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LINC to break ground on $1M apartment development in Grand Rapids' Madison Square

The paint isn't dry yet on a nine-townhouse project in Grand Rapids' Madison Square neighborhood, but one area nonprofit is ready to break ground on another seven apartments -- a $1 million continuation of an ongoing project to bring contemporary affordable housing to an area blighted by home foreclosures.

LINC Community Revitalization, Inc., is wrapping up construction on Southtown Square, and will begin construction later this month on Prospect Place (1335 to 1407 Prospect Ave. SE), bringing to the city's housing market two four-bedroom A.D.A. accessible apartments, three three-bedroom apartments and two two-bedroom apartments.

Three of the units are set aside for persons making up to 50 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) and the remaining four are for persons making between 51 percent and 120 percent of the AMI, says Alicia Dorr, LINC communications coordinator.

The project site is the former Madison Square Co-Op Apartments, which sat vacant since going into foreclosure. LINC purchased the property with the vision of creating fresh new housing options for a variety of income levels.

"The idea is to make this into a neighborhood where anybody would like to live, and to make sure housing is affordable to keep the people who live here," Dorr says. "We believe that places that are unsafe and crumbling deserve revitalization as much as any other area in the city. We are always looking for new ways to green the neighborhood, and have included landscaping plans to beautify the blocks that these units will be on."

The apartments will be LEED-certified, which will help reduce energy costs to residents, said Stephanie Gingerich, LINC real estate development director, in an August 20, 2012 interview.

The project is funded through a grant from theCity of Grand Rapids' Neighborhood Stabilization Program 3 (NSP3).

Construction manager: Orion II Construction
Architect: Isaac V. Norris & Associates, P.C.

Source: Alicia Dorr and Stephanie Gingerich, LINC Community Revitalization, Inc.
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Nine new LEED townhouses nearly ready in Southtown Grand Rapids, part of much larger project

Grand Valley State University to open expanded gallery showcasing newly donated Mathias Alten works

Grand Valley State University will celebrate the expansion of the George and Barbara Gordon Gallery on the Grand Rapids Pew Campus with a public event this Saturday.

The gallery, established in 2008 to showcase dozens of Mathias Alten paintings donated by the Gordons from their personal collection, has grown to double its original size with the addition of a 1,250-square-foot gallery on the second floor of GVSU's Richard M. DeVos Center (401 W. Fulton St.).

Alten, a celebrated artist, was born in Germany in 1871 and spent much of his life living and painting in Grand Rapids and West Michigan, then traveled to Spain and The Netherlands in search of new inspiration for his work.

With over 100 of Alten's works, most donated by the Gordons and others donated by Alten's three living granddaughters, "Grand Valley holds the largest public Alten collection in the world, as well as his family’s archive collection of family photos and letters," states GVSU in a recent press release.

Combined, the main- and new second-floor exhibition spaces display nearly 80 of Alten's works depicting landscapes, waterscapes and farm scenes of Michigan, Spain and the Netherlands, Alten family portraits and three of the artist's self-portraits, including his last self-portrait painted in 1937 (the year before he died), entitled "Myself At 66."

"He was always in search of new images and new subjects, so his visual vocabulary expanded during his career," says Henry Matthews, GVSU director of galleries and collections. "All the prominent families [in Grand Rapids] had grandpa's portrait painted by Mathias Alten, or a landscape, or a vase of flowers, and many churches, like Fountain St. Church, and also St. Cecilia's Music Society have paintings by him.

"We're now able to showcase some of his story in the George and Barbara Gordon Gallery," Matthews continues. "What this does for us , given the depth of the collection, which is now significant, is we can really now tell the story of Mathias Alten in depth."

The gallery expansion grand opening takes place on Saturday, Sept. 15, from 1 to 5 p.m.

Source: Henry Matthews, Grand Valley State University
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Related Articles
West Side’s Gordon Gallery expands, makes room for more Mathias Alten works

Nine new LEED townhouses nearly ready in Southtown Grand Rapids, part of much larger project

Nine new LEED-certified townhomes in Southeast Grand Rapids are under construction as the first leg of a much larger proposed project by LINC Community Revitalization, Inc. to replace abandoned foreclosed homes with modern, energy efficient townhomes.

The project, Southtown Square, demolished two dilapidated townhouses and a vacant commercial printing business and remediated contaminated soil. Now, nine affordable-rate townhomes are heading for completion, part of a project that could replace some 20 foreclosed properties with 41 modern homes in a neighborhood where many families have struggled to keep their homes, and lost.

