| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed

Development News

1777 Articles | Page: | Show All

The Atrium at Mazzo: Ledyard Building accommodates Uccello Hospitality Group event venue

In 1978, when few made downtown Grand Rapids their dining destination, Faro Uccello opened the first of eight successful area pizza shops in outlying areas. When he and his family moved back to his native Sicily in 1990, he sold the chain. But, he didn’t stay in Italy long. In fact, by 1996, he had returned and opened Uccello's Ristorante Pizzeria & Sports Lounge on the East Beltline.

While downtown Grand Rapids grew into a vibrant locality, so did Uccello’s family of restaurants. Under the umbrella of Uccello’s Hospitality Group, Faro Uccello, his son, Sergio Uccello, and son-in-law, Mario Piccione, have opened eight local restaurants: five Uccello’s Ristorante Pizzeria & Sport Lounges, two Herb and Fire Pizzeria locations, and Mazzo Cucino D’Italia, a farm-to-table eatery located within Downtown’s historic Ledyard Building.

Executive Chef Clark Frain oversees the creation of contemporary Italian dishes for Mazzo’s restaurant and its three event facilities: Chef’s Table, Mazzo Lounge, and, now, the Atrium, which accommodates up to 200 guests.

“We want to be that place where people come and have a celebration of life and enjoy themselves,” says Brittany Knoch, marketing director of Uccello’s Hospitality Group. "Chef Frain’s specially crafted food menu features top of the line, beautiful, decadent dishes. The other great part, we are right on Monroe Center in the heart of downtown, across from Rosa Park Circle.”

On Saturday March 10, the Atrium at Mazzo invites the public to help launch the space with an open house featuring a cash bar, sampling from the banquet menu, and live music to demonstrate the space’s exceptional acoustics. The venue’s newly appointed event coordinator, Juliane Mulcahy, plans to display different table settings at each uniquely decorated table. Guests can enter a raffle to win a 10 percent-off certificate good towards their first event at the Atrium.

“In the Atrium, we’ll have tables all decked out with an assortment of full settings to show off the versatility of the space. On a smaller scale, we’ll have the Chef’s Table and Mazzo Lounge staged as well,” she says. “The open house says, ‘Hi we're here! And, here’s what we can do.”

“We’re getting the word out, showing the public that we’re here,” adds Knoch. “We’re excited about what we have to show off.”

Open House: The Atrium at Mazzo
125 Ottawa Ave. NW
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday March 10
Menu sampling, live music, and cash bar

Photos courtesy of Uccello’s Hospitality Group.

Natural lifestyle brand gears up for new retail location on Wealthy

"I've always been fascinated by people who run their own careers," says Chicago transplant turned natural products entrepreneur Patrick Stoffel. Passionate about his soaps and lotions, brilliant presentation, and above all investing in one's city, Stoffel is about to open a retail store for his lifestyle company Fox Naturals.

In 2012, Stoffel began experimenting by making his own soaps and "kind of just goofing around with it," he says. While perfecting his recipes and receiving heaps of compliments from his friends on his products and presentation, Stoffel honed in his focus on all-natural ingredients. "It was a good way to learn about natural products. At the time it wasn't a big thing yet. So it was easy to learn how to make something and use it and try it out for friends," he says.

In the mean time, Stoffel became interested in Grand Rapids while visiting his brother. While grabbing a beer at local favorite Brewery Vivant, "I think I fell in love at that moment," says Stoffel. He and his husband soon moved to Grand Rapids for our city's "Good beer. Good food. Cheap living," he says.

Living in GR and working retail management full time for pretty much every big company you can think of," he says, Stoffel officially launched Fox Naturals in 2015, offering free local delivery of everything from body soaps to hair and body oils to shampoos and conditioners. Focused equally on skin and body as well as health and wellness, Stoffel began partnering with other locals like designer and DJ AB and businesses like Mokaya, Lamb Bride, and the Downtown Market to host pop-up events where he could promote his brand and reach more customers. "It was amazing the response that we got for doing those," he says.

Soon, Fox Naturals was blowing up, and Stoffel quit his retail job to pursue the business full time. Out growing his and his home office, the two stumbled upon a fairly new development at 619 Wealthy, right across the street from Wealthy Street Bakery. With hard work and serendipity combined, Stoffel decided. "It's now or never. And Wealthy Street is just the perfect location," he says.

Excited about a petite store front that will maintain the original charm of the building with a fresh, updated look, Stofel will open Fox Naturals this April. With a book and mortar presence, new customers will have a chance to walk in and experience the products, while others will still have the opportunity to order online (and also pickup in store). Starting out with just himself and his husband behind the counter, he is open to growth, and knows he is in good company.

"The best part of being in Grand Rapid is that there's so many people who support local," says Stoffel.

