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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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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

$40M high-rise apartments, retail to replace surface parking lot on Grand Rapids' busiest corner

A new $40 million high-rise apartment building and retail shops could soon replace an ugly parking lot on the corner of Division Avenue and Fulton Street -- downtown Grand Rapids' busiest corner and gateway to the city and entertainment district.

Midland-based Brookstone Capital, the company behind the multi-million-dollar developments of Serrano Lofts, Division Park Avenue Apartments, Metropolitan Park Apartments, and others, has received Downtown Development Authority approval for a Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program to develop 108 new housing units in a 14-story tower at 20 E. Fulton, across from The Grand Rapids Children's Museum. Some 9,000 square feet of the ground floor will be available for retail.

The project will divide the units into 54 market-rate apartments and 54 affordable-rate apartments to bring a mix of incomes to the neighborhood without the social stigma of setting the affordable apartments aside in a separate building.

"Mixed-income developments and diversity are common elements in urban communities from coast to coast  -- New York, to Chicago, and Los Angeles," says Brookstone Capital in an email to Rapid Growth. "The community is served by integrating building design that does not distinguish market-rate units from affordable units by either appearance or amenities. Higher density developments offer the opportunity to attract retail/service businesses to locate within close proximity to the City Center, meeting [the needs of] a fast growing downtown population and its daytime workers."

Brookstone says the location is ideally situated on several transit routes, is just one block from a Bus Rapid Transit station, and is near the new bike lanes through the city center. The proposed building is just a short walk to restaurants, theaters, the library, the entertainment district, downtown employment, colleges, museums, and art galleries.

The Grand Rapids Planning Commission and the Grand Rapids City Commission still need to approve the final plans before construction can commence. A groundbreaking date has not been set.

Architect: Progressive AE

Source: Brookstone Capital
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Image courtesy of Brookstone Capital and Progressive AE

Inside GVSU's $65M Mary Idema Pew Library's unbelievably cool 21st Century learning spaces

A four-story glass wall creates an intriguing attraction from the outside, but it's what's inside Grand Valley State University's new $65 million Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons that makes it unbelievably cool. The library opened to students on June 24.

A soaring atrium space dotted with inviting easy chairs in orange and mustard colors creates a common gathering space abundant with daylight and expansive views of the campus. Balconies on the upper floors overlook the atrium, giving students plenty of open, yet cozy, places to plug in, boot up, and lay down some learning.

The library replaces the outdated Zumberge Library, built in the 1960s for 5,000 students -- GVSU now has over 25,000. But the Mary Idema Pew Library is not your grandmother's no-talking-allowed library with its iconic matronly librarian. This library is the epitome of student-centered design for how students learn today and in the future, whether in energy-filled collaborative teams that depend on technology, or in sole endeavors that require silence.

"There's a tension between students needing to being alone, yet wanting to be together," says Dean of University Libraries Lee Van Orsdel. "The architects did a superb job of marrying the two, and the students are absolutely mesmerized."

Some highlights of the building, which is vying for the highest level of LEED certification, include:
•    A Knowledge Market, the only one of its kind anywhere, which provides students with trained peer consultants for tutoring on research, technology, writing, and presentation development.
•    Third, fourth, and fifth levels are half quiet-study area, half collaboration area with modular furniture and computer areas that accommodate groups around one monitor.
•    Quiet study "cubbies": upholstered daybed-style couches inset into the wall with dedicated lighting and power outlets where students can "hole up" to study in comfort in front of Michigan's longest indoor gel-burning fireplace.
•    Five outdoor study and/or patio areas, including a rooftop terrace on the fifth floor with a LiveRoof plant installation, and an upper level patio completely surrounded by the building -- glass walls allow the sun, rain, or snow to appear as if it's inside the building.
•    Print-on-demand services that allow students to send documents from anywhere on campus, then print them at any printer on campus. When they arrive at the printer location, they scan their student ID and their documents prints. No queue required.
•    Individual collaboration environments with full technology and white boards that can be reserved two weeks in advance from anywhere on campus.
•    A special website enables students to see which reserve-able rooms and computers are occupied at any time so they can plan group study locations.
•    50 percent reduction in energy consumption compared to traditional libraries of similar size.
•    150,000 books on open shelves.
•    A three-story-high automated book retrieval system with 600,000 books. Students can order books 24/7 through a website, then pick them up at the library or have them delivered to designated pickup locations throughout the campus.
•    A multipurpose room that seats 88 at tables.
•    A 100-person café featuring Chicago-based Argo Tea.