The nine two-story townhomes (537 and 539 Hall St. SE; 454 and 456 Umatilla St. SE; 429, 431 and 433 Umatilla St. SE; and 428 and 430 Woodlawn St. SE) will run 800 to 1,150 square feet. Most offer three bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths, says Stephanie Gingeritch, LINC real estate development director. All of them will have full appliance packages and in-home laundry. One home will have a handicap accessible main floor bathroom and bedroom.

LINC purchased the properties from the Michigan Land Bank, Gingeritch says. Work on another two-building townhouse project near Hall and Madison Avenue SE begins in September.

"This is part of a larger redevelopment project where we will be purchasing additional foreclosed townhouses from the State of Michigan and redeveloping those as affordable units," Gingeritch says. "We recently submitted an application for tax credit financing for an additional 41 units of housing (five additional sites, 20 buildings) on Umatilla and Gilbert. We'll hear in March 2013 if that is awarded.

"We're glad we can bring this quality development to the neighborhood where there are already families who are established and don't have to move out of the neighborhood to have this," Gingeritch says.

The project is part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 to stabilize neighborhoods damaged by the economic effects of properties that have been foreclosed upon and abandoned.

Architect: Isaac V. Norris & Associates, P.C.
Construction: Orion II Construction Inc.

Source: Stephanie Gingeritch, LINC Community Revitalization, Inc.
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Rapids' WMCAT Building renovation looking good to become new HQ of Acton Institute

Raising the floor on the main level of the building at Fulton St. and Sheldon Blvd. SE could be just the beginning of raising community awareness of The Acton Institute, a faith-based proponent of free-market economies across the world. The institute could make 25,000 square feet of the first floor and basement level of the building its new headquarters come December.

The move will bring the Acton Institute from quiet office space tucked away inside the Waters Building in downtown Grand Rapids to a prominent corner of a busy, redeveloping neighborhood just a block east of the new Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts and The Gallery Apartments.

The building, known locally as "The Wim-CAT Building" for its second-floor tenant, the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT), will have a high-tech auditorium with tiered seating on the lower level for conferences and global education events. The Acton Institute has offices in Italy, Brazil, Austria, Zambia and Argentina and manages events from Grand Rapids.
Pioneer Construction is the construction manager of the project. "The [original] floor on the main level has an area that's raised about two feet," says Pioneer Construction Project Manager Mike Verbeek. "The basement ceiling height is only about nine feet, and the first floor ceiling height is 15 feet. So we're raising the floor a couple feet to make the main floor all one level and excavating down a couple of feet in the basement for the tiered seating area [in the auditorium]."

The main floor will be office space for Acton's 40-plus staff. The building is being constructed according to SERF (Society of Environmentally Responsible Facilities) standards, and is, perhaps, the first building in Grand Rapids to be built to these standards.

"SERF is a fairly new certification that's an alternative to the LEED certification," says Chris Beckering, Pioneer Construction business development director.

"This is another catalyst project that will bring in extra people to the area who will use the restaurants and the shops," Verbeek says. "And Acton will bring in speakers and conference people as well."

Source: Mike Verbeek, Chris Beckering, Pioneer Construction
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Related Articles
Free-market group, Acton Institute, buys downtown Grand Rapids' "WMCAT Building" for new HQ

Baker Lofts starts to take shape near the new Urban Market

In the post-apocalyptic setting of torn up streets, piles of dirt, concrete and steel near the new Urban Market construction site, the new Baker Lofts project is taking shape across the "street." This renovation of the 100-year-old Baker and Century Furniture Factory at the corner of Logan Street and Ionia Ave SW is the first catalyst project to accompany the construction of the Urban Market on Ionia Ave., south of Wealthy.

Back in 2009, Ann Arbor-based development firm HDC, led by East Grand Rapids native Bob Jacobson, began the process of securing MSHDA Low Income Housing Tax Credits and Historic Preservation Tax Credits to bring the long underused building back to life. The hope is to capitalize on the increased energy that will accompany the opening of the Urban Market, in an area south of Wealthy that has traditionally been a heavy industrial area of downtown.

The approximately $17.1 Million, 125,000-square-foot renovation project will be developed in two phases, the first of which will encompass 43 low income residential apartments. The second phase will add an additional 44 apartments and 15,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor.