Photos courtesy of Leigh Ann Cobb for Fox Naturals.

Housing NOW! recommendations draw community concern

The Affordable Housing recommendations put forth by Mayor Bliss’ Housing Advisory Committee (branded as “Housing NOW!”) are receiving pushback from community members who are concerned that proposed zoning changes could exclude community input from development projects. The eleven recommendations aim, according to Housing NOW!’s website, “to create housing choices and opportunities for all.”

Yet Eastown Community Association (ECA) warned its newsletter readers on January 24th that the Committee’s “proposal eliminates community input into neighborhood development in residential areas adjacent to business districts,” citing the recommendations’ allowance for developers to develop properties “by right” in “Low Density Residential” (LDR) zones. These zones are located on corner lots and within 100 feet of “Traditional Business Areas” (TDA)—or neighborhood business districts.

This comes from Recommendation 3: “Incentives for Small Scale Development,” which states that small scale development “is referred to as ‘missing middle’ housing,” listing “duplexes, fourplexes, bungalow courts and mansion apartments smaller than a large house” as property types that “are crucial to expand affordable housing options,” presumably due to their higher occupant density. Points two and four of this recommendation provision to allow developers to build multi-family residential units up to four units by-right in LDR zone districts.

By allowing property owners to develop by-right, the recommendations remove barriers—such as gathering the approval of community and/or business associations—to redeveloping higher density units. However, ECA views the community input these barriers provide as necessary to maintaining the integrity of neighborhood communities.

“We expect that proposals for development will be subject to input from the homeowners and business interests in the immediate area through existing channels,” ECA’s newsletter stated.

The Committee attempts to address neighborhood concerns within Recommendation 3 itself, which focuses mainly on design:

“We've discussed [small scale development] with neighborhoods and heard that current standards don't protect neighborhood character. This includes lack-luster front stoops, flat facades and incompatible design. The Design Guidelines Manual will help address these concerns.”

However, the bent of resident and neighborhood association concerns were of a more concrete nature. Eastown resident Cynthia Teemstra, who spoke at the city’s Planning Commission’s meeting on January 25th, observed that between Wilcox Park users, Aquinas students renting, and residents, “we have a big parking problem now. I can’t even imagine adding that kind of density to our street. It’s not safe for the children who are in Wilcox Park...I’m concerned about the stability of the neighborhood...It’s too much.”

Other neighborhood association leaders and neighborhood residents, many of whom had already written letters to the planning committee, echoed similar concerns at the more than four-hour public input meeting.

Meanwhile, the Housing Advisory Committee itself has drawn scrutiny for its apparent bias towards development and housing organizations. Housing NOW!’s website asserts that the “Great Housing Strategies” planning initiative, which kickstarted these recommendations in 2015, involved “over 200 residents,” and represented neighbors as well as housing developers, lenders, and government officials.

However, according to local independent journalist Jeff Smith, publisher of Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy (GRIID.org), a list of Committee members obtained in spring of 2017 from one of the members reveals a list comprised of “either elected city officials, city staff members, representatives of development companies and non-profit organizations.”

Smith comments that the Mayor’s Committee “is made up of housing developers and non-profit housing folks, but not one person from the affected community, which is why the proposals are weak and does nothing to address long term realities.”

This interest is evident in the Committee’s Recommendation 6: Density Bonus, which proposes extending density bonuses to affordable housing projects, combining Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) with an Affordable Housing Bonus—essentially a double subsidy system for developers of affordable housing in specific areas.

Last week, the Grand Rapids City Commission voted to adopt the low-income tax housing policy (#1), changes to the Neighborhood Enterprise Zones (#4), the Voluntary Equitable Development Agreement (#5), and the property partnership policy (#7). The remaining seven recommendations, including the density bonus, are currently up for debate.

“I believe we definitely need to slow that down. Zoning is very complicated," says Second Ward Commissioner Ruth E. Kelly, regarding the proposed zoning changes in recommendation 3. "The biggest consequence I’m worried about is further demolition of houses.” Concerned that these zoning measures are "not clear to the public," Kelly adds that “It’s best looked at in a master planning process,” instead of in the committee's current iteration.

In its letter to the Planning Commission, ECA has requested the Planning Commission “table putting forth any recommendations from the Housing Advisory Committee until there can be further analyses and more substantive community engagement.”

The committee plans to host an additional public hearing on February 20, and hopes to approve more recommendations in March. 

Welcome to the West Side: Corridor Coffee brings co-working space to new community coffee house

With opening week officially behind them, owners of the new Corridor Coffee on Grand Rapids' Westside say their introduction to the community has been “the best [they] could have asked for.”

“Lots of visits, wonderful reception from the community,” says Max Friar, who co-owns the coffee shop and co-working space alongside Melissa Somero. “It has been amazing.”

