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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

Grand Rapids' historic Sixth Street Bridge to get physically fit for summer (and beyond)

It has a tiny case of the shakes and it clunks loudly under "wheel," but for being one of Grand Rapids' oldest residents (126 years), the Sixth Street Bridge is in pretty good shape for the shape it's in. But getting it physically fit for its next decades of auto, bike and foot traffic is going to be a big part of the bridge's summer schedule.

According to HistoricBridges.org, the Massillon Bridge Company of Massillon, OH constructed the Sixth Street Bridge in 1886, and it was rehabbed in 1978. Beginning May 14, a new $1,989,000 rehabilitation will close the bridge until August 17.

"The deck of the bridge is in very poor condition; it's been asphalted and, underneath that, I think it's actually wood," says Jeff McCaul, assistant city engineer. "The new deck will put steel beam stringers underneath with a steel grid deck on top of those, and seven inches of lightweight concrete on top of that."

In addition, the rehabbed bridge will sport new wood plank sidewalks, new "rub rails," new tuckpointing on the piers, and a new brick roadway between Front St. NW and the bridge.
During the rehabilitation, vehicular traffic will be detoured south to Bridge St. NW, pedestrian traffic across the river will be detoured north to Leonard St., and pedestrian traffic on the east riverwalk will be redirected to the east side of Monroe Avenue.

The project received funding from a Michigan Department of Transportation grant, the Downtown Development Authority and Street Capital funds. MDOT awarded the project bid to
Walter Toebe Construction Company.

Source: Press release and Jeff McCaul, City of Grand Rapids
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

One Girl's Treasure says goodbye to Grand Rapids' downtown, hello to the southeast side

After five years at 5 Lyon in downtown Grand Rapids, One Girl's Treasure is preparing to move to a more compact business district on the city's southeast side.

The women's apparel consignment shop will downsize from a 2,200-square-foot sales floor to 1,600 when it relocates in early April to 1146 Wealthy St. SE, the site of the former iCandy store. But despite the smaller space, owner Haylea Gray says she'll not only keep the same amount of inventory, but plans to expand into offerings other than just apparel and accessories.

"We are actually are kind of excited about being part of a little business community that's diverse and artsy," Gray says. "We like to offer locally handmade items as well as used items, and we like to showcase local artists on the walls. I'd like to incorporate used furniture into the space, which we've never done before, and I'm hoping to have locally designed clothing as well."

Gray managed One Girl's Treasure for about a year before buying it two years ago. She says that challenges with street closures for construction projects, no on-street parking and not having any other retail businesses nearby influenced the decision to relocate.

"We loved the energy of being downtown and would have loved to have found a space," she says. "This new space kind of hit all the notes; we could have parking and get our costs down. The icing on the cake was that we really love the Wealthy Street area with the new HyperOptik, Wealthy Theatre, The Meanwhile and all of that."

The new location will be open on Tuesday, April 10. Summer store hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mon. thru Sat.

Source: Haylea Gray, One Girl's Treasure
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Brewskis, biking, city sights and friends; Great Lakes Pub Cruiser brings it on!

It's not a party bus, it's a party bike -- with a pub! And it's ready for you and 14 of your friends to take on a distinctly new kind of pub-crawl -- one that's people-powered for a two-hour tour of some of Grand Rapids' best watering holes.

The Great Lakes Pub Cruiser accommodates 15 people at a time, 10 of whom will power the pub using the bike pedals at the base of their barstools while the cruiser's pilot steers them to their next destination.

Teacher Laurie Ryan brought the idea home from Minneapolis after experiencing a pub cruiser there. She pitched the ideas to her girlfriends and four of them signed on as partners -- Dolores Keeley, Sharon Saladin, Diana Tomlinson and Bree Tomlinson.

"Normally when you bike, it's an individual pursuit. But when you bike on the pub, it's a social pursuit," Ryan says. "We took it out last Tuesday for the first time on the Grand Rapids city streets and we were mobbed! We gave away 400 business cards in an hour."

