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Health of Plaster Creek Watershed gets $375,622 boost from DEQ grant to Calvin College, partners

In 2003, Calvin College biology professor Dave Warners and his kids were walking along Plaster Creek and saw a man catch a salmon in the creek's polluted waters. Warners says he realized then that the danger level of the pollution is a social justice issue, not just an environmental one, because that man was going to take that salmon home and feed it to his family.

Plaster Creek Stewards, a region-wide effort to reverse the pollution in the creek's watershed, got a big boost recently with a Department of Environmental Quality grant of $375,622 awarded to Calvin College.

Several community partners will share the monies to improve the watershed: West Michigan Environmental Action Council, Kent Conservation District, the Kent County Drain Commission, the Center for Environmental Study, the City of Grand Rapids, Kent County Parks Department and Calvin College.

The Plaster Creek Watershed runs from creek headwaters near Dutton to the creek's entry into the Grand River just south of downtown Grand Rapids.

Professor Warners is part of the Plaster Creek Stewards leadership team, along with Gail Heffner and Nathan Haan, both of Calvin College. The college's campus lies along a portion of the creek.

"People should avoid Plaster Creek," Warners says. "It's carrying a high level of E. coli (Escherichia coli) and other bacteria that would elicit human health complications. It's a mistake to think that even with this amount of money we're going to be able to make vast improvements. Because of all the development and neglect of this creek, each year it has gotten worse. A big part of the pollution is stormwater runoff."

The funding will pay to create four bioswales at different points along the creek, to increase awareness of pollution practices by residents and businesses in the Plaster Creek Watershed, and to fund faculty and student research. It will also pay for ongoing research to determine where the E coli originates.

An oral history research project will collect stories from watershed residents of the past 60 years to help students understand what the watershed used to be like and create a vision for the future.

"I'm looking forward to the day when the creek is not worse, and then we can turn this thing around," Warners says. "This grant gives me a lot more hope that that day is closer."

Source: Dave Warners, Calvin College
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

90-year-old building in Grand Rapids' Creston district renovated for Sun Title expansion

As the installation of seven environmental bioretention islands down the middle of Plainfield Avenue continues between the Creston and Cheshire business districts, a circa 1920s building in the nearby 1400 block is undergoing its own renovation.

The building's tenant, Sun Title, currently resides in 6,000 square feet at 1410 Plainfield Ave. NE. But with the renovation of the entire building from 1400 Plainfield NE (at Spencer St. NE) north to 1410 Plainfield, Sun Title will expand to nearly 10,000 square feet.

"We've continued to grow since 2005," says Tom Cronkright, a partner in Sun Title with Lawrence Duthler. "We've got around 30 full-time folks and we have an opportunity for additional work space. Adding the corner unit at Spencer Street will allow us to conduct training, client mixers and networking events in that part of the building."

The building was once a two-story structure, but fire destroyed most of the second floor in 1982, says Duthler. The new construction will add a parapet at the second story level at Spencer and Plainfield to give the building definition. Inside, the original oyster tile floors, original wood and ornate pillars that were uncovered during demolition will be preserved and restored.

The new functionality will include an employee lounge area and office space for future growth.

"It was pretty dilapidated, and it's such a prominent corner that the renovation will beautify the area," Duthler says. "We're fortunate to have a number of neighbors here who have done a nice job of restoring their buildings, such as Red Jet and Stone's Throw, and we own the Creston Market building and did some façade improvements there. It's a great district to be in and it's a positive sign that folks want to be in this neighborhood."

Cronkright and Duthler expect construction will be completed by mid-September.

Source: Tom Cronkright and Lawrence Duthler, Sun Title
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

O'Connor's Home Brew Supply Store keeps things brewing with larger store, more products

A larger store in a newly renovated building is just what O'Connor's Home Brew Supply Store needs to keep things hoppin' in Grand Rapids' Midtown Neighborhood, and the store owners couldn't be happier.

Ben and Allison O'Connor opened the store 16 months ago, aiming to provide area home brewers with a supply outlet dedicated solely to the craft of home brewing. Now the shop has relocated just down the street to 619 Lyon St. NE, to a shop that doubles the retail area, plus provides a packaging and brewing workroom space in the back.

"We went from 700 square feet to over twice that," says Allison O'Connor. "We also have a finished basement to store our inventory so we can now buy in bulk to keep costs down and we can carry specialty items."

The new store has storefront windows for display, exposed brick walls and wood floors that are original to the old building. The rear of the building will eventually have a green space where the O'Connors hope to hold brewing classes and seminars.

