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Blandford Nature Center breathes new life into Highlands Golf Course with plans for recreation space

After operating for more than 100 years as a private golf course, The Highlands Golf Course at 2715 Leonard St. NW was back on the market, with the new proposed land use initially leaning toward a housing development.

However, thanks to a partnership between Blandford Nature Center and the Land Conservancy of West Michigan with support from Arlington, Virginia-based nonprofit The Conservation Fund, Blandford Nature Center obtained a $3 million short-term loan to purchase the 121-acre property. With the funding, Blandford plans to transform it into a new community green space for recreation and education.

“The Highlands offers an extraordinary opportunity to foster a stronger connection to the natural world through habitat restoration, environmental education, volunteerism, and recreation—all things that will make sure that our city is a great place to learn, live, play and work for generations,” says Jason Meyer, president and CEO of Blandford Nature Center, an independent, charitable non-profit that has a mission to “engage and empower the community through enriching experiences in nature.”

Joe Engel, Executive Director of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, says moving forward, Blandford will work alongside his organization and the surrounding community to secure funding for the repayment of the loans and continue with plans for future use and improvement of the property.

“We are off to a great start, with generous grants from the Ken and Judy Betz Family, the Wege Foundation, Grand Rapids Community Foundation and the Cook Foundation,” says Engel, whose organization will be taking the lead role in raising funds for the project. “We look forward to continued support from the entire community to help bring this project to fruition as it transforms from golf course to natural area.”

Third Coast Development and Pioneer Construction initially obtained an option to purchase the golf course to build condominiums and homes on the site, but the companies are now working alongside both land conservationists to help financially back Blandford’s project.

“Once we started talking to Blandford about the future of the property, we realized that sometimes development needs to take a back seat to an idea that benefits our entire community,” says Brad Rosely, partner at Third Coast Development.

The project’s first phase will include land acquisition, biodiversity studies, and preparation for initial public access while working to pay off the short-term loan, at which point the Land Conservancy will take ownership of a portion of the property. After gathering input from the surrounding community, the second phase will be the launch of habitat restoration projects, trail development, and public programs.

Mary Jane Dockeray, founder of Blandford Nature Center and former board member of the Land Conservancy, says the old Highlands Golf Course represents Blandford Nature Center’s last and only chance to expand in Grand Rapids and create additional educational and recreational opportunities not available elsewhere in the city.

“The community of Grand Rapids has been waiting patiently for something like this to come along—we will be able to serve more students, families, and friends as a result,” she says.

Visit Blandford Nature Center here on Facebook, or find Blandford online at blandfordnaturecenter.org.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Blandford Nature Center

$42M Diamond Place breaks ground on Michigan St., promises more affordable housing for Medical Mile

Third Coast Development and PK Development Group celebrated alongside Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss and other project collaborators for the official groundbreaking of the $42 million Diamond Place project along the eastern edges of Grand Rapids’ Medical Mile.

Located on 2.8 acres in the northeast corner of Michigan and Diamond street, the land was acquired by Third Coast Development from its former owners, Proos Manufacturing, in 2015, The company spent the better part of last year figuring out the financing and design packages for the development before demolition and environmental cleanup could begin.

“We are excited to bring this development to the Michigan Street corridor and contribute to the city’s Great Housing Strategies plan,” says Brad Rosely, partner at Third Coast Development. “The Michigan Street Corridor Association, City of Grand Rapids and State of Michigan have been terrific to work with so we are very appreciative of their support.”
 
When Pioneer Construction completes the build-out on the Diamond Place project, the new development will feature 165 total one- and two-bedroom units, with 100 of those apartments designated as rent-restricted by Third Coast Development, which worked alongside Okemos-based PK Development Group to earn tax credits for affordable housing options.
 
“The city made it clear they wanted a development along this corridor that was affordable and sustainable for people of all income levels. We hope that Diamond Place will serve as an example of how this approach can be successful,” says PK Development Group partner Pete Potterpin.
 
