They also gutted and rebuilt the 1,000-square-foot main level into office and showroom spaces for the company.

"Remember the Tom Hanks movie called The Money Pit?" Morris asks. "The renovation started out to be all cosmetic, but it just kept growing and growing. It still fits its 125 years, but everything's new and fresh, except the original hardwood floors that we refinished."

Three offices and a kitchen/club room/working showroom area incorporate some of the finishes Morris Builders uses, including kitchen cabinets, granite countertops, quartz countertops, wood trims and ceramic tile, so clients can see them in a real installation. The showroom includes a gas fireplace and flat screen TV for reviewing design ideas. Outside, the building got new siding, and a unique wheelchair ramp made of a selection of the outdoor decking materials Morris Builders offers.

Morris' two children, Gavin and Aubrey, have joined the family business.

"This brings Morris Builders to the next level and makes us a true anchor in downtown Rockford," Morris says. "We're here for the long run, and it sets us up for our kids to eventually take over the business. It's just a start to all that we have to offer."

Source: Kirk Morris, Morris Builders
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Grand Rapids' new Seward Avenue extension gets city closer to linking Kent, White Pine bike trails

This summer will be the first time that cyclers have a chance to spend the warm weather checking out a new, albeit short, bike trail extension on Grand Rapids' west side, part of a larger vision to eventually connect the Kent Trails, Oxford Trail and the Fred Meijer White Pine Trails. The approximately $3 million project wrapped up last fall.

The extension of Seward Avenue south of Fulton St. SW cuts across the former Adobe restaurant property, and eventually connects two blocks south of Fulton at Butterworth SW. The extension curves gracefully and incorporates a plethora of new amenities, including boulevard medians with trees, wide sidewalks, parking bulb-outs and bike lanes on both sides of the street.

The idea is for the city to eventually extend Seward Avenue south from Butterworth to Wealthy St. SW. Along the way, a proposed future trail link would connect with the new Oxford Trail that parallels Wealthy St. SW. Another link would connect the Oxford Trail to Kent Trails to the south and west, says Breese Stam, senior project engineer with the City of Grand Rapids.  

"We have also striped (bike lanes) from the end of this project at Fulton Street, north up along Seward to Leonard Street with bike lanes on both sides of Seward," says Stam. "But north from Leonard to Ann Street we have right of way, but no bike path yet."

Proposed future trail connectors from Ann St. NW to Riverside Park would allow cyclers to ride north through the park to connect with the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail just south of the Fifth Third Ball Park. That trail runs 92 miles north to Cadillac.

Next steps are dependent on the receipt of grant monies already applied for, says Stam, adding that private funders are in place. Stam declined to give details.

Click here to view a Grand Rapids bike trail map.

Source: Breese Stam, City of Grand Rapids Engineering Department
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Uninviting Grand River overlook to become attractive Lyon Square with 8-ft.-high novelty chairs

Adding two eight-foot-tall concrete chairs to what's now an uninviting Grand River overlook is just one of several people-friendly changes planned for one of downtown Grand Rapids' most promising outdoor gathering spaces.

The east end of Lyon St., between the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel (AGPH) and DeVos Place convention center, dead ends at an unused concrete amphitheater with the hotel walls on the south and the convention center loading docks on the north.

But it will soon become Lyon Square, a welcoming grove of 32 trees dotted with benches "growing" out of the landscape grade, and two extra-large novelty chairs that families and friends can climb on for photo ops. The plan calls for chairs with eight-foot-tall backs and four-foot-high seats. The chairs should seat four to five people at a time.

The seating will overlook the Grand River just a few feet north of where the Gillette Pedestrian Bridge connects the AGPH, convention center, Reserve Wine Bar and the northeast side of downtown with the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Ah-Nab-A-Wen Park and the near west side.

"It's going to create a more pleasing and active riverwalk in front of the Amway Grand and along Lyon Street, and will enhance an important access point to the river," says Stephen Fry, president of Concept Design Group.

Fry says Concept Design Group's role has been to develop the plaza's original concept created by Washington, D.C.-based urban designer Jeff Speck, a leading smart growth advocate.      

The project includes new lighting, colorful pavers, canopies for the loading docks, outdoor dining for the hotel's Bentham's Restaurant and a rebuilt section along the riverwalk. It will not include the wind turbines and fountains from the original design.

Project developers are the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention and Arena Authority, the Downtown Development Authority, and the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, Fry says. Most of the construction will be complete by September.

Source: Stephen Fry, Concept Design Group
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Wolverine Company Store celebrates grand opening in downtown Grand Rapids

Wolverine Company Store, an upscale shoe store representing only the brands made by Wolverine Worldwide, celebrated more than just a grand opening on Weds., March 21. It also used the event to say thank you for three awards the store garnered since its opening.

The shop is located in 800 square feet of MoDiv (40 Monroe Center NW) and sells men's and women's casual and dress shoes, boots and footwear for active outdoor living.