Located at 637 Stocking Ave. NW, Corridor Coffee officially opened on Jan. 22, with the tagline “Welcome to the West Side,” encompassing Friar and Somero’s vision for bringing more economic vitality and sense of community back to their neighborhood. 

Decorated with simple dark wood floors and fixtures, clean white walls, and warm yellow lighting the cafe creates something halfway between modern and familiar, with a cozy gathering space on the first floor coffee house with stairs that lead to a second floor professional co-working space. 

Individuals can have seven-days-per-week access to the dedicated co-working space for a no-contract monthly membership fee of $199, complete with free unlimited batch brew coffee, a 10 percent shop-wide discount on espresso drinks and snacks, and high-powered WiFi access separate from the coffee house.

Originally from Traverse City, Somero has spent time living on the Westside just a half a mile away from Corridor. Friar, born and raised on nearby Powers NW, attended St. James Elementary school in his youth and says he remembers riding past the old 19th century home on his bike dozens of times with friends back when the building was still dilapidated.

“At this stage in life I had the means to invest back in the community, and when I met Melissa we believed together we could make it a reality,” says Friar, who employed Jacobsen Painting for exterior repairs and hired Team Restoration for the interior build-out. “In terms of vision, we just want to stay here, be part of the growth and restoration of my favorite side of town.”

With gluten-free baked goods from Rise and a full drink menu made with Chicago-based Intelligensia coffee, Corridor Coffee is open Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

For more information, visit Corridor Coffee's website here or find them on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Corridor Coffee 

New Mental Health Foundation HQ lends more visibility to nonprofit mission

With a public storefront and lounge area to compliment its open plan office space in back, leaders of The Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan hope their new 359 Division S. headquarters can help bring more physical visibility to an organization whose programming is already part of so many schools and communities throughout West Michigan. 

“Our services reach a majority of counties in West Michigan, but most times, people don’t realize our office is right in downtown Grand Rapids,” says Jessica Jones, promotion program coordinator with The MHF. “We’re happy we were able to keep our headquarters in the Heartside Neighborhood so we can be close to the people we educate and continue to expand throughout Kent County.” 

With an all-female team of five full-time employees, and two part-time staff, The Mental Health Foundation helps to create mental health awareness and provides mental health education within schools, workplaces, and communities through its “be nice.” and “Live Laugh Love - Education Youth about Mental Health” programs. Both programs are created and taught by The MHF staff. 

At 1,600 total square feet, the new MHF headquarters include a public lounge area and storefront—decorated with cozy fuchsia armchairs and merchandise area with a large armoire for it’s “be nice.” products in the front. 

With a table lamp and slippers placed next to each staff member's desk, the rear of the building is designated office space, but the open floor plan allows for visibility from front to back. Jones says Via Design donated their services for the interior design, while Herman Miller also awarded The MHF $5,000 for new office furniture.

The Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan’s new shop front is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information about The MHF or its programming, visit www.benice.org or find them here on Facebook

“As we continue to grow, we think our visibility in the community is important,” Jones says. “Our old office was a little hard to find and our new location includes a shop front. Our mission is to be the go-to source for mental health awareness and education, and better visibility within the community will help us with that goal.”

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of The Mental Health Foundation 

Open Systems Technologies aims to redefine digital with launch of new brand

"The word digital is being redefined," says Michael Lomanaco, director of marketing and communications at Open Systems Technologies (OST). "10-15 years ago, technology was the innovation," he continues, but now, "innovation has moved toward the experience, the emotive…" In order to keep up with this rapid growth and change, revolutionizing digital for existing clients and new ones, OST recently launched Open Digital, an evolution of VisualHero, which the company acquired in 2016, to form a new digital consultancy.

Founded in 1997, OST has been consistently serving clients in West Michigan and across the country for over twenty years. Upon entering its third decade, notes Lomanaco, the company seeks to pair its expertise in IT with the "internet of things," or as he says, "the tangible and the intangible" supported by design. Most importantly, for the Open Digital team, is the "physical piece of products, intangible of experience and emotion that plays into a great digital transformation strategy."

Seem like a mouthful? Chief Designer Andy Van Solkema breaks it down. "This is really quite possibly about problem solving," he says, noting that the combination of Visual Hero's design savvy with OST's IT prowess creates a well-rounded team that can tackle any project.

Like many firms at the forefront of workplace structure, the new Open Digital will approach each problem with a "cross-disciplined group focused on value creation," says Van Solkema. "We're at the forefront of where roles were changing," he adds. "It's kind of like thinking of it as a matrix now."

At the heart of this redefinition is "our unique ability to connect both the human and technology disciplines together in ways that few others can," says Lomanaco. "That's because we have cloud architects sitting next to designers...There's something special that happens when you're able to do that."

