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Everything in its Right Place: Economic developers relocate downtown HQ to Ledyard Building

After nearly 20 years at its fourth floor Waters Building office space, the economic development nonprofit The Right Place, Inc. opened its new downtown Grand Rapids headquarters last month in the historic Ledyard Building at 125 Ottawa Avenue NW.
 
"It’s a great historic building," says Tim Mroz, vice president of marketing and communication at The Right Place, Inc.  "The architecture is unique, the core layout is more interesting and it provides for an interesting experience for our business prospects both inside West Michigan and those visiting West Michigan."
 
Though its Waters Building office played a faithful host to The Right Place, Inc., Mroz says for nearly a decade now, they've not been able to centralize its entire 22-member staff and since it was established in 1985, they also have not been able to accommodate the entire Board of Directors around one table – that is, until now.
 
"One of the best things about our new headquarters is that over the years, our organization has continued to grow and for the last eight years of our existence, we’ve actually operated in two separate suites at the Waters Building - our organization was literally split in half," he says. "This new office, for the first time again, brings our entire organization back together…Now for the first time in 30 years we’ll actually be able to hold a board meeting at our facility and be able to seat all members."
 
With a large part of the organization's mission centralized around hosting business prospects from outside of the West Michigan region, Mroz says they wanted the new headquarters to reflect both the history and the vibrant forward motion of the Grand Rapids community. So, with help from architects at Progressive AE, construction crews at Triangle Associates, Inc., state of the art audio-visuals by Custer and furniture provided by Steelcase, Mroz says The Right Place, Inc.'s new 10,280-square-foot office space maintains the building's history while creating a more flexible work environment than ever before.
  
"It’s an interesting mix," he says. "We obviously tried to stay true to some of the historical significance of the space, so much of the existing original trim work and molding and doors remained throughout the remodel. The finished office is an interesting mix of acknowledgment to the original historic elements of the building with a very modern, sleek finish."
 
For more information, visit www.rightplace.org.
 
By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of The Right Place, Inc. 

New DGRI parklet plans give KCAD grad students real-world architectural design experience

Organizers with Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. are working with graduate students from Kendall College of Art and Design's new Master of Architecture program to design a new parklet outside of DGRI's downtown Grand Rapids offices at 21 Pearl Street. 

Tim Kelly is DGRI's planning manager, and he says the idea to use the parklet project as a real world learning experience for KCAD graduate students was the brainchild of DGRI Director Kris Larson and KCAD's Master of Architectures Program Director Brian Craig. 

"It seemed like a natural fit in terms of scale and real world applicability -- something they could design and build that could meet up with their school schedule," Kelly says. 

Students spent the first semester designing the parklet, and will spend next semester working out cost estimations and building details. Kelly says he's met with KCAD's architectural grad students a handful of times throughout the process to give them an overview of the parklet program, and other local architectural firms have come in to help review designs, give feedback on new ideas and answer questions about the process. 

"We try to give them as close to real world experience as we can and treat them like a normal contractor or client," says Kelly. "There’s always that component of wanting to give them the learning experience, too, so we might give a little bit more direction in terms of the process and the best way to go through design or development phases, groups you need to make sure you're talking to." 
 
The DGRI parklet will be different from past parklet projects by Barfly Ventures, both in its modern, almost abstract aesthetics and in regards to its public accessibility. In other words, you don't have to be a patron to use the parklet's seating or space. 

"I think, really, when the parklet program started we really wanted to explore some interesting and creative uses for those spaces that were formerly just for automobiles," Kelly says. "I think this speaks to the intent of the program. We love the parklets Barfly did and they’re pioneers in terms of getting them installed and available for people to use, but the students recognize that there is an opportunity for creativity and making things that are aesthetically pleasing for those walking by and those able to sit in and use them." 

Costs of the parklet and construction details will be hashed out by KCAD students over coming months, with construction slated to start in April near the close of the spring semester, which is also the beginning of the city's build season. 

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images Courtesy of Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc./Kendall College of Art & Design 

Studio Blue brings multi-use work, retail and showroom space to heart of Grand Rapids

Earlier this week, Interphase Interiors announced plans to open a new multi-use space called Studio Blue in the first quarter of 20015 at 35 Oakes Street SW. 

