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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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Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative prepares children for kindergarten and life

New preschool opportunity on Grand Rapids' south side opens doors for low-income families

Many low-income children are way behind by the time they enter kindergarten because they lack opportunities for learning and socialization. A Grand Rapids-based preschool program aims to give those kids a place to learn, to grow, and to get a leg up on their future through free preschools in the neighborhoods where many of those children live.

This week, the Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative opened a newly remodeled preschool classroom at South End Community Outreach Ministries (SECOM - 1545 Buchanan Ave. SW), its sixth Grand Rapids location, all funded by a $5M grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

"Our focus is children who will be four years old by Dec. 1, 2013, so we can get them ready to go to kindergarten," says Dr. Nkechy Ezeh, director. "Eighty-three percent of the children are not ready for kindergarten. Having small schools in the neighborhood makes it personable for the children, where they can feel connected -- many don't have transportation, and they can walk to school."

Dr. Ezeh says that when a child starts kindergarten and is already behind, they often don't ever catch up. That leads to poor school performance, higher dropout rates, and adults not prepared to be part of the workforce.

The ELNC offers children the chance to be on equal footing with their peers when they enter school. The goal is to have one teacher for every eight children in the class. The SECOM classroom has two full-time teachers who work with 16 children in the morning and another 16 in the afternoon.

Another important part of the preschool program is making sure the children receive a meal. The morning classes receive breakfast and a snack; afternoon classes get lunch and a snack.

"This is future workforce development," Ezeh says. "The long-run impact is the thing that's great to us."

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

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The Cheese Lady renovates an old northeast side store to offer world cheeses, wines, Michigan beers

When Heather Zinn was in her favorite specialty food shop, The Cheese Lady store in Muskegon, she overheard a customer say he'd just been in the Kalamazoo store. What? Did that mean there were franchises available? The answer was a resounding maybe.

But Zinn didn't give up. She kept the conversation alive over the next months, and, in October 2012, she opened the company's second franchise location at 315 Fuller Ave. NE, Grand Rapids.

"I was going to change careers and I couldn't imagine working for someone else again," Zinn says of her career as a radio station sales rep. "I had my eyes and ears open for what I would do next and this all happened at the right time. It happened organically."

The Cheese Lady offers cheeses from around the U.S. as well as France, Spain, England, and Australia. The store carries the wines, beers, foods, and crackers that go with them. The store also carries a variety of serving options for the cheeses and their accompaniments, including handmade pottery by local potter Rita Shields.

Zinn, her partner Craig Stucky, and landlord Four Jays Properties completed renovating the building, which was most recently a dog grooming business. They refinished the original wood floors, put in new HVAC, sheetrock, and paint. They also opened the store's interior to the daylight with skylights and a wall of storefront windows.

"She has a good crew," says Kathleen Riegler, The Cheese Lady founder and owner of the Muskegon store. "She's responsible for her own store, her own buying, and our franchise model provides supervision and startup, along with a lot of information and training."

Hours: Tues. - Fri. 10 a.m to 6 p.m.; Sat. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Source: Heather Zinn, Kathleen Riegler, The Cheese Lady
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Long vacant space in Grand Rapids' Heartside is "right space, right fit" for new promotions firm

The owners of Creative Studio Promotions say that, after months of searching for office space in downtown Grand Rapids, a long-vacant location in Heartside is the "right space, right fit" for the company and its staff of eight.

Ann Vidro and Menda Wright launched Creative Studio Promotions in June 2012 out of temporary space at Davenport University. When they looked at their future space at 25 Jefferson Ave. SE, it had been vacant for three years and was in need of an image. The pair rehabbed the space with industrial finishes, slat walls, and bright colors and opened on Sept. 1, just in time to entertain clients during ArtPrize 2012.

Wright says her expertise as a sales rep and Vidro's experience as a CPA have given them a combined 30 years of background in preparation for this endeavor. They launched the company with several clients already on board, and have since created several e-commerce sites clients use to promote and manage their arsenal of promotional items. Two of those sites are Helen DeVos Children's Hospital and Priority Health.

