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When you grow, you need bigger digs -- it's not Rocket Science. Or is it?

Deciding to move your growing creative agency to a larger, more personalized, more artsy space might not be rocket science, but to Rocket Science Creative, the relocation to a custom-designed office in a renovated warehouse at 400 Ann St. NW has been just as exciting.

After about three years of working together as freelancers, Lisa Schrotenboer and Mark Stegeman joined forces as Rocket Science Creative, a company that operated out of a small office on Monroe North. As the firm added clients, hired other freelance creatives, and took on larger projects that involved making mock-ups of product packaging, creating tradeshow booths, and developing radio, television, and online marketing campaigns, they needed a custom creative space. And a kitchenette.

"We had about 2,100 square feet, but it was like living in a dorm room," Schrotenboer says. "Now we have 3,100 square feet and four full-time staff. We needed a large conference room and a comfy meeting place with couches and chairs."

"We have 15-foot ceilings, a highly efficient entrance and exit from US-131, and the parking is great," adds Stegeman. "Our old space had limited potential for meeting space, and we liked the idea of having a kitchenette instead of having to run to the bathroom to fill the coffee pot," he says with a laugh.

Schrotenboer and Stegeman designed the office to inspire collaboration. Landlord DeVries Companies handled construction. The space is open and inviting, with smaller, more private work areas tucked here and there.

"We like being close to downtown, and we like being on the west side," Stegeman says.  

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Clark Place condominium sales success indicates demand for downtown Grand Rapids living

The quick sale of 19 of Clark Place's 22 condominiums since June is a good indicator of market demand for downtown Grand Rapids residential ownership, says Chris Beckering.

Beckering is director of business development for Pioneer Construction, the builder responsible for transforming a circa 1900 American Seating warehouse into a mixed-use center of residential spaces and commercial enterprises. He says the market was ripe last June when the company launched an initiative to convert 22 luxury apartments into condominiums.

"The success of the condo conversion proves that there is just incredible demand for downtown residential condos, particularly on the west side," Beckering says. "We've seen a strong demand and steady showings and have averaged a closing a week since mid-June. Thirty percent of our sales were to tenants who had been leasing in the building -- three times the average conversion rate."

Of the three condos still available, two are two-bedroom, two-bath units -- one of which is the fully furnished builder's model with an option to purchase the furnishings -- and a three-bedroom, four-bath unit. All 22 condos are on the top (fourth) floor. Prices of the remaining unit range from $189,900 to $329,900. Condo dues are about 18 cents per square foot.

Clark Place is a microcosm of lifestyles with singles, couples, and families, and a wide range of occupations that include sales managers, attorneys, small business owners, and psychologists.

In the early '30s, American Seating filmed an airplane landing on the building's roof to showcase the marvels of living in a modern age. View the video here.

To find out more about Clark Place living, click here.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Cool kids' clothes, cuddly toys, trendy gifts for moms - Baby Mine brings it all to Gaslight Village

Knit owl hats, brown tweed blazers, soft coats with giant roses for buttons, and spoons and forks shaped like bright yellow bulldozers -- the world of children's fashions and toys inside Baby Mine goes way beyond traditional pink and blue.

Baby Mine, a cozy boutique filled with cool boys' and girls' clothes sizes newborn to 5T, unusual gifts for new moms, soft toys for toddlers, and much more, opened last week at 2237 Wealthy St. SE, East Grand Rapids -- just a few steps from the playful splash fountain that attracts kids of all ages.

Mom and daughter duo Kimberly Gill and Bethany Smith bring their personal experiences of being moms and being a grandma (Gill) of toddlers to the fore when selecting merchandise: nearly everything in the store is not only soft, but is organic, eco-friendly, or made in the USA.

"We wanted clothes that were unique and soft," says Gill as she smoothes a blanket made from silky bamboo. "We're very kid-friendly and let the kids play with all the toys."

The store is both kid- and mom-friendly, with a private breastfeeding area for shoppers who need it and a restroom with a diaper-changing table -- amenities not often found in small boutiques.

The shop's Michigan-made items include Uncle Goose (Grand Rapids) wooden building block sets of Christmas themes, nursery rhyme images, or Braille; and Constructive Eating (Ann Arbor) utensils and plates.

USA-made items include Haute Baby clothing, City Threads boys' fashions, Bamboosa blankets, and others.

Organically produced and eco-friendly products range from GroVia cloth diapers to Kushies clothing to Sweet Peanut baby essentials.