Architects: SHW Group
Construction: Pioneer Construction
Civil engineers: FTC&H

Source: Grand Valley State University site tour
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Treasures of Heritage Hill homes the sole offerings of new Grand Rapids decor store

Grand Rapids' historic Heritage Hill neighborhood is known for its expansive mansions, majestic Victorian architecture, and for the intriguing home décor items and antiques found in many of those homes. The idea to create a home décor and interior design store that offers an array of merchandise found only in Heritage Hill homes struck John Kershek, John Potter, Doug Meekes, and Greg McNally as a unique opportunity -- for them, for Heritage Hill homeowners, and for customers.

Colline Patrimoine, French for "Heritage Hill," is a shop filled with antique furniture, mid-century modern furnishings, china, crystal, silver, lamps, paintings, and more, all displayed with a French Market vibe that gives customers four prices for each item. The store's location at 447 S. Division Ave. is just one block from the new Downtown Market.

"The tickets will say what street it came from, the price today, and three more dates with price reductions for the dates that are farther away," says John Kershek. "Customers can gamble and hope that the item is still here when they come back, or buy it today. We want to turn the whole store over every 10 to 12 weeks."

Kershek says that with thousands of households in Heritage Hill, the opportunities to fill the 1,300-square-foot store are endless. He has several hundred names on a growing email list, and can request merchandise via email or alert sellers to what buyers are looking for.

"When you have a big house, you fill it up with stuff, and now there are a lot of people saying 'we have a set of china for 18 and don't need it,' or 'I have five sets of china and want to sell three,'" Kershek says. "We have Grand Rapids-made Stickley and Forslund furniture, and just acquired a collection of unbelievable vintage aprons from the '30s and '40s."

Kershek says there are items from the '60s and '70s, as well. If it's lived some of its life in Heritage Hill, the store owners will consider offering it. Items include globes that show the old Cold War country names, and even some art created by artists who live in Heritage Hill.

Store hours: Tues., Weds. 5 -9; Fri. 1 - 9; Sat. 10 - 6; Sun. 12 - 5; and by appointment. Hours will change after the Downtown Market opens.

Source: John Kershek, Colline Patrimoine
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Images courtesy of Colline Patrimoine

Handmade goods, zines, indie publications are all part of new Have Company on Avenue for the Arts

Have Company is not your grandmother's traditional general store. The new shop in a live/work space at 136 S. Division Ave., Grand Rapids, will offer customers a selection of handmade goods by local and non-local artists, as well as a number of independent publications and underground zines. But that's not all.

Every few months the store will feature one of its artists, who will have one of the two expansive storefront windows to style with his or her own creations. The first featured artist, Sally England, has created a modern macramé and glass globe art piece that store owners Marlee Grace and John Hanson hope will entice customers inside to explore England's contemporary macramé plant hangers and leather-and-rope jewelry.

"The general store embraces kind of the old dry goods aspects of handmade clothing, fabric goods, (and) household goods like handmade soap and handmade laundry soap," Grace says. "We carry things from people in lots of different places; we like to support other makers that inspire us or have stores of their own that we really like."

Jacob Vroon, owner and creator of Harbinger Leather Design, shares the live/work space with the store in an unusual way: his living space is the rear section of the store and his leather studio is in the basement. Harbinger Leather goods will be a staple offering at Have Company.