In addition to the massive amount of work going on at the Urban Market site, set to open in Spring 2013, the streets around the market are seeing $3.2 Million in enhancements, including street rebuilding and streetscape improvements to Ionia Ave. from Wealthy to Buckley, Logan Street from Division Ave. to US-131, and McConnell Street from Division to Ionia.

Rockford Construction is serving as general contractor on the Baker Lofts project, and Concept Design Group as the architect.

Sources: Downtown Development Authority, Rockford Construction
Writer: Jeff Hill, Publisher

$306K approved for Grand Rapids White Water study, Blue Bridge repair, downtown events

The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority has approved some $306,000 in funding for three projects affecting the economic vitality of downtown's Center City.
On August 8, the Downtown Development Authority approved a grant not to exceed $31,800 for the cost of designing and engineering work on the Blue Bridge, built in 1892 as the Indiana Railroad Bridge. The bridge now serves as a popular pedestrian gateway between Grand Valley State University's Pew Campus on the west bank of the Grand River and Center City. It is the oldest railroad bridge spanning the Grand River.
Rehabilitation includes painting the bridge, repairing the deck and replacing lighting. The full project will run some $1.3 million.
"The Blue Bridge is an important feature of the downtown and the first historic landmark designated in Grand Rapids outside of a neighborhood," says Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Kristopher Larson. "[The rehabilitation means] we'll be able to continue to enjoy it in the near and far term."
Also approved, a grant up to $100,000 for a phase 2 feasibility study by Grand Rapids WhiteWater to restore the rapids in the Grand River for kayaking, canoeing and rafting. Phase 1 determined restoring the rapids was not only feasible, but would generate social, economic and environmental benefits.
A $175,000 grant to the Downtown Alliance will help that organization market the downtown as a vibrant destination for shopping, dining, theater and entertainment. The Downtown Alliance supports a growing number of community events downtown, including ArtPrize, LaughFest and Restaurant Week.
"It's important for the Downtown Development Authority to keep the vision of the downtown, working with the planning department to create an overall vision for the community," Larson says. "We're to be an open and transparent body. We have an existing committee action-group structure in experience, economy and environment, working with volunteers who seek to be involved in developing and advancing the downtown."
Source: Kristopher Larson, Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority; Downtown Development Authority Media Release of August 8, 2012
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Ottawa County to determine feasibility for agricultural technology business incubator

The Ottawa County Planning Commission is looking to the future of agriculture in the region with a new study to determine the feasibility of a business incubator to nurture new agricultural technology startups.
"A couple of years back, our citizen survey said economic development is something the county should get involved in," says Ottawa County Economic Coordinator Josh Spencer. "One way [to do that] is to focus on a strength in the area, and that's agriculture. There's no organization that focuses specifically on the agricultural technology market."
With large agricultural supply companies in the region, such as Zeeland Farm Services, and national and global food processors like Heinz, Sara Lee and Boar's Head, Spencer says there could be plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs to develop innovations in technology and equipment for the industry.
Ottawa County commissioned Florida-based Greenwood Consulting to conduct a study to determine if there is a demand for a business incubator of this type, its sustainability and a possible location for it. Interested persons can complete the online survey here until August 24, 2012.
"We think there's a big opportunity in the food safety industry for new technology around how food is packaged and shipped, or different types of containers," Spencer says. "Also any type of machinery used in agricultural production or food processing. Farming is starting to use more equipment that uses GPS technology and apps that allow farmers to use phones and electronic devices to identify diseases in plants. We're hoping ideas like that come about."
The feasibility study is funded by a $20,000 USDA grant and $20,000 from Ottawa County.
Progress reports on the study, which will be complete and presented to the planning commission in October, and on the proposed incubator will be posted on the Ottawa Planning Commission Facebook page, here.
Source: Josh Spencer, Ottawa County Planning Department
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

The Rental Company triples operation space with move to renovated Holland Ladder Factory