Current hours: Mon. - Sat. 10 - 6; holiday hours beginning Nov. 29, Mon. - Sat. 9:30 - 8.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photos: Deborah Johnson Wood

European charm in a small village, Ada's Nonna Cafe brings Olde World tastes to the table

Customers who have tasted life in a European café, where breads are baked daily and the soup du jour brims with wholesome ingredients, step through the doors of Nonna Café and feel like they've been teleported to Italy or France.

Owners Ron and Jean Cook lived in Florence, Italy for 18 years while Ron presided over the La Marzocco company, makers of fine espresso machines. Then the economy turned, and the Cooks decided to return to Michigan and create the next chapter of their lives, Ron Cook says. That chapter is Nonna Café, 591 Ada Dr. SE, Ada.

Nonna (Italian for "grandmother") Café "might remind you of going to Grandmother's for a nice meal, if she was a good cook, that is," Cook says. "We looked for about two years to find the space to do a food business and when I saw this come about in Ada I said, well this is it. Many people in Ada have traveled, and they know good food and good coffee."

The café is open during breakfast and lunch hours seven days a week and all menu items are made from scratch. Breakfast offerings include fresh scones; traditional French omelettes made with real butter, fresh eggs, high-quality cheese, and ham cut from the bone; and granola bowls with Greek yogurt and fresh fruit.

For lunch, hungry patrons will have a selection of two or three house-made soups. This week's offerings were Tuscan Bean, Minestrone, and Lentil. Three tasty salads are menu staples: Avocado Salad of greens, toasted pine nuts, and homemade vinaigrette; a Roasted Chicken Salad made with the café's own roasted chicken; and a traditional Greek salad.

Sandwich aficionados will need to go next door to The Schnitz Deli, says Cook. Instead, Nonna's offers specialties like Cottage Pie or Mushroom Ravioli with Butter & Sage.

Hours: Mon. - Fri. 7 to 4; Sat. and Sun. 8 to 3.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy of Nonna Café

Former Spring Lake bowling alley a fitting new HQ for physical fitness, pain relief center

The din of bowling balls smashing into pins is gone now, but the excitement of sharing healthy physical activity with friends is better than ever at the former North Shore Recreation and Bowling Center in Spring Lake. That's because Shoreline Sport & Spine has renovated 15,000 square feet of bowling lanes, shoe rentals, and restaurant space into a welcoming and fun center for physical fitness and pain relief.

Shoreline Sport & Spine spent the last year renovating the bowling alley at 18000 Cove St. into its new headquarters, where certified athletic trainers and physical therapists help clients overcome sports injuries and other injuries, improve their stamina or balance, and conquer pain.

But don't go there expecting to find a lot of workout equipment. Instead, you'll find space, and plenty of it, designed specifically for one-on-one sessions as well as multiple-participant classes.

"We have a garage door that opens the wall to the outdoor campus for inside-outside activities," says Crystal Frazee, director of marketing and programs. "The indoor track can be used on its own or connected to the outdoor track to make the loop much bigger. We also have a rebound wall for working with athletes for balance or core strengthening."

Frazee says the point is to retrain people how to use their bodies to avoid injury, and to teach them how to do it without relying on equipment they don't have at home.

But if healing your injury or speeding up your physical recovery requires equipment, the center has it. TRX equipment is available, an anti-gravity treadmill reduces body weight by 20 percent to allow people to do activities they couldn't do otherwise, and Keiser equipment allows workouts using air resistance.

In response to client requests, Shoreline Sport & Spine will soon add classes for weight loss, chronic pain relief, senior mobility, and executive fitness.

An open house on Fri., Nov. 8, from 4:30 - 7:30 will be open to the public.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy of Shoreline Sport & Spine

Apartments, butcher shop, spirits tasting room, fitness center: the promising future of Michigan St.

Eight urban apartments, a butchery, a cozy tasting room filled with delectable spirits, and a personal fitness center have synergistically evolved out of what was once a decaying wasteland in the 800 block of Grand Rapids' Michigan Street NE.

The redevelopment of the two-acre parcel that includes the former Miller-Zeilstra Lumber building and a two-story brick warehouse has spurred much activity and anticipation that developers Third Coast Development Partners hope is a sign of what's to come.
 