The new store opened about three weeks ago and now offers over 70 grains from Germany, England, Belgium and other countries. There's a cooler dedicated to hops, and a variety of ingredients for brewing meads, wines and ciders, as well as hardware supplies and a number of starter kits.

"We work with the Michigan Hop Alliance and they will harvest their hops in the fall," O'Connor says. "We also have custom recipes, and if you're 21 and can show I.D., we can give you a sample of what we have brewing. We do that so people will know that home brew tastes like real beer."

Store hours: Tues. - Fri., 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., 11a.m. to 6 p.m.    

Source: Allison O'Connor, O'Connor's Home Brew Supply Store;
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Nexus Academy accepting students for new college prep charter school on Grand Rapids' West Side

Grand Rapids high school students now have an opportunity to attend a non-traditional college preparatory school that specializes in a technology-based curriculum of blended learning -- a combination of online and face-to-face instruction.

Nexus Academy of Grand Rapids, part of the online learning Connections Education network, is putting finishing touches on outfitting the school at 801 Broadway NW in the American Seating Park. The school will have two shifts of 150 students each, with one shift running from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and the second from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The school has two English teachers, two math teachers, several success coaches and a personal trainer for physical education requirements. Fitness equipment is located within the school.

"The atmosphere is a combination of a college lounge and Starbucks, one open space with visibility for all the adults in the space and Plexiglas walls," says Mickey Revenaugh, executive VP of Connections Education. "There is a lot of individualized learning and extensive use of technology where students are working on their laptops all day. The real push is toward college or a trade school."

Revenaugh says the individualized learning allows students to work at their own pace and choose the subjects they're interested in learning without requiring an entire classroom of students for that subject.

"If one student wants to take Japanese IV, they can do that," she says. "Technology-based learning gathers data on what they're learning and where they're having problems."

Nexus Academy is a free public school chartered through Central Michigan University and is accepting applications now for the Sept. 3 start date. Click here for more information.

Revenaugh says Connections Education serves 45,000 in 22 states. Another Nexus Academy opens this year in Lansing, MI., plus three others in Ohio.

Source: Mickey Revenaugh, Connections Education
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Advanced Technology Recycling rehabs vacant Grand Rapids warehouse as Northeast US operations center

A vacant warehouse on Grand Rapids' southwest side will soon be the hub for Advanced Technology Recycling's northeast U.S. region; a collection and dispersal point for electronics recycling and rebuilding computers for resale inside and outside the states.

Advanced Recycling Technology, a subsidiary of Pontiac, Illinois-based BK Solutions, Inc.,  is a zero-landfill electronics recycling company that uses its expertise in the technology industry to refurbish discarded computers, and then sells them to companies who want to keep costs down, says Brodie Ehresman, northeast region general manager.

The 65,000-square-foot former mattress warehouse (702 Hall St. SW) has been vacant for several years after being used as tire storage and a stadium seating painting facility.

"We have a strong commitment to repurpose as much electronic equipment as we can," Ehresman says. "We have a proprietary process to sanitize the computers and have an IT team to repurpose the machines."

Ehresman says the company had to bring the century-old warehouse up to code with a new sprinkler system, elevators, and boilers, and is in the process of rebuilding the seven loading docks.

The company is an ISO 14001-R2 Certified Recycler and, besides computers, accepts phones, phone systems, laptops, copiers and other electronics. Items are collected at drop off sites organized at private corporations and organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. The recyclables will come to the Grand Rapids site for staging, and then sent downstream to various facilities for dismantling and recycling.

A grand opening is planned for August 6. An electronic waste drive is planned for July 20 - 21 at Habitat for Humanity ReStores on Division Avenue, Wyoming, and on Alpine Avenue,  Comstock Park.

Source: Brodie Ehresman, Advanced Technology Recycling
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Maru Sushi & Grill on track for August opening in Grand Rapids' East Hills

Right now, passersby see only bare concrete walls, ladders and construction debris through the two walls of windows in a new building along Cherry St. SE. But over the next weeks, Maru Sushi & Grill will come into being as millwork, furniture, paint and a kitchen take shape inside.

The restaurant, owned by Robert Song, who also owns an Okemos restaurant by the same name, should be open by late August or early September, bringing the area an authentic Japanese steakhouse experience with a twist.

"We're known for sushi, but we're not a sushi restaurant," Song says. "I have Japanese steakhouse chef experience of ten years, so we'll offer grilled steak, chicken and seafood, plus salads and soups. In Okemos, the grill part of it became so popular we had to change up to larger equipment."

