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Punjab Grill brings fresh Indian cuisine to downtown Grand Rapids

A new option for those with a taste for exotic eats has come to downtown Grand Rapids. Punjab Grill, specializing in the distinctive flavors of the Punjab region of northern India, is serving up the delicious cuisine at 40 Pearl St. NW.

Punjab Grill is a family business, with dad Gursharn Singh as executive chef and son Simran Singh as general manager. Simran says his father's passion for the food of his homeland is evident in every dish served.

"When you're passionate about a certain lifestyle or career, it comes straight from the heart," Simran Singh says. "My father specializes in the Mughlai form of cooking, which dates from the late 1600s to the 1800s. It was prepared mainly for royalty and kings. There are lot more spices involved, and a fresher tone, so we use fresh and dried fruits, like grapes, pineapples, cashews, and pistachios. The foods are highly flavorful and hearty."

Punjab Grill makes its own paneer cheese in-house and prepares meats on a Tandoor grill. Spices are ground as needed, then added to house-made sauces and to dough for fresh baked breads.

Singh says a couple of menu items have already become customer favorites: the Tandoori house grill featuring Tandoori chicken, chicken tikka, chicken Mughlai kabob, shrimp kabob, and lamb kabob; and the Samundhari Korma featuring scallops, crab, shrimp, and fish, with grapes and pineapples in a creamy cashew sauce.

The menu features a daily lunch buffet with a selection of appetizers, entrees, soups, and desserts for $10.99.

The restaurant has applied for a liquor license and expects to serve martinis, beer, and wine in about six months.

Hours: Mon. - Fri. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Sat. noon to 3 and 4 to 10.

Follow them on Facebook here.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy of Punjab Grill

Caledonia church "goes to town" with purchase, rehab of Heritage Hill Christian Science building

There are several ways to "go to town" with any renovation project, and Caledonia-based Cornerstone Church has chosen to do it literally by purchasing the former Christian Science building at 48 Lafayette Ave. SE in Grand Rapids' Heritage Hill neighborhood. Cornerstone Church's main campus remains at 1675 84th St., Caledonia, but establishing a second campus in a central Grand Rapids neighborhood has been an idea for about five years, says Executive Director Pennie Westers.

The circa 1904 structure with its 1962 addition offers 22,000 square feet for a main worship center, a children's worship area, and community gathering spaces. Westers says the building has been maintained in "beautiful condition," which meant that to get it move-in ready required only a few changes to accommodate new technology and a stage for the worship band.

"We added wireless Internet access because we do a lot of our work wirelessly, we offer electronic giving, and people who attend our church might use a Bible app," Westers says. "We also put in screens to project video and song lyrics because we don't use hymnals."

Some seating was removed to make way for the stage area, and A/V technology was installed in the children's worship area for videos and song lyrics.

Plans include adding a kitchenette and café area for gathering before and after services, and adding a youth program geared toward junior high and senior high students.

Westers says the worship center has seating for about 450. The church opened last Sunday with a 10:30 a.m. service. There is no dress code -- even the pastor wears jeans -- and Westers says anyone interested in attending a service needs to "just show up."

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy of Cornerstone Church

More athletics options on track for Aquinas College with groundbreaking for sports complex

With a dozen shovels in the ground, Grand Rapids' Aquinas College faculty, donors, and students broke ground last week for the final phase of its $14 million athletic complex while nearly 500 student athletes looked on. The Alksnis Athletics & Recreation Building at 1580 Fulton St. SE will complete the sports and recreation project begun with the opening of the $7 million Sturrus Sports & Fitness Center, which opened in November 2010.

The 70,000-square-foot Alksnis Athletics & Recreation Building, named for lead donors Greg (AQ '71) and Sally Alksnis, will provide Aquinas students the space and facilities needed for intramural and junior varsity athletics: a 200-meter NCAA-certified track, a turf infield, portable courts, practice areas for baseball, softball, soccer, and lacrosse, and an extensive curtaining system that will allow multiple activities simultaneously.

