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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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Grand Rapids Junior Achievement Building lands anchor tenant, long-awaited restoration to begin

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

Big city sophistication with a small town feel in Rockford's new Artesian Distillers Underground Bar

A stylish throwback to the prohibition-era speakeasy, the new Artesian Distillers Underground Bar (49 Bridge St.) in Rockford has been capturing the interest and business of passersby since it opened in July. Soft lighting, quiet music, and intimate seating entice patrons to linger while they enjoy cocktails crafted with flair by a gregarious bartender. Although the space is only 1,100 square feet, it seems bigger, opening to a wider area in back, boasting a handcrafted bar lined with comfortable stools.

Amir Haririan and his wife, Leslie Iglesias, opened Grand Rapids' first liquor distillery, Artesian Distillery, in 2010. It manufactures RMD vodka and rum, 1492 Cristobal aged rum, Prohibition Edition bourbon, and other premium spirits, all served at the bar in Rockford and sold by the bottle in both locations. Customers can enjoy a wide variety of creative cocktails combining craft liquors with special ingredients like seasonal fruit and herbs.

Iglesias explains, "We try to use as many fresh ingredients as we can get our hands on -- like ginger, tarragon, basil, peaches, and berries." Most of the cocktails are priced from $5 to $7 and many are cleverly named. Iglesias says, "Chillax and Rockford Slugger are two of the most popular cocktails. No matter what people order, we make sure customers are happy with their drink and it's what they expected. We want their input."

Presently, the menu offers finger foods like the meat and cheese Anti-Prohibition Platter or the Purple Gang, featuring hummus. Iglesias says, "We're exploring extending the menu and hours. But before we do that, we want to make sure our six employees are fully prepared to make complex cocktails and serve food when it's busy."

Artesian Distillery Underground is open Tuesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to midnight. Happy Hour $3 drink specials are offered from 5 to 6 p.m. Within the next month, the bar will open at noon to serve lunch and Happy Hour will extend to 4 to 6 p.m.

For more information, visit their Facebook page or call (616) 252-1700.

Source: Leslie Iglesias, Artesian Distillers Underground Bar
Writer: Susan Julien Larimore, freelance reporter

New small business online directory, Shop Small GR, is all about connecting on a local level

Interested in finding a neighborhood deli with one-of-a-kind sandwiches or a charming ice cream shop your kids will adore? There's now a new online directory of small local businesses called ShopSmallGR.com to help you locate the perfect place in Grand Rapids.

Launched by Grand Rapids native Brett Wohlgemuth on June 15, Shop Small GR is designed to easily connect Grand Rapids residents with local businesses: restaurants, hair salons, yoga centers, antique stores, boutiques, and much more.

On the website, users can find places using the navigational tabs (Eat, Shop, Stay, Do, Local Services) or the Search function, complete with a search by zip code. To-date, there are over 500 local businesses featured on the site, with new listings being added daily. To add a place or event, click the appropriate tab on the home page and follow the instructions.

There's no fee for businesses to add a place or event. At this point, the site is not revenue-generating; it's simply a directory to connect local people with local places. Maps are provided too. Wohlgemuth says, "Businesses control their own listing. The general description is what they want to say, not what we want to say about them. If they want their logo and a photo with their listing, they can do it. If they want to enable users to share their listing on social media sites, they can. Customers can even post reviews if the business wants to offer that option."

To help create awareness and attract new customers, ShopSmallGR.com is hosting a Gift Card Giveaway, Sept. 1 through Nov. 30, which is Small Business Saturday. Over 50 businesses have donated gift cards for the giveaway. To enter, click here.

For more information on Shop Small GR, visit their website. To get daily updates on local businesses and events, connect with Shop Small GR on Facebook.

Source: Brett Wohlgemuth, Shop Small GR
Writer: Susan Julien Larimore, Freelance Reporter
Images courtesy of Shop Small GR

High Five Co-op Brewery makes it official with membership buy-in party

It will be high fives all around for the organizers of The High Five Co-op Brewery when they host the first membership buy-in party at Harmony Brewing Company on Sept. 9 at 6:00 p.m.