State law prohibits riders from imbibing alcohol while in transit, so the cruiser offers three routes around town; riders choose what pubs to visit, Ryan says. The routes cover the northwest side, the entertainment district and downtown craft brew pubs. Stops might include the Kopper Top, the Monarch's Club, Reserve Wine Bar, One Trick Pony, HopCat or Founders, as well as any number of other hotspots.

The cost for a weekend two-hour ride is $360, or $24 per person/15 people. The cost of "drinks and nibbles" is the riders' responsibility, although riders are welcome to bring their own coolers with soft drinks and food. The cruiser's bar will accommodate a keg for groups to use on private property.

Individual seat pricing is also available, plus the cruiser is available for rent for private parties.

Tours start April 14. For more information on routes and prices, click here.

Source: Laurie Ryan, Great Lakes Pub Cruiser
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Elements brings gifts, home decor, handmade art to SW Grand Rapids antiques haven

Many consider Grand Rapids' former Sligh Furniture building a haven for vintage finds and antiques shopping. And nestled amid the collectors' finds, furniture and antiques malls is elements, a new retail venture specializing in new home décor items, gifts and handmade art.

Owner Patrice Greene has been away from the retail world since closing her tiny gift boutique, Pepperberry, about five years ago. But the bug to get back into the world where she could gab with customers and sell her own art just wouldn't let her go. So, six months ago, Greene opened the 2,000-square-foot elements at 441 Century Ave. SW.

The store -- whose tagline is: bohemian artifacts - curious acquisitions -- is littered with humorous signs, furniture pieces, home décor, handmade pillows and wall art. Among the curious acquisitions, shoppers will also find Tokyomilk bath products, Votivo candles, letterpress stationery, Cavallini & Co. papers and stationery, and jewelry.

Greene's own wall art is based on her fascination with mixed media. She also has a "thing" for collecting loving cup trophies. She creates her own brand of loving cups of German glitter glass under the name The Trophy Wife, and sells them in the store and online through Earth Angels.

"I obsessively love old loving cup trophies," Greene says with a laugh. "My personal collection comes from the '20s and '30s. My best trophy is from a 1928 typing contest and has the winners' names and their typing speeds."

Elements is offering a series of art classes on Wednesday nights. Three upcoming classes, five weeks each, will engage participants in their choice of mixed media, watercolor or found objects.

"Elements is different than anything else here," Greene says. "I'm bringing the new goods, the house accessories, the candles, the jewelry. People might find a dining table [at one of the antiques stores], and find fun chairs here, or find a great couch there and find fun pillows here."

Store hours: Weds. - Fri., 10 to 6; Sat. 10 to 5; Sun. 12 to 4.

Source: Patrice Greene, elements
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

26 urban loft apartments slated for two buildings in Grand Rapids' entertainment district

Twenty-six urban loft apartments will soon grace the upper floors of two prominent buildings in Grand Rapids' burgeoning entertainment district. 616 Development, sister company to 616 Lofts, will create the lofts by combing 1 Ionia SW and 7 Ionia SW, the buildings that run a half block south from the corner of Fulton St. and Ionia SW.

Last year, Derek Coppess, owner of 616 Development and 616 Lofts, announced plans to develop urban lofts in little pockets around the city, beginning with 25 lofts at 139 Pearl St. NW and 206 Grandville Ave. SW. Now, he's ready to move ahead with a new $7.5 million plan.

The project will combine the two buildings on Ionia into one 50,000-square-foot mixed-use center that features the apartments on floors three, four and five, commercial tenants on floor two and the historic Grand Rapids Brewing Company will occupy the entire main level, including the former My Bar space. See Grand Rapids Brewing Company story here.

The tenants already on the second level, Conduit Studios and The Judson Group, will stay. Perception Gallery on the main level will relocate.

"One Ionia is five stories and 7 Ionia is four-and-a-half stories, so we will remove the floor between floors four and four-and-a-half and will make seven two-story units within that space," Coppess says. "The apartments will have windows overlooking either Ionia or Fulton and the Van Andel Arena [to the rear of the building]."

Coppess says construction will start within 30 days.