Song's wife, Kelly Hong, an MSU interior design educator, is designing the interior to create an atmosphere to complement cuisine that's deeply rooted in "the traditional belief that the goodness of the ingredients makes the food," Song says. "However, we always give it a different interpretation of what it could and should be in this day and age. I have a traditional background in Sushi, my executive chef doesn't, so we're a good mix."

Maru will be open for lunch and dinner, with inside seating for 85 and outside seating for 20. The restaurant and patio area nestle neatly beside Brewery Vivant, and will offer patrons a full bar.

Source: Robert Song, Maru Sushi & Grill
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Booker Barber College opens in Holland, aims to bring traditional barbershops back

Zach Booker wants to bring the traditional barbershop back to West Michigan neighborhoods and he aims to do it by making sure plenty of trained barbers are ready.

Booker, owner of Zach's Barbershop (4064 Chicago Dr. SW, Grandville), will open Booker Barber College at 170 Veterans Dr., Holland on July 17. The college is accepting student applications now, and on that date will be open to the public for $5 haircuts and $7 straight razor shaves.

Booker says many of the first students have transferred from the Booker Institute of Cosmetology, a Booker family institute, and will be working on customers under direct supervision of two barber college instructors. The barber college is located in the former Holland location of the Booker Cosmetology Institute, which also has locations in Muskegon and Hudsonville.

"I own a barbershop and became a barber because I saw the West Michigan area is saturated with cosmetologists," Booker says. "Other barbershops are staffed with cosmetologists, and clients aren't getting the authentic barbershop experience, where they can go in and know that the barber has been trained for 2,000 hours to cut short hair. It's the community connection; you develop friendships, I know my clients, I know their kids."

Booker says there are only five barber colleges in Michigan and Booker Barber College will be the only one in West Michigan. Students will receive classroom instruction and testing in addition to the hands-on training in hair cutting, color, perms and relaxers. The full course takes about a year to complete.

Hours: Tues. - Sat., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome.

Source: Zach Booker, Booker Barber College
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Sacred Roots combines visual art, hair styling to create unique salon in East Grand Rapids

Local artists have a new outlet for displaying their work surrounded by Hollywood Glam décor at East Grand Rapids' new Sacred Roots Salon.

The salon (2237 Wealthy St. SE, Suite 150), situated between Derby Station and Hot Mama's in Gaslight Village, caters to clients' hairstyling needs and doubles as an exclusive art gallery where one local artist a month can showcase his or her works without competing with other artists.

"I love art and supporting local artists," says owner James Garnant. "So the first Thursday of every month we have a cocktail party and a new installation by a new artist goes in."

Zeeland artist Katherine Throne is there through July, says Garnant. Beginning August 2, the salon will feature photographer Mike Kelley, with another artist following in September.

Garnant says he has been a hairdresser for 20 years and the salon helps him fulfill his dream of bring art to the public in a cozy and relaxed atmosphere.

"Hair is an art form in itself, and like attracts like and so it attracts artists," Garnant says. "I'm really big on making this a community gathering space where people feel they're not just getting their hair done but can come and hang out."

Hours: Weekdays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sat., 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Source: James Garnant, Sacred Roots Salon; Carey Potter, Brick House Marketing Group
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Megabus adds Grand Rapids to low-cost express routes between Detroit, East Lansing, Chicago

Megabus will bring its low-cost express bus service to Grand Rapids beginning July 12, with routes to and from Detroit, East Lansing and Chicago.
 
Megabus, a subsidiary of Coach USA, allows passengers to book seats online, which guarantees the seat and eliminates the need to stand in line to buy tickets, says President and COO Dale Moser. The service is designed with a minimal number of stops, so passengers arrive at their destination in nearly the same amount of time they could drive -- an advantage over traditional bus travel, Moser says.
 
"Historically, other bus companies stop eight to ten times, making a three-hour trip four-and-a-half hours, and customers didn't like that," Moser says. "We took a European approach with center city locations for drop offs, and found safe and highly visible locations close to other forms of transportation. We also offer free Wi-Fi on our buses."
 
The Grand Rapids pick-up/drop-off location is the parking area on the southwest corner of Wealthy St. SW and Market Avenue SW, diagonally across from the Amtrak station and a short walk to The Rapid central station.
 
A quick check on trip prices came back with tickets as low as $12 round-trip to Chicago, with the most expensive prices at $17 for the same trip (July 12 arrival and departure) and arrival times just over three hours. A ride to and from Detroit was $12 on the low end and $16 on the high end, with travel time to Detroit of 3 hrs. 15 mins.
 
Moser says Megabus serves over 90 cities, nationwide.
 