The cooperative, which will be the first brewing co-op in Michigan, began as a winning "pitch" by Dallas McCulloch at 5x5 Night (the pre-cursor to Start Garden) in December 2011. 

The pitch earned McCulloch $5,000, which began the very long process of officially organizing a co-op.  

Joshua Smith, board member, summarizes the timeline.

"Dallas won the $5,000 in December 2011. We held regular open meetings from that time until our board elections in August 2012. Since August, the board formed and finalized the co-op's bylaws, submitted their articles of incorporation to the state on July 4, 2013, and announced its legal existence as a co-op in the state of Michigan via the Facebook page." 

As far as membership goes, Smith says certificates will be sold for a one-time fee of $150. "Purchase of a member certificate makes you a member of the co-op, which is limited to one certificate per person. You must be 21 or older and Michigan resident. A member certificate entitles a person to an extended membership to the co-op."

Benefits of being a member include an equal vote in board elections and general issues the board deems important for a poll. It also entitles an individual to an opportunity to run for the board of directors, employment opportunities, member discounts, and a variety of brewing options and member-only benefits.

Smith says they hope to never close buy-in opportunities and to also eventually have memberships that can be purchased online. He also advises to watch for a Kickstarter campaign and for information on investments over the $150 buy-in price. 

"The cooperative business model puts its membership first. We're building a community of beer enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, and local business supporters to create a place that we own together, and that we frequent together, because we love it."

The co-op is still in the process of identifying a location, but is keen on staying the Eastown or East Hills neighborhood if at all possible.

You can get more information about the buy-in, including needed documents, and follow the progress of the organization at beer.coop and or on Facebook

Source: Joshua Smith, High Five Brewery Co-op
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Muskegon's new $3.8M downtown farmers market lays groundwork for year-round activity center

The decision to move Muskegon's already successful farmers market to a new location in the center of the downtown has had its hurdles and challenges, but work has begun on a new $3.8 million facility that includes a performance stage, a certified commercial kitchen for startup food companies, and an ice skating rink.

The market, now located at 700 Yuba St. just outside the city center, draws some 10,000 people every Saturday and hundreds of farmers and other vendors from Ottawa, Muskegon, Oceana, Newaygo, and Mason counties, says Cindy Larsen, president of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce.

The new market at 1 Market St., bounded by Western Avenue, Terrace St., and Morris, will offer flexible-sized stalls that will accommodate from 130 to 150 vendors in the outdoor portion of the market, which features permanent roofs over each stall. The stalls include electricity, lighting, and water hookups, which the existing farmers market doesn't offer. An indoor market building provides space for 20 vendors. Onsite and offsite parking in area lots and streets will accommodate over 600 cars.

"We really worked with the farmers to design it for them," Larsen says, adding that the farmers had input on every aspect of the design. The market will also act as a marketplace for artists, craft fairs, car shows, holiday markets, and other events when the Muskegon Farmers Market is not scheduled.

But Muskegon's downtown community is banking on the market being more than a destination for shoppers.

"The whole point of our market is to build our downtown," Larsen says. "It's not supposed to be 'come to the market and leave,' but to 'come to the market and then go shopping in the downtown.'

The Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, the Community Foundation of Muskegon County, and the Paul C. Johnson Foundation spearheaded development of the marketplace.

The market opens in May 2014.

T4 Group: construction manager
Paradigm Design: architectural design
Schultz Transport: excavation

Source: Cindy Larsen, Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Rapids Public Museum's Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium reaches for the stars with $1.2M overhaul

The Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium inside the Grand Rapids Public Museum is one of the museum's most popular attractions. Besides making learning about earth science and space exploration a heck of a lot of fun, the planetarium has entertained thousands with its Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and winter holiday laser light shows.