Design plans by architects at Progressive AE for the new four-story mixed-use also show a 240-car parking ramp and enough ground floor retail space to earmark 15,000 square feet of it for a downtown grocery store. Though no specific ground floor tenants have been confirmed quite yet, partners at Third Coast say they are hopeful to land some retailers and grocers in this coming year and plan to make those public announcements as new developments are confirmed.

“This has been one of our largest and most complex projects,” says Third Coast partner Max Benedict. “But it has been terrific working with so many partners who share in our vision of creating a vibrant Michigan Street corridor.”

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Third Coast Development 

 

The Green Well evolution: Gastropub's Rockford debut is beginning of possible regional expansion

Since opening at 924 Cherry St. SE in 2007, Essence Restaurant Group’s all-American gastropub, The Green Well, has become a staple in the East Hills community. Hoping that same balanced growth can evolve in more communities outside of Grand Rapids, ERG recently announced plans to open a second Green Well in the Rockford Promenade Building.
 
The Grand Rapids-based Honor Construction is handling renovations on the building that previously housed Reds on the River  at 8 East Bridge St. in downtown Rockford, with scheduled completion and opening for the new Green Well slated for summer 2017.
 
With enough indoor space to seat 160 people and additional outdoor patio seating for 60, The Green Well Rockford will start with the same concept as the popular East Hills original, but plans to add some fresh, local flair to the restaurant as it becomes better acquainted with the surrounding Rockford community.
 
Building owner Daniel Trierweiler of DJT Properties, LLC says he sees similarities between the growing Rockford downtown and the East Hills community, where The Green Well has been met with success for the past decade, namely an all-around growth in population and business, coupled with residents’ focus on local retail and dining options.
 
“Since the space went vacant last summer, I have been determined to find the best next tenant for this beautiful setting,” says Trierweiler, giving credit to Ben Muller Realty Company for helping him find Restaurant Essence Group, whose Victoria Mitchell assisted in securing The Green Well Rockford to a 10-year lease on the space.
 
“Essence is all about local, from sourcing local ingredients to committing to supporting local communities, so Ben Muller Realty did a fine job in securing Essence,” he says.
 
The renovated space will also include two additional retail spaces on either side of the new Green Well Rockford restaurant, with hopes to draw in more interest from upscale local retailers for potential tenancy.
 
With plans to hire 35 to 40 new employees to operate the new facility, Essence Restaurant Group Managing Partner, James Berg, says this second location is just the start for The Green Well pub brand, with ERG leaders beginning to think about the possibility of planting additional locations across the region.
 
“Our Rockford location will allow the start of future growth for The Green Well brand without diluting what we have created on Cherry Street in Grand Rapids," Berg says.

For more information on The Green Well or any of Essence Restaurant Group’s other eateries, visit www.essencerestaurants.com.
 
Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Essence Restaurant Grou

The Parliament Collective launches new Ave. for the Arts boutique during February First Fridays

It may only be a few doors down from its current home along Grand Rapids’ Avenue for the Arts, but The Parliament Collective’s new local makers retail space at 136 S. Division Ave. promises an even deeper look into the creative process behind the products and workshops held within its walls.

Selling handcrafted work by dozens of local makers — products that range from leather, jewelry and other accessories to home goods, ceramics, and cards — the new Parliament the Boutique has enough space for a retail storefront and separate studio spaces for each of its three collective co-owners, giving customers the opportunity not only to see products quite literally in the making, but also participate in the community workshops that will be held there. 

At its current home on South Division, co-founder Elyse Marie Welcher  originally opened the Parliament Collective boutique in 2013 as a studio space and founding store for her brand, Littlewing Designs.

“Operating a studio separate from our shop was a necessary step for us to grow, but it wasn’t necessarily sustainable,” says Welcher, who owns the space alongside Harbinger Leather Design’s Jacob Vroon and Megan Roach of Adventure Textiles. “Finding a new space where both our studio and storefront could flourish together was an important step for the long-term existence of Parliament.”

Roach says the new space affords both the artists and their customers a unique avenue for transparency into the creative process of the products they sell there. 

“It gives us a way deeper and more meaningful way to connect with the people who love our goods,” says Roach, who is a business owner and Parliament Collective co-founder. “You can explain what a loom is and what it means to weave to a certain extent, but seeing the loom in action, that is a completely different level of experience.”