Other artists and their works include Rose Beerhorst's rag rugs, Eliza Fernand's ceramics and clothing, and Bjorn Sparrman's pottery.

Regarding the zines and indie publications, Grace says these, like the visual arts, are forms of self-expression that she and Hanson want to promote.

"These (publications) can be small or big, professionally bound, or not -- where anyone can write about anything or draw about anything and they don't have to wait for some publishing company to tell them it's good enough to put it out to world," Grace says. Have Company will carry publications already created, and will have in-store workshops where people can ceate their own.

The store opens Sat., July 13, noon to 10 p.m. The opening corresponds with the Avenue for the Arts street market of art and music. Regular store hours will be Tues. thru Sat., noon to 9 p.m.

Read more about the store and its Artist in Residency program here.

Source: Marlee Grace, Have Company
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Have Company

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New salon on Grand Rapids' Monroe North aims to bring personal service back in style

Brindle & Blonde salon opened last week in Grand Rapids' Monroe North business district with a mission to offer personalized hair styling services for customers who want a relaxing, one-on-one salon experience.

Located on the corner of Monroe North and Trowbridge (600 N. Monroe Ave.) in the same building as the Speak EZ Lounge, the salon's bright atmosphere plays up the abundance of daylight that streams through two walls of windows.

The natural daylight was a big selling point of the space, says Salon Manager Molly Savage. She says that salon owners Whitney Hewitt and Jamie Brinks "wanted to keep it peaceful and relaxing and inviting."

Hewitt and Brinks met some six years ago when they both worked at Echo salon. Both dreamed of having their own salons one day. Brindle & Blonde employs six stylists, all of whom have several years' experience in hair styling.

The salon offers a selection of hair and body products, plus styling services for men and women, including custom cuts and styles, hair coloring, facial waxing, formal hairstyles, hair extensions, body wraps, and makeup application. The salon is also busy creating specialty services for brides and bridal parties.

"When you walk in the door, you'll start with a consultation with a stylist to talk about what you like about your hair and what you don't like about it," Savage says. "You can bring in a photograph and the stylist will consult on if that style works for you. We want to get your hair style to where you'll love it."

Source: Molly Savage, Brindle & Blonde
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Brindle & Blonde Salon

Creating shared community solar energy systems -- workshops offered at Muskegon's MAREC

What's involved in creating a community-based shared solar energy system? That's the broad question that will be answered at a series of workshops offered at Grand Valley State University's Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center (MAREC) this month.

The workshops, which began July 9 but are still open for anyone to attend, allow participants to pick the brains of some of the top innovators in alternative energy while learning about how to create a solar energy system that will benefit entire communities, not just one home or business.

Community solar systems might be created by a neighborhood, a business district, a church, or an organization. Members invest in building the system on a particular site, the energy generated is sold to the utility grid, and the income is either credited to the members on their energy bill or they receive a payment for it.

"It's like a community garden," says Kim Walton, MAREC program director. "They finance the solar panels and install them on a brownfield site or in a park. Everybody puts in a little and everybody gets back a little. It's a really nice option for people who don't own their own home or don't have a good solar site because they have too many trees or some other obstacle."

The workshops will cover case studies, utility company policies, regulations, site selection, business models, methods for organizing communities, and more.

Workshop leaders include: Anya Schoolman, founder of the Community Power Network, Washington D.C.; Sara Bronin, program director for the Center for Energy and Environmental Law, University of Connecticut; Kim Walton, MAREC; Mark Clevey, Michigan Energy Office; John Sarver, Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association; Rachel Johnson, Cherryland Electric Cooperative; and David Konkle, community solar project coordinator, Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association, and others.

The workshops are co-sponsored by the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association and take place every Thursday in July, from 6 - 9 p.m. The cost is $60 whether you attend one workshop or all five. For more information, contact Kim Walton at waltonk@gvsu.edu or (616) 331-6907.