The result of the yearlong renovation is yet to be revealed, but to-date all retail spaces are leased and under construction. Grand Butchers, Flat Landers Barstillery, and SNAP Fitness have all set sights on opening soon.

Grand Butchers, owned by Lacey Dryer, Margie Zichterman, and Tim VanDort, will offer grain-fed beef, organic and non-organic meats, a signature kielbasa, sausages, and a full line of marinades and rubs, including several made in-house. Fresh turkeys will be available for Thanksgiving orders soon.

"Michigan Street is booming right now and there's nothing like this around here," Dryer says. "We'll smoke our own meats and make our own jerky."

Both women worked for Bob's Butcher Block in Holland, but had set their sights on starting a butcher shop of their own. The day of Rapid Growth's visit, they were busy applying stain to the market displays while electricians worked in the kitchen area.

Next door, Matt Scarbrough of Flat Landers Barstillery was ready to begin construction of a wooden walkway that will lead customers into the tasting room area. The shop, owned by Scarbrough, Robert Grimes, Greg Palazollo, and Josh Brugger, will feature its own spirits produced and bottled by a distillery in Three Oaks, MI. Customers can try white whiskey, rum, vodka, and gin, plus Michigan craft beers and Michigan wines. A simple food menu will offer small plates and salads.

"Customers enter through the old warehouse's loading docks to the tasting bar," Scarbrough says, indicating the area where the wooden ramp leads to an as-yet-unfinished wrap-around bar in the center of the shop. About four feet below are the old truck wells, which will be a lounge area. Scarbrough hopes to open the first part of December.

SNAP Fitness will occupy the third and final retail space. Michigan Street Optical now occupies all of the 11,000-square-foot lumberyard building, and Lumber Yard Lofts has leased seven of the eight apartments in the warehouse.

"We had been looking at this property for years," says Brad Rosely of Third Coast Development Partners. "We leased all the space and didn't even put a sign up; people were calling us to lease the space."

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photography: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Emerging creatives infuse former MXTP, Skelletones venue with new vibe, video production studio

A renovated space at 133 S. Division Ave. rocked out with music for all ages when its walls pulsated with the driving beat of live music as the former Skelletones concert venue, and later MXTP.

Creative juices continue to flow throughout the space, albeit with a more subtle beat, now that The Forest creative agency moved its primary players into the main floor, and photographer Craig van der Lende established a video production studio upstairs.

"We're where the mosh pits used to be," says Brandon Satterlee with a laugh. "I used to go to shows here years ago."

Satterlee's company, The Forest, has produced imaginative branding and marketing campaigns for the past three years, operating first from his Grand Rapids home, then from a small studio at 820 Monroe North. He says his unique approach of creating specific teams of freelance creatives -- groups of five to 15 copywriters, brand strategists, user experience specialists, video producers, and others -- expanded the client list and the vision to the point where the company has hired its first employees: a studio manager, a senior art director, and a designer.

That expansion meant a larger collaboration space, since the original model of hiring gifted freelancers for projects continues. Satterlee says the 2,000 square feet of open office is just what he wanted. Shared access to van der Lende's large video production studio upstairs is a bonus.

"We build teams around projects and projects around problems, so we're always looking for new and interesting creatives we want to work with," Satterlee says. "This is our first time having a really public-facing location, and we have a production video studio when we need it."

Satterlee says The Forest continues to garner local and national clients, including Yamaha Motor Corporation U.S.A.'s apparel department, which asked The Forest to collaborate on its Star Fall '13 collection.

The Forest plans an open house for Fri., November 1, from 5:30 to 8:30 PM.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy of The Forest

New holistic health center brings chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage therapy to Heritage Hill

Grand Rapids Chiropractic and Acupuncture made the first part of a vision to bring holistic health care to the Heritage Hill neighborhood a reality after relocating to the neighborhood from Eastown. Now the former Eastown Chiropractic and Acupuncture has the space to care for its current clients and to offer its expertise to new ones.

After building the practice for a year in a small space in the rear of the Eastown Salon building, Dr. Doug deVries, chiropractor, and Kristin Swann, acupuncturist, changed the name to Grand Rapids Chiropractic and Acupuncture and moved to 435 Cherry St. SE, Suite B, a much larger space filled with natural light.

"Our goal is to be a neighborhood health source for the people who live and work in our neighborhood, within walking distance of many of the people we treat," says Swann. "By January of this year, we had outgrown the old space. We found this place and moved just a mile down the road."