A planned $1.2 million renovation of the planetarium will ensure that the technology and environment is state-of-the-art to keep crowds entertained for years to come, says Kate Moore, director of public relations. Up until 5 p.m. on Sept. 14, visitors will have a last chance to see their favorite shows before the planetarium closes for five months for the renovation. The renovated space will open in February 2014.

The renewed planetarium will have the latest Digistar projection equipment with HD technology, a spectrum of new software that will enable planetarium staff and university/college students to write new astronomy shows, as well as new reclining seating.

"Right now, the Digistar equipment is outdated by three or four versions, and we're finding it difficult to find new shows that will run on the older equipment," Moore says. "With our high definition programming, we're hoping to form partnerships with local universities and physics departments so students can come in and create their own shows."

Moore says that, because many of the shows, including the laser light programs, were created in-house with the old Digistar capabilities, those shows will not work with the new technology. The plan is to create new shows to entertain audiences and to keep people coming back for more. In the meantime, a full schedule of the favorites will run until Sept. 14 so everyone who wants to see them before they're done will have the opportunity.

Click here for the planetarium schedule.

Source: Kate Moore, Grand Rapids Public Museum
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Rockford's new fitness center for your mind invites you to learn in relaxing, riverfront environment

As you stroll through the Thought Design Learning Studio (10 E. Bridge St.) in Rockford, you're immediately inspired by its inviting decor, amazing kitchen, and stunning views of the Rogue River. It's what a fitness center for the mind is meant to be, according to owner Denise VanEck and her partner, Greg Mutch.

"Learning should not be confined to a classroom. It should be fun, interesting, and experiential," VanEck says.

Since Thought Design officially opened its doors on May 31, they've invited the community to join them for interactive sessions and special events in their intimate Yoga Studio, 1,200-square-foot Culinary Studio, and 1,100-square-foot Learning Lab. A core team of five staff members, including VanEck and Mutch, are the innovators, developing courses like Grilling 101 and Cooking with Beer. A complete schedule can be found here.

VanEck and Mutch will also work closely with businesses to design a custom event, a series of sessions, or a coaching strategy to increase employee engagement, elevate productivity, and strengthen relationships. Their Learning Lab boasts 150 square feet of write-able walls and accommodates up to 75 people. Culinary events can be planned for 6 to 42 people and range from two to seven hours. Mutch says, "We encourage people to learn and grow through culinary arts and unusually interesting workshops. You can build a strong team by cooking and dining together."

VanEck believes "brain health is as important as physical fitness. The neuroscience field is growing rapidly. I thought about opening this studio in L.A. where I lived, but reconsidered during a visit here to my hometown. I decided West Michigan should be on the forefront and we found a cool space to make it happen. It's conducive to learning with beautiful views of nature and plenty of light."

Thought Design welcomes visitors. Call and make an appointment to meet the team and tour the space: (616) 951-1336.

Source: Denise VanEck and Greg Mutch, Thought Design Studio
Writer: Susan Julien Larimore, Freelance Reporter

Images courtesy of Thought Design Studio

Cascade Winery to introduce its charming sister Kayla Rae Cellars to Rockford

About a year ago, Bob Bonga, owner of Cascade Winery in Kentwood, was introduced to the Rockford business community and its Chamber of Commerce. Bonga was impressed by how closely the businesses work together, and how, in turn, the community supports their diligence. The warmth and loyalty of the community convinced him and his wife, Rose, to open a sister winery in downtown Rockford. "We wanted to be part of this exciting business atmosphere and saw a definite need for something like a winery in this community."

Planned for a late August/early September opening, Kayla Rae Cellars, named after the Bongas' granddaughter, will be located adjacent to the White Pine Trail at 31 Courtland St., just north of Arnie's Old Mill Restaurant. Currently, the Bongas are remodeling the 2,000-square-foot interior with soft lighting and subtle colors to create a warm, inviting atmosphere. According to Bonga, "Karen Grossman has been hired as manager and plans are in the works to hire two or three part-time people who, like Karen, love wine and love people."

