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Longtime yoga lover opens first 'mindful Vinyasa' hot yoga studio on GR's West Side

It didn’t take long for Lauren Morse to fall in love with yoga. She spent the past few years of her life as both a daily practicer and an assistant teacher at a local studio, all the while urged by friends and family to seriously consider opening her own space. 

“My mom was always telling me to open a studio and I thought, ‘Yeah, of course, one day I will,’” says Morse, who finally decided to take the leap about a year ago after losing her mother to stage four breast cancer. “After she passed away, I thought, ‘Rather than keep putting this off, I’m going to take the big jump.’” 

Last April, Morse found a vacant space on Grand Rapids’ west side, where the new West Side Hot Yoga held its grand opening last weekend. 

“The west side is a great place to be … and this building is just gorgeous,” she says. “It just has the perfect feel of a yoga studio — I was inspired the second I walked in.” 

Morse opened the 1,400-square-foot studio, located at 769 Seward Avenue NW, with help from investor Brian Prevost, who has worked alongside her as a partner since the beginning. 

“His goal is to find people who have these inspirations or desires to start a business, but would have a hard time coming up with investment or just don’t have the means to do it themselves,” she says. “He’s helped lead the way with the funding of the project and it’s been an amazing opportunity to work with him through all of this.” 

Morse did a lot of the renovation work herself and was able to partner with several local vendors,  including Stella & Dot Jewelry, PURE Haven organic personal care products, LulaRoe clothing, and doTerra essential oils to host a sneak peek preview last week, prior to Saturday’s grand opening. 

With her own background in mindful Vinyasa, Morse says West Side Hot Yoga is a modern spin in a classic space, the first hot yoga studio on the west side to offer a state-of-the-art Reme Halo air-filtration system that purifies the air to a hospital-grade health standard.

“West Side Hot Yoga offers a refreshing atmosphere for all, from beginners on their mat for the very first time to the veteran yogi who is looking to take their practice to a whole new level,” Morse says. “We are so excited to open the doors and get flowing.”

For more information on West Side Hot Yoga or to view a full menu of services, pricing, and class schedules, visit West Side Hot Yoga online or find it here on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Lauren Morse/West Side Hot Yoga 

Park Crawl: Grand Rapids celebrates re-opening of four neighborhood green spaces with public tour

In celebration of the recent completion of $2.5 million in renovations to four Grand Rapids parks, city commissioners and officials, park contractors, neighborhood leaders, and students from Sibley and Mulick elementary schools will gather today, Thursday, Nov. 3, for a grand reopening tour of the revamped green spaces.

Starting with Douglas Park at 301 Lexington Ave. at 9:15 am, the tour — which is also open to the larger public — will then caravan to Dickinson Park (1640 Willard) at 10 am, Mulick Park (1632 Sylvan) at 11 am, and finish the tour with Camelot Park (2230 Rowland SE) at 11:45 am. The tour will stop to explore and check out new features at each park. 

“It’s wide open to the public, and there will be a number of school children attending the Douglas and Dickinson Park tours,” says David Marquardt, director of Grand Rapids’ Parks and Recreation Department. “The schools were really gracious and good about working with us to bring some kids to this grand opening and be part of the excitement.” 

Among the new park features include new picnic shelters, restroom facility improvements, playground enhancements, new walking paths, new landscaping, ball field upgrades and new site furnishings, including benches, bike loops, drinking fountains, and trash cans.

Funding for the $2.5 million renovations was made possible by the 2013 Yes! GR Parks millage, which was approved by 60 percent of voters and generates about $3.8 million annually for park improvements. 

A number of renovations on other public parks, including Cherry and Wilcox parks, have already been completed and include water fixtures like splash pads, to boot. 

“All of this results from the 2013 citizen passed and approved tax millages for the parks,” Marquardt says. “ It’s the whole reason we’re here now, and it’s the community input that brings forth all the ideas we’re unveiling during this next round of park openings.” 

For more information, visit the Grand Rapids Parks & Recreation department online or find them here on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Grand Rapids Parks & Recreation 



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Dream green: What do Grand Rapids parks need?

Ground breaks on eight neighborhood park renovation projects with 'watchful eyes' on progress

Parks with benefits: How neighborhood identity factors into planning a socially productive park
 

Very Sweet: The Cakabakery moves to expanded space on East Fulton this fall

After outgrowing its current location at 1436 Wealthy St., the Cakabakery announced plans to close its Eastown site and expand into an even larger 2,500-square-foot space at 919 E. Fulton Street.
 