Hosted by Avenue for the Arts on as part of its First Fridays monthly gallery and shop hop, The Parliament Collective will hold a grand-reopening event of its new boutique on Feb. 3 from 5-9 p.m. The event will give attendees a chance to not only check out Parliament’s new digs, but also learn more about upcoming community workshops that will include lessons on things like basic leather craft and natural dyeing. 

To learn more about The Parliament Collective or its new boutique space, visit www.parliamenttheboutique.com or find it here on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Parliament the Boutique 

GRCC’s new preschool lab sets sights on becoming early childhood hub for the area

Operating out of the First United Methodist Church on E. Fulton Street since its founding in 1974, a dedicated space for Grand Rapids Community College’s laboratory preschool has been a long time coming. 

“We are excited to open a new facility that has been specifically designed to meet the needs of two populations — preschoolers from ages six weeks to six years and the students in our child development and education programs,” says President Steven Ender.

The $2.7 million, state-of the-art new laboratory preschool, which broke ground at 210 Lyon Street NW in summer 2015, will celebrate the grand opening of the space with a community open house at 2 p.m. on Jan. 21.

Each of the new laboratory preschool classrooms boast outdoor meeting spaces, as well as individual meeting spaces, with a separate classroom, lockers, and other designated space for GRCC students in the college’s childhood development and education program. The new building also features a children’s library, multipurpose spaces to host large motor activities for the children, and an office for Child Development and Education program faculty. 

Named the Phyllis Fratzke Early Childhood Learning Laboratory in honor of the person who began both of the programs within its walls, GRCC Preschool Director JaneAnn Benson says the interior weaves an ecological theme throughout and uses the textures already there as a tactile representation. 

"Different textures represent things such as forest/woodland, marsh/meadow, lake/river and sand dune/beach," Benson says. "There also are circles throughout the building representing many things, including how connected we are, bubbles in the river, bubbles that children love to play with, and our connection with the neighborhood.”

Thanks to the additional classrooms afforded by the new building, GRCC can also allow the preschool to expand its services and broaden early childhood educational support for families and caregivers in low-income Grand Rapids neighborhoods. 

GRCC received funding from the Frey Foundation, PNC Bank Foundation, and W.K. Kellogg Foundation for the creation of a new community liaison position at the college to help implement an outreach program that positions the new preschool as a hub for connecting families, teachers, and students with best-practice early education resources. 

"Early childhood care providers from the community will meet here to learn and share practices that best support children and families," Benson says. “The building will also serve to support families in the care of their children -- providing a dynamic space for their children to learn and grow, providing child and community resources, and events that support healthy family development."

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Grand Rapids Community College 

Horizon Bank launches first GR location with goal to bring community banking back

After announcing plans to launch a new location in downtown Grand Rapids next month, Horizon Bank’s new Grand Rapids market president, David Quade, says he hopes the recent signing of a 10-year lease on an space at 250 Pearl St. NW will be proof of the bank’s long-term commitment to the local community. 

“This is a strong growth market for the bank, and it helps connect our footprint between Kalamazoo and Lansing,” Quade says. “Our goal is to bring community banking back to our market.” 

Launching its very first location 143 years ago now, Quade says Horizon Bank, as an institution, has always been committed to finding ways to give back to the communities it operates in through volunteer work and financial support.

He wants to bring those values to Grand Rapids, he says, with plans to establish a community bank advisory board led by local business owners, professionals, and community leaders. 

“We’ll get feedback directly from the community on what are the true banking opportunities in Grand Rapids, and we’ll react accordingly” Quade says. “Plus, we’ll be looking for input from our clients to help guide our sponsorships and donations to local community organizations who could benefit from our support.”

The larger Horizon Bank brand also runs a host of community outreach programs alongside its Horizon-Cares Charitable Grant Program, which hooks up qualifying local nonprofit organizations with grant funding for up to $5,000.