Design and construction: First Companies

Source: Derek Coppess, 616 Development; Chris Knape, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Historic Grand Rapids Brewing Company to open expansive microbrewery next door to Van Andel Arena

The historic Grand Rapids Brewing Company (GRBC) that once operated in the heart of downtown will be back this summer in a new, expansive location next door to the Van Andel Arena, the heart of the city's busy entertainment district. The brewery, which was in business for over 100 years, first on Michigan and Ottawa and later on 28th St. SE, will be the groundfloor tenant at 1 and 7 Ionia SW with nearly 10,000 square feet and seating for 450.

Barfly Ventures, owned by Mark and Michelle Sellers, announced today that the new venue will be family-friendly, with children's menu items as well as 8 to 10 specialty beers, including a new version of GRBC's original Silver Foam beer. Barfly owns some of Grand Rapids' most popular gathering places in the entertainment district, including HopCat, McFadden's, Stella's Lounge and the The Viceroy and is a partner in The Pyramid Scheme, all within two blocks of the new GRBC location.

Derek Coppess of 616 Development and 616 Lofts recently purchased 1 and 7 Ionia SW and will combine the two buildings to create 26 loft apartments and commercial spaces on the upper floors. The buildings front along Ionia on the east and a brick paved alley on the west; 1 Ionia NW also runs along W. Fulton St., kitty corner from The B.O.B. and its proposed market/concert venue.

New indoor/outdoor seating, created by replacing three loading dock doors on the alley side with glass garage doors, will open the bar to the Van Andel Arena and provide outdoor seating for 15.

"This is arguably the prime spot for a bar in Grand Rapids. If I could pick any location, it would be this place or where The B.O.B is -- but that's taken," says Mark Sellers with a laugh. "To have three sides facing different streets is incredible."

Preliminary plans to host GRBC in the Brass Works Building fell through, Sellers says.

The new GRBC could create some 60 jobs. Sellers hopes to have the bar open sometime in August.

Architectural design: Greg Metz, Lott3Metz

Source: Mark Sellers, Barfly Ventures; Chris Knap, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Renderings: Dixon Architecture

Davenport University to build $5M athletics complex thanks to land gift from Farmers Insurance

Thanks to a gift of 17 acres of land just south of Davenport University's W. A. Lettinga Campus, Davenport students and visiting teams will soon be able to enjoy a new $5 million baseball, softball and tennis complex.

The complex will be constructed over the summer on 68th St. in Caledonia Township, a short bike ride from campus, says Athletic Director Paul Lowden, on land donated to the university by Farmers Insurance Group.

"The complex will enhance the recruiting efforts of our baseball, softball and tennis coaches," Lowden says. "The facilities should give Davenport University a recruiting advantage because students are very aware of the facilities a university has and having facilities like this increases their interest."

The complex will feature a baseball field with artificial turf on the infield and outfield, a softball field with artificial turf on the outfield, eight tennis courts, spectator seating at all three venues, heated dugouts, concessions, locker rooms and restrooms. The baseball stadium will seat 300, the softball stadium will seat 200, and all facilities will have lighting for nighttime competitions.

"This will be used for practices and competitions, and will be a great place not only for our student athletes but for visiting teams because we'll have locker rooms for them, as well," Lowden says. "We hope to have a shovel in the ground by late April, early May and have construction completed in time for [the 2012-2013] school year."

Design: Integrated Architecture

Source: Paul Lowden, Davenport University
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

East Lansing-based Netvantage Marketing sees promise in Grand Rapids, opens satellite office

The leaders of East Lansing's Netvantage Marketing say their backgrounds in consulting gave them a desire to move web-based marketing from the sterile realm of the Internet to the more personal environment of face-to-face meetings with clients. That desire prompted the duo, Adam Henige and Joe Ford, to open a satellite office in Grand Rapids to be closer to clients here.

The new office is on the third floor above San Chez A Tapas Bistro (38 W. Fulton St., Suite 301). It's part of a group of offices under development by CWD Real Estate Investment that have private offices and shared conference rooms and a kitchen, says Henige.

Netvantage hopes construction will wrap up for an early April opening. An East Lansing employee will relocate to Grand Rapids and staff the office.