This cross-disciplinary approach is based on human-centered design, a leading approach for designers across all industries throughout the world. "Our team at Open Digital is inherently wired to lead with the human element," says Meredith Bronk, President and CEO and COO Jim VanderMey in a letter on OST's website..

"When it comes to digital, this team sees the entire customer journey, and thrives on ensuring first that our clients are solving the right problem, and then drives to solutions that aren’t just ‘smart,' but that create an immersive experience across all digital touch points," they add.

Though in their two decades OST has expanded to Minneapolis, Detroit, and even London, the company is still proud to call West Michigan their home as they grow and evolve. "This community is really well positioned because of the momentum and growth," says Van Solkema. "This is where we make things." And in the center of GR, on the city's Westside, OST is part of the community's growing tech scene.

"Why not Grand Rapids? Why can't we?" asks Van Solkema with a smirk. "We've come a long way, we've done a lot, this is the challenge in front of us. Let's tackle it."

Images and video courtesy of OST.

Construction on new Michigan Mile 44-unit Midtown CityZen

With pre-leasing activities expected to begin soon, work is underway for Third Coast Development’s new four-story, 44-unit housing complex located at 637 Michigan Street.

TCD recently finalized financing for the new project, called Midtown CityZen, and Independent Bank and construction crews are now excavating recently demolished land to create the 40,000-square-foot building foundation. 

While the entirety of the building's 3,500-square-foot ground floor is allocated for a new restaurant that will open in fall of 2018, the remaining three floors will offer 44 residential unites priced as “affordable to individuals and families making 80 percent of the area median income.” 

“We are very familiar with the diverse demographic that works and plays along the Michigan Street Corridor, so we are trying to be intentional in providing residential options, so those individuals can also afford to live in this corridor,” says Third Coast Development Partner David Levitt.

The project was made possible in collaboration with the non-profit Lansing-based Michigan Community Capital, a community development corporation supported in part by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation through a $10 million loan facility designed to target residential development across the state to meet the needs of individuals and families making 61 to 120 percent of AMI.

While MCC has, in the past, participated in other Grand Rapids area projects through collaboration in New Markets Tax Credit—projects like the Inner City Christian Federation’s 920 Cherry Street headquarters and the Bicycle Factory—Midtown CityZen represents what MCC President Eric Hanna calls its first “ground-up” investment, accomplished without tax credits utilizing low cost equity processes. 

“We are excited to join Third Coast Development at the onset of this project and assist in bringing quality housing to hard-working individuals and families who otherwise may not be able to afford to reside in a near-downtown setting such as CityZen,” Hanna says. 

For more information on the new Midtown CityZen, visit www.thirdcoastdevelopment.com

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Third Coast Development 

Boop de Boom brings back bohemian funk with new Plainfield coffee shop

Though it’ll still be a while before Boop de Boom Coffee Lounge officially opens at in a renovated Creston neighborhood storefront, owners Lindsey Ruffin and Cailin Kelly are excited for plans to bring a much-needed presence to a neighborhood they’ve grown to love. 

Kelly, who owns Creston Brewery alongside her husband and two other partners, have spent a lot of time getting to know the neighborhood where she grew up, and said an old-school coffee house seemed high on the list of resident needs. 

“We heard a lot of neighbors and business owners talk about the need for a coffee shop in the area,” says Kelly, who began drafting a plan for a new coffee house shortly thereafter.

With a proposal in place, Kelly took the idea her friend and colleague of over three years, Lindsey Ruffin, with whom she’d connected through mutual work with both the Eastown Community Association and the organization Well House. The name Boop de Boom came from the pair’s mutual love of funky music and things, representative of the larger aesthetic goals of their new shop. 

“The name is fun and brings to mind jazzy funky music and fun,” Kelly says. “That's the type of vibe we want to create.”

In line with a larger, national trend of coffee houses serving alcoholic beverages alongside traditional coffee menus, Boop de Boom’s new menu will feature not only coffee classics, but also offer a limited selection of beer and wine. However, the plan is still to craft coffee-centric cocktails like Irish coffees and Hot Totties to help keep the shop’s focus, first and foremost, on creating a comfortable gathering place that feels just as cozy and warm as the coffee shops they both remember growing up. 

“I just remember when I was in high school going to coffee shops and feeling very comfortable and more of the decor and atmosphere felt more organic, while the new trend seems to be a more streamlined design,” Kelly says. “We want to bring it back old school and make it more funky and bohemian, make it comfortable enough that you want to stay and hang out for a while.” 

Located in a 1,700-square-foot space at 1553 Plainfield St. NE, they found the new building through its owner, Jeremy Stokes.
“{Stokes] just talked about how cool it would be to have a coffee shop there, which is part of why we decided on that location,” Kelly says. “Plus, it’s right across from the brewery and right there in the heart of the neighborhood… and with (Jeremy) as our contractor, as well, we know he’ll help us create our vision and add unique funky flair.” 