“We really love the Uptown business districts and neighborhoods, so we wanted to make sure we could put down roots in this area,” says Jason Kakabaker, who co-owns the space alongside Peter Jacob. “This building is an investment in Cakabakery’s growth, and it will allow us to expand our offerings and serve more customers.”
 
The 2,500-square-foot building will allow The Cakabakery to increase production and expand operations, specializing in a variety of desserts, specialty cakes, custom cupcakes, cake pops, cookies, cheesecake and caramel corn.
 
When it opens at its new Fulton Street location on Nov. 23, the revamped bakery will have walk-in cooling units and freezers, as well as a larger kitchen that will offer more room for dessert tastings.
 
“We feel really fortunate to have the opportunity to find a permanent location in this neighborhood, and we are grateful for Colliers West Michigan’s help in finding this building,” says Jacob. “With this larger space, we’ll now be able to open earlier on Saturdays and serve up new desserts such as cinnamon rolls, more last-minute cakes and decorated cookies daily.”
 
This is the final week that the bakery will operate at its Eastown locale. Until the new site opens, Cakabakery will set up a pop-up shop at the Bluedoor Antiques shop at 946 E. Fulton Street.
 
For more information on expanded hours or to see a full list of menu items, visit thecakabakery.com.
 
Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of The Cakabakery/Colliers International 

From Second City to Beer City: These GR comedians plan to open improv comedy venue

Grand Rapids comedian Joe Anderson knows that when it comes to opening an improv, sketch and experimental comedy venue and cocktail bar in downtown Grand Rapids, failure is not an option.

“We want to come out swinging because unless we do that, we can't open,” says Anderson, who has worked for the past two years alongside fellow comedian Ben Wilke to draft plans and garner support for The Comedy Project. The two recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for the venue, and its $25,000 funding goal is growing steadily within reach.

“Even with the Kickstarter, we could have done it for more money, but the worst thing that would have happened would be not meeting that Kickstarter goal because we need everything to be a win,” he says. “In the same way, there are so many people — whether it's a restaurant, but certainly a theater and comedy — so many people have had enough bad experiences or just mediocre experiences that they're not excited to go back… So, we need to make sure that anyone who comes, the first time they come, they're just like, 'Oh my gosh, this is great. I could do this once a month.’”

A Western Michigan University graduate, Second City alumnus, and seven-year board member of the non-profit Dog Story Theater in Grand Rapids, Anderson began working with Wilke — a Chicago native who also has roots in the Windy City’s famed Second City comedy troupe — began working more dedicatedly on The Comedy Project two years ago.

The goal of the space, Anderson says, is to be a kind of “repertoire comedy place,” with a small group of six to 10 performers who are on stage performing both improv and sketch comedy shows regularly,  with scheduling wiggle room for other comedians and improv troupes to host their own shows.

“There would be this core group of people doing the ‘heavy lifting’ of the performances, but then there would be an unknown huge amount of other people putting shows on, putting shows on the other nights, stepping in when for some reason someone else can't do the show — kind of building this stable of performers,” he says, adding that although they are open to hosting some alt stand-up comedians for special event shows, they’re avoiding the more traditional comedy genre in favor of the more experimental.

In addition to daily improv shows, The Comedy Project will offer improv and sketch comedy classes geared at career development and innovation within professional organizations, using the tenets of improv to help people in all walks of life sharpen their communication skills.

“There will be an 18-year-old kid who just thinks he's funny, and then the 35-year-old mom who also does improv and then some 65-year-old executive at a company who’s also trying to learn how to talk more extemporaneously, how to seem more approachable or be more open to other people's ideas, since those are all things that happen in good improvising,” Anderson says.

Though the duo are still waiting to finalize details on the space, they’ve already solidified a few very important partnerships, including working with Matt Smith, owner of PitStop BBQ & Catering, to bring a full menu to a space with only a prep kitchen in its plans.

Anderson and Wilke have also received support from Michele Sellers, who was instrumental in the launch of local establishments that include Stella's and Hopcat, and like Revue Holding Co.'s Brian Edwards has been consulting on the project and plans for the future space -- which promises something just as unconventional as its performances.