The practice offers holistic health care options that include traditional chiropractic care, as well as acupuncture, massage therapy, and nutritional counseling.

Beyond that, Grand Rapids Chiropractic and Acupuncture also offers specialized treatments for sports conditioning and athletic injuries, a continuum of care for moms-to-be from pre-pregnancy through post-delivery, and relief from prescription drug-related side effects.

Massage therapist Duffy Magin rents space in the office and works in partnership with Swann and Dr. deVries. Patients may need just chiropractic, massage, or acupuncture, but if they need more than just one type of treatment, all three options are available to them.

"Patients meet with Dr. Doug, me, or Duffy to develop a treatment plan, and then the three of us work together to meet the patient's needs," Swann says. "For example, Duffy treats a lot of professional and semi-pro athletes, including runners and bicycle racers. Acupuncture can also be very good for muscle fatigue and can build endurance."

Hours: Mon. - Fri., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sat. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy of Grand Rapids Chiropractic and Acupuncture

Extreme Makeover-style home to be built in six days, given to a military veteran

A military veteran will receive a brand new, LEED- and Zero Step-certified passive energy home next July 4 thanks to a Grand Rapids nonprofit that will construct the house from the ground up in six days. ABC's popular television show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is one inspiration for the project.

Homes of Hope, a nonprofit founded by Grand Rapids builder Rich Bloem, will build the home assisted by area builders, architects, social workers, materials distributors, and interested residents who will donate their time and talents to the project.

Bloem bought a vacant lot at 336 Donald Place in Wealthy Heights, a small neighborhood-within-a-neighborhood undergoing a grassroots effort to rebuild itself while retaining its historical perspective, with the intent of building a for-profit home there.

"I've spent a lot of time visiting a friend at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and have gotten to know the guys there," Bloem says. "It makes an impact on you and it put a burden on my heart to realize how much they've sacrificed for us. I had this vision to build the house and give it away."

Every Friday, 12 to 20-plus people meet to move the project forward. To date, 25 teams work in areas that range from procuring materials to setting up a support framework to help the home recipient with any mental or physical challenges they have.

Bloem plans to construct the two-story, 1,322-square-foot home of structural insulated panels (SIP) and Forestry Stewardship Council-certified wood. The home will have solar panels and high efficiency HVAC, and will be completely furnished. Pre-construction and materials staging will be in a warehouse. Precise timing will be a key factor for delivery of materials to the building site for the six-day, 24/7 construction blitz at the end of June 2014.

Bloem says he's had a lot of help along the way from groups like the Alliance for Environmental Sustainability, Kenowa Hills High School vocational trades class, and Volunteers of America, a group which is connected with the Wounded Warrior Project and is taking applications from veterans. Volunteers of America will handle the qualifications process and determine who will receive the home.

A website for the build is under construction. If you'd like to participate, contact Rich Bloem at Homes by True North.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Drip Drop Drink coffee bar first retailer open in restored historic Russell Block Building, Muskegon

At just 300 square feet, Drip Drop Drink coffee bar takes up a small space in downtown Muskegon's circa 1890 Russell Block Building. But the slow-drip brewing method that coaxes the flavor out of every coffee bean and the house-made flavored syrups for the specialty drinks pack a delicious wallop.

In August, Drip Drop Drink was the first of a handful of planned retail shops and a craft brewery in the historic building at 360 W. Western Ave. to open to the public. Nov. 2, coffee shop owner Todd Johnson plans a grand opening celebration with free samples and coffee brewing instruction by Josh Dugue of Counter Culture Coffee's Chicago-based training center.

"I've always loved the vibe of really nice coffee shops and how you can relax over a good cup of coffee, so I started planning for it and picking up equipment for the past two or three years," says Johnson. "Initially, I was going to pack everything up and head to Grand Rapids, but a friend was heading up the Russell Block development and talked me into opening in Muskegon. And here we are in this really old, cool building."

The shop shares a common café space with Unruly Brewing, which is still in development. Vintage coffee devices, radios from the '70s, a church pew with an orange velour seat, a vintage door for the menu board, and vintage food lockers for coffee storage perk up the décor. A window suspended from the ceiling creates a visual separation from Unruly Brewing, but still leaves the space open and connected.