Still in the early stages of working with the planning commission to hammer out planning details and paperwork logistics -- including applying for a liquor license and proper permitting -- plans for Boop de Boom’s official grand opening are in late summer or early fall of 2018, though Kelly says they expect to go before the planning commission sometime in the next month or two for final approval on the space. 

Until then, Kelly says they’ll continue to work on renovating the interior space and listening to their Creston neighbors for help in shaping the final product, with the ultimate goal always being to bring something valuable to a deserving community. 

“We love this neighborhood… it’s such a diverse neighborhood socioeconomically and racially, with a lot of young families, a lot of young artists living here. I feel like it’s still got a historic feel and it hasn’t changed a ton in the past few years,” she says.

“We are really excited to bring something that is much desired to the neighborhood and we’ve met with neighbors at Creston Neighborhood Association that have given us lots of great ideas for what they’d like to see in a coffee shop and we hope to just really make a community gathering space, a place that everyone in the Creston Neighborhood can go to where it feels like home.” 

Visit Boop de Boom Coffee Lounge on Facebook to learn more or stay in the loop with its progress leading up to opening later this year. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Boop de Boom Coffee Lounge 

Local First announces inaugural 2018 Good for Grand Rapids awards

After a year that many Grand Rapids communities can mark by an unprecedented rise in downtown redevelopment and urban renewal efforts, it’s hard not to watch the introduction of so many new brewpubs and boutiques and wonder which of these businesses can offer something uniquely valuable, and what it takes to create the kind of venture that is, simply put, good for Grand Rapids.

Though there’s no one, simple solution to community-based sustainable growth, the Good for Grand Rapids campaign by nonprofit Local First is committed to navigating the many more complex avenues through which local businesses can help build thriving communities. With nearly 100 area businesses joining the Good for Grand Rapids campaign over the past year, the organization is celebrating those taking steps toward making a more positive community impact with its first-ever Good for Grand Rapids Awards, slated for March of 2018. 

Hannah Schulze is Program and Fund Development Manager for Local First and says that with over a decade of working with locally-owned businesses under its belt and handfuls of research studies to back it up, the nonprofit knows one thing for sure—locally-owned businesses are more likely to be vested in the way their operations impacts their surroundings. 

“We know that that locally-owned businesses tend to be more holistically sustainable than their non-local counterparts,” Schulze says. “Because if you live in the same place where you own your businesses, you’re going to steward your environment and treat your employees well and give back to that community more than if you owned a business halfway across the country and weren’t there to see those community results on a day-to-day basis.” 

As of the Dec. 1 deadline, any business to complete the 60-minute online Quick Impact Assessment became eligible for consideration to be selected as winner in any of the Good for Grand Rapids Awards categories: Best for the Environment, Best for the Employees, Best for the Community, and a fourth “governance” category for those businesses with a more mission-based approach. 

Based on the Quick Impact Assessment—which is designed to measure dozens of best practices on employee, community, and environmental impact that can be stacked up against other businesses on a national scale—the 2018 awards ceremony will select the top two performers in each of the four categories to receive an award. At the March 2018 ceremony, Schulze says Local First leaders will also talk more about what the 2018 Good for Grand Rapids campaign will look like, and encourage those businesses to retake the QIA each year so the organization can begin to build progress benchmarks that only further the shared learning experience.

While the QIA is completely free and totally confidential, businesses can opt to share their “impact cloud” information with Local First, which then aggregates that information against all of the other area businesses and subsequently builds a workshop calendar based on all of the gaps the organization is seeing where businesses need to improve. 

Schulze says every month from May until November, Local First will host a workshop based on those QIA improvement areas,  partnering with the city of Grand Rapids and over a dozen other chambers of commerce and community leadership organizations to find the right experts that help make the programming happen.

In 2017, Local First’s “Measure What Matters” series featured topics like energy efficiency, employee benefits, board of director demographics, and mission/inclusivity statements, and Schulze says in 2018, the organization expects its base of shared knowledge and support to continue to grow and create even more meaningful and valuable opportunities to engage with one and other. 

“Overall, it’s going to help Grand Rapids to continue to grow and it’s going to help Grand Rapids attract talent, which is helpful for everyone,” she says. “The goal is to grow in an inclusive way that helps build wealth for everyone in our communities.” 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Local First 

Fulton Square gears up for full house in 2018

Whether it’s the on-site parking, the low-risk rental costs, or just a fondness for the surrounding neighborhood she’s long called home, owner and operator of the new Ada Mae clothing and accessories boutique says her new retail space in Suite B of Fulton Square is fitting in quite nicely. 