Although related to Cascade Winery, Bonga says, "Kayla Rae Cellars will have its own uniquely different blends. It will also carry different ciders than those offered at the Cascade Winery. What you taste at Cascade Winery won't be the same as what you experience at Kayla Rae Cellars."

Kayla Rae Cellars plans to be open noon to 8 p.m. daily, although evening hours may be extended. Bonga wants "to see how the crowd is and let the customers determine what's needed."

Source: Bob Bonga, Cascade Winery
Writer: Susan Julien Larimore, Freelance Reporter

Image courtesy of Kayla Rae Cellars

"Church to Residential" project in Heritage Hill sees revival

In what will be its sixth residential project in the city of Grand Rapids, 616 Development will be undertaking the conversion of the historic Bethlehem Lutheran Church at 253 Prospect in Heritage Hill into market rate apartments called 616 Lofts on Prospect. Only a handful of such church conversion redevelopments have taken place in historic districts in the U.S.

According to the developers, the repurposed church will house 22 market rate apartments which will include 1 studio, 11 one-bedroom units, and 10 two-bedroom units. A fitness room and a community room will be available for all 616 Lofts on Prospect residents. Approximately 26 on-site parking spaces will also be available to residents and guests.

Residents nearby had raised concerns in the past about lack of parking in the area, with pressure building from the development on Michigan Street to the North. But Derek Coppess of 616 says that they have been working closely with the community, the City, and the Historic Preservation Commision to create a project that enhances the area. Certain variances were sought to allow some stained glass exterior windows to be removed to allow for operable windows as well as other minor alterations.

"We're very excited about the project. We have our eyes on some other larger projects that will have a huge impact on the city, but smaller infill projects like Lofts on Prospect are also part of our DNA," said Coppess during a tour of the building, currently undergoing demolition.

Many of the upper floor units will include the large timbers that support the church's roof, as well as the original arched window frames and stained glass.

The church has been vacant since 2007, when the congregation sold the building to developers and moved to a smaller space to help serve the Heartside community. A similar project to redevelop the church launched in 2009 called Renatus on the Hill would have included up to 16 individual condominiums, but stalled during the downturn in the housing market and tightened lending requirements for condo projects.

Lott3Metz is the architect on the project. More info can be found at 616 Lofts on Prospect.

Source: Monica Clark, Derek Coppess, 616 Development
Writer: Jeff Hill, Publisher at Rapid Growth Media.

Photos by Jeff Hill

Comic relief coming to downtown Grand Rapids' retail scene

The Vault of Midnight, a well-established, nationally known comic book store founded in Ann Arbor, will be opening its doors in downtown Grand Rapids come early September.

The store, which will be located at 95 Monroe Center (previously home of Van Hoeks Shoes), will feature a large collection of new and used comic books, games, and graphic novels, not to mention a cool vibe and most importantly, a very knowledgeable and passionate staff.

Curtis Sullivan, who owns the store along with his wife Elizabeth DellaRocco and business partner Steve Fodale, says making the decision to open up shop in Grand Rapids was based more on observables and intuition than a detailed market research plan. 

"We looked at a lot of towns. Small retail is risky, so we are going by what we know with our current location in downtown Ann Arbor. We see a lot of similarities of activities -- food, coffee, beer, museums, and events."

Sullivan says his store attracts everyone from the die-hard comic book fan, to grandparents buying gifts for the grandkids. Besides the wide variety of comic books and games, Sullivan says Vault of Midnight is known for its highly-trained and friendly staff and cool atmosphere.

"When you walk into the store, it is immediately bright and clean, well-organized, and visually appealing. Our staff is expected to say hello to everyone and are prepared to offer recommendations," he says. "Our staff is very knowledgable. Everyone is a nerd, and everyone knows a lot about comics. First time customers are crucial. We want to get them a good comic to get the spark started."