Currently operating out of a temporary location to provide commercial and private banking products and services, Quade says the new 13,000-square-foot Pearl Street facility will house up to 15 advisors and allow them to expand capabilities to not only include products and services in commercial and private banking, but also across retail, treasury management, and mortgage. 

In an attempt to try to meet  the diverse market needs with “a well-rounded” approach, Quade says all of the advisors coming to join him in the new Grand Rapids branch have a background in banking in West Michigan.

“We’re building the best team possible,” he says. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Horizon Bank

New funding will help local nonprofit advance Grand River restoration efforts

A major financial award is making big waves for the future of the Grand River.

Last week, Grand Rapids Whitewater (GRWW), a local nonprofit, announced the award of about $4 million, with the funding made possible through a partnership with the Grand Valley Metro Council. The money will go toward advancing in-stream habitat restoration efforts associated with the Grand River Revitalization and Rapids Restoration project, an initiative founded to restore wildlife and entertainment options a long a 2.2-mile stretch of the Grand River through downtown Grand Rapids.

The restoration project, which initially began with a simple goal of creating a place to kayak and canoe the river in the summer when no one was using the river, has since expanded to a larger project thanks to public input and sediment sampling. 

“The project has moved up river toward the recently discovered head of the original rapids just south of Ann St. Kayaking and canoeing will be one recreational component of many that will enhance the river’s image and contribute to the exciting new downtown vibe,” says the GRWW website. 

The $4 million Grand Valley Metro Council award comes on the heels of an earlier $8 million funding initiative granted through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which was bestowed upon the Grand River Restoration Project in November of last year.

Federal funding for the “Lower Grand River Watershed Habitat Restoration – Farmland Conservation Project” comes through the 2014 Farm Bill’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program, authored by U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan). The five-year project will spend over half of the funding on restoring habitat for fish and endangered species in the Grand River through downtown Grand Rapids, while the remaining funds will be used to implement water quality improvements in the Indian Mill Creek and Rogue River Watersheds.

“This funding announcement provides a significant boost in momentum for the rapids restoration project and is a direct result of ongoing collaborations between Grand Rapids Whitewater, the Grand Valley Metro Council, the city of Grand Rapids, Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc., and several local philanthropic foundations,” says GRWW President Chris Muller, whose organization has been leading efforts to revitalize the Grand River and restore its namesake rapids since 2010. 

For more than half a decade, GRWW has raised over $5 million in private donations and funding and received the Urban Waters Federal Partnership designation in 2013.

“We are grateful for federal support for this important project, and we thank Sen. Debbie Stabenow and others for their work in laying the foundation for this critical funding,” Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said in a  press release last week. “This is a tremendous step forward as we work together to restore the Grand River and transform it into an asset for not only downtown but the entire region.”

To learn more about the GRWW and its partnerships, visit www.grandrapidswhitewater.org

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Grand Rapids White Water 

One Bourbon to bring world of whiskey to the West Side

Bringing 15 new jobs to Grand Rapids’ West Side, the recently announced One Bourbon will also debut the neighborhood’s first dedicated whiskey bar when it it opens this spring in the former Rocket Lounge at 608 Bridge Street NW. 

One Bourbon will feature a menu of more than 100 whiskeys and bourbons and American regional dining favorites made from locally-sourced ingredients, including fried chicken, bourbon beef poutine and vegetarian shepherd’s pie. 

At 6,251 square feet, the renovated space will accommodate at least 200 people, offering a downstairs bar and dining space, a private dining room and an outdoor patio. 

Meagan Freriks, One Bourbon partner, says the building renovation will update the interior look with a new kitchen and a steel-wrapped bar, while still maintaining the original character of the building’s outside. 

“We absolutely love the West Side community and, thanks to Colliers, we get to be part of this vibrant neighborhood and contribute to its exciting revitalization,” Freriks says. 

Colliers West Michigan Retail Advisor Mark Ansara assisted with the leasing for this project and says he’s confident One Bourbon will experience a lot of success on the West Side. 

“The West Side is booming, and it’s exciting to see new restaurant concepts like One Bourbon plant their roots in this neighborhood,” Ansara says. 

