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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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Propaganda Doughnuts' owner to open late-night ramen bar on Grand Rapids' S. Division

Plans to open Grand Rapids' first ramen noodle bar could soon bring fresh, healthy eats to the city's lunchtime diners and late-night munchers. Torrance O'Haire, chef and owner of Propaganda Doughnuts at 117 S. Division Ave., is advancing the French pastry shop to a planned phase two: The Bandit Queen -- Ramen Shop, Public House, Purveyor of Fine Teas, and Respite for the Modern Day Adventurer.

The Bandit Queen will open next door in 117-B, and will share Propaganda Doughnuts' kitchen, but otherwise the two eateries will be separate entities.

"My joking answer is always 'because I want to eat it,'" says O'Haire with a laugh when asked 'Why ramen noodles?'" "After my years of work in the service industry, you'd work a long day, you don't want to eat junk food, I'd want to get out of the restaurant I've been chained to every day, everything is closed, and you want a place to go to eat what's not garbage food, not bar food, not hot dogs. There must be lots of other people that are the same way."

A just-launched Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign bills the place as a "turn-of-the-century bar, serving not whiskey, but Ramen noodles and other East-Asian street-food specialties not currently represented in West Michigan."

Patrons will belly up to a bar that seats 15 - 16 people, and order from the "bartender" off a menu that includes vegan and gluten free options, with selections that change daily. While the focus is on ramen noodles -- a wheat-flour noodle processed with an alkaline solution to bind the gluten tight and produce what O'Haire dubs a "toothsome quality" -- gluten-free options will include tteok, a Korean gnocchi-style dumpling made from rice flour.  

Guests will choose between a classic ramen broth or vegan broth, and then can top it with fresh, locally sourced ingredients that include fish, herbs, slow-braised pork belly, roast pork shoulder, pickled vegetables, poached eggs, pickled carrots, and pickled watermelon. Because meats and poultry are locally sourced and selected when in-season, just as the vegetables are, all toppings will cycle with the seasons.

"The ramen trend is booming nationally, and, as loathe as I am to latch onto trends and buzzwords, it's fun to bring something to Grand Rapids that we don't already have," O'Haire says.

The Bandit Queen makes its debut with a selection of Asian street food at the Local First Street Party on June 7. The restaurant opens in mid-July.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of The Bandit Queen

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New independent primary care medical offices coming to downtown Grand Rapids, Wyoming

In an age when many primary care physicians are employees of large hospital or healthcare systems, Arashdeep Litt, M.D., will open two medical offices that are independent of a larger corporate structure.

West Michigan Primary Care will operate as patient-centered healthcare offices, which will allow Dr. Litt to spend time listening to her patients and their needs. The offices will be at 233 E. Fulton, Suite 102, in the Grand Rapids Masonic Center, and at 585 36th St., Wyoming.

Litt, a primary care physician in East Lansing, an assistant professor in internal medicine at Michigan State University, and a board certified internal medicine physician, will treat everything a primary care doctor treats, but with an added focus on internal medicine.

Primary care services include treating influenza, colds, viruses, and injuries, giving annual physicals, pelvic exams, and offering acute care same-day appointments. Litt will also treat patients suffering from chronic diseases such as COPD, asthma, and diabetes. Internal medicine services include cardiology, endocrinology, and treating hypertension.

"My goal is that everything is patient-centered and is about the patient," Litt says. "It's important to give the patient the time to talk and tell their problems. Usually, after 60 seconds, the doctor interrupts the patient, and that's not good for patient care. My plan was to open a patient-centered office, and I searched for physicians in Greater Grand Rapids that were practicing on their own and there were only about 10."

In both offices, Litt will share office space with other physicians -- Dr. Madelon Krissoff in Grand Rapids, and Dr. Gursharn Dosanjh in Wyoming -- but will maintain a separate practice, helping to keep costs down.

Both offices open in July. Hours will include some evenings and Saturdays, and will vary depending on the location.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Dr. Arashdeep Litt

UICA gets outfitted for improved gallery space, meeting room, 24/7 KCAD architecture classroom

Since the recent merger with Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD), the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) building at 2 W. Fulton is ready for upgrades to enhance the gallery space, create more meeting space for community groups, and establish a round-the-clock classroom for KCAD's architectural degree program.

A 2,500-square-foot retail space on sidewalk level along Division will soon be classroom and workspace for KCAD's new Masters of Architecture graduate program. Students and instructors will have access to the space 24/7 for collaboration, learning, and creation.

"I think this is exciting because it will be on the street (level)," says Craig Datema, CEO of Triangle Associates, the construction managers for the entire Gallery on Fulton project, which includes the UICA, Gallery Apartments, the attached public parking ramp, and the retail space. "Part of our original goal with the development of UICA was to have that space in continuous use. I think it's going to add activity and vibrancy in the core of the city."

Datema goes on to say that the fourth and fifth floors within the UICA were originally brought to minimum code requirements so they could be used as public gathering spaces. Now an area in the NW corner of the fourth floor will get a new floor and acoustical separation from the residential apartments above it so it can be used as a gallery. And the fifth floor area that overlooks it will become a meeting room. The fifth floor will also get an A.D.A.-compliant restroom.

New lighting will enhance the atmosphere in all the spaces, plus the wireless Internet will be upgraded to enable faster, easier access for communications devices during heavy usage times, like during ArtPrize mobile voting.  

"Triangle Associates has been involved since 2008 and we are very hands-on as part of the development team and for the interior build-out for the UICA space," Datema says. "It's very positive to see them start to bring it to this next step. It's that last little hurdle that we're hopefully getting over."

Construction should be completed by mid-September.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Triangle Associates

New owners for Grand Rapids' historic Pike House plan few changes before moving law offices

Todd Almassian cannot say enough good things about the historic renovation Design Plus completed a few years ago on the circa 1844 Pike House, 230 E. Fulton St., Grand Rapids. In fact, Almassian and his law firm, Keller and Almassian, PLC were so impressed with the renovation, they bought the property complete with furniture and art.

The firm, which purchased the property for $1.25 million, will move its six attorneys and 10 staff to the 17,800-square-foot building by summer 2014, but plans very few changes to the structure.

"The architects at Design Plus (now part of ProgressiveAE) saved that property; it was in disrepair and they returned it to its original beauty and were wonderful stewards of that property," Almassian says. "We hope to be equally good stewards. It was a city treasure to them. I spoke with a few of the architects on the renovation and one of them handed over the history file they had acquired. They treated it like it's a community asset, not just theirs or ours."

The building, once the home of wealthy fur trader Abram W. Pike, has an auditorium in the back of the home that has 20-ft. ceilings. That space will become private offices for the attorneys and is the only major change planned. The front of the house contains five conference room areas that will be used for client meetings.

Almassian says the 60-space parking lot needs a major overhaul. Work will begin on that in the spring.

Keller and Almassian originally had offices in the Trust Building and moved to 2810 East Beltline Lane NE in 2000.

"Candidly, we miss downtown and we've been wanting to get back downtown," Almassian says. "Closer to the courts, closer to our colleagues. I want to spend the rest of my career downtown. We look forward to going out to lunch with colleagues, going to the coffee shops -- out here we're really not part of a community like we can be downtown."

Engineers: Nederveld
Construction: Orion Construction

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Downtown Market's incubator kitchen a space to cook up a food entrepreneur's dream

The incubator kitchen at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market is quiet and immaculately clean. The west-facing window wall, two stories above the ground, is nearly level with the south extremity of Grand Rapids' famous "S" curve on US-131 and floods the space with daylight. This is where the kitchen's first five food entrepreneurs cook up their dreams of owning a food business.

The purpose of the incubator kitchen, 435 Ionia Ave. SW, is more than just providing a licensed commercial kitchen for lease to start-up food businesses. It's also about creating a network of food entrepreneurs, a means for entrepreneurs to become ServSafe certified, a resource for developing a business plan, and a place to learn about sustainability and how to get your food product out to a larger market.

"I'd like to see the entrepreneurs and our food vendors in the Market Hall downstairs share ideas and utilize each other as resources," says Crystal LeCoy, director of the incubator kitchen. "We're hoping that some of them will be able to work together to do wholesale buying (of supplies) from the farmers at our outdoor market, and to collaborate on how to get their product outside the region."

Among the five food producers using the incubator kitchen is Kelly Battjes, owner of Sweet Batches, which makes shortbread cookies. Battjes says in a recent Rapid Growth article that, "The perk for me of the Downtown Market was that it was new and a really cool place. The equipment is state-of-the-art and the Market is helping me market the shortbread."

The kitchen has five distinct areas: pastry, packaging, catering, production, and prep. Each has a selection of equipment for use by that specialty, whether it be ovens, a meat slicer, a veggie slicer, a commercial mixer, stainless steel tables, and more. The hourly rate varies, depending on the type of space needed, whether the entrepreneur is a member of the incubator kitchen programs, a non-member, or qualifies for a scholarship.

The kitchen also offers secure dry and cold storage rental space. Free lockers are available for daily use.

The food entrepreneurs will sell their products at the market's Winter Wonderland event, 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., Dec. 11.

For more information, click here, or drop in any Weds. between 10 a.m. and noon to talk with Crystal LeCoy.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Hairdresser-turned-baker produces buttery shortbread cookies with a sweet twist

When former hairdresser Kelly Battjes decided to create a salted espresso chocolate shortbread cookie last Christmas using the coffee beans her husband Dave roasted at Madcap Coffee, she had no idea it would be the start of a new business.

Battjes (pronounced "batches") is the owner of Sweet Batches, a small Grand Rapids-based baking company that specializes in shortbread cookies. Although Battjes also developed a traditional, butter shortbread cookie, it's the salted espresso chocolate version that caught the attention of Dave Battjes' coworkers at Madcap when he brought the cookies in as gifts.

Madcap's owners asked Kelly to sell the delectable bites at the coffee shop, which meant she needed to make them in a commercially licensed kitchen. She turned to the incubator kitchen at the Downtown Market for help, and bakes small batches there twice a week to make sure her products are the freshest they can be.

Battjes began baking after moving to Seattle a few years ago. She was a hairdresser, but took a job at Cinnamon Works, a vegan bakery in the Pike Place Market. She loved it. She, Dave, and their young son returned to West Michigan a year ago and the Christmas gift idea was born.

"The perk for me of the Downtown Market was that it was new and a really cool place," Battjes says. "The equipment is state-of-the-art and the market is helping me market the shortbread."

She's also enthused about the Mooville butter she uses in the cookies, which has a higher fat content than other butters and makes the cookies rich and flavorful.

Besides the traditional shortbread and the salted espresso chocolate flavors, Battjes produces a specialty flavor each month: November is Pumpkin Spice and December is Candy Cane. The cookies are available at Madcap Coffee and on Battjes' Sweet Batches Etsy shop here.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy of Sweet Batches

From years of shared workspaces to a place of its very own -- Clark Communications makes the leap

For most of its nine years, Clark Communications has shared workspaces with other creatives in order to minimize financial strain and maximize collaboration with like-minded individuals. And now, banking on the growth of the communications firm and the addition of a second employee, owner Craig Clark is ready to move the company out on its own to the ultra-modern 38 Commerce.

Clark began the company in his Rockford home, then relocated to a downtown Rockford space. After about a year, he saw the need to be in Grand Rapids, so he set up shop at 25 Ottawa Ave. SW with Mark Bird of Bird Design and David Maxam of Maxam Architecture. Two years later he moved to the MoBevy co-working space with some half-dozen other companies, and has been at 131 S. Division for the past two years with Media Place Partners.

"My firm handled PR for Locus Development when they were constructing 38," Clark says. "I joked with John (Green) and Andy (Winkel) that I'd love to have an office there, but I never thought it would happen. This is sort of a dream for me."

Some 1,100 square feet of raw concrete and unfinished walls on the fourth floor overlooks Weston St. and Grand Rapids' north skyline. It will soon be a welcoming environment of two enclosed offices, open workstations, casual lounge areas, and a kitchenette.

"For the first time ever, I'll have my own office," Clark says with a laugh after recalling that his first office was next to his family's living room. Then he jokes, "I'm going to bring in my drum set and dartboard -- it will be the dorm room I've never had."

While the new space will have a fresh, clean aesthetic, Clark says he'll reference the historic buildings he's worked in to try to harness their warmth and appeal.

Mark Schaafsma Design Build has construction underway. Clark hopes to move in by the end of the year.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Clark Communications

Emerging creatives infuse former MXTP, Skelletones venue with new vibe, video production studio

A renovated space at 133 S. Division Ave. rocked out with music for all ages when its walls pulsated with the driving beat of live music as the former Skelletones concert venue, and later MXTP.

Creative juices continue to flow throughout the space, albeit with a more subtle beat, now that The Forest creative agency moved its primary players into the main floor, and photographer Craig van der Lende established a video production studio upstairs.

"We're where the mosh pits used to be," says Brandon Satterlee with a laugh. "I used to go to shows here years ago."

Satterlee's company, The Forest, has produced imaginative branding and marketing campaigns for the past three years, operating first from his Grand Rapids home, then from a small studio at 820 Monroe North. He says his unique approach of creating specific teams of freelance creatives -- groups of five to 15 copywriters, brand strategists, user experience specialists, video producers, and others -- expanded the client list and the vision to the point where the company has hired its first employees: a studio manager, a senior art director, and a designer.

That expansion meant a larger collaboration space, since the original model of hiring gifted freelancers for projects continues. Satterlee says the 2,000 square feet of open office is just what he wanted. Shared access to van der Lende's large video production studio upstairs is a bonus.

"We build teams around projects and projects around problems, so we're always looking for new and interesting creatives we want to work with," Satterlee says. "This is our first time having a really public-facing location, and we have a production video studio when we need it."

Satterlee says The Forest continues to garner local and national clients, including Yamaha Motor Corporation U.S.A.'s apparel department, which asked The Forest to collaborate on its Star Fall '13 collection.

The Forest plans an open house for Fri., November 1, from 5:30 to 8:30 PM.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy of The Forest

Monument Park well on the way to becoming a welcoming respite in the heart of Grand Rapids

One would think that the renovation of a tiny triangle of greenspace would be a breeze, but the redesign and rebuilding of Monument Park in downtown Grand Rapids has been a multi-year process, involving planners, citizens, military veterans, landscape designers, utility companies, and scads of others.

Monument Park, bordered by Monroe Center Avenue NW pedestrian walkway, Fulton St., and Division Avenue, is home to a 25-ft.-high monument honoring Civil War veterans. The park has changed shape and size over the decades, and, off and on, has been a greenspace with no trees and a greenspace with trees. In recent years, a retaining wall created a raised barrier, which made it difficult for pedestrians to step up into the park and impossible for people in wheelchairs or on bikes to access it.

Tree removal, leveling the park to sidewalk level, and extensively rebuilding the underground utilities and the outdated coal storage areaways that run under the park is complete, and the new base for the monument and fountain is in place.

Plans to relocate the monument and the fountain that surrounds it to a central viewing area in the park will make the monument more visible and give it the place of honor it needs, says Jay Steffen, assistant planning director. Thirteen new trees, Emerald Sunshine Elms and Spring Flurry Serviceberry (tree form), will offer shade and accentuate the monument and walkways.

"The new design makes [the park] universally accessible," Steffen says. "Walkways will go through the park and up to the monument; there will be a lawn area and other landscaping, bike racks, and two historical benches that will be donated by Bruce Butgereit and History Remembered, Inc. Bruce Butgereit is the person who raised all the funds in the early 2000s to renovate the monument."

Steffen says the redesign also provides for a café space outside the Kendall Building and other buildings that border the park to the north.

"It's really kind of cool when you think about people milling about Rosa Parks Circle on the west end of Monroe Center," Steffen says, "and that this will be an anchor on the east end. It will be more inviting to people to spend time there, and yet we're not losing sight of the importance of the monument."

Project completion is set for December 15, 2013.
Companies involved in the project: Katerburg VerHage, FTC&H, Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority, Geotech, Inc., OCBA.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Renderings courtesy of the City of Grand Rapids Planning Department.
Historic photos from the Grand Rapids Public Library

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Kendall College plans to further its presence down South Division with two new studios

Kendall College of Art and Design and Ferris State University recently shook up the downtown development scene with the announcement that they would be merging with Grand Rapids' home of contemporary art, UICA. But without missing a beat, Kendall has additional plans to remake the corner of South Division and Fulton, thus extending its presence further down Division Avenue.

Part of the UICA complex at the corner includes two retail spaces facing South Division. Other than using it as a raw ArtPrize venue and some classroom space, UICA has so far been unsuccesful in finding retail tenants since they moved into the Gallery on Fulton complex in 2010.

But in an interview with David Rosen, President of Kendall College, he outlined plans to take over the two retail bays and outfit them for studios for two new programs for Kendall: the Masters of Architecture program that is scheduled to begin in fall 2014, and their newly accredited apparel and fashion programs. The goal is to have the studios open to the outside world, both letting in the light and energy of downtown as well as adding street-level vibrancy to a corner that has seen fits and starts of revitalization over the years.

Those fits and starts are all about to drastically change as these two studios join the growing list of projects on that corner. 616Development is nearing completion of its remake of the long vacant Kendall Building into a mixed use complex that will include apartments, its new company headquarters, and a new ground floor tenant to be announced soon. The complete revamp of Monument Park is also well underway, with plans that include two new streetscape plazas, movement of the monument to a more prominent spot on the corner, new trees, and brick pavers that will better tie the park into Monroe Center to the West.

Also on the corner is the revitalization of the "Old JA Building" into new offices for Kalamazoo-based architecture firm TowerPinkster.

With the addition of the two new retail studio spaces, Kendall will have effectively stretched its Division presence from Lyon Street at the north all the way to south of Fulton Street. As David Rosen, a big fan of "urban placemaking" remarked, the "goal is to make downtown Grand Rapids an increasingly vibrant place for young and old creatives alike. We want to give our Kendall College graduates the idea that they can indeed stay in Grand Rapids after they graduate, by making downtown a vibrant center of arts and culture."

Writer: Jeff Hill
Photography: Jeff Hill

Re-imagining Grand Rapids' busiest corner: TowerPinkster injects new life in derelict JA Building

The iconic building with the curved corner façade at the intersection of Fulton Street and Division Avenue is, literally, the center of Grand Rapids -- the place where the NE, NW, SE, and SW quadrants shake hands. As of January 2013, 40,000 cars passed through the intersection daily.

One building facing that corner, known as "the Junior Achievement Building" or the "JA Building" and now called 4 E. Fulton, is no longer the derelict eyesore it has been for years, but is undergoing a dramatic transformation of its entryway and second floor by its new second-floor tenant, TowerPinkster Architects & Engineers.

The building, owned by Locus Development, has a historic designation, so façade repairs had to conform to historic requirements. But inside, the 7,500-square-foot second floor has joined the 21st Century with a sleek energy-efficient new interior for 40 of TowerPinkster's employees; 25 will move in sometime in October, leaving room for future growth.

"The elevator core is wood reclaimed from Asian shipping crates, and we designed the entry with the kitchen space forward to act as a lobby/welcome area," says Matt Slagle, design architect. "We saved the glass from the building's 1937-era windows; we crushed them and used them as aggregate in the countertop in the front of the space. Throughout, there are Interlam 3-D wall panels that look like crinkled paper to give dimension to the space. The countertops in the kitchen and bathroom are recycled aluminum shavings in a resin base."

Other features include:
•    Roller window shades attached to solar sensors for auto control of daylight levels.
•    Open workspaces for collaboration.
•    Height-adjustable work surfaces so employees can sit or stand.
•    Soft seating areas where employees can work away from their desks.
•    Polycom video conferencing system with a 70-in screen.
•    Private offices.
•    A 1,500-square-foot event space available to the community.

The lobby will be open during ArtPrize and will exhibit the works of three artists.

Click here to view an animated video of the interior.

Source: Matt Slagle, TowerPinkster; Chris Knape, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Popular East Lansing deli gets a slice of Grand Rapids' entertainment district with first GR store

Menna's Joint, an East Lansing-based deli known for its youthful vibe and giant "dub" burrito-style sandwiches, hopes to get a healthy slice of the restaurant crowd in Grand Rapids' entertainment district with the opening of its first Grand Rapids location at 44 Ionia Ave. SW.

The new store, kitty-corner from HopCat and next to McFadden's, will offer food service and local delivery into the wee hours -- a trend that has helped make its four existing stores successful, says Hank Andries, company owner with Gary Adam.

"We're typically open until 4 a.m. on weekends and will deliver to 3 a.m. or 4 a.m.," Andries says. "We'll be offering delivery, sit-down, and takeout. We'll deliver to the downtown GVSU campus and student housing, and offer our products to the growing business environment downtown."

Menna's Joint will offer is nearly-famous dub sandwiches -- a grilled tortilla overloaded with meat, veggies, and cheeses and wrapped up like a burrito -- but without beans or rice. The menu touts nearly two dozen dubs, including mouthwatering spicy-hot dubs, tasty veggie dubs, and protein-loaded breakfast dubs, as well as salads, soups, and Momma Menna's delectable chocolate chip cookies.

Andries says the decision to open Menna's Joint locations in college towns near the campuses (MSU, Western Michigan, GVSU, Central Michigan University) fits with the eatery's youthful, student-oriented brand, which he says attracts the young and the young-at-heart.

The Grand Rapids location will open mid-October.

Source: Hank Andries, Menna's Joint
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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