The exact opening date for Vault of Midnight remains fluid, but it will certainly be open in time for ArtPrize in early September. Sullivan says he anticipates a staff of 3-5 employees.

To learn more about Vault of Midnight, you can view their site here. MLive also reported in more detail about the opening here.

Source: Curtis Sullivan, Vault of Midnight
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Car and dog wash set to open on Michigan Street

Thanks to a new business opening in September, the Medical Mile will soon have a service available that will provide 'healthcare' of a different type.

Thunder Mountain Car and Dog Wash, which will be located on the northwest corner of Michigan and Eastern, will provide a full-service, high-end car wash as well as a special washing facility for man's best friend.

According to the owner, Leo Schlesinger, the location is perfect. "We wanted to locate on a street with a high volume of traffic and cater to the  downtown medical staff and workers," he says.

This will be twelfth car wash for Schlesinger and the third with the Thunder Mountain brand. This is also the third facility that includes a dog wash. 

"The dog wash is a neighborhood service for people who don't want to wash their dogs in the bathtub. It is a coin-operated service that features hot water rinses, choices of soaps, and blow drying. It's been very successful. In our other facilities, we see between 500-600 dogs per month. Once people use it, they never wash at home anymore."

Schlesinger says that when the facility is open, he anticipates hiring a staff of 3-4 people per shift.

Source: Leo Schlesinger, Thunder Mountain
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Arena Place unveils $28M residential, restaurant, retail, office complex near Van Andel Arena

The Arena South Visioning Plan is becoming reality. On Tuesday night, Orion Construction and Hanon McKendry unveiled plans to build a $28 million retail, residential, and office building on the west side of the Van Andel Arena, next to Bistro Bella Vita. The project is the first in the Arena South geographic area, an underdeveloped economic area that extends south of the arena to Logan St. SW.

The new development, called Arena Place, will run the length of a full city block on property that is now underused surface parking. The project runs south from Ottawa Avenue and Weston St. SW to Oakes St. SW, and consists of two five-level towers connected by 7,700 square feet of retail spaces for small shops.

The north tower will feature a first floor restaurant space with Class A office spaces on the second, third, and fourth floors, topped off by a fifth floor event venue. The south tower features 64 studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments and 12 condominiums.  

The anchor tenants announced Tuesday are Hanon McKendry and Mindscape at Hanon McKendry, each of which will occupy a full floor. Meritage Hospitality Group, owner of 119 restaurants in several states, including Twisted Rooster and Crooked Goose, affirmed that it's evaluating the development as a possible opportunity to open a downtown Grand Rapids restaurant.

Besides being LEED certified and energy efficient, Arena Place will offer secure underground parking for all tenants, double banks of elevators for quick access to offices and residences, catering by the restaurant, recycling and garbage chutes, and innovative holding kitchens for refrigerator/freezer storage of food deliveries from entities such as AmazonFresh.com or the nearby Downtown Market.

The retail shops will be selected with an eye to providing tenants with everything they need, including dry cleaning, a coffee shop, wine and sundries, and other essentials.

"This, to me, is the crowning jewel of everything I've worked for in this town since 1987 when I started Rockford Construction," says John Wheeler, Orion's director of business development and a partner in Arena Place Development. "We'll be creating a lot of jobs [and] a lot of tax base on a surface parking lot. We've been working very hard to compete with the guys in Chicago who attract our young talent who want to live someplace really cool and want to walk and bike everywhere."

Bill McKendry, founder and chief creative officer at Hanon McKendry, echoes Wheeler's enthusiasm. "[Hanon McKendry has] deep roots in Heartside and Arena South. Our history as tenants in this area dates back to 1989 -- well before the arena was built -- so it makes sense that this would be home to our first venture as a partner in a building project. It's going to be very gratifying to partner on a project that will continue the renewal and transformation of this neighborhood in the years ahead."

The project could break ground in December 2013 and open in spring 2015.

