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Downtown Holland's New Holland Brewing pub plans $1M expansion in time for Tulip Time

New Holland Brewing plans to invest $1 million to enhance the interior of its downtown Holland pub house (66 E. 8th St.) and create a 3,000-square-foot beer garden. Work has begun on the indoor upgrades while the last details of the beer garden are ironed out with the Holland Planning Commission.

Interior renovations of two new family bathrooms, an expanded back bar area, and a larger kitchen will add behind-the-scenes conveniences for customers. But perhaps the two most anticipated amenities that will create the most impact on customers are increasing the number of beer taps from 28 to 42 and expanding a small rear patio from 40 seats to a 100-seat beer garden.

"My guess is we'll have 20 to 25 beers on tap most of the time, and some of our best sellers will have double taps," says Director of Chaos Dave White (VP of restaurant operations). "We have a small patio and seven designated parking spots adjacent to that, so we'll remove those parking spots and extend the patio to allow for a covered bar and a covered music area. We have live music outside on Fridays, and it's fun to sit outside and listen to music with the grill going. It smells great."

White says a six-foot-high concrete and metal decorative wall will surround the beer garden. It will feature artistic impressions embedded into the concrete. The landscaping will include an array of hops to add ambience to the space.

New Holland Brewing sells only its own craft beers, brewed onsite and at its offsite distillery and bottling plant at 690 Commerce Ct., and offers a variety of its own spirits, including rums, whiskeys, and gins.

White says the indoor renovations will be done by March; the beer garden should be completed by May 1, in time for Tulip Time. New Holland Brewing will remain open during renovations.

Hours: seven days: 11 a.m. to midnight Mon. - Thurs.; Fri., Sat., Sun. 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Source: Dave White, New Holland Brewing
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Rapids Public Museum lands hard-to-get $30,000 Michigan Council for Arts grant

The Grand Rapids Public Museum has received a highly competitive $30,000 grant for operations costs, awarded by the State of Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. The museum was one of nearly 300 applicants and received the money based on a peer review by in-state and out-of-state arts and cultural professionals.

Grants for operations are fundamental in allowing organizations to keep the lights on and the doors open, yet they are few in number and rife with deserving competitors, says Kate Moore, director of marketing and public relations for the Grand Rapids Public Museum.

"In the museum world, general operating dollars are hard to get so the competition is stiff," Moore says. "The museum relies on grants like this, our admission fees, private donations, memberships, and fundraising campaigns to operate. We have 100,000 to 200,000 people a year coming through the doors. Grants like this ensure, in part, that ongoing programming, like keeping the carousel going, still happens and creates a unique experience."

Moore says the museum has only about 10 percent of its collections on display at any time, plus features special national and international exhibitions each year, including Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, which runs through July 7.

Source: Kate Moore, Grand Rapids Public Museum
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

The BOB to break ground on $5M biergarten, outdoor festival marketplace, concert venue

After over a decade of planning and negotiations, owners of The BOB (Big Old Building) in downtown Grand Rapids will break ground on a $5 million outdoor festival marketplace, biergarten, and entertainment venue. The expansion encompasses what's now a parking lot to the north and east of The BOB (20 Monroe Ave. NW) and will transform it into a 40,000-square-foot European-style piazza with a 22,000-square-foot, two-story entertainment venue.

Greg Gilmore, managing partner for The Gilmore Collection which owns The BOB, says phase one involves renovating the former Gilly's restaurant in the existing building and opening it to the adjacent outdoor piazza. The new restaurant, with a new menu that includes craft beers, oysters and shared plates, will open July 1.

After ArtPrize 2013, Gilmore plans to break ground on the rest of the project, which will provide a park-like gathering space in the center of the city with walkways, streams, and a small pine forest.

"My goal is to create a place for the community to gather," Gilmore says. "We want to create that third place to come and hang out, sit at a picnic table next to a fire pit, and work on their homework or read a newspaper."

Gilmore plans to feature The BOB's microbrews in the biergarten -- a microbrewery that he says is past time to promote.

"Sixteen years ago, I buried it in the basement (of The BOB) because I didn't think the stainless tanks were very attractive, and for 16 years, people have been saying 'you have a brewery?'" he says with a chuckle.  