Studio Blue will serve as a meeting and workspace for Interphase Interior employees as well as a showroom for customers and a collaboration space for partner interior designers and architects. 

The 1,600-square-foot space will be managed by developers at Rockford Construction Co. and owned by Haworth, Inc., with interior design by Interphase Interiors and structural design by GMB Architecture. The urban-industrial interior is met with custom woodwork designed around the building's original 1914 tilting, with modern furniture created by Haworth designers from around the globe.

The space will also come equipped with Haworth's collaborative technology solution, work ware, which Interphase spokesperson Adam Russo describes as a "technology solution that allows an unlimited number of users to wirelessly share their computer screens to a monitor."

Additionally, the technology's quad view feature allows up to four users to wirelessly share their screens at the same time. 

"We are excited to be a part of the downtown Grand Rapids creative community," says Interphase Interiors President Randy DeBoer. "With Blue35 being a  joint-venture between Rockford Development and Haworth, Studio Blue will give us a presence in a building with eight floors of Haworth product for showroom purposes plus member access to meting rooms, bluescape technology and shared collaborative workspaces." 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Studio Blue 
 

Big things for Bartertown

Though this week Bartertown Diner may be closed for renovations, there are big things on the horizon for the storefront at 6 Jefferson Avenue and its neighbors at Cult (Cvlt) Pizza, according to owner Ryan Cappeletti.

"…When we first built out Bartertown, we had a very tight budget, which we still have, but it's a little bit looser," he says. "Especially since we started working with Rockford [Construction Co.], who have been really great with putting a lot of work into the building and making the building actually stand out with its exterior." 

Cappeletti says Bartertown is about to sign a 10-year lease with the major construction and development company, including plans for renovations that will create open, interior archways that link Bartertown and Cult Pizza with a new juice bar called The Live Food Bar, tentatively slated for a January opening. 

"We're putting an archway all of the way through so that all three will be individual spaces, but accessible from the inside," Capeletti says. "We're building all of that out so people can come in and flow in and out of each space, but our goal is to have a different feeling in each space but still open to everybody."

Bartertown will also add a patio with seating for about 25 this spring, and Capeletti says they'll go before the Grand Rapids City Commission on Dec. 10 seeking approval for a new liquor license. 

"When we first opened Bartertown, I was hoping to see more young entrepreneurs," says Capeletti, who added that many of his friends are leaving Grand Rapids in favor of cities like Portland and Los Angeles. 

He says what makes Grand Rapids a difficult city for businesses like Bartertown isn't the community of customers, but the community of business owners who can, financially speaking, afford to overcome some of the obstacles Bartertown has faced as if they weren't obstacles at all.  

"Grand Rapids is a difficult city because it's run by people with a lot of money and things are really expensive," he says, comparing the $1,045 Grand Rapids fee for a liquor license with the $400 fee posted to Portland businesses. He says he hopes what they're doing on Jefferson Avenue proves to younger entrepreneurs that you don't have to be wealthy to bring your business to Grand Rapids.

"If you're determined and want to work at something, I'd like to see it as the catalyst for young entrepreneurs that don't have a lot of money to really be able to stay here and if they have a passion, make it happen."

Cappeletti, who opened both of the vegetarian-focused restaurants now operating as collectives, added that if the interior renovations go smoothly this week, Bartertown will re-open to customers on Sunday with a new and improved look. 

"This can still be a place for dreamers and people who want to rebuild neighborhoods," he says. "When we went there four years ago, we rented a space where we had no money and we just signed a lease and built it out from scratch. We really want to convey to people that Bartertown and Cvlt Pizza – we’re still the same, we’re doing the same thing – we don't want to be the best vegetarian restaurant in Grand Rapids, we want to be the best restaurant in Grand Rapids, and we want to do it from the ground up."

In the coming months, Cappeletti says Bartertown will most likely launch a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign to help with fundraising for all of the upgrades ahead, but in the meantime, they have partnered with Cult Pizza to sell $200 punch cards equal in value to 30 meals. 

"It’s really important for us to let our customers know that we’re not big time people in the restaurant business, as far as money goes, so we really just depend on our clientele," he says. "If they want us here, it’s a way to show it."