Source: Dale Moser, Megabus.com
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Valley City Linen goes greener in Grand Rapids to save 8M gallons of water annually

In the peak of the summer season, Grand Rapids-based Valley City Linen washes about 450,000 pounds of commercial laundry a week. As of last week, the company (10 Diamond Ave. SE) has a water efficient Milnor PulseFlow Technology Continuous Batch Washer (CBW) that will handle about half of that workload using only 0.3 gallons of water per pound, dropping the company's water usage by nearly 8 million gallons per year, says Jeff Jeltema, owner.
 
Jeltema and his brothers Greg and Tim own Valley City Linen, which was started by their grandfather Paul Jeltema in 1935. The company has occupied the 10 Diamond site since 1937, when it was just a storefront and subbed out the laundry. Now Valley City has 180 employees and distribution centers in Traverse City and Metro Detroit, but handles all the laundry processing in Grand Rapids.
 
Valley City Linen was quick to jump on the new technology which was introduced by the manufacturer last December.
 
"We did a major expansion to our washroom in 1995 and put in a CBW then, which used 0.6 gallons of water per pound," Jeff Jeltema says. "But the new technology is so much better, we're cutting our water consumption in half on the CBW and it handles a lot more laundry."
 
Jeltema says the environmental advantages also include using less energy to heat a smaller amount of water and having less dirty water to discard. In turn, the CBW will cut costs and increase the company's cleaning capacity without requiring a building expansion. That could result in future jobs.
 
Source: Jeff Jeltema, Valley City Linen
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Planned $55M GVSU science lab lands $30M in state funding, groundbreaking in 2013

Grand Valley State University has run out of room for educating its science, technology, engineering and math students, but Monday's signing of a state capital outlay bill enables the university to collect $30 million toward a proposed $55 million science building on the school's Allendale campus.
 
Governor Rick Snyder signed the bill in Detroit, enabling the work on the nearly 150,000-square-foot science facility to move forward toward bonding the remaining $25 million and drawing up architectural plans for construction, says Matt McLogan, VP for university relations.
 
"We've had this [facility] planned and ready for the opportune moment, and happily the governor and legislature came together to reinvest in our universities in science, engineering, technology and math programs," McLogan says. "The [existing] Padnos Hall of Science has been full for a long time, which is the reason for the new building."
 
McLogan says the building will be constructed across Campus Drive from the Padnos Hall of Science and will house laboratories, classrooms and faculty offices for programs in biology, chemistry and physics. GVSU hopes to hold the first classes there in the fall of 2015.
 
"Grand Valley has made a significant investment in the health professions, science, technology, engineering and math, and those programs constitute almost half of our enrollment," McLogan says. "These programs produce high-quality graduates in professions where there are not graduates to meet demand in Michigan."
 
Source: Matt McLogan, Grand Valley State University
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Changes at Grand Rapids' historic Wealthy Theatre could draw larger productions, aid sustainability

The reopening of Grand Rapids' Wealthy Theatre eight years ago began a period of transformation for Wealthy St. SE. This year, the theater hopes to once again become a catalyst for bringing more visitors to the neighborhood.

Thanks to a $550,000 capital campaign that is currently in its final fundraising push, the theater (1130 Wealthy St. SE) will be getting some much needed improvements that should help entice larger scale productions to its stage.

Jenny Waugh, marketing manager for Rockford Construction, the company handling the construction, says the main goal for the upgrades is sustainability.

"One thing they want to do, especially because of the old lighting throughout the theater -- the aisle lights and the huge spotlights -- all of those are just traditional lights," Waugh says. "They are very hot, they are very expensive to run and they aren't very flexible. So if you were to replace all of them with LED lights, your operating costs go down tremendously. It's actually safer because they don't get hot like traditional lights do."

In addition, Waugh says the LED lights will offer visual benefits to productions. The light colors will be able to change through the flick of a switch to any color in the spectrum, rather than the current method, which requires the manual switching of a series of color screens.

"It's appealing to higher end or higher production shows," Waugh says.

The theater is also planning to renovate its parking lot, adding green space, center islands, curbs and parking spaces.

Waugh says the theater will add solar panels to the roof and will implement an airlock system at the front and back doors, which will also reduce operational costs. Maintenance improvements will also be made, including fresh paint, carpet and other minor upgrades to keep the building looking nice.

Source: Jenny Waugh, Rockford Construction Company
Writer: Charlsie Dewey, Freelance Reporter

Grand Valley State University's Seidman Center in Grand Rapids designed for collaboration

The new Grand Valley State University L. William Seidman Center entered its final year of construction this summer. The new 110,000-square-foot building (50 Front St. NW, Grand Rapids) will house the entire GVSU Seidman College of Business and serve its more than 3,200 students.