After its move to a huge new showroom and warehouse, Holland-based The Rental Company no longer has to move merchandise out of the way to get to the merchandise the customer wants.
Some 12,000 square feet of the former Holland Ladder Company warehouse (430 W. 17th St.), about a third of the building, is now efficient storage space that includes clean storage for linens, glassware and china, a dishwashing and linen laundry area, and a bit of office space.
A spacious showroom allows brides and event planners to experiment with tables, chairs, linens, table settings and centerpieces to get just the right look for an event.
The Rental Company specializes in accoutrements needed for events ranging from a small tent to a large tent with tables and seating for a thousand, says owner Robyn Allison. Chandeliers, linens, tables, chairs, drapes, complete formal dinner settings, beverage dispensers and dance floors are just some of the items available for rent. Employees handle the staging and set-up.
"We were located in 4,000 square feet at 967 S. Washington and had to have an offsite storage location," Allison says. "We literally had to move something to find something and load it. We went from a lot of nothing to a really big something."
Allison says she provides event planners with green "eco-chic" options, such as having both recycle and trash bins at events. And this year the company added custom-made tables fashioned from the wood salvaged from an 1820s barn. Babysitting the details in the company's specialty, Allison says.
"We had an event for a couple who bought a place in Saugatuck," she says. "Guests came thinking they were going to a housewarming, but it was really a 1920s-themed wedding. So I had to talk with them about how we go from a housewarming party where people will bring their kids, to a wedding atmosphere."
Check out their Facebook page here and their Pinterest boards here.
Source: Robyn Allison, The Rental Company
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

GRpulse.com says finding Grand Rapids' lifeblood starts in the heart of the city

How can local businesses let their customers into the virtual "back room" where ideas are generated and special events are born? And how can they keep those customers engaged so they'll walk through the front door often?

Those were the questions Drew Nelson, owner of GRpulse.com, asked himself when he launched the engaging advertising website in September 2011. After the first few months of operating from home, Nelson needed to be in the heart of the city and moved GRpulse.com into MoBevy, a co-working office environment on the second floor of 40 Monroe Center Ave. NW.

"I have a dedicated workspace that is mine, and it's all brand new Haworth office cubicles and furniture," Nelson says. "It's a perfect fit for what I'm doing."

Nelson says his proximity to other businesses sharing the space is a plus, given the opportunity to interact and network, aspects that are integral to his business.

"[GRpulse.com has] grown into exactly what I wanted it to be -- a favorite resource where people can find out what's happening at their favorite establishments. We give people a hands-on approach -- they can see photos of a restaurant's interior and photos of the food so they know what to expect before they go somewhere. It's a proactive approach to what's happening, as opposed to after-the-fact, here's what you missed."

Nelson says businesses pay for ads and articles on the site. Nelson writes most of the articles and handles some of the photography, but advertisers can write their own pieces and provide their own photography, as well. There are currently 42 businesses on the site, all locally owned, and Nelson just hired a salesperson to bring on more clients.

"GRpulse.com is local supporting local," Nelson says. "Grand Rapids is loyal to our local businesses; it's important to the people who live here."

Source: Drew Nelson, GRpulse.com
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Start Garden opens idea, mentoring space in downtown Grand Rapids

The need for a space dedicated to growing an ecosystem for entrepreneurs, investors and mentors has prompted Start Garden to put down roots in an abandoned storefront in Grand Rapids' downtown Center City district.

Start Garden
, a $15 million seed accelerator for early-idea startups, is an idea developed by Rick DeVos, the mind behind ArtPrize and 5X5 Night, and supported financially by the DeVos family. The fund awards $5,000 a week to two start-up ideas, one chosen by Start Garden and one chosen by the public, in the hope of launching some 100 viable new businesses per year in the Greater Grand Rapids area.

"When we launched in April, we called it Stage One of something ongoing, of a buildout of an ecosystem friendly to entrepreneurs and new ideas," says Paul Moore, marketing director. "With as big an effort as we were undertaking each week, we would need a physical space where we would be a font of social activity, where everyone could have space to work on ideas."

Moore says the 5,000-square-foot space at 50 Louis Ave. NE, next to Lee & Birch, has a café-like feel during the day, but can be rearranged as a classroom or an auditorium space. The doors are open to the public around the time of a Start Garden event, such as, Update Night, when awardees present updates on how the initial $5,000 investment has helped their business move forward. The most promising are selected for further investment up to $500,000.

The rest of the time, the space is dedicated to being a place where entrepreneurs, investors and mentors connect, network and generate new ideas.

"It's right on the ground level, highly trafficked, a place to put on social and staged events to bring the entire city into the conversation about helping these companies along," Moore says. "It's the only way the cultural change we want is going to happen -- a thousand people doing a thousand small things in one direction."

