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Planned $18M Baker Lofts could create 87 affordable apartments near Downtown Market

Dodging earthmovers, cranes and construction vehicles of all kinds is not an easy task these days at the corner of Logan and Ionia streets on Grand Rapids' southwest side. But that's what dozens of folks did for Wednesday's ceremonial groundbreaking for Baker Lofts, a proposed residential project that will invest $18 million in the renovation of the former Century Furniture/Baker Furniture warehouse at 40 Logan St. SW.

Construction of 87 affordable-rate apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail will begin in 2013, just kitty corner from the Logan/Ionia intersection where the Downtown Market is rising slowly on new brick walls. Elimination of "some environmental issues" is underway now, says Mike Jacobson of LC Companies, developer of the site.

Baker Lofts stretches new development in the city to south of Wealthy St. SW, an area that has been under-used with many buildings vacant and decaying for years.

"This was built by Century Furniture at the turn of the century, then they left for North Carolina," said Jacobson at the groundbreaking ceremony. "Then Schoonbeck [Furniture] occupied it and they left, then Baker."

And now, Jacobson says, the building will bring vitality and housing to an area that will bustle with activity when the Downtown Market opens -- an area that hasn't offered Grand Rapids new living spaces in many decades.

The apartments will range from 650 square feet to 1,200 square feet and will lease for $450 to $550/mo. for one-bedroom units, and $550 to $750/mo. for two-bedroom units. The developers expect the project to be LEED certified.

Apartments should be move-in ready by July 2013, says Jacobson.

Construction manager: Rockford Construction.
 
Source: Mike Jacobson, LC Companies, LLC; Tyler Lecceadone, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photography: Jeff Hill, Publisher, Rapid Growth Media

Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority okays $36M apartment development in Heartside

The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority approved the creation of a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) for the proposed construction of an estimated $36 million apartment development on the city's south side in Heartside.

The development, proposed for vacant properties at 205 S. Division Ave., 26 Cherry St. SW and 240 Ionia Ave. SW, is a new project by Midland-based Brookstone Capital, LLC, developers of millions of dollars in housing in Serrano Lofts, 101 S. Division, Metropolitan Park Apartments and other projects in Heartside.

Combined, the three new buildings could bring over 130 new affordable and market rate apartments to an area undergoing a surge of development.

"Eighty percent of the apartments are for people making 60 percent of the area median income -- they have to be bringing in a paycheck," says Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Kristopher Larson. "It will be mixed income, with a market-rate component for 20 percent of the units."

Unlike zoning, which stays with the property and not the development project, the PILOT is approved for the property improvement project only, says Larson. The DDA and Grand Rapids City Commission both approved this pilot for 40 years at 205 S. Division Ave. and 26 Cherry St. SW, and 35 years at 240 Ionia Ave. SW.

Larson says the PILOT means that "instead of the new tax increment that would have been collected coming to us (the DDA), a large portion of it is abated to contribute to the operational costs in developing workforce housing."

The PILOT paves the way for Brookstone Capital, LLC to be part of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority Low-Income Housing Tax Credits Program. Brookstone also seeks State of Michigan Brownfield Tax Credits.

At press time, Brookstone Capital had not returned Rapid Growth's request for comment.

Source: Kristopher Larson, Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority; agenda packet information from Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority meeting of Sept. 12, 2012
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Finally, Grand Rapids' historic Kendall Building on $4M journey from crumbling to renewal

If Derek Coppess's plans work out, the regeneration of the dilapidated historic Kendall Building in downtown Grand Rapids will begin in 30 days -- a venture that could infuse a neglected, yet vital, corner of the downtown core with renewed vibrancy and energy.

The Kendall Building (16 Monroe Center Ave. NE) sits next to longtime business Reynolds & Sons Sporting Goods and overlooks the intersection of Fulton St. and Division Avenue. Coppess and his 616 Development plan to bring $3 million in new retail spaces, 12 market rate apartments, and his own company to the circa 1880 structure. This, in conjunction with the Downtown Development Authority's proposed renovation of the adjacent Monument Park, could continue the shift of one of the city's major gateways from desolate to thriving.

Coppess paid $750,000 for the five-story building.

"Placemaking is a real buzz word, and the beauty of making a place is to fill the places with people," Coppess says. "We think the upper floors have been vacant three to four decades; it's a little bit frozen in time."

He adds that, in addition to the recent construction of the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts and the creation of The Gallery Apartments, both at Fulton and Division, "MoDiv helped bring people further down Monroe Center. The Children's Museum is great, and if we get [Monument] Park done into a great new green space, and with the old JA Building across the street under the control of some really great developers (Locus Development), the energy coming in and out of our building will create a lot of energy and harmony on that corner."

Construction plans include a rooftop deck, a large media/gathering room in the basement (which has original brick floors), and re-use of many of the building's architectural elements. Those elements include iced-glass dental office doors with hand-painted signage on them, which will be reinvented as barn-style sliding doors for the apartments.

Architect: Lott3Metz
Construction manager: First Companies

Source: Derek Coppess, 616 Development; Chris Knape, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Cherry Deli owner to open urban deli in Grand Rapids' Heartside "38" building

Scott Schulz, owner of Grand Rapids' Cherry Deli, has been working over a year to bring his unique recipe for a new deli to Heartside. The eatery, called Two Beards Deli, will open in 2,200 square feet on the main level of "38," the new liner building that fronts along Commerce Avenue SW and Weston St. SW.