Athletic Director Terry "Bo" Bocian said at the groundbreaking ceremony, "For the last three years, our teams have had to go off-campus to practice. No one in the league or any other small college will have a building like this. This building will be a showcase and make a statement for Aquinas."

In addition to offering an increase in athletic opportunities for students, the Alksnis Building will create an inviting new Fulton Street gateway to the campus and its expanses of woods, green spaces, modern eco-friendly learning environments, and turn-of-the-century academic buildings.

Slated completion date: August 2014.
Construction: Rockford Construction
Architect: Integrated Architecture

Writer, photographer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Renderings courtesy of Aquinas College

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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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$55M GVSU science building creates state-of-the-art lab space, connects to student marketplace

It's been a big hole in the ground since early April. But now that big hole on Grand Valley State University's Allendale campus is full of infrastructure, footings, and foundations and will soon be topped off with a $55 million state-of-the-art science and biology building and an adjoining Laker Marketplace building.

The four-story, 151,000-square-foot science building received $30 million from Michigan's capital outlay program to help the university bring 14 biology research laboratories, faculty offices, student classrooms, and storage for field equipment to the university. The new facility will open up space for science education in the existing Padnos science building, now outgrown, when the biology department relocates after construction is completed.

Pioneer Construction Project Manager Scott Veine says the project has applied for LEED Silver certification and will have 38 different trades onsite during construction, including specialty trades to tackle the laboratory casework, such as installation of the lab equipment and safety equipment. He expects the project to require some 700 skilled tradespeople and about 300,000 hours of labor.

"The mechanical and electrical crews have to be very precise because we're dealing with lab gases, piping, vacuums," Veine says. "We also have large greenhouse on the project, so we have a greenhouse contractor and there's only a few of those across the country."

The separate-but-connected Laker Marketplace will feature a glass curtain wall and an outdoor pedestrian plaza. The building will house the university bookstore, which will move from the Kirkhof Center, and will also offer food services.

Veine expects to complete the marketplace in April 2015 and the science building in July 2015.

Architect: FTC&H
Construction manager: Pioneer Construction
Greenhouse construction: Rough Brothers, Inc.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Founders Brewing brings the love of craft-brewed beer into the light of day

The love of good beer is behind everything Founders Brewing creates, and that includes its new 3,000-square-foot beer garden on the front lawn of the pub, something co-owner Mike Stevens dubs "a drinkin' man's Disney Land." It's part of a $26 million expansion at 235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids.

The beer garden opened last week, bringing lovers of good craft beer outside to a space decked out with comfortable seating, a roofed area, and creature comforts to keep patrons plenty warm in the cool months: open fire pits, overhead heaters, and outdoor bar service.

In addition to the beer garden, a larger indoor taproom offers customers more seating inside. Co-owner Dave Engbers says improving the Founders experience is the reason for the expansion inside and out.  

"Everything we do is in an effort to make our beer better and to make our employees' jobs better and to give our customers the best experience we can," Engbers says. "Grand Rapids is getting all the attention as Beer City USA, and as the largest brewery in Grand Rapids we feel it's our responsibility to make sure that we lead by example."

Relocating the original bar from Founders' first pub in the iconic Brass Works Building on N. Monroe Avenue to the expanded taproom tugged at the heartstrings, Engbers says. "Mike and I both spent many a night behind that bar and it has a lot of sentimental value to us and to our patrons that have been original mug club members. We commissioned it ourselves for the Brass Works building. When we brought it into the new space, I went down to see it and it actually brought tears to my eyes. I haven't seen it in seven years."

Founders’ next project is to finish up the interior space where the company will hold its beer school, which should start in late 2013.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy of Dan Miller, The Beer Truck

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Gravel Bottom Brewery opens in Ada with five craft brews on tap, brewing supply store next door

The enticing aromas of warm yeast and roasted grains filled the taproom of Ada's Gravel Bottom Brewery and drifted through the open archway to the brew supply store in the next room. With the bright, shiny three-barrel brewing system directly behind the concrete bar, patrons can watch the brewing process, talk about home brewing with resident and guest brewers, and saunter over to the store to get supplies to take home.