The entertainment venue will seat up to 1,500 for mid-sized concerts, drive-in movies for bikes and skateboards, and other events. Huge exterior doors will open the venue to the piazza for crowds to flow through during large events like ArtPrize.

Marketplace kiosks will be available for lease to entrepreneurs as a type of business incubator where they can sell their goods or foods.

The entire project will be complete by June 1, 2014.

Source: Greg Gilmore, The Gilmore Collection; Chris Knape, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Welcome Home executive relocation services leaves no bed unturned for West Michigan newcomers

Grand Rapids businesswoman Shirley Hubers says the idea for Welcome Home executive relocation services "just came to me" one day, just three months after retiring from Hubers & Associates, a marketing and communications firm she owned for 25 years.

Welcome Home offers a comprehensive list of relocation services, from cleaning the new home before the move, unpacking all boxes, and putting everything away, to making the beds and waiting for the cable company.

"Welcome Home offers a new service not offered anywhere," Hubers says. "It's for new executive hires that have to move to the community from an outlying area, like Boston, for instance. All they have to do is unlock the door and they are home. It is live-in ready."

Hubers says the service is a perk that corporations, executive search firms, and real estate companies offer potential newcomers to clinch the decision to relocate their entire family and the household that comes with it.

In addition to overseeing the move, Welcome Home provides neighborhood maps that help newcomers find grocery stores, worship centers, salons and barbershops, pharmacies, doctors, dentists, parks, schools, and other services new families need. They will also pair the accompanying spouse or significant other with a member of the community who has similar interests.

And yes, Welcome Home even does windows.

"We clean the residence from top to bottom, including the basement and garage. We wash windows inside and out, we mow the lawn or shovel the snow, and even supervise home repairs identified by the new owners or the realtor," Hubers says. "We make sure the washer and dryer are connected, and we stock groceries for the first breakfast and dinner."

Hubers says that besides handling the move in, Welcome Home will handle the move out for an additional cost. The service could include hiring a mover and cleaning the house after it's empty.

Source: Shirley Hubers, Welcome Home
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Michigan Energy Future to hold public input meetings, gather ideas in Grand Rapids

If you want Michigan's state government to hear your ideas on the state's energy future, you'll want to mark your calendar for Feb. 25, 2013. That's when Michigan Public Service Commission Chairman John D. Quackenbush and Michigan Energy Office Director Steve Bakkal will host a public forum at Grand Valley State University's Loosemore Auditorium (401 W. Fulton St.).

"The goal is to get both industry and the public involved," says Bakkal. "We'll devote the first hour to hear from utility companies, various interest groups, businesses, and alternative energy group to help the public understand the topics. We will gather feedback and information and release a report at the end of the year on where we are today and how we compare to other states."

Bakkal says the report will be used to guide policymakers on future energy decisions, rather than waiting until the decisions need to be made. He adds that Governor Rick Snyder announced the forums in his message on energy and the environment.

In conjunction with the announcement of the forums, a new website, Michigan.gov/energy, is open until April 25 for comments and ideas from Michigan residents and business owners.

"The website poses questions that we would like help answering," Bakkal says. "Some have quick answers and others require more analysis. There's a lot of background information needed to make an informed decision on policy."

Bakkal says the public forums will be recorded and made available on YouTube following the sessions.

The Grand Rapids session is 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Feb. 25, Loosemore Auditorium, 401 W. Fulton St. To find other meeting locations, click here.

Source: Steve Bakkal, Michigan Energy Office
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Ohio real estate developer plans $13M apartment project on Grand Rapids' west riverbank

A former Ryder Truck maintenance and storage facility on the west riverbank of the Grand River is a prime location for 93 affordable- and market-rate apartments in Grand Rapids.

Woda Group, a multi-family housing developer based in Westerville, OH, received Grand Rapids Planning Commission approval to move forward on GrandView Place on the corner of Front St. NW and Tenth St. NW.

The development will be Enterprise Green Communities certified and could bring 20 waterfront townhouses to the west side, along with another 60 apartments, which will be mostly waterfront, and 13 townhouses along Front St. NW.

"Part of the reason to come to Grand Rapids is because Grand Rapids is a city on the move with a significant investment in jobs and development," says VP of Development P. Craig Patterson. Patterson lived in the area for 22 years before relocating to Ohio to be closer to the company.