For more information, visit onebourbongr.com.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of One Bourbon

Safe Haven Ministries launches $4M campaign for new facility, program expansion

In 2016, Grand Rapids’ Safe Haven Ministries served 577 women and domestic violence survivors and since 2012 has watched its number of hotline calls grow by 110 percent. Additionally, the group has experienced a 75 percent growth in its support group attendance, 30 percent increase in client case management, and 20 percent increase in average length of stay.

“Rates of domestic violence are not increasing, but the demand for service and the breadth of services needed by survivors of domestic violence is,” says Safe Haven’s Executive Director Cindy Sielawa, citing the consistent growth in population in Grand Rapids as a likely factor for the increase in demand. 

“As our community grows, if those same statistics are true, you’re going to have an increase in demand and need for service,” says Sielawa, whose organization recently launched a $4 million capital campaign called Empower the Journey to raise funds for the build-out of a new, 19,000-square-foot facility that will combine both its residential and nonresidential programs under one roof. 

“Our current facility accommodates between seven to nine households depending on family makeup, and the new facility will be able to accommodate 12 to 15 households and allow us to provide service to larger families with more than four dependent children, which is a huge advantage,” Sielawa says in reference to Safe Haven’s emergency shelter.

Safe Haven acquired the land and received zoning approval in October for the 19,000-square-foot facility located on 28th Street near Breton Road. Though Sielawa says the location of its emergency shelter will eventually be public, some of the security points are still in the design phase, so the organization isn’t disclosing the specific address quite yet. 

“Even though our shelter will no longer be a confidential location, every measure will be taken by the building and the facility ourselves to ensure confidentially and privacy of clients, all of the way through architectural drawings to construction process and training our staff receives,” she says. 

In addition to nearly doubling the bed capacity of its emergency shelter, an expanded space will also allow for the development and implementation of new supportive services that include everything from counseling to new healing gardens and play therapy. Though Safe Haven’s residential program deals directly with women for crisis intervention, Sielawa says a large part of what the nonprofit does is prevention and education — programs which they can begin to grow even further in a larger space, as well. 

“The space will allow us to have more of these conversations with community members and will equip us with the space we need to be better community collaborators — we don’t have a lot of space to do that right now,” Sielawa says. “We believe that the entire community can play an active role in preventing domestic violence, and we want others to know how to respond or how to be supportive and where they can turn to get help and support.”

Click here to donate directly to Safe Haven Ministries’ Empower the Journey campaign, or visit safehavenministries.org to learn more about how you help. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Safe Haven Ministries 

Where everybody knows your name: Squibb Coffee Bar hopes to be space for coffee & wine lovers alike

On the heels of Squibb Coffee Bar’s Nov. 30 grand opening, owner and operator Mallory Squibb is looking forward to next month. It’s then that the approval for a liquor license will kick the pour-over coffee concept up a notch with the addition of a hand-picked wine menu to be served alongside its existing selection of pastries, cheeses and other shareable small plates.

Located in the 1,200-square-foot storefront at 955 Wealthy St. SE, Squibb says the idea behind her new coffee bar/wine and cheese hybrid was to bring together something familiar and something different with the two concepts, and she found their common thread in the kind of community gathering space they both inspire. 

"The concept “came from my love for coffee, wine and cheese and how those three things are the things that people meet up for and gather around or want to enjoy with other people,” says Squibb, who cultivated her love of coffee, wine and cheese while working at Babo Market in Ann Arbor and Aperitivo in the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. 

“There's a reason a lot of people go to coffee shops, and it's to feel like they're not alone and not just in an office or their room by themselves,” she says. “I think bringing those two worlds together is perfect — if someone wants a glass of wine or if someone wants a cup of coffee, you can meet up in the afternoon and you can both have what you want. I also go to a lot of coffee shops where all they have are pastries, and I wanted to offer more small plate options to share.”

After considering a few other spaces in downtown Grand Rapids, including a spot near Marie Catrib’s and another on Monroe Avenue, Squibb signed the lease for 955 Wealthy St. SE last January.