The cozy taproom at 418 Ada Dr. opened Sept. 7 with five brews on tap: a crisp grapefruit IPA crafted by guest brewers John Wiechertjes and Steve Waalkes, a light pale ale, a rich porter, a robust black IPA, and a smooth, sweet Belgian Wit. Owner Matt Michiels says a pumpkin ale will be underway after barbecue company Pit Stop Catering roasts 50 pumpkins over cherry wood -- all in the brewery's parking lot.

And while drinking beer and enjoying it is the goal, Michiels says that teaching people about beer and about how to brew it is a huge part of Gravel Bottom Brewery's culture.

"We'll have free seminars, and we'll have classes for the beer lover who doesn't brew, beginning brewers, and advanced brewers," he says. "They'll be able to have class in the taproom with the brewer, enjoy the beer, then walk over to the store to get supplies."

Michiels says the brew house will share its recipes, and even help brewers determine how to give a beer more body or make it sweeter, then help the brewer choose the ingredients from the store's stock of grains, malts, spices, and hops. The store also offers brewing kits and equipment.

During last Monday's visit, Brett Langscheid, a trained cheese maker and brewer, was busy mixing up the next batch of beer, which will be ready in a few weeks. Four brewers are on staff, but Michiels says the pub will bring in guest brewers on a regular basis.

Hours: Weds.-Thurs., 2 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m. to midnight.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photos: Jeff Hill

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Decadent gourmet cookies add a sweet dimension to downtown Grand Rapids shops

It was a sweet surprise to walk into MoDiv at 40 Monroe Center Ave. during ArtPrize last week and come face to face with tables of glass containers filled with decadent Monica's Gourmet Cookies. The queue of enthusiastic customers was long, but my friend and I discovered we needed every minute in line to decide which of the 26 varieties we were going to try.

Monica Mitidieri began selling her cookies online in 2001, during her years as a caterer, and the success of the cookies soon propelled her into selling them and leaving the meal catering behind. After striking a deal to supply Spartan stores with the rich, flavorful delicacies, the business took off.

She created a bakehouse kitchen and café at 3668 29th St. and two weeks ago opened a small store in MoDiv (Shops at Monroe Center and Division) -- just in time to debut her specialty Grand Rapids cookie during ArtPrize: The Grand…Rapidly Disappearing cookie, chock full of rich dark chocolate, pretzels, and dark cocoa almonds, and topped with dark chocolate.

Monica describes the tasty morsels as "a mounded type of cookie, soft, dense -- they're little but they're mighty. Once a customer eats one, they get why they're $1.75 each."

My friend and I settled on four cookies: Monica's Best Signature Chocolate Chip (not your grandma's recipe!), Red Velvet Cake (with cream cheese frosting), Maple Walnut (with black walnut flavoring and Michigan maple syrup), and Cinnamon Sugar. After "sampling" each, (we ate every crumb), we voted on our favorites. The chocolate chip and the maple walnut tied for first place.

The cookies are baked fresh daily at the bakehouse, where Monica also offers cinnamon rolls, quiche, breakfast scones (think bacon), and soup. The focus at MoDiv, though, is cookies. Monica says the shop sold 800 of the comfort bombs on Saturday alone.

"I'm thrilled to be out in the public," she says, adding that she feels like the drummer who finally came out from behind the band to take the mic. "There's so much more to my business than just what's here at MoDiv. The energy here is incredible right now."

You can find Monica's Gourmet Cookies at Spartan Stores, online, or at MoDiv from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. during ArtPrize, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. the rest of the year.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Monica's Gourmet Cookies

Fresh, seasonal cuisine brings the best of Italia to Eastown's new Trattoria di' Stagione

The name Trattoria di' Stagione means "restaurant of seasons," and Chef Dan Chudik has taken the moniker to heart by creating a menu of Italian cuisine that changes not only with the seasons, but sometimes every week, depending on which ingredients are in season and plentiful.