“Our space is beautiful, small, and efficient, so we’re not dealing with a huge overhead,” says Jessica Smith, a longtime resident of Fulton Heights and former manager of East Hills’ Global Infusions. “…The reception has been great and I am so excited to get to know the neighborhood.”

Located at 1 Carlton Avenue, Ada Mae features a selection of unique, handmade clothing and accessories by designers from the US and Europe, with an emphasis on small independent lines, including many hyper-local brands exclusive to Grand Rapids. 

“On behalf of Orion Real Estate Solutions and our project partners, we warmly welcome Ada Mae to Fulton Square. Jessica and her, team have put in the hard work and we wish her success in her new space, ” says Jason Wheeler, spokesperson for Orion Real Estate Solutions, who says Ada Mae works with Fulton Square’s mixed-use structure and local clientele. 

Touted by Orion as a “housing solution for graduate students, young professionals, and college administration” designed to serve as a neighborhood social hub, the mixed-used development features 47 market-rate apartments — all of which have already been leased — Fulton Square also brings three ground-floor retail shops and a restaurant space to a location that almost literally straddles the line between the Fulton Heights and Eastown neighborhoods. 

“….We have great synergy amongst the incoming retailers entering the development that really breathes the life into the ground floor at Fulton Square,” says Wheeler, whose company announced its fourth and final commercial tenant just yesterday, welcoming the locally owned E & L Salon into a space adjacent to Ada Mae’s 991-square-foot retail bay. 

“We are so excited to be welcoming this healthy mix of retailers, risk-takers, and community-minded business owners to Fulton Square,” Wheeler says. “We just welcomed Ada Mae last week and now we’re preparing to move in E & L Salon into the adjacent space. This is another group of brilliant women with a vision for their business, a love for the neighborhood, and a business offering that compliments the overall offering at Fulton Square.”

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Orion Real Estate Solutions 

Elliott’s News returns to downtown Grand Rapids on McKay Towers renovated ground floor

It’s been about a year since Elliott’s News was forced to closed at its former 50 Monroe Place location, driven out by extensive renovations to the building and closed for business until recently, when longtime owner Bill Bennett announced the newsstand’s reopening in the lobby of downtown Grand Rapids’ McKay Tower.

“We are excited to be back in business,” Bennett says. “I still believe there is a need for our services. It just feels natural to be in downtown. The McKay Tower folks made a good deal for me to return, so I’m eager to get back to it.”

Occupying nearly 900 square feet on the first floor of the landmark McKay Tower in a recently renovated space next to Freshii, the new Elliott’s space contains an original Grand Rapids National Bank vault from the building’s first tenants, and offers the majority of the same items sold at the previous 50 Monroe location.

Bennett says that although the new space is a little bit smaller than the previous 1,200-square-foot 50 Monroe digs, he’s outfitted the store with new magazine racks and other equipment and doesn’t anticipate the smaller footprint affecting his selection.

Still adding inventory and awaiting installation on the store’s credit card processing and Michigan Lotto Machines, Bennett says he and his team are still putting finishing touches on the space and that the store is about “65 percent stocked.”

About 150 years old in total, Elliott’s newsstand has occupied space in a now-demolished building where Rosa Park Circle sits, and was also previously located at the former Greyhound Bus terminal.

“Elliott’s has been an institution in downtown before any of us were alive and before this building was even named McKay Tower,” says Laura Miller, McKay Tower property manager. “As well, Bill knew there was still demand for his operation and retirement wasn’t yet calling his name.”

Current store hours are Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Elliott’s News

One year after devastating fire, Rising Grinds Cafe reopens in Madison Square

One year and one day after its original building at 1530 Madison Ave. was lost in a fire, Rising Grinds Cafe is reopening at its new and improved LINC space on 1167 Madison Ave. 

Described as a community-based social enterprise cafe, Rising Grinds Cafe provides job opportunities for young residents in the Madison Square neighborhood, aiming to empower young adults with these employment and training opportunities through meaningful work and community partnerships with organizations including Bethany Christian Services, Building Bridges Professional Services, Double O Supply and Craftsman, and Tabernacle Community Church.

Justin Beene is founder and director of the Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation, which is comprised of the organizations listed above, and says that the fire at Rising Grinds Cafe one year ago was heartbreaking for both the young people who were designing and building it, and those set to work there.

“We have faced and overcome this major setback and now are ready to move forward with the project and be an inspiration in the neighborhood,” he says. “We have added new partners, a great menu and have created over eight sustainable jobs with this venture.”

Completed by neighborhood young and contractors, the renovated kitchen and eating area features furniture provided by Steelcase, complete with free WiFi. The new space also includes a renovated outside eating area for the summer months. The new Rising Grinds Cafe features both a breakfast and lunch menu with coffee drinks designed in partnership with Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. 