“In our minds, we want this space to look like the comedy place cobbled together after some kind of apocalyptic event happened, and everyone just grabbed whatever they could to make this place seem like a theater — but they did grab the best things they could,” Anderson says.

There are a few logistics and funding hurdles to clear before solidifying any concrete timeline for opening, though ideally the The Comedy Project would be fully operational this spring for LaughFest 2017.

In a city that just keeps growing, Anderson says he’s confident he and Wilke have come to Grand Rapids at a time when something like The Comedy Project has a real shot.

“It’s just what's happening right now in Grand Rapids. It's the same reason why there's all these restaurants and all of these new developments; there's a Trader Joe's, and there's another brewery,” he says. “I think people just feel like they've been given permission to try things, and I think that applies to us as well. Looking at the kind of climate here in Grand Rapids right now it's like, ‘Yeah, we gotta do this. Grand Rapids can pull this off.’”

Click here to learn more about The Comedy Project’s Kickstarter campaign, which is open through Nov. 11, or find The Comedy Project here on Facebook.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of The Comedy Project

Spoonlickers to open fourth self-serve frozen yogurt shop in GR's west side Fulton Place

With a grand opening scheduled for Nov. 4, the locally-owned dessert parlor Spoonlickers will open its fourth location on the ground floor of Fulton Place at 616 W. Fulton Street. The new shop is part of Rockford Construction’s mixed-use residential and retail space on Grand Rapids’ west side.

The newest 1,300-square-foot location will feature the same self-serve frozen ice cream, custard, gelato, and yogurt flavors using the all-natural products that has made its Ada, East Beltline, and Wealthy Street locations so successful.

David Darling is the founder and CEO of Spoonlickers and says after crunching some numbers afforded to him by extensive demographics research, adding a fourth west side location just made sense.

“What I found is that the demographic of the west side — and particularly in that neighborhood  — was almost an exact match to our store in Eastown with regards to the number of families, the median income, student population, number of households with children…those are all of the real critical indicators we look for when we place a store as strong as Eastown,” Darling says. “Especially with GVSU being right there, the location seemed to have a lot to offer.”

As a self-described “big brand management guy,” Darling says the new location will have an aesthetic consistent with his other three stores. “We offer a tremendous product at a very fair price that lives up to some very high standards in terms of quality and taste.”

Darling says the new Fulton Place Spoonlickers is hoping to add about 10 full- and part-time jobs,  and he is currently looking for qualified people.

“We’re excited,” he says. “It’s a great, up-and-coming neighborhood, and we’re happy to part of what equates to or what feels like a revitalization.”

To check out a full menu online, visit www.spoonlickersgr.com.  

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Spoonlickers/Rockford Construction Co.

Mary Free Bed extends patient care in MI and beyond with unveiling of rehab hospital expansion

Marking the completion of the second phase in a $66.4 million expansion and renovation project, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital is hosting a grand re-opening celebration today, Thursday, Oct. 13 at 10:30 a.m. on its campus at 235 Wealthy St. SE  in Grand Rapids. 

With the second phase of the renovations focused entirely on updating the original hospital building, the medical site’s revamped three-story atrium now features a Biggby Coffee bar, day lockers for patients and visitors, and a patient library, with additional support like valet parking, mobile check-in, and a dedicated greeter aimed at “enhancing the patient experience.” 

The new ground floor of the hospital is largely dedicated to outpatient services, featuring a new Activities of Daily Living (ADL) apartment with two new therapy pools for outpatients to practice home-life skills, but also includes the new location for its Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports department — one of the largest in the nation — where both inpatients and outpatients can register for adaptive sports clinics or teams, and try specialized sports wheelchairs or check out the adaptive equipment on display. 

There is recreation therapy on the second floor, and the hospital’s third floor is home to the private room pediatric inpatient unit. Also on the third floor, there is an additional 15 private rooms available for pediatric and adult speciality services. 

The hospital celebrated the opening of the renovation project’s first phase in March of 2015, a $42 million upgrade to the building the houses Mary Free Bed’s orthotics and prosthetics and bionics department, its OrthoSEAT and the Driver Rehabilitation program, and its assistive technology and augmentative communication department. The project’s first phase brought the total number of private inpatient beds at the Grand Rapids campus to 167, and new features included specialized therapy gyms with high-tech features like ceiling-mounted gait and balance training systems and robot-assisted walking therapy. 

Kent Riddle, the CEO of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, says recent facility upgrades have transformed the rehabilitation hospital from a regional provider to a national provider. 

“The technology and robotics, the electronic simulations and therapeutic equipment and lift systems that up make up this new facility is just about as technologically rich as any facility in the world for rehabilitative care,” Riddle says, adding that its combined new and existing programming puts Mary Free Bed at first in the nation for the number of rehabilitative programs under one roof while its patient volume alone earns it a spot in the top five. 

“We really tried to stretch beyond the norm to make (this space) the best, so it’s an exciting day because we’ve been planning this and looking forward to this for about four years now.”

He says that while, currently, patients from every Michigan county come through the hospital’s physical front doors, richer telehealth programming will further extend Mary Free Bed’s reach. 

“When we really assess the gaps and the need for rehabilitative care throughout Michigan, we expect that many more (patients) will be coming through that front door from all around the state,” he says.

For more information on the new facility and Mary Free Bed’s full host of rehabilitative care programming, visit www.maryfreebed.com. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital 



Related articles: 

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

The Light Gallery & Studio creates more affordable show space for young artists on S. Division

Within 20 days of getting the keys to 317 S. Division Ave., The Light Gallery & Studio already had 11 different artists hanging on the walls during the Sept. 27 soft opening of its new Avenue for the Arts live-work space. 

“I was really pushing being able to open for ArtPrize so we could get some of that foot traffic,” says Erika Townsley, The Light Gallery’s new curator and girlfriend of the site’s owner, Matthew Provoast. 

Though the official public grand opening took place Oct. 7, Townsley worked alongside Provoast and his family members to build three moveable gallery walls, with a few extra slated to separate the private living space in back from the public gallery and storefront. 

Both recent graduates of Kendall College of Art and Design, Provoast and Townsley initially began looking for a live-work space that Provoast could use as a studio for his wedding photography business. After finding 317 S. Division Avenue through Dwelling Place and realizing the kind of creative freedom they had with its renovation, the two saw a bigger opportunity. 

“I asked him what if we had a gallery and a storefront, because you have this great opportunity with this large of a space to do that well,” says Townsley, who herself is a mixed media artist. 

“We have this great opportunity with being able to have such an affordable space because of our location.” 

Situated near the end of the Avenue for the Arts, closer to Wealthy Street, Townsley says she and Provost realized what a great opportunity they had to have such an affordable space and wanted to pass that opportunity along to new artists, whether it be college students or just artists new to the scene.  

“We really want to have an affordable space for artists, whether they’re in college or just starting out, and have a more realistic way to show their work” says Townsley, adding that they’ve been in touch with KCAD and the Kendall Photography Association and are hoping to coordinate more public and community outreach efforts once they’re more settled in the new space.

More immediately, however, Townsley says The Light Gallery & Studio are finding avenues for fostering community through its business practices, offering options for trading work and talents whenever and wherever possible -- like hiring a co-worker from Townsley's other restaurant job to cater both the soft opening and grand opening events. 

"In addition to her payment, I'm also going to design her a logo so she can start her own small catering business," Townsley says. "I really want this space to be a productive one, and to give out as many opportunities as I can."

To learn more or subscribe to the email newsletter, visit The Light Gallery online or here on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of The Light Gallery/Erica Townsley 

Here comes the bride: Renee Austin Wedding to move shop from Bridge Street to Plainfield Avenue

After its initial opening seven years ago at 422 Bridge St. in Grand Rapids’ west side, bridal boutique Renee Austin Wedding is making the move to the Creston neighborhood, setting up shop in an expanded retail space in the Beckett Building at 1555 Plainfield Ave. NE. 

Purchased a few months ago by Renee Austin Wedding owner Maggie Feil, the Beckett Building’s 3,400-square-foot ground-floor retail space features a larger selection of both bridal and bridesmaid dresses, and includes four fitting rooms, and four bridesmaid rooms. The 1,525-square-foot second floor living unit will be rented out to tenants as a separate living space. 

“We’ve had so much growth over the past seven years,” says Feil, who also leases a space on West Fulton for her sister boutique, Renee Austin Prom & Special Occassion. “At the very beginning it was just me and one other girl, and then we needed another part-time employee and then another one and it kept on growing from there to now, where we have eight staff members…We just wanted to find a space that could be our home more long-term.” 