About 75 percent of the units will have water views, Patterson says. Plus, 25 feet of river frontage is set aside for a walking/biking path that will connect to a path proposed by the city, park benches, and natural gardens.

"We are setting aside 24 of our family units to take care of the needs of homeless and disabled veterans, which is a very, very important part of this," Patterson adds. "We consulted with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and did market research to determine there was a need for this type of housing."

Community Rebuilders will be a lead agency to provide services and referrals for veterans who need housing, Patterson says.

The market-rate apartments will be on the market for anyone to rent. The affordable-rate apartments will be available for persons earning 60 percent of the area median income or below.

A study is underway to determine if the site is contaminated and needs remediation. If all goes according to plan, Woda Group will close on the property by the end of 2013 and construction will begin in January 2014.

Architect: Hooker DeJong
Construction: Woda Group

Source: P. Craig Patterson, Woda Group
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Purchase of Bridgewater Place is Calif. investment firm's first foray into Michigan real estate

When completed, the planned purchased of Bridgewater Place, one of Grand Rapids' largest office buildings, will be California investment company Hertz Investment Group's inaugural foray into the Michigan investment real estate market.

The 17-story building (333 Bridge St. NW), known for its sea blue mirrored-tile exterior that rises along the Grand River, was a foreclosed property with GMAC Mortgage and will be sold for an undisclosed price, says Michael Visser of Colliers International. Visser assisted Colin Kraay, the lead sales manager in the transaction -- a process that began in 2010 with marketing the building nationally.

"We had nine offers from qualified buyers," Visser says. "I think this is a tremendous highlight of the attention the city has received. Part of our marketing is articulating what's going on here. The first day Hertz came to tour the building was when ArtPrize was going on, and that kind of event really makes it easy to market Grand Rapids."

Hertz Investment Group owns and manages dozens of massive office buildings in large cities in a number of states. The company's website touts the firm as "specializing in the acquisition, marketing, and management of exceptional properties throughout the country, encompassing prominent high-rise office buildings, international market centers for fashion, gift and jewelry, historically significant landmark properties, luxury hotels, high profile theaters, large retail centers, and multi-family residential properties."

"Having national investors like this purchase an asset that's been highly distressed throughout its history will be a great thing for our downtown office market," Visser says of the building, which has changed hands several times.

Bridgewater Place has 353,000 square feet of leasable space, says Visser. Varnum Law occupies the top five stories; Spectrum Health is building out 38,000 square feet of newly leased space for its human resources department. Visser says about 30 percent of the building is available for lease through Colliers International.

The transaction does not include River House Condominiums, which is owned by a separate entity. The sale will close in 30-45 days, Visser says.

Source: Michael Visser, Colliers International
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

The Rapid awarded LEED Gold for environmental advances at new $31M operations center

Grand Rapids' transit system, The Rapid, has once again received national recognition for its environmental conscience in new building construction. This week, The Rapid received the U.S. Green Building Council's second-highest certification, LEED Gold, for the renovation and expansion of its operations center (333 Wealthy St. SW).

The LEED award is the organization's second LEED achievement. Rapid Central Station qualified for LEED certification in 2006, the first transit station in the nation to receive the designation.

The expansion doubled the size of the former operations center, bringing it to some 280,000 square feet, which houses the dispatch center, a training center, and storage and maintenance for over 150 buses.

Notable environmental features of the building include a bus wash water reclamation system that saves nearly nine million gallons of water per year; a 40,000-square-foot green roof; increased day light, natural light, and natural ventilation; radiant floor heating in the garage; and high-speed garage doors.

"Grand Rapids has all these sustainability initiatives and has been designated as a sustainable city by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and that adds more status to the city," says The Rapid CEO Peter Varga. "I think it raises the national profile of us as a city. For The Rapid, our conservation of water and electricity, the resistance of our green roof to degradation because it will last three times as long as a standard roof -- for us, there's a balance that's worthwhile because the upfront costs always get repaid over time."

Besides the LEED achievement, the financial numbers are also impressive. The project, which received $10.7 million in federal stimulus money and $17 million in federal transportation funding, was projected to cost $32.4 million, yet came in $1 million under budget.