All of Rising Grinds Cafe’s youth employees with receive ServSafe Managerial Certification and an additional customer services and sales credential through the National Retail Federation, and the cafe will work very closely with Bethany Christian Services to continue to provide youth with other support services. 

“We are so thankful to all the staff, partners, and community members who have supported us and who have been present with us in our time of loss, encouraging us to get back on our feet to keep this dream alive,” Beene says. “Truly, we are living our name, Rising Grinds, as we rise out of the ashes.”

To learn more about Rising Grinds Cafe or the Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation, visit www.rgcafe.org or www.grcct.com/about/#partners

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor

Images courtesy of Rising Grinds Cafe

Swedish tech company Configura celebrates final expansion in Blue35 office space

Alongside customers, local community leaders, and executives from both its Swedish headquarters and two Asia offices, the Swedish tech company Configura celebrated the expansion of its downtown Grand Rapids offices with a grand opening event earlier this month. 

Maker of the CET Designer software, Configura was founded its original Sweden headquarters in 1990, only beginning to lay down roots in Grand Rapids in the early 2000s when company leadership began looking at cities throughout Midwest to establish a new North American presence. 

While company leaders considered locations in Wisconsin and Illinois, as well as Michigan, it was The Right Place CEO Birgit Klohs who helped them settle on Grand Rapids, touting the city’s rich history as a furniture industry capital with potential for growth into other sectors as a common-sense move toward larger goals of operational growth. 

Johan Lyreborn is CEO of Configura and says Grand Rapids is his company’s second home.  

 “We’re proud to have a major presence in this city and to be close to the world’s largest office furniture makers as well as manufacturers in other global industries,” he says. “We’ve created a space that’s a pleasure to be in –designed to attract and retain the best talent – a space that’s great for productivity, interaction and relaxation for our employees and guests.”

Led by Sweden native and Vice President Peter Brandinger, Configura opened its Grand Rapids office in 2006 with a total of just five employees -- including Brandinger, three other Swedish staff members, and two new hires they made upon arrival to the states. Operating out of an office located at 100 Grandville Ave. over the past decade, the Grand Rapids team has grown to a staff of 40 employees, prompting company leaders to relocate to a larger space with more potential for expansion last spring in the nearby Blue 35 building on Oakes Street. 

Using its own space-planning software, CET Designer, to design its new 12,000-square-foot space, the project’s lead designer Kendra Steinhaus began the planning process with a few rounds of small, casual employee meetings to give the staff a chance to talk about what kind of space they wanted to see come together. 

“Although we’re the developers of CET Designer, it’s not every day that we use the software ourselves to design and bring an entire space to life. Using CET Designer to create our new office space helped me see how our users experience the software,” says Steinhaus, adding that the software was particularly useful during those small group meetings, or “design charrettes,” because it allowed for real-time collaboration. 

With its recent expansion opening up the final two floors of the Blue35 building, the top floor of the new space is now home to marketing, sales, human resources, and finance teams along with a large communal kitchen and relaxation area. Research and development, along with training and support functions, are housed in the floor below that, and both floors feature big windows with lots of natural light afforded to the open-concept desk space. 

Configura’s new office space also features a rooftop deck on the outside, while its interior includes a large communal area with a full kitchen, soft seating, pool and ping-pong tables, a popcorn machine, darts, and a shuffleboard alongside a “quiet room” available for taking naps and for nursing mothers. 

“People need opportunities to step away from their work,” says Steinhaus. “They need fresh air and private spaces. And they need places to connect with one another we designed the new office to meet these needs.” 

For more information about Configura and its CET Designer software, visit www.configura.com. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor?
Images courtesy of Configura 

Related aritcles: 
Configura: A Swedish Company with a Grand Rapids Home

Swedish tech company Configura expands into GR’s Blue35 building with high-tech digs 

Custer, Inc. opens second tech-focused office on Hall St.

Last week, family-owned, full-service workplace design company Custer, Inc. announced the opening of its second office space at 320 Hall St. SW.

At 55,000 total square feet, the office will serve as the new home for Custer's audio visual technology department and a research and development lab for the AV Team, as well as offer an additional 45,000 square feet of warehouse space for the company's operations and distribution teams.

With multiple conference and collaborative settings, private offices and workstations, and a work cafe, Custer designers also made updates to the surrounding landscapes and parking lots.

Scott Custer, vice president of new ventures and investments at Custer says the new 320 Hall building demonstrates the company's continued growth and supports the expansion of its growing technology department and custom design services.

“We have been working hard all year adding finishing touches to the building and we are excited to share the new space with our employees, clients, and the community," he says.

"We want to thank our customers, employees, partners, and vendors who have all made our expansion possible.”