The store is unique in that it is the only store in the U.S. dedicated to only Wolverine brands -- all 12 of them -- even though Wolverine Worldwide has nearly 90 stores, nationwide, says Brian Cousins, store manager. That uniqueness spills over into the store's environment and service-focused culture, and could be part of the reason for the awards:
•    Chain Store Age: 2011 Retail Store of the Year (for softlines under 5000 sf)
•    ARE: Individual Element -- Wall Treatment Award (for the logo wall)
•    West Michigan ADDY: Gold ADDY for Mixed/Multiple Media.

Wolverine Company Store's brands include the world renowned Hush Puppies plus Merrill, Cushe, Sebago, Patagonia, Caterpillar and others.

"Caterpillar, or 'Cat,' footwear is number one in Europe and Latin America from the fashion side," Cousins says. "I got a women's Bajan boot in here today that's not available anywhere else in the U.S."

Cousins says because the downtown hotels attract guests from all over the world, Wolverine Company Store serves customers all over the world.

"There was a gentleman from Dubai in here on Saturday. Isn't it amazing?" Cousins says. "I had a Limited Edition 721 boot from our 1000 Mile Collection. There's only 1,000 made and they're pretty pricey ($725 retail). A customer from Atlanta purchased them for her husband for Christmas; her husband had been in here [when he came to Grand Rapids] on business."

Grand opening sales at the store continue through Saturday. Store hours: Mon., Tues., Weds., Fri. 11 to 6; Thurs. 11 to 7; Sat. 11 to 5.

Source: Brian Cousins, Wolverine Company Store
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Off the Cuff brings vintage, new men's apparel to Grand Rapids' growing downtown retail market

Downtown Grand Rapids' growing retail market can add a vintage and new men's apparel shop to its list of outside-the-box shopping experiences. Off the Cuff, a venture by Lenny and Sarah Ables, who also own the inventive Chai Boutique, opened on Monday in the Shops @ Monroe Center & Division, known as MoDiv (40 Monroe Center NW).

Sarah Ables, 33, opened Chai Boutique in a large space on Knapp St. NE in February 2011, then relocated to about 200-square-feet in MoDiv last October. The success of that shop, a women's vintage and new apparel and vintage furniture store, prompted Lenny, 40, to follow his dream of owning a retail business. He left a fulltime sales job to pursue the opportunity in another 200 square foot space near Chai Boutique.

"Being at MoDiv since October, we've seen a lot of couples and men come through, and there's really not a lot for men to shop for here," says Sarah Ables. "There's Wolverine [Company Store], but not much else, so we thought why not try it. Maybe this needs to be available for men downtown."

Off the Cuff has a selection of new and vintage clothing and accessories for men, including T-shirts, casual attire, wallets, money clips, belts, vintage and new shirts, hats and jewelry, says Ables. New apparel includes Alternative Apparel T-shirts, and the store has a selection of Members Only vintage.

"With the hotels downtown, there are a lot of people from out of town," Ables says. "We have excellent restaurants with great food, wonderful boutiques and shopping, and we have the Civic Theater and plenty of entertainment as well."

Off the Cuff hours: Mon. through Weds., Fri. 11 to 6; Thurs., 11 to 7; Sat. 11 to 5.

Source: Sarah Ables, Chai Boutique and Off the Cuff
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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31 apartments underway near Grand Rapids' Cooley Law with development of Grand Central Lofts

One of the last vacant buildings to be redeveloped on Grand Rapids' Commerce Avenue SW should be complete by late fall, bringing 31 loft apartments to Heartside.

Fusion Properties is giving the building a massive $3 million overhaul following a 15-year stretch when the building at 100 Commerce, at the crossroads of Commerce and Oakes St. SW, sat vacant and decaying across from Cooley Law School's Grand Rapids campus.

"I was a partner and contractor in the development of Hopson Flats, which is mostly three- and four-bedroom apartments," says Doug Gulker, managing partner of Fusion Properties and Gulker Group. "Gulker Group manages Hopson Flats, and we found there is a need for more one- and two-bedroom apartments. Grand Central Lofts is not a student-only project, but we expect a lot of our tenants to be Cooley Students."

Gulker says his research shows that the aging four-story building was once a commercial bakery called City Bakery. It's most recent use was as a manufacturing facility for Fireboy, maker of fire protection products.

Of the 31 apartments, six will be studios, plus 16 one-bedroom and 9 two-bedroom lofts. Some 1,500 square feet on the main level will be retail with storefront windows overlooking both Commerce and Oakes.

"Ideally, we would like some kind of coffee shop or small convenience store for local business people and students, maybe something with a lounge area," Gulker says. "There's not much around there where residents can go to grab a gallon of milk."

The apartments will have exposed brick walls, new wood floors in the main living areas, ceramic tile in the bathrooms and carpeting in the bedrooms, says Gulker. Ten-foot-high ceilings and numerous windows maximize the natural light.

The project secured State and Federal Historic tax credits and Brownfield Credits, totaling about 40 percent of the project costs, says Gulker.

Design architect: Hooker DeJong, Inc.
Construction manager: Gulker Group

Source: Doug Gulker, Fusion Properties and Gulker Group
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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