Netvantage Marketing specializes in search engine optimization, social media consulting and paid search management, says Ford. "With most of our clients, the key overarching statement we hear is 'when someone Googles our service, we don't come up,'" he says.

"We've found that a lot of people are really good at developing websites, but not good at directing people to them," says Henige. So, the company focuses on helping other companies build a web presence. If web design and development are needed, Netvantage collaborates with local companies who specialize in those services.

The client list for the four-year-old company is impressive and varied, including: Autocam Medical, DTE Energy, Hyundai, Suzuki, General Motors, University of California Berkeley and Gordon Food Service.

"We've been able to get national clients that we've never met, but we really like to give it the personal touch," Henige says. "To be able to sit down in someone's space or walk through it is one of the reasons we've been so successful so far."

Source: Adam Henige and Joe Ford, Netvantage Marketing
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Haven's new Splattered Ink Press helps budding authors self-publish, market their books

You've spent months, maybe years, writing your book and now what? Shove it in a drawer and forget about it? Splattered Ink Press has another idea -- publish it yourself and control how the finished product looks, the marketing, and maybe make a profit.

Tricia McDonald, owner of Splattered Ink Press and the writing school A Writing Passage, both based in Grand Haven, has self-published two books and has a third one out next week. She says Splattered Ink Press is a natural outcome of her five years as a writing coach.

"As I worked with writers, they asked if [self-publishing] was a service I would offer," McDonald says. "The more I thought about it, the more I realized I could help them get their books printed and on the shelves of some local book stores."

McDonald coaches writers throughout the writing process. She offers manuscript editing, book design and text formatting to prepare the book for printing, secures ISBNs and bar codes, and works with half a dozen Michigan printers who can print and bind hardcover or softcover editions. She teaches them how to approach book stores to get their book on the shelves and arrange book signings. McDonald also offers e-book conversions for download on Kindles, iPads and other e-readers.

Splattered Ink contracts with Grand Rapids illustrator Sean Wallace and with graphic designer and photographer Jacob Kubon, McDonald's son, who create visuals for book covers, inside pages and children's books.

"Traditional publishers are more likely going with celebrity names or established authors," McDonald says. "Print-on-demand authors have to buy their own books from the printer, and they end up making very little money per book. We offer a real personable experience; we're not just an online experience where the author doesn't get to talk to anyone."

To-date, Splattered Ink has produced McDonald's Life With Sally - Still Spinnin' Tails and her upcoming book on novel writing, Quit Whining Start Writing. She says she's working with six clients to get their books published, including a novel of historical fiction, two children's books, a memoir and Dog 281, by Michigan writer Janet Vormittag, editor of Cats and Dogs Magazine.

McDonald will speak on writing and self-publishing at the West Michigan Women's Expo on March 9, 10 and 11.

Source: Tricia McDonald, Splattered Ink Press and A Writing Passage
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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It may not be paradise, but Grand Rapids' Creston area will have its own islands

When we think of islands with trees fluttering in the breeze and lots of water, we probably don't picture Grand Rapids' Creston business district. But after receiving a $146,667 Transportation Enhancement grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation, Creston is moving forward with plans to bring seven water quality islands (with trees) to its main thoroughfare.

Seven small water-retention islands with trees and native plants will be located at intervals down the center of Plainfield Avenue NE, between Leonard and Dean streets. The islands will create a boulevard and will serve several purposes: to capture and retain stormwater runoff to keep pollutants from running into the Grand River, to slow traffic through the business district, to make the area pedestrian-friendly and to beautify the business district in order to attract shoppers and new businesses.

The islands will be installed this summer in conjunction with a sewer separation and resurfacing project, says Creston Neighborhood Association Executive Director Deborah Eid.

"This particular design for boulevards is unique," Eid says. "This is the only project in the state, as far as I know, that has these islands, so we could get some statewide attention from that."

Eid says the City of Grand Rapids, Creston Neighborhood and Business Associations, and The North Quarter Steering Committee worked together to incorporate construction of the water quality islands into MDOT's plan for resurfacing the roadway. The work is part of the larger master plan for the Creston area and fulfills some of the vision of the Green Grand Rapids plan.