Source: Paul Moore, Start Garden
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Introducing Start Garden

New law firm brings years of legal expertise to a growing business district in Norton Shores

A growing business district in Norton Shores has a new resident alongside eateries, a coffee shop and an established financial institution. The law office of Gielow Groom Terpstra & McEvoy moved into the second floor of the Michigan Commerce Bank building (281 Seminole Rd.) with just five people onboard last April. The company now has nine employees and hopes to add more as business grows.

The four attorneys -- Eric Gielow, Brad Groom, Rachel Terpstra and Keith McEvoy -- have from eight years' to over 30 years' legal experience each, says Eric Gielow, and represent businesses and commercial clients. However, each attorney has specialties: Gielow in environmental law, Groom in trial experience, Terpstra in family law and domestic relations, and McEvoy in corporate, real estate and liquor law.

"We all practiced at another firm together and decided to form this firm," says Eric Gielow. Gielow says the firm has incorporated many lean practices to keep costs down, similar to the lean practices of the company's manufacturing clients.

Those lean practices include a goal of being a paperless office, helping the company to minimize costs. Gielow says that savings is passed along to the firm's clients.

The building was part of a brownfield redevelopment that includes new retail and commercial spaces, Gielow says, and is across the street from a new Verdoni's Italian Restaurant and local java place, The Coffee House.

Source: Eric Gielow, Gielow Groom Terpstra & McEvoy; Laura Holmes, Fine Line Creative
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Dear Prudence offers unusual jewelry finds in small, chic East Grand Rapids shop

What's black and white and chic all over? Dear Prudence, a fun new jewelry haven in East Grand Rapids.

Dear Prudence, owned by Prudence Kauffman, is a diminutive 400-square-foot boutique with a black and white color scheme that allows the intriguing jewelry and gifts inside to take center stage. The store (701 Bagley St. SE, East Grand Rapids) carries jewelry and items that Kauffman hopes can be found only at Dear Prudence.

"We mostly carry jewelry, mostly made in the U.S., but we do have one fair trade line to support women and their families in Central and South America," says Kauffman, 40, who says both she and the store are named after the Beatles tune, "Dear Prudence." "We made sure we're carrying things that are different than anyplace in town, and have agreements with some of the artisans to be the only store in Grand Rapids carrying these products."

Besides unique Chanel button jewelry by Chicago artist Patti Lynch and Luminous Creation mixed metal jewelry by Grand Rapids artist Jaclyn Dreyer, the store also carries one-of-a-kind fingerprint jewelry made from customers' fingerprints. Customers press their fingerprints into a wax mold, and Dear Prudence sends it to the manufacturer to be dipped in silver and fashioned into necklaces, bracelets, cuff links or tie tacks.

"We just did one for a friend who had twins, and we took the babies' prints and made them into jewelry," Kauffman says.

Kauffman and her husband, Brad, relocated to the Grand Rapids area after 20 years in Winston-Salem, NC, because Brad's job was transferred here. The dream of the store has been percolating for years and became reality after Kauffman recovered from uterine cancer.

"Brad said if we get through this, we're going to do every single thing we ever wanted to do," Kauffman says. "I'm cancer free now, so we started researching the store and putting together every idea we had."

Hours: Mon. - Sat., 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sun. noon to 5. Online shopping at DearPrudence.com will be available soon.

Source: Prudence Kauffman, Dear Prudence
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Planned Rockford Brewing craft beer pub hopes for first pour soon

With half of its brew house already in place and the fermenters arriving on August 7, Rockford Brewing Company hopes to produce its first beers for customers by late summer, says co-owner Seth Rivard.

Rivard, with partners Brien Dews and Head Brewer Jeff Sheehan, formerly of New Holland Brewing, says the two-story pub at 12 E. Bridge St., Rockford, will brew a number of Belgian-, English- and German-style ales, plus lagers and IPAs. The pub will also offer house-brewed sodas, sweet and dry ciders, red and white wines, plus deli food selections from Poindexter's Specialty Marketplace, which shares the building.

Rockford Brewing has a premium location along the White Pine Trail next to Reds on the River, across from the scenic Rockford Dam, the Rogue River and the popular Squires Street Square shopping district. Rivard says the main entrance opens to the White Pine Trail, and he expects the brewery to attract a lot of traffic from local craft beer aficionados and tourists, alike.