In designing the building, special attention was paid to the need for teamwork spaces and places for business clubs and groups to meet. Several classrooms are designed to facilitate group work, and there are designated spaces for the college's six community outreach centers.

In addition to 15 general classroom spaces, the building also includes 14 team rooms that students can reserve.

"One of the things we'll have that we haven't had so far is what we call a room wizard," says Dean H. James Williams. "It's what Steelcase calls its technology. Students will be able to use this technology [online] to reserve spaces without actually showing up to reserve those spaces."

Williams says there will also be rooms equipped with Lecture Capture technology, which videotapes and audiotapes lectures and archives them for students and community members to access later.

The building will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified, and Williams expects it will achieve silver status. A couple of unique sustainability features include a first floor shower for bicyclists and a station for electric cars.

The three-year project is moving along on schedule, with construction expected to conclude at the end of April 2013 and a move-in date that May.

Source: H. James Williams, Grand Valley State University Seidman College of Business
Writer: Charlsie Dewey, Freelance Reporter

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Instructional painting studio offering food, drinks opens in East Grand Rapids

Aspiring artists can try their hand at acrylic painting over a glass of wine or beer at the newly opened Brush Studio (2213 Wealthy St. SE, East Grand Rapids).

The 1,600-square-foot instructional art studio offers two-hour instructional painting classes that take students from a blank canvas to a piece of art worthy of their household wall. Classes cost $35.

"You sign up online based on the painting that you are interested in learning," explains Lisa Jabara, owner of Brush Studio. "We have an instructor that instructs you on that painting -- say, it's Starry Night -- brush stroke by brush stroke from start to finish."

Brush is able to accommodate small groups that would like to reserve a table as well as larger private parties of 20 or more who wish to rent out the entire space. Jabara also plans to offer team-building classes to local businesses, which can be held on or off site.

In addition to painting classes and open painting, the studio has also partnered with nearby Ramona's Table to create food options for customers to enjoy while they work. The restaurant developed a menu of appetizers, sandwiches and salads. The studio will offer several Michigan beers and wines as well as some non-local options. The wine and beer menu includes Oberon, Bells Two Hearted, Little Black Dress and Dreaming Tree.

"It's such a fun atmosphere to have a bunch of people painting. And there's music, and everybody is drinking wine and beer," Jabara says. "It's a great time."

Brush is not just a place for adults; the studio offers family-focused classes on Saturdays and Sundays for parents and their kids.

The store is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for open painting. To learn more visit, www.brushgr.com.

Source: Lisa Jabara, Brush Studio
Writer: Charlsie Dewey, Freelance Reporter

Tech company Springthrough to make leap downtown

You know it's a good sign that when you order new furniture for your growing office, by the time it gets delivered, you need to order more.

That's the situation that rapidly growing technology company Springthrough is facing these days. Their growth has been so dramatic in the past few years that they've decided it's time for a new home, and have chosen 62 Commerce SW in the Heartside District in downtown Grand Rapids to call their own.

They plan to lease both floors of the 13,500-square-foot building that sits wedged between 38 Commerce SW and Pyramid Scheme. The vacant, ornate brick and wood-beamed building dates back to the early part of the 1900s, when the historic Heartside District and Commerce Avenue went through a building boom. Commerce Avenue has seen another bit of a boom in the last 10 years, making it one of the fastest redeveloping areas in downtown.

According to LeeAnne Williams, marketing director at Springthrough, the company embarked on the strategy to find new space in November of last year, which had only become more imperative in 2012. They currently are housed in two former industrial buildings on the NE side of Grand Rapids. While certainly not a bad area, Williams explains that "having our workers in two separate buildings isn't the best situation for employee morale."

Springthrough has nearly 50 employees, and are "hiring weekly," according to Williams. They've had great success finding local internship talent out of Grand Valley State University, but do find it challenging to find good software developers and architects.

"We feel that downtown has the look, fit, feel and atmosphere for our people," says Williams. Moving into the new building in September of this year will give them the ability to put everyone under one roof, and provide expansion space for the foreseeable future.

Springthrough, founded in 2000 by Mike Williams, provides software solutions in five practice areas: managed services, support services, interactive services, app development and technology solutions consultants. Their customers are located throughout the Midwest and U.S., including providing Facebook application services for a division of Disney.

Source: LeeAnne Williams, Springthrough
Writer: Jeff Hill, Publisher
Photography: Jeff Hill, Publisher
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