The space is bright and clean, the white subway tiling creating contrast against dark wood tables in a well-lit space with an aesthetic focal point found in the sprawling wall mural painted by local artist Kelly Allen — a giant squid that stretches across the back wall of the coffee shop facing the front bar. 

“I've just always kind of been obsessed with underwater creatures,” Squibb says. “…[The mural] was going to be an octopus, but then we thought, ‘You know what? A squid is funny. My last name is Squibb and people have always called me squid,’ so I showed Kelly — who is a local artist and an amazing woman — some things that I liked, and she proceeded to watch many, many videos of squids and came back with a lot of different sketches for us.” 

Bazzanni Building Co. handled the eight-week renovation and build-out at 955 Wealthy St. and, other than a few consultants from the food service industry brought in to help design the space behind the bar, Squibb handled the majority of the interior design, looking to strike the same balance between something old and something new that her concept wants to encourage and accommodate. 

“I think it's a good mixture of new college students who want a place to hang out, but also people who have lived in the neighborhood for a while and want a new place to go,” Squibb says. “I feel like this town is very food forward, especially with all of the restaurants coming in, so I feel like people are going to appreciate this concept. 

“We love Wealthy Street…I think it's a good mixture of new college students who want a place to hang out, but also people who have lived in the neighborhood for a while and want a new place to go,” she continues. “We like the walkability of this area and how things are really developing over here, both residential and commercially, so we thought it was the perfect time to get in and get settled before it really blows up.” 

To learn more about Squibb Coffee Bar, visit www.squibbgr.com or find Squibb Coffee Bar here on Facebook. 

Visit Squibb Coffee Bar online for more information, or find them here on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Squibb Coffee Bar/Rachel Liu Photography 

No victory too small: Eastown residents, ECA hope for a more welcoming Sigsbee Park

When all was said and done, it only took about half the day on Sept. 14 for volunteers to tear down the chain-link fence that loomed six feet tall around the two-acre lot at 1250 Sigsbee St SE — a surprisingly quick job for a project that was, by most accounts, surprisingly tough to tackle. 

“For the community, it was something that people had been wanting to have removed for a while because, for that part of the neighborhood, Sigsbee is the go-to park,” Marisa Sandahl, who this past fall was at the tail end of her tenure as Eastown Community Association’s executive director, says of the fence that was keeping residents from accessing otherwise useable parkland. 

Former home to Sigsbee Elementary School, the corner lot fenced both the old educational site and its surrounding playground and green space. Once the building was no longer being used as Sigsbee Elementary, the space was officially reclassified as a “school park” and renamed Southeast Academic in partnership with the Grand Rapids Public School District, leaving it open for wider use as a public green space. 

“It’s a green space that was fenced off,” says Sandahl, adding that the fencing made it difficult to tell that the space was open to the larger community, which kept the space from living up to it’s full potential as a significant public green space and gathering space for the whole community

For years, residents rallied alongside the ECA to have the fence removed, and whether due to a breakdown in communication, changes in organizational leadership, or just opposing ideas of what the space would ultimately be redeveloped for, the project was repeatedly tabled. 

Finally, Sandahl found her window of opportunity this past September, when she worked with a volunteer coordinator from United Way to bring in additional volunteers who had the manpower and heavy machinery necessary for unearthing the fence from its cemented pillars, leveraging the organization’s annual Day of Action to rally residents one last time.

“It’s really thanks to their advocacy, as well as their tenacity, [that got] it done. They lined up the volunteers, and we were able to give the green light,” says GRPS Executive Director of Communications and External Affairs John Helmholdt, whose district is operating with a renewed focus on reconnecting local schools with their surrounding neighborhoods thanks to new leadership under superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal.  

“The old GRPS way was one where it was always head down, say no to everything; and I hate to say it, but that’s how we were,” Helmholdt says. “We were not community-facing in our decision making and not sensitive to needs of neighbors, so that has been a dramatic and very positive shift — one you can really see and begin to feel throughout the city.” 

And for Sandahl and other Eastown community members, having public green spaces that are readily accessible — the kind that have the appearance of welcomeness and act as a nurturing gathering spaces for all neighbors — is one of the most important needs for the area. 