Architect: Concept Design
Construction manager: Orion Construction

Source: John Wheeler, Orion Construction; Hanon McKendry
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Images courtesy of Concept Design Group

Grand Rapids brewer renews efforts to open ELK Brewing on Wealthy St. despite two years of delays

Eric and Lisa Karns began working to transform a former fish fry restaurant at 700 Wealthy St. SE into a brewpub way back in 2011. No matter how much they tapped the market, bank funding was out of reach because of the high failure rate of restaurants -- a business classification the brewpub couldn't get out of, even though there are no plans to make or serve food.

So Eric Karns reached out to private investors, and now, with financing in place, Karns and business partner Taylor Carroll are busy getting ELK Brewing (ELK = Eric and Lisa's initials) ready for a late winter 2013/early spring 2014 opening.

"[Brewing beer] is the only thing I've ever wanted to do," Karns says. "I wanted to share my passion, so I just had to stick with it. It's been a struggle sometimes to keep a positive attitude, but our location is perfect; the area around it is growing. There are so many positives of what we wanted to do here, I just couldn't let it die."

ELK Brewing's location near The Winchester, Johnny B'z Dogs and More, and Wealthy Street Bakery is a growing economic district. The brewery sits on the corner of Wealthy St. SE and Henry St. SE, and will have a 100-seat patio along Henry Street. Karns will extend the front of the building 10 feet to bring it right up to the sidewalk. The front and sides of the expansion will have window walls.

The pub's three-barrel brewing system allows Karns, who will be head brewer, to brew 93 gallons at a time. He plans to open with six beers on tap: an India Pale Ale, Scotch Ale, Brown Ale, a Porter, an ESB (Extra Special Bitter), and probably a seasonal beer.

The pub's liquor license allows ELK Brewing to distribute its product, but only sell its own beers onsite.

"The brewer community is really awesome," Karns says. "I've gone in to Mitten Brewing and Harmony Brewing to see their systems and process, and they're right there to help any time I have any questions. They don't look at it as competition, but as 'the more, the merrier.'"

Source: Eric Karns, ELK Brewing
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Elk Brewing to brew up beers, ciders, meads in former restaurant on Grand Rapids’ Wealthy Street

12-story Grand Rapids LEED Class A office building completes major updates, opens Panera Bread

An outdated circa 1985 Class A office building in downtown Grand Rapids has stepped into the 21st Century after receiving some key internal upgrades including a Panera Bread restaurant, a tenant-only fitness center, and a high-tech conference room that seats 50.

99 Monroe, often referred to as the Comerica Bank building or the Campau Square building, is 12 stories in middle of downtown that has never had 100 percent occupancy. Its new owner, Naperville, IL-based Franklin Partners, plans to change that with upgrades that it hopes will attract new tenants.

Currently 50 percent occupied with tenants that include Comerica Bank on three floors, David & Wierenga, P.C., Gruel Mills Nims & Pylman, LLP, and several other companies, the building connects to the city's Skywalk.

The upgrades include new first and second floor lobbies, a redesigned entrance to the Skywalk, new flooring, and demolition of all vacant offices to white box stage.

"The sixth and seventh floors are completely open and overlook the city on all four sides," says Julie Maue, tenant relations manager. "Franklin Partners is going to be constructing a new office on the second floor -- it will be our first office in West Michigan -- so we'll have a presence in the building with a concierge desk, not a security desk. We want the building to have the look of a hotel and we'll be there in the building to provide Class A environment if they have problems or questions."

Tenants have full access to the high-tech conference/training room, which features video conferencing capabilities. Maue says having the fitness center with its workout equipment and showers, plus the Panera Bread, creates a health-focused environment. The fitness center will soon add a personal trainer, and already offers fitness classes on flexible schedules to meet tenant needs.

The office spaces lease for $22/square foot.

Source: Julie Maue, Franklin Partners
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Images courtesy of Franklin Partners and Jeff Hill
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