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Nature of the Dog receives first dog walking certification in GR, expands coverage area

After completing a four-day, 27-hour dog walking certification course run by San Francisco-based company Dog Tec, Nature of the Dog’s co-owner Luke Moord is now the first and only officially certified dog walker in Grand Rapids. 

Dog Tec’s “Dog Walking Academy” came to the MVP Sports Spot at 3701 32nd St SE July 31 to Aug. 2, arming participants with not only professional dog walking certifications, but also information on marketing and business techniques specific to a dog walking organization, as well as education and training about canine behavior and first aid. 

“We went in that direction just because it’s a reputable source,” Moord says. “It’s the only one around, but they also teach a lot of positive dog-related training practices.”

Originally started in 2011, Moord’s wife Jackie opened Nature of the Dog under the name Jackie’s Walk: Grand Rapids Dog Walking Service. The name change came in January, when Jackie became pregnant and Luke took over the bulk of the dog walking, so they both wanted the new name to reflect the partnership behind their business. 

It didn’t take long to fall in love with his new role, Moord said. 

“I grew up with animals, specifically dogs, and just loved kind of the interaction of learning more about the dogs,” he says. “In terms of a career choice or vocation, I really kind of wanted to do something where I’m moving and I’m active, and not only that, but I’m actually outside interacting.” 

The operation has been steadily growing since 2011, and Moord says they’re now walking between 15-20 dogs on a regular basis and have expanded their service area to cover the majority of the greater Grand Rapids area. He says Nature of the Dog has and will walk dogs in neighborhoods as far north as 3 Mile and as far south as 44th Street.

“We really try to stick to the highway systems when we’re out of downtown,” Moord says, adding that if someone lives a few miles off the highway, they do make exceptions and try to work with customers as far as the service area is concerned. 

However, one of the most important changes Nature of the Dog is making to its customer policy is a simple but significant one as far as Moord is concerned: customer commitment. 

What that means for customers is they will have to sign on for the dog walking service at least twice weekly, with prices ranging from $17-$30 depending on whether it’s a 30- or 45-minute walk and how many dogs require attention. 

“We commit ourselves to our clients and really ask for a commitment from them,” he says. “A big piece of that was asking them to stay on with us. If we’re going to take you on as a client we’re going to reserve a spot with you in our schedule, so we need to know you’re committed to us.”

Moord says the trouble with drop-in visits is not just limited to scheduling purposes, but also doesn’t allow he or Jackie to foster the kind of relationship with a person’s dog that allows for a productive walk or interaction. 

Nature of the Dog is currently in the interviewing process with intentions to hire a third employee to join their team – a sign they are not only poised for growth, but also committed to growing here in Grand Rapids.   

Writer: Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Nature of the Dog 

Rockford Brewing Co. looks to expand facilities to include outdoor patio, full kitchen

Seth Rivard, co-owner of Rockford Brewing Company, says the number one request the brewery receives from customers is for a food menu to go with the beer menu. 

“Many patrons go to dinner first and then visit RBC, or visit RBC first and leave to go out to dinner,” Rivard says. 

So, after receiving approval from the Rockford Planning Commission in late June, Rockford Brewing is moving forward with the planning stages on a renovation project that will expand facilities to include a full 1,500-square-foot kitchen space and an outdoor roof-top deck space overlooking Rockford’s Rogue River and the White Pine Trail, with seating for up to 70. 

Rivard said they are still doing design work and have not selected a construction company or made any solid budgetary plans at this stage, but along with the planning commission’s approval to move forward was consent to remove a peaked roof from the former Poindexter’s Specialty Marketplace (12 E. Bridge Street) to accommodate the roof-top deck space.

Having a full kitchen and seating for patrons to eat, he says, is a crucial next step to growing Rockford Brewing Company – one that is highly anticipated by clientele. 

“They are looking for more and we are expecting that hand-crafted food kitchen that focuses on farm-to-table fare is going to fill the void,” he says. “…(We) are really excited to continue to support local Michigan businesses and agriculture and really put the focus on just that – Michigan and supporting Michigan.” 