Though the building was initially touted as office space when Feil was first introduced, she says she saw a lot of potential despite the low ceilings and clusters of dividing walls. 

“When we got in there and started doing demolition and construction, we found windows that were covered up before and moved the ceiling up five additional feet and it all just opened up the space way more,” she says. “It was really exciting because it made the vision we had that much better.” 

Now painted in neutral hues of white, grey and gold, she says when the new space opens at the end of this month, it will still have the same boutique feel as the space on Bridge Street, but with an overall more contemporary style. 

Feil says although she loved her time on Bridge Street, recent new development along that business corridor has made it a little too crowded for a destination boutique that doesn’t rely so heavily on passing foot traffic.

“That neighborhood is just growing so much — it actually kind of reminds me of Bridge Street like seven years ago, and I love that about it,” she says. “It’s really exciting to be in a space where it seems things are going forwards.” 

Renee Austin Wedding will officially close its Bridge Street shop on Oct. 24, using the week in between then and the Saturday, Oct. 29 grand opening to move into its new Plainfield Avenue space.

With appointments already booked for its first official day in the new space, Feil says she’s been in touch with a few neighboring businesses, like Sun Title Agency, which have already made her feel at home on Plainfield Avenue.

“After meeting with them, the neighborhood instantly felt super welcoming, and it really made it feel like this was the right place for us and like it was our home,” she says. 

For more information, visit Renee Austin Wedding online or find it here on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Maggie Feil/Renee Austin Wedding 





Related articles: 

Grand Rapids West Side boutique sets trend for bridal, mother-of-bride fashions

Expansion of special needs school, Pine Grove Learning Center, debuts in Wyoming

Grand Rapids Public Schools and the Kent Immediate School District celebrated the expansion of a special needs school, Pine Grove Learning Center, last week.

Located at 2101 52nd St. in Wyoming, the 29,600-square-foot site includes eight additional classrooms, a new cafeteria, and a playground. 

“Expanding Pine Grove means that we will be able to offer more students the opportunity to learn from our talented staff in this state of the art environment, which includes a sensory room, therapy pool, playgrounds, and rooms and hallways designed to meet students’ needs,” says GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal.

The KISD School Board approved $6.1 million in construction bids for the project in September, and KISD Superintendent Ron Caniff says the school is made possible through a partnership between his district and GRPS. 

“Kent ISD levies the regional property tax and it owns the center program buildings, and Grand Rapids operates these programs at a high level, as the Grand Rapids district was historically a national leader in special education services and remains so today through its partnership with Kent ISD,” Caniff says.

For more information about Pine Grove or any GRPS schools, visit www.grps.org.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of GRPS 

Manufacturer Ranir purchases East Paris HQ in anticipation of future expansion

Starting out as just one small tenant occupying a space in the 200,000-square-foot 4701 East Paris building, the oral care product manufacturer Ranir has grown into the space considerably since first moving in 22 years ago. That expansion is particularly evident now, with the company recently announcing the purchase of its corporate headquarters and research and development facility in anticipation of continued growth. 

With more than 550 employees working out of 4701 East Paris, Ranir’s corporate headquarters includes office space, product development and testing labs, and an ISO certified manufacturing facility. 

Rich Sorota is president and chief financial officer at Ranir and says Ranir is still exploring opportunities for expansion at the headquarters and is committed to future growth in West Michigan. He notes the decision to purchase the building affords the organization flexibility to “renovate or realign the facility to meet its continued growth.” 

“We continue to invest in our business from research and product development to acquisitions and new talent, and felt purchasing our long-time corporate headquarters was an important move to give us complete autonomy and agility in how we operate our business and utilize our space,” Sorota says. “Our building environment is a critical tool to creating and making great products and serving our retailer and consumer partners, and this is another step toward our goal of delivering affordable, healthy smiles to millions of households every day.”

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Ranir

Hearing the music: St. Cecilia to soon debut historic building's renovations

St. Cecilia Music Center (SCMC) is wrapping up renovations on its well over 100-year-old historic downtown building at the end of next month and has its sights set on closing the final $1.4 million gap in its $5.5 million total Music Lives Here fundraising campaign

Launched last summer, the Music Lives Here campaign was created by SCMC organizers to raise money for the renovations, with the final portion earmarked as an endowed fund for continued maintenance of the space following initial construction. 