The name "Two Beards" came about because both Schulz and deli general manager Chris Sommerfeldt have beards. The name started as a joke when brainstorming names with building owners John Green and Andy Winkel of Locus Development, Schulz says. "About a year later, they brought up the Two Beards name and we figured if they remembered it after a year, that it was pretty good."

The deli menu will feature about 100 sandwiches named after famous people with beards, like ZZ Top and Obi Wan Kenobi, and the décor will include wall images of the eight major styles of beards.

Schulz says the deli ventures into new territory by offering its first breakfast menu that includes breakfast paninis, oatmeal, yogurt and a coffee bar. The menu also features vegan and vegetarian options for both breakfast and lunch.

"The location has us pretty excited, because it's close to Van Andel Arena, lots of office workers, and the building itself has residents living here and people working in the building," Schulz says. "And Cooley Law and Aveda Institute [are] on the street." Schulz says the deli expects to work with Pyramid Scheme down the street, which doesn't offer food service.

Schulz says a planned Kickstarter campaign will help the restaurant raise funds to transform some of the Grand Rapids' ash trees that were cut down due to the Emerald Ash Borer into tabletops and chairs for the deli.

Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days.

Source: Scott Schulz, Two Beards Deli; Locus Development
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Build-your-own frozen yogurt sundae shop, Sweet Yo's, opens in downtown Grand Rapids

Sweet Yo's opened this week in downtown Grand Rapids, bringing the downtown area its first build-your-own frozen yogurt sundae shop featuring 18 frozen yogurt flavors and over 50 toppings.

Sweet Yo's (134 Monroe Center Ave. NW) is a sister shop to Sweet Yo's in East Grand Rapids (2180 Wealthy St. SE), which opened earlier this year. Husband and wife Mario and Lidia Piccione teamed up with Mario's sister Rosa Piccione to open the shop, and celebrated a ribbon cutting on Tuesday.

"We felt that the location across from Rosa Parks Circle was a perfect spot for what we're looking for," says Mario Piccione. "We're looking for more of a foot traffic business, and this fit our needs. The shop is just steps from popular eateries The Dog Pit and Angel's Thai Café and around the corner from Kilwin's Chocolates.

The self-serve aspect lets customers choose their flavor or a combination of flavors in a dish or a waffle bowl and add their toppings of choice. Price is calculated by weight, at 49 cents per ounce.

Sweet Yo's opened with frozen yogurt selections of key lime, espresso hazelnut, cake batter, peanut butter, blueberry cheesecake, fresh strawberry, chocolate, vanilla and two non-dairy sorbetto flavors: lemon and mango.

Toppings run a mouthwatering gamut from the standard chocolate, caramel and strawberry syrups and whipped cream to fresh fruit, Rice Krispies Treats, M & M's, Skittles and Reese's Pieces.

The Piccione family has a history of businesses in the Greater Grand Rapids area, including an experience with launching a 2009 startup in the downtown core, Lia Rose (40 Monroe Center Ave. NW), co-owned by Rosa Piccione. Rosa also owns Rosa's Closet (East Grand Rapids), and Mario and Lidia own Uccello's restaurant in Caledonia and co-own Uccello's in Grandville.

Sweet Yo's hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Mon. through Sun. during ArtPrize.

Source: Mario Piccione, Sweet Yo's; Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Long-awaited $5.2M Belknap housing projects launch pre-sales in anticipation of groundbreaking

A project that's been just a dream since about 2007 to bring new housing options to Grand Rapids' Belknap Lookout neighborhood is finally underway. Artesian Group, LLC, a developer located in the Belknap Lookout area (605 Livingston Ave. NE), announced plans this week to begin pre-sales of 13 new flats and townhomes slated to replace existing outdated rental housing stock on Fairview St. NE and Hastings Avenue NE.

The $5.2 million project includes Belknap Brownstones -- nine two- and three-bedroom apartments from 538 to 548 Fairview St. -- and four townhomes at 540 Fairview St. NE and 47-49 Hastings Ave. NE.

Grand Rapids real estate firm Griffin Properties will pre-sell a specified number of the units (six brownstones, one townhome per duplex) to enable Artesian Group to move forward on financing and then construction, says Artesian Group Owner Angel Gonzalez. Gonzalez says he hopes to begin construction on the brownstones and/or the townhomes by spring 2013.

"We think there's a new market out there for new housing in the downtown Grand Rapids urban core," Gonzalez says. "This is a good time for Belknap Lookout; we haven't had much of an identity and we want people to know we're here and we're an option."

The neighborhood is just a stone's throw from Spectrum Health Butterworth, Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, Grand Valley State University's Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences, Van Andel Institute and the Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion -- which employ thousands of medical workers, clinicians, medical researchers and instructors.  

Belknap Brownstones will be four buildings with a total of nine flats ranging in size from 1,100 square feet to 2,300 square feet. Upper flats will have rear balconies with the Lookout view of the city; lower flats will have large windows and doors opening to a back yard patio and common green space. The brownstones will replace three existing rental homes that have a total of six units.

The townhomes will offer higher end finishes, Gonzalez says, and the Hastings St. units will have a rooftop deck overlooking the city. "You'll have panoramic views and you'll feel like you're sitting on top of the city," Gonzalez says.

Plans for another residential project in the 600 and 700 blocks of Livingston Avenue NE are also in process, but Gonzalez says no details are set.

For more information on the residences, click here.

Source: Angel Gonzalez, Artesian Group, LLC; Griffin Properties
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Proposed Belknap Lookout plan addresses neighborhood's views on development

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

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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

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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
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