Source: Peter Varga, The Rapids
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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East Hills church building to become 37 apartments, some with original architectural details

By the end of the year, Midland developer Brookstone Capital hopes to have transformed the former Bethel Pentecostal Church building (834 Lake Dr. SE) into 37 affordable apartments in the East Hills Neighborhood.

The church, built in 1923 and expanded to 41,000 square feet in 1967, will soon have another 12,000 square feet of contemporary living space added atop the 1967 addition. Some of the original architectural elements in the sanctuary area will become architectural features in several apartments.

"The vaulted ceilings will stay, and the big sanctuary windows will stay," says Aaron Jonker, senior project lead with Wolverine Building Group. "The church (Bethel Pentecostal) took the stained glass windows with them to their new location, but the large windows that replaced them will be part of several apartments. Right now, the sanctuary is a three-story space and we'll divide that into two floors."

The layout includes 21-one-bedroom and 16-two-bedroom units. One of each style will be fully handicap accessible, including accessible kitchens and cabinets.

Jonker says the exterior will have the same visual appeal it has now, after undergoing some repair of the decorative columns.

Construction will be completed to Enterprise Green Communities certification standards with a focus on energy efficient windows, insulation, and a high efficiency HVAC system.

"The building is in great shape yet, and it's great to be able to continue that legacy and preserve it for some time going forward," Jonker says. "This (increased density) will also support the businesses in the area."

Construction begins in February. Projected completion is December 2013.

Construction manager: Wolverine Building Group
Architect: Progressive AE
Green certification consultant: Catalyst Partners

Source: Aaron Jonker, Wolverine Building Group
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

New furnished apartments in Grand Rapids' McKay Tower offer luxury living downtown

Three new luxury apartments in one of Grand Rapids' iconic buildings will offer short- and long-term leases in the heart of the city's action.

A renovation a few years ago created rooms with a view on the 15th floor of the 17-story McKay Tower. Building owner Steadfast Properties, LLC has completed the buildout of one one-bedroom, one-bath apartment which is on the market for $2,000 per month. The 850-square-foot unit has granite countertops, a laundry area with a full-sized washer and dryer, and lots of closet space -- amenities that each apartment will have, says Operations Director Chaundra Derks.

Two additional units, each with two bedrooms and two baths, include living room fireplaces and will be finished in time for downtown summer festivities. Each carries a monthly price tag between $4,000 and $5,000.

All of the apartments feature interiors by local designer Kathryn Chaplow and come fully furnished, including pots and pans, tableware, linens, and towels. Residents have the use of the 16th floor lounge which has a wet bar and fireplace, plus the 17th floor rooftop deck which has a grill and patio furniture.

The views, depending on the apartment, take in the Grand River, Monroe North, Monroe Center Avenue, the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, or Rosa Parks Circle.  

"We want these to be turnkey apartments where all you have to do is bring yourself and your clothes and have everything you need," Derks says. "If there are people who are working in the area for a month or so, or are visiting family, they can move in and we'll take care of the rest.

All apartments offer month-to-month leases as well as year-to-year options. If travelers need only a week or two, Derks says they will try to accommodate them.

For more information, contact Tony Pearson, True North Real Estate, (616) 780-0035 or tony@trunorth-re.com.

Source: Chaundra Derks, Steadfast Properties, LLC; Craig Clark, Clark Communications
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Agent X says its new collaborative workspace at 38 Commerce is "a lot more fun"

Coming to work and plugging into a different workspace everyday has become the norm for employees at Agent X, a Grand Rapids branding and visual experience firm. The company relocated its 10 employees to 1,700 square feet in "38," a contemporary building at 38 Commerce Ave. SW in Heartside.

"You can have a lot more fun when people can work in open environments," says owner Brian Steketee, adding that even he doesn't have a permanent office. "Our team loves it. We have some quiet areas where we can go and focus, but a lot of our work is collaborative and involves a lot of different people. The new setup helps the project flow."

Steketee says the new space is set up with "hotel" workspaces, where a project manager and the rest of the team can plug laptops and phones into technology-laden desks that can accommodate two to five people -- each station has monitors and keyboards at the ready.

The office is on the main level, with storefront windows that stretch along Commerce Avenue. Besides the open workspaces and TV monitors throughout, there is a kitchen area, a conference room, and two small meeting rooms with white boards where technologists and user experience specialists can connect with clients remotely or with the company's satellite office in St. Louis, MO.