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Bartertown & Cult Pizza

Cinerrific seeks full-time video editor, looks ahead to future expansion of Heartside studio

Film and video start-up Cinerrific is in the midst of a lot of changes. As it looks ahead to more potential expansion on the 900 total square feet of its Heartside studio at 337 and 341 S. Division Avenue, Cinerrific's owners say they're currently looking to hire a new full-time editor to help their company transition smoothly from the live video streaming they've done in the past to a more lucrative focus – producing high-quality cinematography and color grading to new corporate clients like Mercy Health. 

"The trick is really recognizing who you are as a company and we've really begun, I think, to do well with that," says Nick Davidson, who co-owns Cinerrific alongside business partner and cinematographer Andrew Tingley. "It's really fun and enjoyable to be able to bring that artistic, high-quality, professional cinematography and color grading to our corporate clients. We're doing interview-based work. Just giving it a look and a feel that you may not normally see with your typical talking-head style video." 

Cinerrific initially started back in 2012, but since moving from its first offices on Leonard Street last March, rents the new office space at 337 S. Division Avenue through Dwelling Place. About two months after opening, Tingley and Davidson expanded into the neighboring storefront at 341 S. Division Avenue and renovated the space to include a full color grading and client preview suite with theater seating, as well as grading and projection monitors. 

"We really feel like this is a great part of town," Tingley says. "It's growing. We've got first floor storefronts, as well. We really like the opportunity to grow in Heartside. It's also a very artistic area." 

Tingley and Davidson say there is an opportunity to keep expanding the square footage of Cinerrific's studio, but that is a bridge they're not concerned with crossing quite yet.

"There is another portion below us, so if we were able to keep growing before that space gets rented out, we could possibly expand physically, but we're not going to rush that," Tingley says. "We have to grow the business first."

To learn more about the new video editor position at Cinerrific or to apply for the position, email jobs@cinerrific.com. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Cinerrific, LLC 

Third Coast Development partner appointed to MSCA, optimistic for future development on Michigan St.

Over the next five years, Third Coast Development's Max Benedict says he is projecting double the investment in the Michigan Street Corridor from the $60 million that has already been invested over the past decade. 

"Now we have a second wave of investment coming where there's already proof of concept," Benedict says. "Because people are saying, 'We know this is possible, it's a very viable area, so let's jump in and let's join the party.'"

The last decade of investment is two-thirds of the projected total, he says. Spearheaded by Third Coast Development's Mid Towne Village project in 2003-2004, Benedict says national brands like Biggby Coffee and Subway secured their brick and mortar businesses after watching nearly 50 blighted homes become retail and restaurants in the strip of Michigan Street that is now home to The Omelette Shoppe and El Barrio Mexican Grill, the latter of which is owned by Benedict's partners at Third Coast Development, Brad Rosely and Dave Levitt.

"Those people are viewed as pioneers and now other people are saying, 'Hey, they did it and they're still there,' and now they're finding out about their numbers and finding they're doing really well," he says. 

Benedict was recently appointed to the Michigan Street Corridor Association, which started out as the Michigan Street Business Association when redevelopment efforts initially kicked off. He says he and his partners at Third Coast Development have the unique perspective of being both Michigan Street business owners as well as developers. 

"We really kind of see what would benefit the area from a business owner standpoint and we're able to bounce the ideas off of the other members of what is now the Michigan Street Corridor Association," he says. "We take the business owner standpoint, but then we can also say, 'Well, there's just no chance that any developer could build those really high-flying ideas that a business owner may want, it's not feasible for a developer to do it, but what would be the next-best thing?'"

From where he is standing, the future Michigan Street is the Grand Rapids equivalent to Chicago's Lincoln Park. That is, packed with as many retail storefronts as possible, with residential living complexes on the floors above. 

Benedict says current zoning in the Michigan Street Corridor Plan calls for three-story buildings, with wiggle room for four-stories that plan on making the top floor residential. With recent development along Michigan Street's Medical Mile primarily focused on healthcare facilities and academic institutions, future development aims to complement the existing structure, giving the employees and students who frequent the sidewalks somewhere to live, eat, and shop.