In order to qualify for the MDOT grant, community partners raised some $158,000 in just 40 days, which includes funding of a 20-year endowment fund for maintenance of the islands.

The public is invited to a meeting and pancake breakfast to discuss the project with city engineers and a landscape designer from Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber, the company handling the landscape design. The meeting is March 10, 8:30 to 11:00 a.m., Second Congregational Church, 525 Cheshire Dr. NE. Adults: $6; Kids 5 to 12 yrs. $3; 4 yrs. and under FREE. Family price: $15.

Source: Deborah Eid, Creston Neighborhood Association
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Goodwill launches upscale resale boutiques in East Hills and downtown Grand Rapids

These aren't your grandmother's Goodwill Stores. These are upscale resale shops that will showcase a definitive fashion sense and boutique style.

Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids, Inc. has plans to launch two new boutiques that will show off some of the hip new and gently used items donated to the resale giant, including merchandise that has been repurposed and upcycled. The stores, called blue, will open in April in downtown Grand Rapids' MoDiv (40 Monroe Center Ave. NW) and in East Hills (974 Cherry St. SE) with a focus on women's vintage and retro designer apparel, shoes, jewelry and home décor.

"When customers walk in, they'll be blown away by what we have to offer and the look and feel of the shops," says Goodwill's Chief Communications Officer Jill Wallace. "The blue boutiques will have new apparel mixed in as well, and the apparel will have a more chic-funky-glam look. We're really looking for the market to be women between ages 20 and 40."

Wallace says this is Goodwill's first foray into the boutique business. While the merchandise will have slightly higher prices than the traditional Goodwill Stores, the stores will have bargains and all proceeds will go to fund Goodwill's workforce training and placement programs.

"Last year, we placed about 1,300 people [in jobs], and the higher [sales] margins bring more money in for these programs," Wallace says. "Goodwill is one of the world's largest recyclers of textiles through reselling, diverting five million pounds of textiles, including shoes, from Grand Rapids-area landfills every year.

"I think the boutiques will open people's minds to what you can find at any Goodwill store," she says.

Wallace says she expects both stores to open mid-April and says grand opening events are being planned.

Source: Jill Wallace, Goodwill Industries
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Free-market group, Acton Institute, buys downtown Grand Rapids' "WMCAT Building" for new HQ

The downtown Grand Rapids building often known as the "Wim-CAT Building" will soon undergo a facelift and transformation that will meet the needs of its new owner, the Acton Institute.

The Acton Institute, a faith-based proponent of free-market economies worldwide, will relocate from leased space in the Waters Building to the historic two-story structure on the corner of Fulton St. NE and Sheldon Blvd. The building's current tenants, West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT), will continue to occupy the building's second level. Acton Institute will move into the main level and basement.

"We're growing internationally and domestically, and have over 40 staff, so this means we will have space for meetings, technology and lectures," says John Couretas, director of communications. "We also have an office in Rome and affiliates in Brazil, Austria, Zambia and Argentina, so we're doing events all over the world and a lot of that is managed from Grand Rapids."

Design plans are in the beginning stages, but Couretas says the space will include a multi-purpose meeting and lecture space, as well as accommodations for Acton's documentary and video curricula, in addition to office space. He expects the new location will provide room for educational events for students, seminarians and clergy who enroll in Acton's programs, as well as enough space for future growth. Couretas says the institute's largest event, Acton University, attracted 625 participants from 69 countries to Grand Rapids in 2011.

"We wanted to stay downtown and invest in downtown Grand Rapids, and this was an ideal place for us," Couretas says. "Obviously, we're going to be one of many organizations and investors that are helping Grand Rapids create a vibrant downtown for the future. That's an effort where there's a lot of shared activity going on. It's a much bigger picture when you look at downtown as a whole, and we're big believers in the downtown of Grand Rapids."

A construction start date has not been determined.

Architect: Via Design
Construction manager: Pioneer Construction

Source: John Couretas, Acton Institute
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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