“It’s a really big thing that sometimes feels small, or sometimes you don’t notice it when you’re missing it, but a lot of things within communities are like that,” Sandahl says. “They don’t feel like huge things, but when they are done, it makes a difference to the whole community. “

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Eastown Community Association

Adored Boutique opens East Hills retail space with hopes of paying it forward

As far as owner Emily Smith is concerned, the decision to open the new Adored Boutique and follow a career into retail wasn’t ever something she actively intended to work toward, but rather something she began to understand over time. 

“I was really restless in my career, and I was on a mission trip in Cuba, and the trip was really surrounded in this idea of just loving on women and reminding them that they’re not alone,” says Smith, who opened her 1,200-square-foot women’s clothing store, Adored Boutique, Dec. 1 at 968 Cherry St. in East Hills. “Every woman we connected with (during the trip) would get something to call her own that was special and feminine and made her feel good and made her feel loved…By the time I left that trip, I understood that I needed to change my career and that it involved opening a women’s boutique and over time God really just fine-tuned it in me.”

Then, almost one year ago, Smith said she was singing the hymn “O Come Let Us Adore Him” at her church’s Christmas service when she was struck with inspiration for Adored Boutique, which features contemporary apparel, shoes and home goods exclusively from vendors who are ethical manufacturers, many of whom employ individuals who were victims of human trafficking or other forms of exploitation. 

“It was really about just taking each step at a time to understand it, so I started researching ethical manufacturers — and I didn’t really know that word, ethical manufacturers, but I kept searching and finally started making connections with those vendors,” says Smith, adding that the one thing these vendors all had in common was a focus on creating employment opportunities for women who recently escaped poverty, sex trafficking, or other forms of exploitation  

After signing a five-year lease in October, Smith began renovating and moving into the space just last month, whipping the former hair salon into shape with help from her interior designer sister and longtime friend and contractor who assisted with the build-out. 

Committed to partnering with local and global organizations that have missions to directly or indirectly support the rescue and restoration of victims of human trafficking, Adored Boutique gives back 15 percent of its profits to charity partners on local, regional, and national levels. 

Now nestled on the corner of Cherry Street and Lake Drive, Smith says the revamped retail space fits right in with not only the vibe of her new neighborhood, but also with its residents and other entrepreneurs in the ever-growing business community. 

“I will say that every single business owner in this community has just been genuinely welcoming and encouraging and supportive, and I would say the same about the people who live in the area and have come into the store,” she says. “It’s such a positive atmosphere.” 

For more information about Adored Boutique, its vendors, or what charities it contributes to, visit Adored Boutique online here.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Adored Boutique 

Power to the people: WestSide Collaborative & Harmony Hall launch fundraiser for neighborhood grants

If you are looking to contribute to a local, grassroots cause this holiday season, it doesn’t get more local and more grassroots than the partnership between Harmony Hall and the WestSide Collaborative. 

For the month of December, Harmony Hall will be selling ornaments to raise funds for the WestSide Collaborative’s resident empowerment grant program, with empowerment being the key word.
 
The WestSide Collaborative is a group of local nonprofits and neighborhood organizations located in, and working on, the west side of Grand Rapids that seeks to address the marginalization of west side residents due to the concentration of power held by entities and individuals other than the residents themselves.

Sergio Cira-Reyes, of the WestSide Collaborative, says the grant program will fund programs designed by residents and for residents of the west side of Grand Rapids. “The goal is to connect residents with other residents to improve the neighborhood and build community,” he says.
 
These efforts come at a particularly crucial time, with “mom ‘n pop” shops giving way to larger developments and rents continually rising. In an article Rapid Growth published last year, Andrew Sisson, of the WestSide Collaborative, explained the tension behind the changes occurring on the city’s west side.

Cira-Reyes says this new program is open to all west side residents living in an area that is roughly west of the Grand River, north of Wealthy Street, south of Richmond, and east of Valley.  Ideas and applications for the  empowerment grants program are submitted on their website and then the neighborhood votes to see which project will be awarded up to $1,000. 

As far the types of projects that can be submitted, Cira-Reyes says it is up to the people living in the neighborhoods.  “If they want to fund a mural, to build pride, and they can get the residents energized to vote, that is fine,” he says.
 
Cira-Reyes encourages anyone submitting ideas to think of proposals that will bring the neighborhood together, whether it is, for example, a repurposing existing spaces for soccer fields or improving local parks. “It’s really about residents addressing the issues in the neighborhoods,” he says. “We want to build a culture so that if there is a problem in the community we can get together and fix it.”

Heather Van Dyke-Titus, co-owner of the west side’s Harmony Hall, says this is exactly the type of program her business believes in supporting. “The WestSide Collaborative are old school organizers,” she says. “They are raising money and working on projects that directly impact the neighborhoods.”

Harmony Hall will kick off the fundraiser with a celebration on Dec. 8. The event will feature the local band The Bootstrap Boys playing holiday music from 6-9 pm, the release of the Gingerbread Brown beer, and festive food specials. Representatives from the WestSide Collaborative will be present to share information about the grant program.

Submissions for ideas close on Dec. 16. The top ideas, as voted by the residents, will be pitched to a panel of judges, which will include people living in the neighborhood, to determine the winner of the grant on Jan. 19. Cira-Reyes says organization has a full-court press to get the word out about the grant, including meetings with students in the local middle school and Union High School. 

To learn more, you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Dec. 10 opening of Pop Up Shop GR brings unique retail space to Avenue for the Arts

Located at 315 S. Division along the Avenue for the Arts, the new Pop Up Shop GR will hold its grand opening Dec. 10. The event will be hosted by Pop Up Shop owner Tova Jones. 

The new Pop Up Shop was created by Jones to encourage entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, and other independent entities to take the first leap at owning and promoting their own work. 

“I want to get e-commerce business owners, artists, and musicians excited about a space where they can come and sell their product,” says Jones.

Jones adds that because many e-commerce business owners don’t often get the opportunity to hold a space of their own outside of festivals and other tabling events, Pop Up Shop’s vision is to provide a venue that helps entrepreneurs expand their brand and have a local touchpoint with their customer base.

For more information about Pop Up Shop GR, email Jones at grpopupshop@gmail.com or visit here on Facebook.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Pop Up Shop GR

'A vibrant part of the neighborhood': Historic Kingsley Building renovation to include apts, offices

Doing business as Offsite Lake Drive, LLC, Maplegrove Development and Bazzani Building Co. have partnered to complete renovations on the top four floors of the 90-year-old Kingsley Building at 1415 Lake Dr. in Eastown.

Construction on the building’s ground floor retail space were completed in recent years by its owner, Bazzani. With Maplegrove Development now on board as property managers, the duo will turn its focus to the $10.7 million renovation of the remaining four floors. The project will result in a mix of new office spaces and residential apartment units and is expected to take about 14 months to complete. 

“Offsite Lake Drive, LLC is proud to be a part of the Eastown neighborhood and believes that the completion of the Kingsley Building renovation will make a once obsolete property a vibrant part of the neighborhood,” says Chief Operating Officer/Member David Emdin of Maplegrove Property Management.

At 17,000 square feet, the Kingsley Building’s second floor will house approximately 18 small offices — ranging from 200 to 500 square feet — lining the exterior of the space, with private residential storage filling in interior. 

The third, fourth, and fifth floors will transform into 41 new one- and two-bedroom apartments. With heat, air conditioning, and one indoor parking space included, the units’ rental rates are expected to range from $1,170 to $1,270 for one-bedrooms and $1,730 to $1,830 for two-bedrooms.

With plans to insert more than 100 windows around the exterior of the building, as well as small balconies for most of the apartment units, designs also call for a three-story atrium and a large rooftop gathering patio where residents can look out on surrounding Eastown neighborhood. 

With an expected grand opening in spring 2018, Bazzani will seek Gold level LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for the renovation of the Kingsley Building, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Buildings in 2012. Built in 1926, the building was formerly home to the Grand Rapids Storage and Van Co. and Zondervan Publishing.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Bazzani Building Co. 
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