"Instead of having a closet full of logo products, we manage that for you," Wright says. "We have our own warehouse partner, Advanced Fulfillment. Clients and their employees and agents can log on and order for trade shows or meetings, and have it shipped to the show, to the client, or to their home, and we track the inventory here."

Wright says the company also designs specific products for clients to help promote a particular message. They can also recycle client's products into new logo items for a specific audience.

Source: Menda Wright, Creative Studio Promotions
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Rapids entrepreneur serves up on-the-go raw foods taste treats from Grand RAWpids

The clever Grand RAWpids brand name of Grand Rapids entrepreneur Christine Despres' packaged raw foods business is a good indicator of the creative juices she brings to her original raw foods taste treats.

Despres, an IT manager by day and certified raw food chef by night, says troubleshooting computer glitches for customers is much like helping people figure out what's going on in their bodies. She says snacks made from raw foods retain an optimum level of nutrients, unlike foods that are cooked at high temperatures.

"The body uses less of its own digestive energy to process the foods because raw foods are alive and have their own enzymes for the digestive process, so you're left with more energy," Despres says. "Nothing is heated above 113 degrees. The goal is to find snacks that people are going to enjoy and convert them into a raw food."

Despres says Grand RAWpids foods are organic, gluten-free, dairy-free, and are naturally sweetened without sugar.

She uses the kitchen at Nourish Organic Market (634 Wealthy St. SE) to make her products, which include Cacao Mint Brownie (sprouted buckwheat flour, Medjool dates, pure peppermint oil, raw cacao powder); Raw Energy Cookie (raw almonds, Michigan organic honey, raw coconut, Medjool dates, topped with a drizzle of raw chocolate); and the fruit-leather-style Strawberry Soother (raw in-season strawberries, lavender oil, and sometimes agave nectar).

Her latest creation will be available in January -- a raw cereal called Squirrel Stash (gluten-free oats, a non-peanut nut butter, and a drizzle of raw chocolate).

Grand RAWpids foods are available online and at Nourish Organic Market, Harvest Health Foods (Cascade store), and at Conlee Oil Company (Clio).

Source: Christine Despres, Grand RAWpids
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Preservation of century-old 4-plex brings new apartments to SE Grand Rapids' Tapestry Square

It might have been easier to raze and rebuild a circa 1915 four-plex on Grand Rapids' southeast side, but the building's character in a neighborhood with just a few stable older buildings is irreplaceable. So, the Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF) chose to invest $540,000 in the reconstruction of 528 Sheldon Ave. SE.

Jonathan Bradford, CEO of ICCF, the nonprofit leading the charge to redevelop a neglected area of housing now called Tapestry Square (four blocks bounded by Wealthy St. on the north, Division Avenue on the west, Buckley St. on the south and LaGrave Avenue on the east) says the stability of the building meant it should stay in the neighborhood.

Bradford says an absentee landlord "'re-muddled' the building in the mid-1980s and basically threw away any kind of historic character it had."

To fix that, the building was jacked up four feet off the foundation, the foundation was excavated and rebuilt with poured concrete wall and new footings, and the structure was settled on the new foundation. The inside was gutted and rebuilt. The roof, which was the wrong pitch, was rebuilt and replaced, and the outside clad in cement board siding and painted.

Each unit has three small bedrooms -- the original configurations -- and all four units are leased. Tenants will move in at the end of the month.

Bradford says construction students from Grand Rapids Community College worked on the project as part of their training.

A ribbon cutting at 10 a.m. today celebrates the completion of the project.

Source: Jonathan Bradford, Inner City Christian Federation
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Bagger Dave's to serve up legendary burgers, Michigan brews on Grand Rapids' downtown waterfront

Bagger Dave's Legendary Burger Tavern plans to dig deeper into the West Michigan restaurant and craft beer market with a new location along the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids.