Hours: Mon. - Fri. 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sat. 8 to 5; Sun. 10 to 4.
Grand opening event: Nov. 2, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy of Drip Drop Drink

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Grand Rapids again named Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community by League of American Bicyclists

Grand Rapids has once again received the designation of Bicycle Friendly Community at the Bronze level by the Washington, D.C.-based League of American Bicyclists. The award recognizes the city's efforts toward transforming its transportation networks, quality of life for residents, and sustainability. Grand Rapids received its first award in 2009.

The five award levels -- diamond, platinum, gold, silver, and bronze -- provide clear benchmarks for communities to improve in the "5 E's" of the Bicycle Friendly Community program -- engineering, enforcement, encouragement, education, and evaluation and planning.

"People are looking for a vibrant bikeable and walkable city, and a Bike Friendly Community city can say 'look at all the wonderful things we have for you, come to our city to experience it,'" says Elizabeth Murphy, spokesperson for the League of American Bicyclists. "Bronze usually means a city is doing excellent in one 'E' or a couple of 'E's', but there's room for improvement. In Grand Rapids, 'encouragement' is the strong 'E,' because of organized group rides, high involvement with bike month activity, the Mayor's Bike Ride, and there are several bike shops."

Tom Tilma, executive director of the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition, led the extensive application process and was among the city leaders to receive the award on Tuesday.

"This puts the city on the map nationally as a place that is bicycle friendly," Tilma says. "The coveted 25- to 34-year-olds demographic is driving less and seeking communities that are bicycle, pedestrian and transit friendly."

Tilma adds that Grand Rapids has made great strides with 30 miles of bike lanes added in less than a year and half, and an increase in downtown bicycle parking. He believes the city still needs to develop a non-motorized transportation plan, create a bicycle coordinator position with the city, and promote bicycle commuting.

"The GGRBC has established a goal for the community of 2.5 percent [of bicycle commuters], which would be a five-fold increase," Tilma says. "We are seeing increases. Our fourth bicycle traffic count conducted in September 2013 showed a 36 percent increase in bicyclists over 2012."

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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There's a Donkey in East Hills selling tacos!

There's a Donkey in East Hills selling tacos!

Well, at least there will be in November when Donkey, a new kind of taqueria, opens in what used to be a neighborhood gas station on the corner of Henry St. SE and Wealthy St. SE (665 Wealthy St. SE).

Donkey kicks up its heels just a stone's throw from The Winchester restaurant, owned by Paul Lee and his family, the main investors and idea-generators behind Donkey's concept.

"It's a taco shop, and we'll add a little bar element to it," Lee says. "It's going to be tacos, salsas, margaritas, and we'll have Spanish beers on tap. The taqueria is something that we don't really have in Grand Rapids, not like this. We want to put something in place that's very different than The Winchester and something unique for the city. We're taking a building that was existing and there wasn't much use for it anymore, and we're finding a new use for it."

While Lee doesn't open up much about what customers can expect when they walk in the door -- he wants them to have their own experience of the place -- he did divulge that the interior woodwork is crafted from reclaimed wood that came from four houses demolished a while ago in Detroit. The bar, created by Troy Bosworth of Studio Wise Design, will be one-of-a-kind and custom to the space.

Prior to the start of construction last December, environmental soil testing came back clean, despite years of having gas tanks sunk in the ground. The tanks were removed about 20 years ago. The soil wasn't conducive to compaction, so much of it was removed and replaced before work began, says Lee.

There's no onsite parking because the original gas station didn't need it, but there will be space for some 30 bicycles and seven new on-street automobile spaces.

Construction: McGraw Construction

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy of Donkey

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6.25 Paper Studio marks success in downtown Grand Rapids with noteworthy move to larger store

It's a noteworthy achievement for any boutique to grow beyond its retail incubator space and move to an independent storefront. Downtown Grand Rapids-based 6.25 Paper Studio is doing it after just two years.

The fun, creative atmosphere of 6.25 Paper Studio prevails in its new digs just one door west of the tiny shop where it all started. No longer part of the retail incubator MoDiv (Shops @ Monroe Center & Division) at 40 Monroe Center Ave. NW, the new store kept the same address, but relocated to the former Lia Rose storefront, doubling its size.

"I can't exactly expand double in product right now, but will have a place for kids to come and write letters to Santa Claus. If they include their address we'll write back to the kids," says owner and designer Abbey Fowler. "I also plan to have a workshop where families can make their own ornaments -- paper, of course. The space is also conducive to classes, so I'm preparing to do a calligraphy class and some holiday gift wrapping classes."