Writer: Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Image courtesy of Rockford Brewing Company  

Saint Mary's Foundation celebrates 50th anniversary in new home

Though Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Foundation officially moved into its new office space in May, the converted residential building at 307 Jefferson SE is just starting to feel like home for staff and community.

“The new space has truly exceeded all of our expectations,” says Michelle Rabideau, president of Saint Mary’s Foundation. “The vision was for us to have a home that obviously would provide office space but that would also provide space for donor relations activities, small gatherings, anything that would provide an opportunity to engage our community.” 

Rabideau says it was important for the foundation to work together creatively with architects and interior designers at Progressive AE and Custer as well as construction partners at Erhardt Construction to preserve the historic integrity and character of the building while still converting the home to a modern office and conference space. 

“Some of the unique crown moldings and window trims were maintained but we certainly needed to have a complete facility facelift, if you will,” Rabideau says. “It did not have the open space that we needed for events and was not conducive to an office environment.” 

There are three levels in the 6,000-square-foot Saint Mary’s Foundation home. The first is primarily office space and the living room area, the second houses a catering kitchen and the Office of System Philanthropy, and the third is an innovation suite, designed for staff productivity and creativity.  

Formally titled the John and Marie Canepa Place for the largest donors for the project, John and Marie Canepa, the historic Grand Rapids building cost Saint Mary’s Foundation about $1 million in renovations, including the interior design and furnishings. 

Deb Bailey, chair of the Saint Mary’s Foundation Board, said the Canepas have been supportive of every single initiative at Mercy Healthy Saint Mary’s since John Canepa served on the hospital’s Board of Trustees in the 1970s. 

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Saint Mary’s Foundation, which Rabideau says feels fitting considering the mission of the organization. 

“To have a place that we call a home that is also a home for our donors and our volunteers to help celebrate this special occasion I think just really brings home the whole idea that once you become a donor or volunteer at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, you become a member of our family,” she says. 

Writer: Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Erhardt Construction 

Aquinas College wraps up summer construction on student housing, sports complex

With a record number of students planning to move to campus this fall in time for the 2014-15 academic year, construction on a new student residence at Aquinas College is wrapping up and will be available for occupancy when the semester kicks off Aug. 23. 

Meg Derrer, associate vice president of communications at Aquinas College, says 865 students are signed up to live on campus this year, more than the 831 that lived on campus last academic year. 

The $5 million project created space for 72 more students to live in 24,176 square feet of furnished living space, with each apartment including a kitchen, living room, and shared bathroom for every two rooms. The LEED-certified building also features two communal lounges and a laundry facility. 

Completion of construction for the $14 million Alksnis Athletics and Recreation Building was slated for August 2014, but Derrer said that time frame has been pushed to October, with no solid date for a ribbon cutting or open house thus far. 

However, she says the new 70,000-square-foot building at 1580 Fulton St. SE will still come complete with a 200-meter NCAA-certified track with additional wooden floor courts for basketball, volleyball, cheerleading and dance. Also included in the new building is a turf infield, portable courts, practice areas for baseball, softball, soccer and lacrosse as well as an extensive curtaining system that will allow for the space to have multiple uses simultaneously. 

“It will offer a great venue for our students to play, practice and compete,” Derrer says. 

Construction Company: Rockford Construction 

Writer: Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor

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New Acorn Studios collaborative workspace to provide creative community in Grand Rapids

For freelance food stylist Laura Goble, self-employment can start to feel sort of solitary with no real, permanent work community.

"Right now I’m in Cleveland working on a Red Lobster shoot and I love everybody I’m working with, but we all go our separate ways until we meet again," Goble explains over the phone.

So, when Goble purchased the property at 919 E. Fulton, she knew she wanted to make the new Acorn Studios a place where folks could meet again – or for the first time, depending on who you are and how you can utilize what she calls most simply, "a collaborative workspace."