"The Rogue River and boutique shops are unique and draw people, and we think a craft brewery will be a draw for the town," Rivard says. "While we plan to sell most of the beer on-premises, we have a license for distributing beer and the primary first place is in Rockford. We want to be the flavor of Rockford."

Rivard says the seven-barrel brew system will produce 1,000 barrels (31-gals. per barrel) a year. The pub will have upper and lower levels, as well as outdoor seating along the trail, and will accommodate 150-200 people.

"The lower level will have an English pub, up north cabin feel, with a lot of white pine," Rivard says. "The upstairs is like a Bavarian beer hall. We'll have 12 taps on the main floor and six taps on the upper floor. We have a large window between the pub and the brew house so customers can see into the brew house, and passersby will be able to look into the brew house from outside."

To follow the brewery's progress on Facebook, click here.

Source: Seth Rivard, Rockford Brewing Company
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Idema Pew Library on GVSU's Allendale campus could raise bar on energy efficiency

Construction of the Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons on Grand Valley State University's Allendale campus includes so many energy-saving design aspects and high-efficiency materials that the facility will consume half the energy of a typical library its size.

That's the word from Scott Veine, project manager for Pioneer Construction, who is overseeing the project.

"We took the base model of a library that met all the program needs of GVSU and worked with Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, a subsidiary of the Department of Energy, to cut 50 percent of the energy consumption," Veine says. "We've successfully completed that over the course of the last year and we're now implementing what the DOE gave us."

The 150,000-square-foot building will have five stories, 80 percent of which have raised floors with 18 inches of space below for running electrical, HVAC and IT lines, Veine says. Heat and air conditioning will come from the floor up, to maximize energy use in the six- to seven-foot-high zone people occupy.  

Other energy-saving features include a tight building envelope to retain maximum heat, a lighting sensor system that will dim artificial lights when enough natural light is present, and glass curtain walls to let in plenty of natural light.

The library will seat about 1,500 students, will offer 20 group study rooms and will have 600,000 books available to students through an automated retrieval system to reduce the space needed to store the books. Electronic books will also be available for students.

Veine says construction is about 45 percent complete, with 75 percent of the building already enclosed. Right now, about 120 tradesmen are on the job each day, and construction just hit a milestone of 100,000 man-hours. The project is on track for an expected LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

To view a video of the U.S. Green Building Council's tour of the project, click here.
For more information on the library, click here.

Construction manager/constructor: Pioneer Construction.
Architect and interior design: SHW Group.
Landscape architect: Hamilton Anderson.
Civil engineering: FTC&H.

Source: Scott Veine, Pioneer Construction
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Toronto genetics testing company selects Grand Rapids' West Side location for first laboratory

Toronto, Ontario-based Arctic DX has selected Grand Rapids' American Seating Park on the city's west side as the site of its first genetics testing laboratory, Arctic Laboratories. The $1.9 million facility is under construction at 801 Broadway NW and will process its first tests for genetic age-related macular degeneration this September.

In 2009, the company released its Macula Risk test to identify patients who have inherited the genes that cause macular degeneration, an eye disease that, left undiagnosed and untreated, causes blindness. Arctic DX has been using outside genetics laboratories to process the test results. The 7,500-square-foot facility is the first testing laboratory owned and operated by the company.

"Twenty percent of patients with macular degeneration are at risk of progression to blindness," says CFO/COO Jim Pelot. "Macular degeneration starts in patients around age 50 to 60 and is asymptomatic, so the patient doesn't know it's there until it's discovered by their eye doctor. The purpose of Macula Risk is to catch the disease early enough to make sure the patient doesn't lose their vision."

Two-thirds of the new facility is dedicated lab space that includes a separated ventilated lab that will keep the genetic testing area free of airborne DNA, says Pelot. The rest of the space will be staff offices and meeting rooms.

"We sat down with three different short-listed jurisdictions to discuss how to work with the city and the state for us to settle there, and decided on Grand Rapids," Pelot says. "Other considerations were the pool of [potential employees] who are familiar with molecular genetics, we wanted the laboratory to be easy to get to, and we have a number of Michigan doctors who are customers."

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation recently awarded Arctic DX a $220,000 Business Development Program incentive to build the laboratory in Grand Rapids.

The laboratory will create 28 jobs in the area. See the related story New Grand Rapids genetics testing lab seeks workers for research, office positions.

For more information on the Macula Risk test, click here.

Source: Jim Pelot, Arctic DX
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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