Fowler started with a 350-square-foot shop in September 2011, and expanded that to 850 square feet after seven months. The newest shop opened this week, with her own custom-designed gift cards, wedding and party invitations, wedding albums, giftwrap, and calendars. Fowler also carries journals, specialty envelopes, gift cards, and small paper gift items from unique companies not carried by other shops in town.

After the holidays, the store will offer a few basic office supplies in response to requests from downtown businesses.

Some 20 stores around the country also carry Fowler's wholesale line of custom-designed paper goods.

"I figured [a retail space] would be a 10-year goal, and the opportunity came eight years early," Fowler says. "Downtown residents and people who work downtown are my best customers. The people that live down here want walkability and they want to shop local and live local and not drive to the mall for everything."

Humanity Boutique will occupy part of the former 6.25 Paper Design space in MoDiv. Read the article here.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy of 6.25 Paper Studio

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Humanity Boutique answers customer demand with expansion, more fashions in new store

Courtney Hunt says that just three months after she, her mom, and her three sisters opened the cute little 200-square-foot Humanity Boutique in Grand Rapids, they knew they needed a bigger store because they kept hearing it from customers. That spark of an idea becomes reality this week as the women's fashion boutique more than doubles its size.

Humanity Boutique is part of the MoDiv retail incubator (Shops @ Monroe Center & Division, 40 Monroe Center Ave.) and, this week, moves into some of the space that opened up at MoDiv when 6.25 Paper Studio moved next door (read the story here).

The shop will double its inventory with more display space for its singular fashion vision that includes handbags, scarves, belts, jewelry, and women's wear. Dresses, skirts, tops, leggings, and blazers run in sizes small to large, and, Hunt says, at affordable prices. Once the inventory sells out, it's gone for good because the store orders all new designs and colors in its place.

"We just offer what we believe in," Hunt says. "We want people to be able to afford what they wear and to feel confident and comfortable. Our feedback from customers is always, 'Wow, your fashion is different and cutting-edge, and Grand Rapids needs it.' Our prices are affordable. There aren't too many stores that have a selection like we have."

Courtney, her mom, Deborah Hunt, and her sisters Jodi Nesbitt, Kelly Hunt, and Katie Williams opened the store in March. The sisters have all lived abroad -- think Sydney, Australia, Paris, and Milan -- and studied either fashion or fashion merchandising, then brought their experiences back to Grand Rapids.

Courtney says that in the new location, they'll deck out the huge display windows overlooking Monroe Center and the MoDiv lobby with their latest fashions, hoping to make the shop irresistible to window shoppers.

A Girls' Night Out shopping event is in the works and will be announced on the store's Facebook page and website soon.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy of Humanity Boutique

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Vacant buildings in booming East Hills to get $860K remake into apartments, office space

East Hills has become the place to live, work, invest, and shop, says East Hills Council of Neighbors Director Rachel Lee. Developer Shayne Malone agrees. Malone, principal of Malone Development, LLC, plans to invest $860,000 in two vacant buildings to bring fresh workspaces and urban apartments to the neighborhood by early 2014.

Malone is also a principal in Cherry Street Apartments, LLC, which purchased the buildings: a former Project Rehab building at 822 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids, and a former boarding house for streetcar operators, just around the corner at 220 Eastern Ave. SE.

822 Cherry will feature 4,800 square feet of office space on the main level with an original glass curtain wall, and four apartments below. Malone says he'll complete the build-out of the office space as soon as he has a tenant.

Plans for 220 Eastern include 12 new residential apartments with the original hardwood floors of the circa 1915 structure.

Both buildings are in a historic district. Malone says the Historic Preservation Commission has verbally okayed plans to update the facades in accordance with historic preservation guidelines, but he awaits the official signoff before beginning work.

"The renovations will maintain the historic feel of the buildings," Malone says. "I feel strongly about the existing and future potential of East Hills because it was a neighborhood that was developed for streetcars and is already set up to be walkable. There is a lot of architectural history that can be built upon, which provides a lot of value for what we have planned."

"We're excited to see developers that understand the historic character of the neighborhood as an amenity to want to invest in our neighborhood," Lee says. "We think providing office space here is a fabulous idea. There are so many places nearby to go for lunch or to shop. We think we're an ideal place for a creative team to not just work in the area, but to be a part of the area."

Project architect: DeStigter Architecture
Construction manager: Malone Development, LLC

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy of Malone Development, LLC
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