Source: Kim Walton, Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Baker Lofts $18.5M rehab brings affordable living to vacant warehouse on Grand Rapids' SW side

A former furniture warehouse that many thought had seen its last days is a new, eco-friendly living space kitty-corner from Grand Rapids' new Downtown Market.

Baker Lofts (40 Logan St. SW), an $18.5 million renovation of the Baker Furniture warehouse, brings 87 affordable rate (lower income) apartments to an area serviced by two bus lines and in a region of the city once classified as a "food desert," prompting development of the Downtown Market. The project awaits LEED certification.

Mike Jacobson, president of LC Companies, LLC, developer of the project, says the 125,000-square-foot building began construction in September 2012 and has already leased three of the five floors. The fourth and fifth floors are still under construction and will be completed in a few weeks.

"We did a market study that told us the vacancy rate of affordable housing was basically zero in the central city," Jacobson says. "Our experience is that the building of housing runs in cycles with the economy -- in the mid-2000s people lost their homes, and turned to rental housing as the only housing they could have. There wasn't a lot of housing being built during that time, and construction of affordable housing in this market hasn't met the demand that's there. There really hasn't been, in eight or nine years, an increase in affordable housing. In that period, all that was built replaced what was being demolished or being rebuilt."

To-date, some 45 of the 65 residents in the building work in downtown Grand Rapids in restaurants and retail shops, says Jacobson.

Jacobson adds that, although he lives in Grand Rapids and practiced law here for 35 years, Baker Lofts is LC Companies, LLC's first venture into the Grand Rapids housing market. The firm develops only affordable rate housing and has focused its efforts in Muskegon, Traverse City, Petoskey, and Michigan's east side.

Rockford Construction: construction and construction management
Catalyst Partners: LEED consultants
Rebecca Smith Hoffman, Past Perfect: historic preservation consultant

Source: Mike Jacobson, LC Companies, LLC; Tyler Lecceadone, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Images courtesy of SeyferthPR

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Saugatuck Brewing expands brew house, bottling operations as distribution market grows

For the past two years, Saugatuck Brewing (2948 Blue Star Hwy., Douglas, Mich.) has brought home Best In Show from Frankenmuth's World Expo of Beer where some 700 beers compete. But that grand accomplishment is just the tip of the iceberg for this growing company.

With the company's 2012 expansion into the Greater Chicago market, and a future expansion into Indiana, Saugatuck Brewing needs more brewing equipment and more office space. Construction begins in October to expand the brewing operations and offices into two-thirds of the space now occupied by the brewery's banquet area, The Singapore Room.

The expansion will enable the brewery to quadruple its brewing capacity from the 10-barrel system it has now to a 40-barrel system (1,200 gallons). While VP of Marketing Kerry O'Donohue expects a gradual increase in production over time, the point is that by the time the new equipment is in place in mid-spring 2014, the brewery will be ready to increase its output substantially.

"We produced 500 barrels in 2009," O'Donohue says. "In 2010, we doubled that and produced around 1,000 barrels and in January 2011, we expanded the equipment and increased capacity to 2,000 barrels. In 2012, we produced 4,000 barrels, and at this point will produce around 6,500 barrels in 2013."

Additional new equipment will allow Saugatuck Brewing to bottle, label, and package its beers in one process, something its existing equipment can't do.

O'Donohue says the brewery's most popular brews are Singapore IPA, Oval Beach Blonde Ale, Pathfinder Pale Ale, and ESB (extra special beer) Amber. Seasonal releases and the brewery's proprietary Brewers Reserve Series include a Serrano Pepper Ale, Double Black Ale, Hop Scotch Ale, Continuum IPA, and a Neapolitan Milk Stout that has vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry flavors.

Source: Kerry O'Donohue, Saugatuck Brewing; Dianna Stampfler, Promote Michigan
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Images courtesy of Saugatuck Brewing
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