"I love the fact that we're headquartered in Grand Rapids," Steketee says. "I think the cost of living in Grand Rapids and access is great. We can still provide groundbreaking solutions to our clients and we can do it at a competitive rate. And there's more and more great talent making its way here."

Source: Brian Steketee, Agent X
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Historic Kingsley Building makes a comfortable new home for Connie's Cakes

When Mary Scheidel wanted to move her business, Connie's Cakes, to a more neighborly and pedestrian/bike-friendly location, she had no idea what was in store by moving into Eastown. "I've already had a slew of neighboring businesses stop by and introduce themselves, and the foot traffic is far greater than we had in Cutlerville," she says. "It has been really exciting."

After more than a year of searching for the perfect location, Scheidel opened Connie's Cakes on Friday, Jan. 11 on the Robinson Road side of the Kingsley Building (at Robinson and Lake Drive). Scheidel bought the business in April 2010 from her Aunt Connie Hennip, who had operated for more than 15 years on the 7000 block of South Division in Cutlerville. While the business had done very well at that location, serving clients all over West Michigan, Scheidel felt a longing to move into more of a neighborhood business district.

She began her search in late 2011, focusing on the rapidly growing East Hills area. A family friend who owns Making Thyme Kitchen on Cherry St. recommended that she work with Guy Bazzani and his most recent renovation project at the historic Kingsley Building, which has recently received designation as a National Historic Site.

Scheidel took one look at the space and knew her vision for creating a nostalgic pastry shop would work perfectly in the 2000-square-foot space. Scheidel wanted her shop to reflect the time period in which the building was built, so that customers would imagine that it had existed there since the beginning.

Connie's Cakes specializes in cakes from a butter cream recipe created by Scheidel's Aunt Connie. They'll custom design cakes for all occasions, both for personal and business events -- they even created the giant cake for the most recent Juice Ball -- and now include fondant cakes. They also bake giant and miniature cupcakes, cookies, brownies, dessert bars, and muffins on site throughout the day.

Although not technically a cafe where you can sit down and eat, their new space has a bakery case stocked daily with fresh treats for walk-in and bike-in customers. She did mention that she won't kick you out if you want to stay and eat. Scheidel employs two "top notch" designers in house and all of the pastry creations are built from scratch on site.

Future plans include possible outdoor seating in the small alley next door to their space, and Scheidel is already looking forward to riding her bike to the Fulton Street Farmer's Market when local fruits are in season for added ingredients. Gluten-free menu items are also in the works.

Hours of operation for Connie's Cakes are Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., Saturdays, 9 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. They will also do wedding consultations during the evenings by appointment. Their Facebook page can be found here. Their official address is 1416 Robinson Road, less than a block from The Rapid's Route 6 bus line.

Source: Mary Scheidel, Connie's Cakes
Writer: Jeff Hill, Publisher

Photos by Jeff Hill

Grand Rapids Junior Achievement Building lands anchor tenant, long-awaited restoration to begin

It's been vacant and decaying for 15 years, and after multiple attempts by various developers to renovate the iconic Junior Achievement Building at one of Grand Rapids' most prominent intersections, Locus Development announced today that architectural firm TowerPinkster will be the anchor tenant, moving all 25 of its employees to the city center.

The building, with a new address of 4 E. Fulton, is just blocks from three multi-million dollar preservation and construction projects TowerPinkster was involved with: the LEED Gold-certified Kendall College of Art & Design’s Historic Federal Building, the Kent County Courthouse, and the renovation of Grand Rapids Civic Theatre.

After TowerPinkster landed the contract for the design and engineering of 4 E. Fulton, the company decided it was the perfect place to relocate from its temporary offices in Byron Center, says TowerPinkster CEO Arnie Mikon.

"I think if you go to almost any city around the world, most of the leaders are downtown and we wanted to be where the leaders are," Mikon says. "In addition to that are all of the things you've heard the governor talking about with developing communities and keeping talent downtown. We feel we'll be better able to attract the talent we want, and we're in a creative profession so we want to be closer to the arts community."

TowerPinkster will occupy the entire second floor, some 7,500 square feet, of the building. Mikon did not disclose the company's financial investment in renovating the space to LEED Gold for Commercial Interiors, but Locus Development's John Green, owner and developer of the building, says his company's investment is $3 million.