"It's not just our plan, it's what the city and what the neighborhood is asking for and we think it's a great idea to help promote the walkability of the area," Benedict says. "The more retail you have on the street the more you're going to see people walking up and down the street and the more retailers that are going to want to be there. It's a snowball effect once you get that going." 

Visit the Grand Rapids Planning Department and Michigan Street Corridor Association websites to learn more about the Michigan Street Corridor Association and its membership or view corridor plan online.  

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Max Benedict, map courtesy of MSCA 


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Come As You Are: Nov. 14 open house planned for new runaway, homeless youth drop-in center HQ

When the first drop-in center for runaway and homeless teenagers in Grand Rapids holds its first public open house on Nov. 14, director of the new HQ Shandra Steininger says there is one, prevailing message they hope they can convey to any homeless youth that might pass through its doors.  

"It's a space where any young person 14-22 can walk in the door and feel like, 'I'm accepted exactly as I am, regardless of what I've been through or how I self-identify or what I need, I can just be, and let the dust settle in my life for a minute.'" 

HQ is the brainchild of Steininger and Mars Hill Bible Church's Director of Mobilization Andy Soper, whom she connected with while working as supervisor for Arbor Circle's community shelter for homeless youth

On weekdays from 3-6 p.m., HQ is open with the express purpose of helping young people 14-22 connect with the basics and beyond. From housing options and trauma counseling to education and employment, HQ operates around a philosophy that puts a twist on the "three R's": rest, resources and readiness. 

"Resources" refer to the basic needs, like meals and showers, or counseling and therapy through HQ partner Arbor Circle, while "readiness" focuses on GED attainment and job skills. 

And though the trio's first component, rest, may seem the most trivial, Steininger says the lack of a no-strings-attached physical space can sometimes be the biggest barrier of all for youth struggling with (or in the thick of) homelessness.  

Steininger says while she and Soper were still developing the concept for HQ, they went around the country to cities like Seattle and Minneapolis to visit the best drop-in centers and talked to youth living on the streets, both there and at home in Grand Rapids, to better understand what factors create barriers and how they could be as accessible as possible to youth in need.

"There was really a desire to have a place that was just safe, where social workers and people wouldn't make them deal with a three-hour assessment or have this whole list of requirements or things they had to do before they could just get something to eat," she says. "The paperwork and assessments and all of those things can be so overwhelming. Sometimes you just need to talk and need somebody to listen."

The other most difficult part of addressing homeless youth in Grand Rapids is educating the public about the presence of an issue that, in a lot of cases, has no, real physical presence and that crosses more socioeconomic and racial lines than most people think. 

"There's something kind of unique about West Michigan where you just don't see teenagers and younger kids under the bridge or on the corner with a sign," she says. "It is much more hidden. It truly is young people couch surfing or jumping around, or wanting to fit in with or look just like their peers, attend school just like their peers and doing all of that with the fear in the back of their minds saying, 'Where am I going to sleep tonight and is it going to be safe? What am going to have to do or give up in order to have a roof over my head tonight?'"

Nearly 75 volunteers came to help HQ organizers gut the single-story, 93-year-old building at 320 State St. SE until it was just a 5,760-square-foot rectangle ripe for redesign by Pinnacle Construction Group. http://www.askourclients.com/

HQ's drop-in center open house will run from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 14. To learn more about the open house, the square-foot fundraising campaign or any other programming, visit HQ on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images Courtesy of HQ 

'Last Frontier': Avenue for the Arts kicks off crowd-funding campaign for new HQ on South Division

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Avenue for the Arts launched a new crowdfunding campaign through Michigan-based platform Patronicity on Monday that will support new headquarters at 307 S. Division for the community-led organization that has worked to transform the South Division corridor for the past 10 years. 

Though a series of live-work spaces have cropped up along the street's 100- and 200-blocks, the Dwelling Place's Jenn Schaub says the 300-block is "sort of the last frontier" for Avenue for the Arts. 

"We've always said the Avenue of the Arts stretches from Fulton Avenue to Wealthy Street, but most development has happened in the blocks leading up to Williams," she says. "This new 300-block activity we felt really needs to be anchored, so we were looking at different opportunities in that block and this is a space that's in the newest in-fill building along that block." 