The new location at 241 W. Fulton St., the foot of the Plaza Towers next to Kinko's, could bring to life some 4,500-square-feet of vacant space near the Riverwalk, connecting it to students from Grand Valley State University's campus. Owners Diversified Restaurant Holdings, LLC, (DRH) counts on the restaurant's proximity to the Van Andel Arena, the entertainment district, and downtown hotels for bringing customers in the front door.

DRH owns 42 restaurants in a number of states, most of which are Buffalo Wild Wings franchises, although it does not own the B-dub restaurant at Fulton St. and Ionia Avenue SW.

"We think downtown Grand Rapids is a pretty amazing place," says DRH's VP of Franchise Sales and Development Bill McClintock. "We think the local people have done a great job of developing downtown. It's a clean, safe, exciting place. We develop restaurants all over Michigan and we see Grand Rapids as a good opportunity to expand the Bagger Dave's brand."

Bagger Dave's entered the Grand Rapids market with a location in Cascade, followed by another in Grandville. The menu features soups, salads, kids' meals, and gluten-free selections, plus a create-your-own burger menu where choices start with burgers from beef, turkey, or black beans, and end with nearly 40 toppings.

McClintock says the restaurant offers a number of Michigan craft beers, Michigan wines, and a full bar.

The first customers should be able to belly up to the table in mid-2013.

Source: Bill McClintock, Diversified Restaurant Holdings, LLC
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Old Federal Building's $31M renovation wins Gold LEED for Kendall College of Art and Design

The $31 million renovation of Grand Rapids' "Old Federal Building" has landed its new owner, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, the coveted Gold LEED for New Construction certification. The massive undertaking to muscle the circa 1909 Beaux Arts building (17 Pearl St. NW) into environmental and structural shape for the creation of art and the education of art students for decades into the future was nothing short of heroic.

A tour of the building with Ryan Idema, TowerPinkster mechanical engineer who headed up the LEED process for mechanicals, and Lee Cobb, facilities director, was punctuated with enthusiasm for the work, a deep respect for the skilled artisans who made it happen, and a love and respect for the building and the vision of her original architect, James Taylor.

Of the 94,000 square feet, nearly half of it was unused and decaying for decades, Idema says. To maintain its historic integrity, crews had to conceal the new mechanical systems and all their accompanying technologies, even though the building provided very little space above the ceilings or inside the walls. The result was a masterful renovation that showcases the building's ornate wall and ceiling moldings, towering ceilings and columns, and heavy dark wood doors and window frames. The original marble and mosaic tile floors glisten, while hallways and classrooms are bright with daylight.

A handful of the LEED and historic preservation highlights include:
•    Replacement or repair of 128 historic windows.
•    Uncovering and restoring 23 original 4-ft. by 4-ft. skylights.
•    Heat and A/C sensor-controlled systems in all classrooms and offices.
•    Energy efficient LED lighting inside and out.
•    100 percent outside air used for venting the metal art studio and ceramics studio.
•    Unobtrusive soundproofing and acoustics control in classrooms, lecture halls, and studios.
•    Two hydraulic elevators push up from the bottom rather than pull up from the top, to avoid having mechanicals housed on the roof (not allowed for historic preservation purposes).
•    Four small high-efficiency boilers heat the entire building.
•    Closed loop hydro cooling system.
•    Halls lined with the original benches that once occupied the building's courtrooms.
•    Discovery of a circa 1909 central vacuum system.

The building opened to students in August 2012.

Architect: TowerPinkster
Construction manager: The Christman Company
Historic Preservation Consultant: Hopkins Burns Design Studio

Source: Ryan Idema, TowerPinkster; Lee Cobb, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University; Chris Knape, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photographer: Justin Maconochie for TowerPinkster

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Grandville's first microbrewery aims to put city on brewski lovers'map

West Michigan brewski lovers can amble into a new or unique microbrewery almost anywhere in the region -- except in Grandville. But that could be about to change.