"About 40,000 cars a day that pass through that intersection," Green says. "Yet [people] can't see the vision. We hope to draw multiple retailers -- the building is designed to have a number of storefronts. We also have a lower level with tall ceilings and could provide an opportunity to become an entertainment venue."

The exterior of the building will remain much the same due to historic preservation rules. The interior design will honor the building's Art Deco style, yet have a contemporary appeal. Demolition has begun and TowerPinkster hopes to move in by late 2013.

Architect and engineer: TowerPinkster
Construction: Pioneer Construction

Source: Arnie Mikon, Matt Slagle, TowerPinkster; John Green, Locus Development; Chris Knape, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photography: Aaron Boot

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Grand Rapids' Bread Square Bakery plans to offer vegan baked goods for wholesale, walk-in customers

Matthew Russell arrived for our interview at the location for the proposed Bread Square Bakery (8 Jefferson Ave. SE) on his bike, glasses slightly fogged from the cold air. He carefully unstrapped a bakery box from the bike and we moved inside. The box, filled with samples of dark brown bread, colorful frosted cupcakes, and huge sandwich-style cookies, infused the air with scents of cinnamon and chocolate.

Bread Square Bakery is part of Bartertown Diner, a popular and unique vegan restaurant next door, and Russell is one of the employee-owners in the venture. He guides the restaurant's Internet presence and supplies the eatery with vegan cookies from his side business, Wednesday Evening Cookies. Soon, he'll head up the baking at Bread Square Bakery.

As a journalism student at Western Michigan University, Russell cooked for himself. Meat was pricey and he didn't eat packaged foods, so he bought what he could afford. It took a while before he realized he was eating a vegetarian diet. After that, he studied vegetarianism and decided to pursue it in earnest.

"When I moved to Grand Rapids, I started Wednesday Evening Cookies for a group bike ride around town every Wednesday night," Russell says. "People [from the rides] started ordering cookies from me. It's just grown from there."

Russell says it makes sense for Bartertown Diner to have its own bakery that can provide wholesale vegan baked goods to its own customers, as well as to area restaurants, stores, coffee shops, and walk-in customers. While the restaurant's plan is to continue buying certain baked goods from existing suppliers, Bread Square Bakery will provide some of its vegan and gluten-free breads, cupcakes, and cookies to keep costs down.

The bakery will occupy the rear 750 square feet of 8 Jefferson. The Bloom Collective will occupy the front third. Customers will enter the bakery off the back alley where Russell hopes to add a small patio. The alley is accessible by foot or bike from Jefferson SE and from Fulton St. NE.

Russell hopes to have the bakery open by late spring.

Source: Matthew Russell, Wednesday Evening Cookies and Bread Square Bakery
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Vacant Grand Rapids Public Schools building to be revived

The former Roosevelt Child Development Center (641 Vries St. SW) has not been the home of regular classes for several years, but soon, the building will be home to a new, free preschool for three- and four-year-olds in the neighborhood.

The Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative, a child development program funded by a $5 million grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, plans to remodel the building for classes that could begin as early as June.

The free preschool will prepare under-advantaged children for kindergarten, greatly increasing the probability that the children will stay in school and graduate, says Director Nkechy Ezeh, Ed. D. She adds that the neighborhood has only one existing preschool at Cesar Chavez Elementary School.

"The families live in a high poverty area," Ezeh says. "There's not a whole lot of time for the parents to spend with children and have family fun times that middle- and high-income families have. For every dollar we spend on these children, we get a return on it. Otherwise, we will pay for it in the future -- those that are not reading by third grade will drop out of high school. The impact is just too much for us to continue and to unintentionally put our children on this path."

Plans include a $108,000 rehabilitation that includes roof repairs, leveling an old step-down entryway, and making the building A.D.A. compliant.

The four-classroom structure will accommodate 16 children in each classroom with two early learning bi-lingual teachers for each class. The schedule is in flux right now and could involve either morning and afternoon preschools, or one preschool session in the morning followed by a Baby Scholars program in the afternoon funded by the Douglas and Maria DeVos Foundation. The schedule will be firmed up over the coming months, Ezeh says.

Source: Dr. Nkechy Ezeh, Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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