Goble bought the building that was formerly host to The Home Store and Gallery boutique and retail shop about three years ago. She lives on the second floor, which she renovated before tackling the ground floor space; all redesigned with the keywords clean, simple, and modern in mind.

With concrete floors, open rafters, and large, bright windows, the 1,500-square-foot Acorn Studios workspace is, as the website describes, "a blank canvas space, intentionally designed for people to gather, learn and make." Included in that space is a large "work kitchen," a front room with a sofa, and a large, empty main room, generally designed as a gathering space or photo/video production studio.

Renovations to the additional 1,700 square feet of outdoor patio space are still underway, but when completed Goble says she sees it as the perfect space for weddings and outdoor receptions.

To host your own event, rates start at $200, but there are also two cooking classes currently available at $65 apiece, and Goble hopes more will fill the schedule as Acorn Studios builds a community all its own.

"I guess I just think of it from my own perspective of being self-employed, traveling a lot, I kind of sometimes miss that work community thing," she says. "For myself to have dinner parties there and bring in friends and people I know to do their thing and kind of showcase their talents and skills as well, is really, really attractive to me -- providing that space for people who don’t have that day-in-day-out. I think there are a lot of us in the creative community, here."

Acorn Studios will officially open for business with a launch party on July 24. To RSVP, visit acornlaunch.com.

Writer: Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Acorn Studios

Unruly Brewing Co. gets a little more rebellious with Muskegon's new downtown artisan pizza joint

When Gary Post embarked on the $2 million renovation of downtown Muskegon’s historic Russell Block, he had a different vision for the building at 360 W. Western Avenue. However, as the new artisan pizza joint Rebel Pies prepares to join ranks with microbrewery Unruly Brewing and the slow-pour coffee shop Drip Drop Drink this weekend, he says the change in direction isn’t a bad thing.

When Post set up Russell Block Market, Inc. as a nonprofit, tax-exempt entity to create and oversee a market concept he outlined a few years ago, he says the nonprofit board took their portion of the building in a different direction, introducing Unruly Brewing Co.

"Now the brewery has served as a catalyst for other businesses including Rebel Pies," he says. "All in all it has been a great thing and they have brought a whole new demographic downtown."

Though Rebel Pies won’t officially open until the end of the summer, co-owners Mark Gongalski, his brother Matt Gongalski, and Addison Eilers hope to make even more fans during an unveiling event for the Rebel Pies brand. The event is designed to coincide with Muskegon’s Bike Time motorcycle event July 17-20.

Mark Gongalski says the Bike Time event typically draws in more than 100,000 people and around 65,000 bikes to the city’s downtown, where Rebel Pies will borrow Unruly Brewing’s outdoor beer garden space for the event, "a prime location for cooking on a slew of outdoor grills and smokers," Gongalski says, until interior renovations are completed later this summer.

The menu for the event includes four different styles of pizzas by the slice, smoked chicken wings and drumsticks, cast iron Dutch oven desserts, and the roasting of a 250-lb pig -- which was raised entirely on Unruly Brewing Company's spent grain.

Writer: Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Unruly Brewing

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Mary Free Bed packs more features, specialized medical programs into expansion, renovation plans

When Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital completes the $62.5 million expansion and renovation construction currently underway at 235 Wealthy St. SE, president Kent Riddle says the updated space is going to be "dynamite."

New to the hospital will be 190,000 square feet for orthopedic and prosthetic care, with 80,000 square feet of new parking to accommodate.

All construction efforts will meet LEED certifications, says Dan LaMore, senior VP of The Christman Company, who is working with consultants to ensure the use of recycled materials and local sourcing in construction as well as the future reduction in water and energy usage.  

A total of 200,000 square feet of renovations to the current hospital, outpatient therapy, and Mary Ives Hunting buildings will create 39 additional acute rehabilitation beds and 48 new skilled nursing rehabilitation beds, allowing for an additional 3,000 patients to be served by the rehabilitation hospital annually.