Trattoria di' Stagione opened in April in the space that was the Radix Tavern and, before that, The Queen's Pub at 1420 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids. Balwinder Bal, owner of the adjacent Bombay Cuisine, which shares the kitchen with the trattoria, owns both restaurants. Chef Chudik, who owned the popular Tuscan Express in Cascade, is the passion behind the seasonal concept and the food.

"I've been doing the seasonal, local foods thing over 20 years," Chudik says. "Everybody thinks it's so hip now, but when I opened Tuscan Express back in '95 we were doing it. I wanted [this restaurant] based off local fresh seasonal products with our three farmers that we deal with on a regular basis. We cook for the seasons. In the summer we have light foods and in the winter we have a little heavier fare, supporting the local agriculture."

The menu changes so frequently that when asked what's for lunch or dinner, Chudik would only say that the spicy spaghetti is so popular it's offered regularly. Other than that, he couldn't say what might be available at the time this article is read.

Currently, the restaurant works with three Michigan farms: Melody Bee Farms, Green Wagon Farm, and Real Food Farm. Plus, Chudik says all fish is marine stewardship council-certified from Bensenville, IL-based Fortune Fish.

The restaurant offers a full bar, seats 120 inside, and shares a covered outdoor deck with Bombay Cuisine so patrons can order from either or both.

Hours: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mon. - Thu. 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Fri. and Sat. Follow them on Facebook here.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Planning for walkable, thriving public spaces: East Hills takes steps toward a sustainable future

Monday night a group of about 30 residents from the East Hills Council of Neighbors (EHCN) neighborhood gathered to hear the first draft of a plan that will form a framework for the neighborhood's public spaces: parks, streets, sidewalks, and business districts. The meeting was the culmination of a year of information gathering by two committees: the public space committee chaired by resident Rachel Lee, and the complete streets committee, chaired by resident Josh Leffingwell.

"We're looking at creating a possible area specific plan where pedestrians come first," says Rachel Lee, adding that the planning is funded by a $45,000 grant from the Dyer-Ives Foundation. The idea for the plan came about last year when the neighborhood's Cherry Park landed $10K from mygrcitypoints.com for a park makeover.

Ted Lott, architect and partner at Lott3Metz Architecture, and Mark Miller, urban planner at Nederveld, Inc., led the discussion and gathered ideas from attendees. Lott began the meeting by saying that there is "planning fatigue in the city" and, therefore, the focus has been to use information already gathered by others and to add to it with ideas from the neighborhood residents.

The neighborhood, bounded by Fulton St. on the north, Union Avenue on the west, Wealthy St. on the south, and Fuller Avenue on the east, includes two large public parks: Cherry Park and Congress School Park. Brainstorming possible improvements generated ideas that included lighting, a new water play area (Cherry), new public-friendly fencing at both parks, electrical connections for events usage (Cherry), bike racks, a skating rink, a possible dog park area, board games spaces, more shade, an amphitheater for public and school events/outdoor classroom (Congress), and improved soccer and track facilities (Congress).

Ideas for pedestrian-friendly streets included considerations for Congress Elementary, the East Hills business district, and residential streets. Ideas included sheltered bus stops, safer crosswalks, more brick streets to add character and slow traffic, four-way stops in lieu of traffic lights, and parking improvements.

Redevelopment ideas ranged from identifying places that need redevelopment or infill buildings to promoting economic diversity by encouraging a greater variety of retail businesses.

Lott says the next steps are to meet with the EHCN to review the ideas and develop the next steps of the plan, which will be presented at the EHCN annual meeting at 6:30 p.m., October 21 at the Inner City Christian Federation building, 920 Cherry St. SE.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

1.4M rides, crowded buses spur The Rapid to study bus rapid transit for Lake Michigan Dr. corridor

A record 1.4 million rides last year and crowded buses despite service every five to six minutes have prompted The Interurban Transit Partnership (The Rapid) to find a way to improve bus route 50, its busiest route.