Dwelling Place's Neighborhood Revitalization Department worked with the MEDC to secure a $10,000 matching grant, contingent on the crowdfunding goal of $10,000 being met by November 17. The money will be used to cover costs like rent, Internet, utilities, furnishings and other office supplies and technology and will be secured through MEDC's Public Spaces Community Places effort. 

"The MEDC portion of the funding really helps us sort of take it to the next level and have a complete project versus having a partial project where we're going to have different pieces and cobble it together as we go," she says. "It'll really help us make a more profound impact at the beginning."

At a little under 1,000 square feet, the new space will operate as office space for Avenue for the Arts learning lab staff to manage events and meet, as well as a new community meeting place for the variety of public forums and program meetings hosted by the organization each year, which Schaub says range in attendance from six to 45 people. 

It also presents the first-ever opportunity for the organization to showcase its membership, allowing space for a gallery that will have 12 or more show opportunities throughout the course of the year. 

"It isn't a live-work space and it's an interesting space commercially because it has a lot of storefront footage that faces out to the street, so it has a high visibility," she says. "Lots of windows; we're hoping that it will help attract people into the space." 

She says the crowdfunding campaign, in many ways, is the same thing as a National Public Radio pledge drive or other similar user-based nonprofit public services. It is asking the community to support something that offers its population support. It's a reciprocal relationship, she says, and in this case, an "all or nothing campaign." 

"If we don't get the funding we simply won't be using that space and it will probably . . . remain dormant for (an) extended amount of time," she says, adding that this is the first time Avenue for the Arts has ever approached fundraising on such a grand scale. Schaub hopes its decade-long track record of programming committed to revitalizing the South Division corridor speaks to the influence it's had on the Heartside neighborhood and its future commitment to growth. 

"People will be able to walk in off the street and say, 'Hey I have this idea,' so by having this really publically accessible space, people will be able to stop in on a regular basis and on an on-going basis, and we will be able to connect them with the resources already existing on the street," Schaub says. "It will really open doors for connecting people together and that, I think, is going to be one of the most exciting outcomes of having a publically visible space."

To donate and help support Avenue for the Arts, click here or visit www.patronicity.com/project/avenue_for_the_arts_work_space. To keep up with the campaign on social media, search for #ArtMatters

Written by Anya Zentmeyer
Images courtesy of Dwelling Place 

Evergreen Companies' Kris Elliott looks forward to more Heartside redevelopment in 2015

It may be too early for Evergreen Companies owner Kris Elliott to discuss any concrete details on the redevelopment of the two large Heartside neighborhood buildings at 250 and 300 Ionia Ave. SW, but he knows one thing is for certain. 

"Those buildings are in the heart of a very rapidly growing neighborhood and we're looking to increase the volume of that site," says Elliott, who is also owner of Tavern on the Square and The Grand Woods Lounge. "There's just so much going on in that particular neighborhood that we don't want to rule out any options."

Purple East is currently the sole tenant of the 18,000-square-foot building, which Evergreen Companies purchased last spring for $1.5 million, according to city records. He says his company hopes to solidify a large, first floor retailer as soon as this fall, and hopes to begin moving forward on plans to convert the second floor into around 20 new loft-style apartment units. 

He says he has been "devoted to the neighborhood since the early 2000s," with his Lansing-based Evergreen Companies taking part in the redevelopment of 33 Commerce Ave., which converted the old warehouse space into the 34-unit Loose Leaf Lofts apartment complex. 

Elliott says he has been working with architects on new schematics for 250 Ionia Ave. SW that would include the construction of a new, second mixed-use building that would be built over the existing parking lot. He's hoping it will be utilized as "either a mix of for-rent lofts, a boutique hotel and/or Class A office space," he says, adding that Evergreen Companies has not formally submitted any concrete plans to the Grand Rapids Historic Preservation Commission or Planning Commission for approval quite yet.  

He says his company is also looking to complement redevelopment at 250 Ionia Ave. SW with neighboring space at 300 Ionia Ave. SW, located just a bit to the south. 