Thirty-somethings Ron and Mindy Denning have plans to convert the former Elders Appliance building (4051 Chicago Dr. SW) into Grandville's first microbrewery, Osgood Brewing. The name comes from Hiram Osgood who opened Osgood Tavern, the city's first tavern back in the day.

Osgood Brewing will divide the 7,500-square-foot warehouse into 4,000 square feet of dining and pub space with the remaining 3,500 square feet dedicated to a 10-barrel brewing system.

"This will be Grandville's own, not another chain," Mindy Denning says. "There are a bunch of microbreweries popping up in Grand Rapids, Holland, and a couple in Hudsonville, but nothing in the Jenison or Grandville area. In this whole city that has a lot of tradition and a lot of history, there's nothing like this right smack dab in the area of a lot of young families and young people."

Ron Denning, a teacher at Grandville High School, has brewed beer for the past seven years. As head brewer, he plans to offer six core beers on the menu, four seasonal beers, and other specialty brews. The brewery's Facebook page lists the six mainstays as Sol Seeker, an American Wheat Ale;  358, an American Pale Ale; Journey, an India Pale Ale; Oakestown, an American Amber Ale; Notley, a Robust Porter; and Big Spring Stout, an English Stout. The couples' goal is to offer 12 beers on tap daily.

The food menu will offer diners several specialty pizzas created to pair with the beers.

Mindy Denning, a wedding and children's photographer who owns Mindy Leigh Photography and a stay-at-home mom, is a Grandville native with a passion for the city.

"We started looking at spaces back in the spring," she says. "We only looked in Grandville. We were just married to the concept of being in Grandville since day one."

A summer 2013 opening is planned.

Source: Mindy Denning, Osgood Brewing
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Central Lofts opens new doors for people seeking downtown Grand Rapids living spaces

A once vacant and decaying brick warehouse just east of downtown Grand Rapids' popular entertainment district has a new life as a vibrant apartment community. The former Grand Central Engineering Co. (100 Commerce Ave. SW) is now 31 modern, daylight-filled apartments known as Grand Central Lofts.

Developer Doug Gulker of Gulker Group and Fusion Properties says his experience leasing the three- and four-bedroom units at Hopson Flats just across town convinced him that many renters looking to live downtown wanted smaller one- and two-bedroom units. That prompted him to buy the Grand Central building a few years back -- he then had to stall development until the economy recovered enough for banks to take a risk on the project.

His $3 million investment seems to have paid off, since he says 22 of the apartments were preleased. Folks were moving in as we toured the building this week.

"This building sat vacant for 15 years," Gulker says. "This and Rockford Construction's (GRid70) project across the street finishes off the redevelopment of this part of the Commerce Avenue corridor."

The building offers open living areas with bamboo floors, three-piece bathrooms, views of the city from the upper levels, and a modern laundry room and bike storage areas in the lower level. Gulker says two ground-floor apartments are fully accessible and A.D.A. compliant.

"Everybody here likes this location because they don't have to have a vehicle downtown," says Property Manager Alisa Burgess.

Some 1,500-square-feet of commercial space opens to the corner of Commerce Avenue SW and Oakes St. SW and has two levels with a walkout. Gulker says the space could be an ideal location for a coffee shop to serve the hundreds of students, teachers, and workers who frequent Cooley Law School, The Pyramid Scheme, and the Heart of West Michigan United Way, all within steps of the front door.

Developer: Fusion Properties
Construction manager: Gulker Group
Architectural design: Hooker DeJong

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

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Not your average cupcake shop, Stiletto Sweets brings sweet sophistication to downtown Grand Rapids

It's not your girly-girly purple-and-pink-swirls cupcake shop, but a sophisticated space decorated in black and white where unusual cupcakes reign supreme.

Stiletto Sweets, a pop-up shop dedicated to selling only delicious cupcakes in tantalizing taste combinations, opened last week at 20 N. Monroe Center, right across from Monument Park. Owner Noddea Skidmore started by creating her cupcakes and party cakes sensations as special orders for events. But after winning $5,000 in a recent Start Garden competition, she decided to try the tiny 650-square-foot location in the heart of downtown as a part-time, pop-up shop venture.

Skidmore doesn't shy away from long hours -- she works full-time as an events producer for ArtPrize and bakes her cupcakes at night using the licensed kitchen at Saburba restaurant in Ada. And she draws on her experience as a former bridal stylist and as a former freelance calligrapher to inspire the artistry behind her special-order cupcakes and cakes.

"Stiletto Sweets is very specifically a cupcakery," Skidmore says. "Each day we're open, we present five different cupcakes. We combined the notion of a cake shop and an art gallery. People say they're too pretty to eat. They're like art, and we have them displayed like art."

Skidmore says two of the shop's 20 cupcake flavors vie for most popular: PMS (yes, that's what it means), made with chocolate cake, caramel drizzle, vanilla buttercream, chocolate chips and sea salt; and Red Velvet Redhead made with red velvet cake, chocolate ganache, and cream cheese buttercream.

Some of the other cleverly named creations are Sexpot, Warm Fuzzy, Chai Baby, Jack and Coke, and Boys' Night. Click here to see the entire menu with descriptions.

Hours: Thurs., Fri., 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and from 5 p.m. until the cupcakes are gone. Sat. from 11 a.m. until the cupcakes are gone.

Source: Noddea Skidmore, Stiletto Sweets
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photography: Bryan Frank

$120M energy storage research grant could help W Michigan advanced battery manufacturers, colleges

Zeeland-based Lakeshore Advantage, an economic development corporation, has been named an affiliate partner in a $120 million federal Energy Department grant to fund research and development of new technologies in energy storage. The grant will create the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, located at Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago, IL.

Dubbed Michigan's SmartCoast, the Holland area has seen an investment of $1 billion by companies such as Johnson Controls, LG Chem, and Toda America to develop advanced energy storage solutions. Lakeshore Advantage President Randy Thelen says West Michigan is recognized as having one of the highest concentrations of advanced energy storage manufacturers in the world. As market demand and applications continue to grow (think cell phones, power tools, electric automobiles, and military uses), the demand for new technologies grows.

"Soon we'll see a great deal of military applications and alternative energy applications -- battery packs to store wind energy and distribute it later. We're at the very early stage of a very big industry," Thelen says. "Research conducted as the result of this grant is going to get to the core of costs, power density, and weight. People are using more and more energy and being more and more mobile, and we need a way to store the energy so people can have the mobility that they want."

Argonne National Laboratory received the grant, but had pulled in a series of strategic partners to write a strong application for the monies. As one of those partners, Lakeshore Advantage will bring in West Michigan manufacturers, colleges, and universities already involved in advanced energy storage research as part of the momentum for further research and development. Thelen says the industry could bring untold numbers of high-tech jobs to West Michigan and Chicago.

Source: Randy Thelen, Lakeshore Advantage
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

MEDC has $3M available for struggling Michigan cities that want to build up their business districts

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) has $3 million in federal grant money it wants to award to infrastructure projects in low- and moderate-income Michigan cities. Eligible projects would be those within a city's business district, with an eye to encouraging further development.

The Downtown Infrastructure Grant (DIG) program offers a maximum grant amount per city of $750,000, says Katharine Czarnecki, the MEDC's community development manager, which could go toward projects like streetscape improvements or green infrastructure projects, such as, rain gardens or pervious pavements.

"We're striving to give these communities a bit of a leg up in terms of walkability and streetscapes to help them fill empty storefronts in those downtowns," Czarnecki says. "We're hoping that it provides incentive for driving further private investment and job growth in those downtowns."

The area seeking funding must meet the definition of a traditional downtown with a concentrated density of multi-story buildings that already have some walkable component, Czarnecki says. The project must already have a "significant local match," which could be 20-25 percent of the project cost or more.

Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. Click here for more information.

Click here for a list of eligible communities.
Source: Katharine Czarnecki, Michigan Economic Development Corporation
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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