Though the building will make its first official post-renovation debut at a Nov. 3 invitation-only event, its larger public unveiling is set to take place on Nov. 10 during SCMC’s kick-off of the 2016-2017 Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Series in the newly renovated Royce Auditorium

“Concert goers will experience an intimate evening with the comfort of brand new seating to watch and listen to a great performance,” says Executive Director Cathy Holbrook. “The sound will be breathtaking and the audience will love our visual transformation of the hall, lobby, ballroom and entire facility.” 

Holbrook says the staff recently moved into the new administrative office and says though the new modern office suite is the only overhaul that completely changes the building’s original aesthetic, it’s been a morale booster for the team and a welcome change from the cramped room they all shared during the summer’s renovation work.

“We were all living together in one room for the summer, and so that was challenging and great in many ways,” says Holbrook, who adds the “staff is excited we’ve moved into our new home.”

Holbrook says nearly every surface of the historic building was updated or refreshed in some way, which, alongside the administrative office upgrade, also includes the installation of a new professional sound and lighting system in Royce Auditorium, and such additions as fresh paint, new carpeting, refinished flooring, and ADA accessibility upgrades throughout the building in its entirety. 

“We wanted everything to look refreshed without changing the aesthetic or overall feeling of the building,” she says. “Preservation was really at the center of what we are doing, so it’s almost like we had a facelift and not like we gutted the whole space and started over. We weren’t interested in building a brand new building — we’re interested in preserving the space we have while making sure it’s still kept to a high standard.” 

In addition to cash donations, SCMC is still looking to fill some sponsorships which, at $500, will earn donors a chair in the new Royce Auditorium marked by an inscribed plaque. 

To learn more about SCMC or to make your contribution to its Music Lives Here fundraising campaign, visit www.scmc-online.org. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of St. Cecilia Music Center on Facebook



Related articles:
133-year-old St. Cecilia's Music Center to undergo $2.4 million renovation to historic building

Third Coast Development, Custer rejuvenate empty Benteler Automotive Campus

After its mid-July purchase of the former Benteler Automotive Campus, new owners at Third Coast Development are in the throes of a $2.5 million renovation in preparation for the 190,000-square-foot building’s anchor tenant, Custer, which plans to consolidate its Grand Rapids warehouse operations once construction is finished. 

Scott Custer, Vice President of Business Process Improvement at Custer, says the company’s growth over the past several years has opened the door to such opportunities as its upcoming warehouse expansion at the automotive campus, which is located at 320 Hall St. SW.

“This growth has brought great change to our company, including the addition of new people, resources, and the need to expand to a larger warehouse footprint in Grand Rapids,” says Custer, whose organization will lease about 60,000 square feet for its own use while more than 111,000 square feet of remaining space is allocated for industrial, warehouse, or manufacturing space. 

The final 10,000 square feet of floor space will be cleared for office use, and Third Coast Development will update the parking lot to include nearly 400 surface parking spaces on site. 

“We are excited to bring new life to this facility and help bring more people, new jobs and an increased tax base to the City of Grand Rapids,” says Third Coast Development partner Brad Rosely. “The location is terrific with it being in the heart of the Grand Rapids area with easy access to 131.”

Rosely says although Custer will act as the Benteler building’s anchor tenant, the organization will also be the lead designer of the space following Third Coast’s renovation work. 

“Custer is not only an anchor tenant, but they are a key partner in the renovation of this facility,” he says. “We are very excited to have Custer involved and can’t wait to see what they do with their space.”

A timeline for the project’s completion has not yet been announced, but for more information, visit Custer or Third Coast Development online. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Custer 

Canines & community: Downtown Muskegon Dog Park brings camaraderie to vacant lot

The triangle-shaped piece of land at 793 W. Western Ave. in downtown Muskegon has been vacant now for almost 18 years, with the site sitting empty after the former Carpenter Brothers warehouse was destroyed in a fire back in 1998. 

Downtown Muskegon Now Event Coordinator Ellen Berends calls the .7-acre plot of land a “relatively undevelopable” one — but she says that’s also what makes it so perfect for Muskegon County’s first-ever off-leash dog park. 

“It’s an odd-shaped piece of property that is relatively undevelopable, so it seems like the perfect place to have a public gathering space,” she says. “…Rather than leave it empty, it was time to make it useable.”