Mary Free Bed has been operating at capacity for several of the last 12 months, drawing patients from nearly every Michigan zip code.

"This will be a draw for more patients coming into Grand Rapids, so it certainly is an economic engine for Grand Rapids, but more importantly, it will raise the level of rehabilitative care that people will have access to," say Kent Riddle, hospital CEO.

The new space gives the hospital staff more room to develop new programs like the Betty Bloomer Ford Cancer Rehabilitation Program and to forge more partnerships with surrounding community health institutions to further broaden the work Mary Free Bed can do.

Riddle says 20 hospitals are now a part of the Mary Free Bed network. He expects that number to grow with more specialty medical programs within those communities and at the central Grand Rapids campus.

The renovation includes patient amenities, including a café, salon, rooftop terrace, library areas, chapel, and a movie locale.

A new "Gathering Place" will be open 24 hours, where patients and families can socialize as part of the rehabilitation process.

LaMore says around 440,000 man-hours will have gone into the .project. It's a lot of time, but for him and his crew, it's time well spent.

"We're builders, so all we have is to be able to help people like Mary Free Bed be successful with their facilities. When you go in Mary Free Bed, you see what they're doing there with the people that are being cared for," he says. "Being part of that, that's terrific."  

Writer: Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Eric Miller

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New $3.8M Muskegon Farmers Market draws 10,000 visitors a week, street dances, art market planned

Since the May 3 opening of the new $3.8 million Muskegon Farmers Market in its new downtown location, the Saturday market alone has drawn some 10,000 people every week. Now with summer in full swing, a street dance, Dancing Downtown, will lure dance and music enthusiasts to the market one Thurs. evening a month, and a weekly Art Market every Weds. night adds even more variety.

The Muskegon Farmers Market, 242 W. Western Ave., offers locally grown vegetables, fruits, farm-fresh meats and eggs, cheeses, fish, coffees, and handmade crafts every Tues., Thurs., and Sat. On Saturdays, added attractions include live music on the concert stage, a couple of eateries for breakfast and lunch, and The Power of Produce Club for kids ages 5 to 12.

"They receive a shopping bag and a token and can take that and spend it on something at the market, then return to complete the activity, like making a salad or planting seeds, with whatever they purchased," says Cindy Larsen, president of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, a driving force behind bringing the market to the downtown shopping district.

Larsen says that Saturdays draw 150-160 vendors selling seasonal produce, live plants, and specialties like jams, jellies, and baked goods.

"It's amazing, it's wild, it's fantastic!" Larsen says with a laugh. "It's a festival-type atmosphere. It's definitely a happening. People come downtown and have breakfast at the nearby restaurants or stay after the market to go for lunch. Some people come late and then head to the breweries for a drink. It really has generated activity downtown and the businesses have reported increases in sales, as well."

As the season moves toward cooler days, the indoor market will become a Winter Market that will be open year-round. The community kitchen, still under construction, will be open and ready for entrepreneurs and cooking classes by fall.

Farmers Market: Tues., Sat. 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Thurs. 6 a.m. to evening.
Art on the Market: every Weds. 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Dancing Downtown: free lessons 7 - 7:30 p.m., dancing with live music 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Muskegon Farmers Market

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Founders Brewing Beer School will help craft beer lovers discover even more to love

Whether you love a hearty craft beer or have been too afraid to try one, Founders Brewing wants to help you learn about the art of beer brewing, the craft beer industry, and how to taste (and smell) the difference between the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Beginning Tuesday, August 5, Founders Brewing will offer two classes: Beer 101 and Sensory Evaluation.

Beer 101 will dive into the history of beer, the beer-making process, the evolution of brewing, and how beer ingredients have changed over the centuries. The class includes videos by Founders Brewing, discussions on different beer styles, flavor profiles, and beer and food pairings.

Sensory Evaluation is all about how to tell a good craft beer by taste, aroma, and appearance. The fun part here is, that, yes, participants get to sample different beers -- but they won't all be good beers. Each will have a "bad" beer counterpart that demonstrates what good beer should taste like, how it should look in the glass, and how it should smell.