"It's a two-story, beautiful sandstone, historic brick building and that is currently a Class A office building, and we're looking to find a single tenant for that building to make it into corporate offices," Elliott says. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer 
Renderings courtesy of Evergreen Companies 

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Sissy's Sweet Shoppe opens on Commerce with nostalgic twist

It's been about 10 years since she's lived in Grand Rapids, but Sissy's Sweet Shoppe owner Heather Huttema finally feels at home, again. 

After going to college in New York City and working in Los Angeles for the past few years, Huttema says the decision to open Sissy's Sweet Shoppe was all about timing. 

"Coming back to Grand Rapids every year to visit family, it was always such a treat for me to see how downtown was developing more and more with each visit," she says, adding that she started to think about opening a store a few years back when she was living in Los Angeles, but the timing wasn't right until earlier this summer, when she finally made the leap and opened Sissy's at 38 Commerce Avenue. 

With a tidy 650 square feet of store space, the vaulted ceilings work in favor of the bright, white walls and dark wood shelving to create the kind of nostalgia that Huttema loves and that Sissy's represents. 

"I mainly specialize in hard-to-find retro and nostalgic candies," she says. "I love hearing people come in and reminisce about the memories these things bring back for them." 

Sissy's Sweet Shoppe also carries mainstream candy, a selection of bulk candy, novelty ice creams, old-fashioned soda pops, and popcorn from the Grand Rapids Popcorn Company. Huttema can special-order candy in specific colors for weddings or other events and parties, and does gift baskets as well. 

She says she'll always try to find and order any other uncommon or retro favorites for customers, too. 

"I also love trying to track down people's favorites," she says. "If it's still made, I will try to get it for them." 

She says she chose the storefront at 38 Commerce Avenue after observing the steady foot traffic of young professionals on the street throughout the day and bar-goers at night. Kicking off Sissy's during ArtPrize season has brought her a lot of initial business and she hopes to see that interest continue to swell in her hometown. 

"I have just had such a great experience with this business so far in Grand Rapids," she says. "I am looking forward to watching it grow and potentially starting other ventures here, as well.  I am also so proud to be able to call this place home again after 10 years.  Its been amazing living in the area and seeing how much growth and success the city has had in such a short period of time."

Written by Anya Zentmeyer
Images courtesy of Sissy's Sweet Shoppe 

Former Literary Life owner moves nonprofit headquarters into former bookstore space

In service to its mission of encouraging, promoting, and celebrating the literary endeavors of writers in the Great Lakes region, the Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters has opened its new headquarters at 758 Wealthy Street SE. 

The organization used to rent out the bookstore space at the Creative Youth Center, but GLCL President Roni Devlin says the shared space led to some confusion when it came to distinguishing each organization from the other in terms of their respective missions. 

"We realized fairly quickly that people were confused about who did what," Devlin says. "Creative Youth Center has a very specific mission themselves and we never wanted to detract from that. We wanted people to know that they shared their space with us but it was confusing for people to know what we were trying to do and what our mission was as an organization."

When the CYC moved into its own new building at 413 Eastern Avenue SE, Devlin moved the GLCL back into the 1,000-square-foot Wealthy Street building that used to house her bookstore, Literary Life, before it closed in 2012. 

Devlin says renovations on the space were primarily aesthetic, but the new digs include a small stage with a piano to be used for literary events and gatherings with comfortable tables, chairs, couches and ottomans gathered around a crackling fireplace. 

 "We wanted to have a space where people could come to write, we wanted to be able to hold events that celebrate their efforts, and we wanted to be able to utilize our connection to the literary world to promote their work and endeavors," she says. "We wanted to be able to schedule workshops and classes and contests that would encourage writers that are actively pursing their craft. We get to fulfill all of those three big components of our mission statement to utilize the space."

To learn more about GLCL's mission, events or its new membership program, visit their website at www.readwritelive.org. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer
Images courtesy of Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters

GSM Creative kicks off new 'creative incubator" Studio 342 with open house event

Creative directors and co-founders of film and video production company GSM Creative, Matt Lohr and Steve Wygman think of their new space Studio 342 as a "creative incubator."

Located at 342 Market Avenue, the new studio space is designed to support the production of most visual mediums. The studio space includes a green screen as well as black and white photography backdrops, with plans to install a 20-foot "cyc wall," or a big white infinity wall, that curves at the bottom to meet the floor and create a horizon effect.  