Plans for the dog park include separate areas for large dogs and small dogs, agility equipment like bars and tunnels, natural grass turf, doggie drinking fountains, a grooming area, and picnic tables and benches. A groundbreaking date for the canine-friendly space is expected to fall sometime next spring in time for a summer grand opening. 

Developed through community-wide collaboration, the new Downtown Muskegon Dog Park is currently wrapping up a $50,000 crowdfunding campaign through the Michigan-based crowdfunding platform Patronicity. Campaign leaders hope to close the fundraising gap by the Sept. 30 deadline in order to receive matching funds from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) through its Public Spaces Community Places initiative. 

“It’s an all-or-nothing campaign through MEDC, so we’re pretty sure that we’ll be just fine and we’ll have our campaign done and fulfilled by the Sept. 30 deadline,” Berends says. 

The park was also one of five dog parks in the nation to receive a $25,000 grant from PetSafe — which develops pet behavioral, containment and lifestyle products — through its Bark For Your Park program, which park organizers will celebrate with a community gathering on Sept. 26 from 6-8 p.m. at the future site of the new dog park. 

It’s a preface to what Berends and the projects other backers see as one of the biggest benefits to building a dog park in downtown Muskegon — a way for members of the community to come together and connect with each other, aided by a common interest and a safe public space in which to gather. 

“Dog parks are proven gathering places for a community, and it’s a great place to get to know your neighbors,” Berends says. “Dog parks are very important  in the neighborhoods of now, where it isn’t very open and we keep to ourselves a lot of the time, because they can bring some camaraderie to a community.”

Click here to learn more about the Downtown Muskegon Dog Park or to make your own contribution to its crowdfunding campaign or visit the Downtown Muskegon Dog Park here on Facebook.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Downtown Muskegon Now 

Sights set on expanding career training and more, WMCAT announces new West Side home

After raising $6.5 of its $7.5 million fundraising goal, the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT) has announced its move into a new facility on Grand Rapids’ west side. 

“We started this campaign early this year with the goal of securing a new, expanded space for WMCAT from where we could support more adults and teens on their journeys to income security,” says WMCAT Executive Director Daniel Williams, whose organization’s new four-story development at First and Seward will expand the nonprofit’s programming in career training for unemployed adults, arts and technology education for high school students, and entrepreneurial apprenticeships for young adults. 

Led by Honorary Chairs Hank Meijer, Doug DeVos, and Jim Hackett alongside a cabinet of businesses and community leaders, the Leave Your Mark campaign set out to secure a new, permanent home for WMCAT, as their current lease in the Acton Building expires in 2019.

At 22,000 square feet, the new space will nearly double their current space and allow for the expansion of tuition-free career training for underemployed adults, arts and technology engagement for high school students, and new models of social innovation that build economic security.

“It’s such a great area anyway and so being able to move into a space that’s already doing some tremendous things with some incredible partnerships,” Williams says. “…We’re really excited about integrating into what’s already a terrific community in that side of town.”

To learn more about the campaign or to help close the last $1 million gap with a donation, visit www.leaveyourmark.org

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of WMCAT/Rockford Construction

Outdoor retailer Moosejaw to open pop-up location at renovated Klingman Lofts next week

Debuting on Sept. 19 with grand opening events set to take place during the first weekend of ArtPrize, outdoor retailer Moosejaw has announced a new pop-up store at 410 Ionia Ave. SW in the newly renovated Klingman Lofts building across from the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. 

The new pop-up store will be 4,000 square feet and will connect to the company’s largest ever “High Altitude Lounge,” a place where the company will host events and activities. 

Nick Rau, the director of retail at Moosejaw, says his company has considered building a new retail presence in Grand Rapids for years.

“Today the city has an ecosystem of energy that we really want be part of,” Rau says. “We looked at numerous locations in Grand Rapids and chose the Klingman Lofts because it offered the perfect space for us to experiment with a new retail format, plus proximity to the highly trafficked Downtown Market.”

The store is a way for Moosejaw to test new markets and retail concepts with short-term leases before investing in a permanent space, part of something CEO Eoin Cornerford calls a “pop-up to permanent strategy.” 

“We like the space and the area so much that we’ve invested more than we would in a typical pop-up,” Comerford says.  “After winter we’ll assess whether to invest further to make this a permanent location, like we did with our 2012 pop-up in Downtown Detroit.”

For more information, visit www.moosejaw.com. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Moosejaw/GR Downtown Market 
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