"There are a lot of breweries out there that are making really bad beer," says Dave Engbers, Founders Brewing co-founder and VP of brand and education. "That has the potential for really damaging our industry. If a beer tastes "cardboard-y" or flat or like butterscotch, that's not good beer. (For the class) we take a beer that's not too complex, and we spike it fairly aggressively with the "off" flavors so they'll know a beer that tastes skunky or flat. Once you've gone through sensory evaluation, it's a different ball game."

The class also touches on what type of glassware to use, how to pour a beer properly, and the correct serving temperature for different styles of beers.

All classes are $40 per person, ages 21 and up. Classes will be taught by Founders Brewing's trained Education Ambassadors in the Centennial Room at Founders, 235 Grandville Ave. SW.

Beer 101: first and third Tuesdays, 6 p.m. - 10 p.m. Sign up here.
Sensory Evaluation: second Tuesdays, 6 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. Sign up here.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Founders Brewing

Get a "kick" out of getting around with Micro Kickboard's stylish scooters

Even a one-year-old can handle the quick, easy, stylish transportation offered by Micro Kickboard, one of the newest shops in East Grand Rapids' Gaslight Village shopping district.

Swiss-made, sturdy, and lightweight portability all in one easy-to-ride, foldable scooter that's perfect for those quick jaunts that are too long for walking and too short for driving. Factor in the assortment of cool colors, artistic design, and on-board brakes and these scooters could truly appeal to anybody.

Geoff and Julie Hawksworth own the only U.S. Micro Kickboard distributorship and decided now is the time to open the first U.S. storefront, 2151 Wealthy St. SE, featuring only Micro Kickboard scooters, accessories, and parts and service. Previously, the scooters could only be found in places like toy stores and bike stores.

There are scooters for ages one year and up. Some have two wheels and kickstands for easy upright parking, others have three wheels for more stability, and the extreme models are for stuntsters and tricksters. Telescoping handlebars adjust to the height needed and fold down for easy storage. The scooters weigh between four and ten pounds, making them light to carry. The small size makes them ideal for students to tuck under a classroom seat or in a locker, or for businesspeople to store in a cubicle.

There's even a Micro Luggage style that combines the convenience of a scooter with a rolling carry-on suitcase -- you just get off the plane, fold out the scooter, and scoot to your next gate or to the rental car desk with your belongings safe inside the suitcase.

"They have a minimalist design, highest quality materials, and very tight construction, so we say you don't shake and rattle when you roll," says Julie Hawksworth. "They have an exceptionally smooth glide and are exceptionally durable. You feel very elegant on the adult scooters and they're very fun for getting from A to B."

Store hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon. - Fri.; 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sat.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Micro Kickboard

Celadon New Town developer puts energies, vision into new $6.5M East Grand Rapids development

The company behind Celadon New Town, a contemporary urban neighborhood development in northeast Grand Rapids, has begun construction on a project that will bring a penthouse, 10 townhomes, and a single-family home to the heart of East Grand Rapids.

Brad Rottschafer, owner of Mosaic Properties & Homes, has begun construction preparation for three new buildings where four rental houses once stood.

The buildings will consist of a three-story retail/office structure with a 2,000-square-foot penthouse, a 10-townhouse building with a central courtyard and private garages, and a two-story single-family home. The $6.5 million project, Croswell Mews, brings a new style of living to a desirable, walkable area close to restaurants, shopping, schools, and Reeds Lake -- a lifestyle that Rottschafer says has already attracted buyers.

"The live/work building is already sold," Rottschafer says, referring to the retail/office building with the penthouse. Although he declined to name the buyer, he says the owner will live in the penthouse and "is going to put his company in the building."

The single-family home and seven of the townhomes are already under contract, as well. The townhomes are each approx. 2,000 square feet with a garage and family room on the main level, living spaces on the second level, and three bedrooms on the third level. Prices range from $425,000 to $479,000.

"People want to be close to the grocery store, Starbucks, even the school for sporting events," he says. "There's a lot of energy in that downtown and people like that. (Croswell Mews) just adds to the conversation and the vision of what the city has for the community. I think it continues to build the core of the city as a very quaint, unique environment that draws people."

Rottschafer is quick to give credit for the momentum in East Grand Rapids' downtown to the new Gaslight Village created a few years back by Jade Pig Ventures.

"Building to the street, hiding the parking, making these areas walkable, that's the thing that brings energy to the area," he says. "When you revitalize an area, people want to walk and see what's there."
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Mosaic Properties & Homes

Popular frozen yogurt hotspot, The Pump House, takes its deliciousness to Grand Haven

The popularity of a Grand Rapids frozen yogurt hotspot prompted its owner to look for the perfect year-round location to open a second store. She found that spot in Grand Haven, directly across the street from the tourist attraction, The Musical Fountain.

Karen Avery opened The Pump House last week at 20 N. Harbor Dr., offering its frozen desserts and some new items -- homemade donuts, old-fashioned fruit phosphates, and a deli -- to lakeshore residents and tourists.

And, while the donuts, phosphates, and deli will be phased in over the summer, The Pump House's 21 delicious flavors of frozen yogurt and over 100 delectable toppings, which include Sandy's Fudge and Daily Delish gourmet granola, are all available. Customers serve themselves, piling yogurt, toppings, and even "bottoms" (think brownies that can be warmed) in bowls, then pay by the ounce.

Patrons delight in the indoor "porch" swings for sitting, putting a unique twist on the vintage beach shack décor. The handcrafted furniture and bar tops made of reclaimed Michigan barn wood create a relaxed atmosphere. A specially designed toppings "island" that looks like an old weathered boat helps eliminate gridlock as customers seek out their favorite goodies.

The shop also has a stash of Archie comic books to peruse and a photo booth that uploads to Facebook and Instagram.

"We wanted to stay open year-round," Avery says. "All the ice cream stores in Grand Haven close in the winter, so we added deli cases and an old-fashioned soda counter, and we'll make from-scratch donuts.

"We're getting a Bastion Blessing, a soda machine that was popular from the 1920s to the 1950s," Avery says. "It's six feet long and is an old fashioned dipping cabinet for ice cream with pull-down handles to make the soda. We'll make our own sodas behind the bar using fresh local fruits like blueberries, and we'll make our own syrups."

Hours: weekdays, noon until after The Musical Fountain show; weekends noon to 11 p.m.; morning hours will be added when the shop starts serving donuts and coffee.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of The Pump House

Renovated historic buildings bring $1M worth of apartments, office space to Grand Rapids' East Hills

A project begun last year to renovate a historic rooming house and a mid-century modern split-level in East Hills wraps up next month, bringing 16 modern apartments and 3,800 square feet of office space to the corner of Cherry St. and Eastern Avenue, a $1 million-plus endeavor.

The buildings, at 822 Cherry St. SE and 220 Eastern Ave. SE, are being developed by Malone Development, LLC. The two properties connect via an L-shaped parking lot behind both buildings, which will provide tenant and customer parking.

822 Cherry, a split-level brick building, was built for the Builders and Trade Association as a showcase for their skills in 1958, says Shayne Malone, principal of Malone Development. Its renovation added two 2-bedroom and two 3-bedroom, 2-bath apartments to the garden level, and 3,800 square feet of office space above. Baas Creative has leased 1,300 square feet of the office space, leaving 2,500 that can be leased as one unit or divided.

"This was a great opportunity to work on a mid-century modern building, especially considering the fact that in East Hills, the majority of the structures are very much older," Malone says. "We've had a ton of interest, and once the space is complete with the build-out we expect it to lease very quickly."

In the early 1900s, 220 Eastern was a boarding house for the streetcar operators, who used to park the streetcars out in front and used Wellington Avenue, a curved street that exits onto Eastern, as the turnaround, Malone says.

The three-story building now has 12 new apartments with original hardwood floors. The building required a major overhaul, including: new roof, new HVAC, new plumbing and electrical, drywall throughout, and insulation.

The apartments include 11 2-bedroom and one 1-bedroom, which will each rent at market rates.

"It's very important in a historic district like East Hills to remember that the architecture and planning designed over 100 years ago are what make the area unique and successful," Malone says. "Any new development needs to be in tune with that to enhance the framework that's already there."

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

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A cleaner Lake Macatawa begins with Project Clarity's work at Paw Paw Foot Bridge in Zeeland

Too many sediments and nutrients in Lake Macatawa is an ongoing problem, making the lake in downtown Holland less able to produce natural plants for food and habitat for its fish, and depleting the lake of the oxygen fish need to survive.

A small project by Project Clarity and Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway (ODCMG) is underway to shore up the banks of Noordeloos Creek near the Paw Paw Foot Bridge at 104th St. and Chicago Drive in Zeeland. It's the first of five similar projects this summer on several of Lake Macatawa's tributaries to reduce the amount of sediments and nutrients flowing into the lake.

"The nutrients can cause algae blooms, and sediments, which are very fine clay and silt, suspends in water easily and blocks the sun from being able to reach the bottom, which prevents plants growing on the bed of the lake," says Dan Callam, watershed technician for ODCMG. "When the algae die, it sucks the oxygen out of the water, which can lead to a lot of fish kills because they no longer have the oxygen they need. These two things together have led to a very degraded state of the lake."

The water is safe for human contact, Callam says, but continuous degradation of the lake habitat needs to be stopped to keep the lake alive. In addition, continued erosion of the Noordeloos Creek bank by the footbridge threatens the stability of the bridge.

Niswander Environmental, DeSal Excavating, and engineers from the City of Zeeland worked with ODCMG to design the excavation and rebuilding of a 30-ft.-wide, 300-ft.-long swath of the stream bank near the footbridge, then filled in with several 12" to 18" boulders to eliminate erosion. Volunteers will add native plants later this summer.

The five projects together will cost about $1 million. Project Clarity has raised about $5.5 million of its $12 million goal to improve Lake Macatawa's water clarity by 70 percent in the next five years.

To donate to the Project Clarity, click here. To volunteer, click here.  

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Project Clarity, Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway
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Grand Rapids' Urban Massage finds serenity in new Wealthy St. location

When Brianna Forbes was 18, the sledding saucer she was riding spun her around backwards into a tree. That night, her back pain was so intense she couldn't get out of bed without help. Four days later, she was walking with very little pain because she'd gone to a chiropractor and a massage therapist.

That experience enticed her to offer that kind of pain relief to others. She became a medical (sports) massage therapist, worked for several chiropractors, and opened Urban Massage at 820 Monroe North three years ago. Now that building is undergoing a renovation into apartments, so Forbes relocated Urban Massage to 951 Wealthy St. SE and opened last April.

Forbes, now 26, and the two other certified massage therapists at Urban Massage offer a variety of therapies based on what a specific client needs.

"Clients may have a specific injury or just want relaxation or to treat chronic conditions to help alleviate pain in general," Forbes says. "We work with a lot of athletes, runners, people who work out a lot and tailor the massage to what the person needs."

Techniques include Swedish massage, medical (sports) massage, and deep tissue massage. All the therapists are also certified by Deep Feet in ashiatsu (which means foot pressure) oriental bar therapy.

"We have two bars attached to ceiling that the therapists 'hang' from and we use our feet to massage the client. We're not walking on them, but using the bar for balance," Forbes says.

Forbes plans to add weekly yoga classes at the new location, led by instructors from Yoga Heat, and will eventually add a small retail section of massage creams and essential oils for aromatherapy.

A grand opening event on Saturday, June 14, from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. will offer free chair massages and massage technique demonstrations.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Mon. - Fri.; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sat.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Urban Massage
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