Prior to moving into the new space, GSM Creative had been operating out of a small location in Eastown, and Lohr says they felt nested in with a few other film and video production companies and had limited exposure. However, on the day they planned to sign another three-year lease for an Eastown space, the owner of the property at 342 Market called and asked if they were still interested.

Lohr says the new space is perfect. 

"There's an opportunity in being centrally located, [which] I think has opened up some doors for us in terms of being able to reach out to more of the Grand Rapids community," he says. "I think the thing we're all most excited for is being pretty close to the growing art scene in Grand Rapids. When we got started, we were struggling filmmakers ourselves and we want to create a space that's open to other artists, and not just filmmakers - photographers, contemporary artists, painters and other visual creatives."

He says GSM Creative is seeking to expand and grow into a more comprehensive creative hub, hoping to include web and graphic design as well as contemporary illustration and art. 

"We want to become a company that is a one-stop-shop destination for visual communications," Lohr says. "So, if a client comes to us and they need anything from web to video to illustration to print, we can handle it in-house."

Other creatives can also rent space at Studio 342, and though they still have some work left in getting all of the necessary tools for some of the art forms they hope to eventually fill the building with, they do have functional workspace currently for photography shoots. 

Lohr says they don't have a concrete pricing structure just yet, but they plan on making it as cost-effective and affordable as possible. 

"For us, at this stage, this kind of fell into our laps, pretty much," he says. "(The space) became available at the right time and it's an opportunity for us to grow as well as help other young creatives who have a lot of potential. Not even just young, but creatives in all different stages in their careers. We want to make this space affordable and available to them as often as possible."

Studio 342 will debut with a public open house event today at 3 p.m. Visit the event page on Facebook for more information. 

"This is something we've always talked about doing when we first sat down to talk about starting our own film and production company," Lohr says. "We were thinking it might be 5-10 years down the line, but with this building or space that's opened up to us, we can do it now. There's nothing in our way now as far as building something that can be really strong. So, really, our ambition is the limit."

Written by Anya Zentmeyer
Images courtesy of GSM Creative 

Traverse City marketing agency takes off with second location in Heartside

The new Grand Rapids office for Flight Path Creative’s full-service marketing agency may be small, occupying just 400 square feet of office space on the fifth floor of 25 Ionia Ave., but account director and co-founder Dan Smith says for a second location, it’s the perfect fit. 

“That’s one of the benefits, one of the things we loved about Grand Rapids,” Smith says. “What it’s doing right now is making it very easy for businesses to expand here. With some of these groups like CWD (Real Estate) and some others that are rehabbing some of these buildings, they're making it very easy to make that decision because it's relatively low cost to get in and get going."

He says Flight Path Creative has first right of refusal on three other office spaces that would allow for a 1,000-square-foot expansion as they grow the company's Grand Rapids operations.

Smith founded Flight Path Creative alongside Creative Director Aaron Swanker in 2000, tailoring the company from the start to take a more comprehensive, hybrid approach to the branding, marketing strategy, website design & development, advertising, and logo design services they offer. 

They rely on both traditional and new, interactive strategies for building a client’s brand because being able to do a little bit of everything, Smith says, is how they’ve been able to land accounts like Neurocore and The Stow Company, which both operate under the Grand Rapids-based Windquest Group

“You have to have all of those skill sets available because we know that as a company you can't just do web or traditional media, you need to have a combination in order to be very effective, so we wanted to make sure that we could always offer both,” he says. “We were really fortunate because there are some really solid developers and interactive designers on the team.” 

Including Smith and Swanker, Flight Path Creative’s team is 14 strong. He says as the company begins to find its footing in Grand Rapids, they’re going to start out small, but have intentions to grow into both a larger space and a bigger staff, adding that he and Swanker expect Grand Rapids to be “a good pool of resource for hiring new talent.” 

“One our developers is going to be down there in a very short term and Aaron and I will spend time down there back and forth, but the intention is that over the course of time, we’ll really staff up that location,” he says. “But, we're going to do it with the right resources. We're not just going to open the door and start bringing people in, it's got to happen over time.”

Written by Anya Zentmeyer 
Images courtesy of Flight Path Creative 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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