Bus route 50, which transports mainly Grand Valley State University college students between GVSU's downtown Grand Rapids Pew Campus and its Allendale Campus along Lake Michigan Drive, is the subject of a long-range study that will offer up answers on the feasibility of a bus rapid transit (BRT) line to serve the entire 13-plus-mile corridor.

The $600,000 study, led by URS Corporation, will take about a year, says The Rapid's long range planner Nick Monoyios. Construction has begun on the city's only BRT line, the $30 million Silver Line, which will run along Division Avenue. But it's not clear until the new study is complete whether the solution for route 50 is a BRT or something else.

"Eleven buses make 300 trips every day, crammed full of kids. The ridership has been growing exponentially since we started the service 10 years ago," Monoyios says. "We don't know if the problem is a frequency problem and we need to add more buses, which could cost more than adding longer buses that have more capacity. It's hard to pinpoint with accuracy."

The study will gather public input from riders and stakeholders, as well as riders and stakeholders of routes 7, 12, and 18, which also operate within the same corridor, says Jennifer Kalczuk, external relations manager. "We have [bus] stops today, but do those make the most sense, or would there be better locations? What is the best way to serve that whole corridor?"

Monoyios and Kalczuk agree that the primary goal of the study is to gather significant public input from every stakeholder, institution, and rider. Plans are underway for a number of community meetings over the next year, online tools and apps, and meetings with neighborhood associations, business leaders, and others. Information gathered will guide an advisory committee and a policy committee in determining a solution that works for the corridor.

Public meetings will be announced on The Rapid website and via the media.

Monoyios expects to have the study results by August 2014.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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

Moving on up to the west side: Rockford Construction moves 100+ workers to new Grand Rapids HQ

Rockford Construction's co-founder Mike Van Gessel grew up on Grand Rapids' west side, so the idea to rehab a defunct paint and powder coating facility at 601 First St. NW into the company's headquarters seems a natural fit and promises to be the catalyst for more development on a side of town with an industrial history.

The $5 million renovation of the Miller Products Paint factory brings 100-plus workers to the west side, all potential customers of area restaurants, pubs, shopping, and residential. Employees relocated in July, but Rockford Construction officially cut the ribbon Tuesday night with several city officials joining in.

The site cleanup included removing 1,375 tons of contaminated soil, painting equipment, and other hazardous waste, says Jennifer Boezwinkle, VP of business development to make the 75,000-square-foot structure habitable. But that was just the beginning.

Rockford reclaimed Grand Rapids' ash trees destroyed by the emerald ash borer, stained the wood to stunning mahogany and walnut colors, and clad the lobby walls and stairways with it to add warmth and richness to the open industrial design. Natural light floods the work areas through clear windows, opaque glass walls, and skylights. Room sensors dim or brighten the overhead lights, as needed.

Employees can work outside in the central courtyard with its mural of west side icons by ArtPrize artist George Eberhardt, on the rooftop deck, in the cozy break area that's set up like a coffee shop, or in a colorful gathering space with couches and wireless electronics-charging technology built into the work surface.

Rockford has applied for LEED Platinum, the highest level of LEED certification.

Other renovations include:

•    High-tech event space and training facility with seating capacity for 180 and adjacent caterer staging area.
•    Second- and third-level conference rooms with glass walls offering clear views of the city to the north, south, and east.
•    Innovative acoustics control.
•    Reverse osmosis drinking water system.
•    Roofing that combines light-colored membranes and a green roof to help prevent "heat island" effect.
•    Bikes employees can use to get to area restaurants or offsite meetings.

"We have been engaged with the urban (development) with Cherry Street Landing and our developments on Monroe Center," says Mike Van Gessel. "When we started Cherry Street Landing (Cherry and Commerce), Cooley Law wasn't there, the entertainment district wasn't there, so I see this as our next take on the gnarly, if you will -- the west side coming back to what it always was with industrial, residential, walkable with great retail, trees and grass."

Source: Mike Van Gessel, Jennifer Boezwinkle, Rockford Construction; Chris Knape, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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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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