While Custer's headquarters located at 217 Grandville Ave. will continue to house its design, sales, and administration teams, the new Custer office building expands the company's technology capabilities to include video and audio conferencing, room scheduling, space utilization and analysis, interactive displays and whiteboards, content sharing, video walls, interactive signage, and more.

“At Custer, we make sure our clients across all industries have access to the latest workplace technology that supports collaboration and productivity,” says VP of Technology Trent Gooding. “The new office will allow us to serve even more clients, expand our technology offerings, and bring our technology team together in a collaborative space.”

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor

Images courtesy of Custer, Inc.


New Wikiwiki Poke Shop and Oyster Bar brings unique flavors to quick service concept

Though the core menu feature of the new Wikiwiki Poke Shop is rooted in the popular Hawaiian poke bowl tradition, its owner Keith Allard says the restaurant’s concept aims for more versatility than just one island’s cuisine.


“We started out with whatever proteins we wanted to highlight and then started thinking about what ingredients are available year round and what will be the highest quality, but most sustainable things to get from our suppliers,” says Allard, who is preparing to open for business in a newly renovated space at 1146 Wealthy Street SE.


Meaning “to slice or cut” in Hawaiian, “poke” refers to chunks of raw, marinated fish that can be combined with a whole host of other ingredients, but is typically tossed over rice and topped with veggies and other seasonings or sauces.


At Wikiwiki Poke Shop, customers have the option to build their own bowl with customized proteins and toppings, or order try one of the signature recipes straight off the menu, handcrafted by the Wikiwiki kitchen staff.


“For example, we’d say, ‘what’s our favorite way to eat Tuna?’ and then work backwards from there,” he says. “We want to make sure the fish is always the centerpiece of the meal, but also be sure to compliment it with other flavors, too.”


However, the ease of customization and user-friendliness of the poke bowl is a big part of the allure for Allard, who appreciates the unique opportunity the cuisine affords in providing a quick but healthy option that doesn’t limit those with food allergies and other dietary restrictions the same way other fast-casual foods often do.

"You’re dealing with a product and type of food that’s naturally gluten-free and naturally dairy-free," he says, "There are so with food allergies or intolerances, or who are even just really focused on what goes into their food, in general, as a matter of health and wellness…I think (poke) is just very friendly for those who are conscious about those kinds of things, which is something that inspired me to explore this concept." 


Not that those kinds of foods are hard to find in Eastown. As a resident himself, Allard says he loves how robust the neighborhood’s restaurant scene has become, but saw an opportunity to create the kind of place he’s always wanted to have close to home -- a low-key lunch and dinner spot where quick and speedy service can afford customers more accessibility to the kind of versatile, chef-inspired flavors that can be harder to find among other healthy meal options.

So, when Allard starting hearing about all kinds of quick-stop poke places popping up along the West Coast and then eventually moving inward to cities like Chicago and Madison, Wisc., he thought bringing a similar concept to Grand Rapids seemed like a no-brainer.


“I saw it and it just clicked for me:this is the kind of food I’d love to eat and have available on a regular basis as a quick lunch or just a healthy dinner type option,” he says. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it and eventually grew into a business here.”


A former candidate for Michigan’s House of Representatives back in 2014, Allard left behind his career in politics to chase after a career in cooking full-time, driven ultimately to choose a passion that felt more organic to him, and certainly less complicated.


“I always liked cooking and so aside from my full-time job, at night, I had a second full-time job just cooking in restaurants in Grand Rapids,” says Allard, eventually earning a spot as manager for a few of the venues he worked at, including Fishlads in the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. “I decided I don’t like being part of politics — working in kitchens is a lot less messy — so I decided to take that up as my full-time career.”


While Allard says he wants some of the interior’s aesthetic highlights to remain a surprise for opening day—including the specifications of a 40-foot-long hand-painted mural stretching along the back wall of the restaurant—he did say customers won’t find much reclaimed wood or exposed beams in his new space.


Designed with a clean, modern edge, Allard drew his inspiration from a visit to the Shed Aquarium with his fiancé, where he was struck by a vibrant exhibit featuring a jellyfish backlit by various colored spotlights and black lights.


“Just the way the jellyfish contrasted with the colors and that sense of movement—those pictures are what I showed our interior and graphic designers and said I want to try and capture that,” he says.


Because Wikiwiki is still waiting on final clearances from the Kent County Health Department, he can’t give an exact opening date quite yet, but says he intends to hit the ground running sooner rather than later sometime this fall.


“In colloquial Hawaiian, Wikiwiki means ‘quick’ or ‘speedy,’” Allard says, “so we want our restaurant to be that place for people who want a fast lunch or dinner spot where they don’t have to wait long, or call ahead—we definitely want to make sure to preserve that quickness in our service.”


Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor

Images courtesy of Wikiwiki Poke Shop & Oyster Bar

1777 Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts