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Voilá Café cooks up new style Euro cuisine in EGR

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

With blonde woods, black tabletops, a fireplace, and a flood of natural light through the east windows, East Grand Rapids' new Voilá Café is an urban chic setting for the light fare and specialty pastries its manager calls "nouveau Euro cuisine." The restaurant opened in the former Kabookies space at 2232 Wealthy SE last June and has already attracted a following of regulars.

"Most of the people who come to visit us for breakfast and lunch come back for dinner, even if they don't live in the area," says Marisol Green, general manager. "We have people who are jogging by and stop in for breakfast, and we have moms whose small children like our grilled cheese sandwiches."

The dinner menu has an unusual twist: all dinners are offered as three-course meals with salads, breads, a choice of four entrees, dessert, and espresso—all for $11 or $15, depending on the entrée selected.

Pastry chef Denise Mayo bakes up her own creations, including pecan rolls, cinnamon rolls, and raspberry Danish, plus a plethora of distinct desserts, such as, Decadent Layered Tortes.

Beginning this fall, Voilá will feature live R&B or jazz one night a week.

"We felt that East Grand Rapids is such a growing community, and I think that it's a good place for something new, something a little different," Green says. "It's a place where our café can really flourish."

Source: Marisol Green, Voilá Café

Photograph by Brian Kelly - All Rights Reserved

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

"Unbuildable" EGR lakeside transformed with LEED-certified floating house

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

They said it couldn't be done. That's why an acre-plus of frontage on the south shore of Fisk Lake remained vacant and "unbuildable." But all that changed when architect Dale Ferriby and his wife, Chris, decided that's where they'd put their new home.

The problem? Too much water, too little soil. So, Ferriby designed the 2,200-square-foot structure to float on a foundation of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) Geofoam blocks.

"We saved $40,000 by using the EPS blocks instead of reinforced concrete piers," says builder Rich Bloem, True North Homes.

Construction generated just six bags of scrap because the walls and roof are structural insulated building panels. And Ferriby designed the house so the trees on the thickly wooded lot remained intact; the house sits among them, the closest just a foot from the garage.

Three glass walls provide unobstructed views of the lake. In summer, the owners can enjoy the soothing lap of the waves because there's no noisy air conditioner to drown out the sound. Radiant heating coils under the floors will contain cool water in the summer, and airflow between the patio doors and the skylights will pull cooled air off the lake.

"The forethought in the design to be able to do this is pretty amazing," Bloem says. " The utilization of space and the natural light coming into the home is just incredible."

The floating theme is carried throughout the home: both the 12-foot-long kitchen island and the bed in the master bedroom are built on pedestals and appear to float in midair.

Bloem expects the home will receive Silver LEED certification.

Source: Rich Bloem, True North Homes; Debbie Schuhman, Coldwell Banker

Photo by Brian Kelly - All Rights Reserved

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

East Grand Rapids boutique marks inaugural year with significant growth

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

In tough economic times when many boutiques go out of business in their first year, Smooch Beauty Boutique is celebrating success. Next month, owner Mia Walker will celebrate her first year in business, and a remarkable 62 percent increase in staff from five employees to eight.

The shop specializes in exclusive cosmetics and skin care brands—Stila, Bare Escentuals, NARS, and others—normally found only in places like New York or Chicago. After working 18 years for cosmetics giant Estée Lauder, Walker decided to stop traveling and opened the 1,200-square-foot store in East Grand Rapids' Gaslight Village.

"I've always had a passion for cosmetics," Walker says. "I told my husband, 'there's such a miss in the Grand Rapids area for these very exclusive products.' I saw the [Gaslight Village] development happening and thought it was the very right location for this type of shop. I had a lot of connections in the industry, and always wanted to own my own business and went for it."

The boutique is a place where, as she says, "a girl can be a girl," with a New York-esque décor with lots of white and a touch of pink. Services include makeup application and lessons, manicures, pedicures, waxing, and facials, all performed in stations designed with privacy in mind.

"The community has been very supportive," Walker says. "I feel we have a huge potential for growth in the next year."

Source: Mia Walker, Smooch Beauty Boutique

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Grand Gallery soon to mark one year in EGR’s Gaslight Village

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

This September, Grand Gallery will mark its one-year anniversary as one of the first shops to open in East Grand Rapids’ new Gaslight Village development. Owners Don and Chris Prys opened the gallery at 2237 Wealthy Street SE immediately after seeing the space, even though the building was still under construction.

Gaslight Village is built on the site of the former Jacobson’s Department Store. It takes its name from the traditional name of East Grand Rapids’ downtown business district.

“I’m pleased with the amount of business we’re getting,” says Don Prys. “We love the village. It’s the only walking village in the Grand Rapids area, so it’s real conducive to a nice environment for business.”

The gallery offers contemporary landscapes, sculpture, jewelry, and more.

“We show over 40 artists, most of them are from all over Michigan, including several West Michigan artists,” says Chris Prys, manager of the gallery, which is close enough to home so she can walk or bike to work.

“There is no other original art gallery in Gaslight Village,” Chris says. “We’re introducing good, beautiful art to East Grand Rapids.”

The Wealthy Street location is the Prys’s third Grand Gallery, joining sister galleries in Ada and in the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, Grand Rapids.

Source: Don and Chris Prys, Grand Gallery

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Ford International Airport begins $115M parking revamp

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

The $115 million parking project at Grand Rapids-based Gerald R. Ford International Airport won't officially break ground until September, but crews are already moving the utilities in anticipation of relocating roadways. Beginning the first week of August, several sections of existing short- and long-term parking and rental car areas will be closed and relocated to make room for a new four-story, 4,900-space enclosed parking structure directly across from the terminal entrances.

Phil Johnson, deputy aeronautics director, expects the parking structure alone will run about $70 million.

"Two sky bridges will connect the parking structure to the terminal," Johnson says. "All of the roadways that come into the airport will change to accommodate the various decision points: rental car return, long-term parking, and short-term parking."

Plans include a 600-foot-long canopy between the parking structure and the terminal, a gateway plaza, elevators and escalators from the upper parking levels to the terminal's main level, and a scrolling message board displaying messages of welcome for specific groups or security messages when needed.

A three-story "welcome wall" on the outside of the parking structure will greet arrivals.

"You'll see it as you walk out of the terminal," Johnson says. "It'll have pictures about west Michigan, depicting the lakeshore, downtown Grand Rapids, Meijer gardens, things like that."

This week the airport launched a communication plan called Ramp Up!, which will assist drivers by announcing updates and information throughout the course of the project. Drivers can get the information at www.flygrandrapids.org, airport radio AM 1610, and recorded messages at 616-233-RAMP. October 2009 is the expected completion date.

Source: Phil Johnson, Gerald R. Ford International Airport; Casee N. Willoughby, Seyferth Spaulding Tennyson Inc.

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Blodgett Hospital unveils $98M expansion plan

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Blodgett Hospital will sport more than just a pretty new face when a planned $98 million overhaul is finished three years from now. Transformation of the 164-bed facility includes renovating all patient rooms into private rooms, adding 120 rooms in a new five-story, 125,000-square-foot surgical building, and a multitude of other changes.

The plan, announced Tuesday, expands patient services with the addition of a heart catheterization lab, upgrades to medical and surgical intensive care units, and renovations to six nursing units.

"We want to underscore our commitment to keep Blodgett and its legacy of quality care here in this community," says Matt Van Vranken, Executive Vice President, Spectrum Health System/President, Spectrum Health Grand Rapids. "Blodgett services will be complementary to those offered at Butterworth and, combined, will provide the broadest scope of clinical services in the area.”

Other details announced include:

  • Fourteen state-of-the-art operating rooms.
  • Some existing inpatient rooms will be converted to 75,000 square feet of future office and multi-purpose space.
  • New electrical, HVAC, sprinkling systems, and roof.
  • Renovation and repair of the existing parking structure.
  • Renovation of the kitchen, cafeteria, entrance, lobby, and public meeting spaces.

In addition to the building expansion, Spectrum Health named Jim Wilson president of Blodgett Hospital. Wilson previously served as vice president of clinical operations for Spectrum Health.

Source: Spectrum Health

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Sustainable business academy prepares students for green economy

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Leaders at Aquinas College’s Center for Sustainability and Calvin College’s Computer Science Program have developed an innovative curriculum for Comprenew Academy, an after school sustainable business and electronics recycling program for inner city high school youth. 150 teens took the semester-long course last year. This year the Academy becomes a two-year program and only 42 teens will be accepted.

Grand Rapids-based Comprenew Environmental started the Academy in spring 2006. Students recycled electronics from individuals and corporations, including Haworth, Cascade Engineering, and Davenport University. Parts were harvested, laptops rebuilt and resold at Comprenew’s store, and the rest broken down and recycled.

“Comprenew Academy is focused on sustainable business, information technology, job training, and learning how to participate in a workforce,” said Lynell Shooks, director of business development.

Aquinas’ sustainability curriculum will include instruction on energy and material processes, the triple bottom line (profits, planet, people), natural recycling processes, energy issues, and closed loop cycles.

The computer science curriculum from Calvin includes the basics of computer recycling, as well as instruction on Internet services, computer upgrades, and basic computer architecture—networking, creating and managing databases, basic web development, and programming.

The students get “paid” for the program in points which can be redeemed to buy things like laptops and desktops—which they may have rebuilt themselves—or components.

“You can be in business, or you can be in the business of changing a community,” Shooks said. “When students come out of the program they have knowledge and skills that impact their lives.”

Source: Lynell Shooks, Comprenew Environmental

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Deborah Johnson Wood is Development News Editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Energy, historic tax credits focus of 2nd annual GR property owners workshop

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

State and federal historic preservation tax credits, boosting a building’s energy efficiency, federal energy tax credits, and general do-it-yourself repairs are the topics of an upcoming workshop sponsored by the City of Grand Rapids Planning Department and the Historic Preservation Commission.

The so-called Preservation Workshop on House Remedies and Tax Incentives is for residential and commercial property owners, whether or not their property is an historic property.

"This past year everybody’s concern has been the rising price of gas for heating," said City Historic Preservation Specialist Rhonda Saunders. "This workshop is focused on getting people the knowledge and tools to help them make their homes and businesses more energy efficient."

  • Robbert McKay from the State Historic Preservation Office will explain the historic tax credits for improving historic properties.
  • Bob Fegan from DTE Energy will present ideas for making a building more energy efficient and will discuss the tax credits provided by the Federal Energy Policy Act of 2005.
  • Brian Black will conduct a workshop on do-it-yourself repairs.

"The things participants learn in the energy efficiency portion and the things they learn in the do-it-yourself portion are all things they could use to apply for the tax credits," Saunders said. "This is an educational tool to help people find these avenues."

Although the presentations will be conducted simultaneously, participants can learn from them all; each presentation will be videotaped and converted to DVD for distribution through the Grand Rapids Public Library and the neighborhood associations.

This free workshop is scheduled for 6:30 to 9:30 PM on Monday, May 21, at Central High School, 421 Fountain Street SE.

Source: Rhonda Saunders, City of Grand Rapids Planning Department

Deborah Johnson Wood is Development News Editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

State and commercial realtors form unprecedented partnership

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

On April 25, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced the nation's first agreement between a state and a commercial realtors association. The announcement came from MEDC CEO James C. Epolito during his speech at "Synergy," the sixth annual statewide commercial real estate conference in East Lansing.

For the first time, the 650-member Commercial Board of Realtors (CBOR), the 80 local economic development corporations (EDC), and the MEDC will use the same online resource, CPIX (Commercial Property Information Exchange), to advertise Michigan's commercial properties.

"CPIX is a statewide commercial property database designed by Michigan commercial realtors for Michigan commercial realtors," said Nancy McKellar, executive VP of CBOR. "A lot of marketing web sites own the data once you give to them and they can do anything they want to with it. They can even stop you from using photos you've sent to them."

With CPIX, the brokers can advertise their properties and control the information, the EDCs can advertise EDC or government properties, and both groups can work together to find buyers. Property information must be verified every 30 days (minimum) or that property becomes non-visible after 60 days.

The database is linked to about 100 web sites that have access to national data.

CPIX was created in 2003 with no members and no properties. Today, 2,400 people are inputting properties and information for approximately 20,000 listings, and the database receives 38,000 hits a day, McKellar said. When the EDCs are brought online over the next few months, McKellar expects the number of properties to double.

"The goal is to have every single commercial property in the state on this database," McKellar said.

Source: Nancy McKellar, Commercial Board of Realtors

Deborah Johnson Wood is the Development News Editor for Rapid Growth. She can be reached at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Voters to decide fate of $2.2M for transit improvements

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

On May 8, voters in East Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids, Grandville, Kentwood, Walker and Wyoming will decide if they want a 0.17 millage increase to implement Phase 2 of an improvement and expansion plan for The Rapid public transit services.

The proposed Phase 2 improvements include:

  • New regional transfer points and increased connectivity.
  • New/extended areas of service.
  • Increased weekday frequency (15 minutes) on five main routes during peak hours.
  • Improved Saturday frequency on select routes.
  • Additional weekday evening service and additional Sunday service on select routes.
  • New route to northwest Grand Rapids and Union High School

In 2006, The Rapid's ridership increased by one million rides—five times the national average.

"I think we're at a critical turning point," said David Bulkowski, campaign co-chair for Friends of Transit. "Back in the 20s and 30s mass transit was seen as a way to get around, and cars were a luxury. From the 40s to now transit was a social service. Now we're making the switch back to transit being a great transportation option."

Bulkowski cites the route between Grand Valley State University's Allendale Campus and downtown Grand Rapids as a case in point. Many times during the day there's not an available seat on the bus, Bulkowski said. Students see it as a convenient option to get to work, school, and home, creating a generation of riders who want the availability of that piece of urban infrastructure.

Recently raised issues of the adverse environmental impact of pollutants from buses may or may not be moot. A study done in 2000 indicated that increased pollution from buses (versus cars) could be reduced if the buses used low-sulphur diesel.

"The Rapid's been using low-sulphur diesel for 18 months, which reduced certain pollutants by 90 percent," Bulkowski said. "Plus with the addition of the new hybrid buses, we'll be able to determine if it makes sense environmentally and financially."

The ballot proposal is for a total of 1.12 mills—the 0.17 increase and a renewal of the existing 0.95 mills. If passed, an owner of a $100,000 home will pay $56 a year, an $8.50 increase over the current $47.50.

Source: David Bulkowski, Friends of Transit

Deborah Johnson Wood is the Development News Editor for Rapid Growth. She can be reached at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

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GR designer wins regional LEED design competition

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

The US Green Building Council’s NaturalTalent Design Competition was daunting: re-design an existing 40,000-square-foot manufacturing facility into a LEED-qualified space and do it in 10 weeks. The winner, Ryan Garone of Design Plus, wasn’t deterred. He out-designed a total of 71 competitors that included 17 teams of architectural design students from 7 different colleges as well as one designer from another firm

The site selected for the re-design is Comprenew Environmental, 629 Ionia SW, a non-profit electronics recycling and resale center. Last year the company recycled nearly one million pounds of discarded electronics. This year they'll double that.

“The competitors looked at the building from the perspective of the owner and designed a green building with a very small environmental footprint,” said Sam Pobst, president of the West Michigan Chapter of the USGBC.

Water conservation, energy consumption, use of recycled and recyclable materials, indoor environmental quality, and land use had to be addressed. Some of the energy-saving features Garone used are:

  • A 6,800-square-foot double wall glazing system with building-integrated photovoltaic cells that can produce 100 kW of energy
  • Solar glass chimney "heat sinks" that work in conjunction with a modular floor to pull fresh air through the building
  • Eutectic salt tubes sunshade system; a salt solution that easily melts and freezes. Each freeze cycle emits one million BTUs of free heat that can be captured to warm the building.

The design had to provide: 30,000 square feet for manufacturing, deconstruction, storage, and recycling; 20 offices and a Board Room; two training rooms; locker rooms, showers, outdoor gathering space, and 4,000-square-feet of retail space.

"A lot of work went into it," Garone said. "I spent from January to March working on it after work and eight hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays."

Garone won $1,000 and an all-expenses-paid trip to the USGBC’s upcoming Green Building Conference in Chicago, where his design will be entered in the national competition.

Comprenew Environmental teaches disadvantaged inner city high school students how to run a sustainable business. Currently the program has about 40 students who harvest and reuse electronics parts, rebuild laptops, and recycle the unusable materials.

“This competition gives Comprenew Environmental the material to do a capital campaign for the renovation,” Sam Pobst said.

Teams from Michigan Technological University and Andrews University took second and third place, respectively.

Source: Sam Pobst, USGBC; Lynell Shooks, Comprenew Environmental; Ryan Garone, Design Plus

Deborah Johnson Wood is Development News Editor for Rapid Growth. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

115-plus visionaries participate in 2nd WM regional design charrettes

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

In 2005, the first West Michigan Regional Urban Design charrettes sponsored by the West Michigan Strategic Alliance (WMSA) and the American Institute of Architects Grand Valley Chapter tackled urban and environmental challenges in the greater Grand Rapids, Holland, and Muskegon Heights/Norton Shores area.

Those charrettes produced more than plans and designs. They generated, to-date, nearly $7 million dollars in funding for the projects proposed by the charrettes.

More than 115 architects, planners, engineers, residents, elected officials, and other members of the WMSA's Green Infrastructure Leadership Council gathered earlier this month to develop possible solutions for several more projects: the Holland Gateway at 8th Avenue and Chicago Drive, the proposed Bus Rapid Transit route on Division Avenue between 36th and 60th streets in Grand Rapids, and the expected growth around Michigan's Adventure in Muskegon County.

"Charrettes normally cost tens of thousands of dollars," said Katie Kahl, WMSA's Green Infrastructure project manager. "All the professional services we got were pro bono."

The sessions produced a portfolio of ideas that contained drawings, a PowerPoint presentation of each plan, and aerial photos of the areas involved—all the tools needed to pursue funding. Community involvement and implementation are needed, as well.

"It's so exciting to see all the planners and designers and people interested in keeping the environment healthy all in the same room together," Kahl said. "That is a natural partnership."

The WMSA plans to do 45 charrettes in the next five years.

More information can be found at the WMSA web site at www.wm-alliance.org.

Source: Katie Kahl, West Michigan Strategic Alliance

Deborah Johnson Wood is the Development News Editor for Rapid Growth. She can be reached at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Updated design, and new city boundaries, for $35M Calvin fieldhouse

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

A planned enclosed tennis and track facility that was to be attached to the northeast side of Calvin College's gymnasium now will be moved. The new design places the 61,000-square-foot addition—part of the $35 million Spoelhof Fieldhouse project—on the northwest side of the gym. And that places 20 percent of it within the East Grand Rapids city limits.

No problem. Except that the rest of the nearly 400,000-square-foot sports and recreation complex is in Grand Rapids.

The solution? A land swap between the two municipalities.

"As we reviewed that area for fire safety access and visual and aesthetic impact on the college, we felt it would be prudent to move the indoor track and tennis facility," said Henry DeVries, vice president for administration and finance information services at Calvin. "Because we have to have room for four tennis courts and a 200-meter indoor track, the length and width of the building are fixed."

Having one building in two cities raises some issues.

"If there's a fire, who responds, East Grand Rapids or Grand Rapids?" DeVries asked.

Other practical considerations include zoning issues and jurisdiction over building permits and approvals.

The Grand Rapids Planning Commission has approved the new design.

The two municipalities are exploring an agreement to move the boundaries of both cities: Grand Rapids would acquire the tennis and track facility and adjacent north parking lot, and East Grand Rapids would acquire an undeveloped area of equivalent size.

DeVries did not know when the transaction will be completed.

The college hopes to break ground on the fieldhouse in May. The complex includes a 5,000-seat arena, a 50-meter pool, a health center, aquatic center, and a student/faculty fitness center.

Source: Henry DeVries, Calvin College

Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be reached at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Metropolitan Hospital site to become $75 million retirement home project

On November 9, the City Planning Commission gave Michigan Christian Home (MCH) the approval to demolish the former Metropolitan Hospital to make way for the proposed Beacon Hill at Eastgate retirement and assisted living homes. The next step is to receive approval from the City Commission to rezone the area to a Planned Unit Development District.

Housing options range from independent living to assisted living to full-time nursing care, all on the same site. Anchoring the 140 independent living units and 50 assisted living units will be a community center with two dining venues, a kitchen, a wellness center, chapel, and a library. The design includes covered parking for 150 vehicles and outdoor parking for 66 vehicles.

“Michigan Christian Home is staying where it is now,” said Jeffrey Huegli, president of MCH. “We’re continuing to see an increase in assisted living needs throughout our independent living areas, so we’re going to be delivering new systems for personal assistance and medical care.”

“Last week we did an inventory of the site,” Pete Lazdins of Design + told the Planning Commission. “There is a tremendous amount of vegetation on the site that can be saved. We are going to catalogue it and set up an on-site nursery to hold the plants during construction. We’ll then incorporate the plants into the landscaping later.”

The plan also calls for preserving the trees on the property.

Beacon Hill residents will enter into a non-equity based contract agreement that includes living spaces, all the amenities, and an ongoing healthcare component.

“A resident would make an investment in a lifestyle, they’re not investing in the bricks and mortar,” said Brian Mack, marketing director of Beacon Hill at Eastgate. “In a continuing care retirement community, the residents have the assurance of knowing that if they need additional service, we have the ability to meet that need. In many cases, it has nothing to do with geography in terms of where that individual is living.”

MCH expects to invest about $75 million in the project. They are pursuing steps to have the existing tax-free Renaissance Zone reassigned to the new development. If successful, the residents will be able to live virtually tax-free until 2017.

Demolition will take place over the next months after the hospital has relocated to its new facility. Construction will break ground in spring 2008.

Source: Jeffrey Huegli, Michigan Christian Home; Brian Mack, Beacon Hill and Eastgate; Pete Lazdins, Design +

Renderings Courtesy of Design Plus

59 East Grand Rapids Articles | Page: | Show All
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