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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

TreeHuggers, Bartertown Diner partner to bring Grand Rapids a vegan bulk foods grocery

The frustration of trying to find grocery foods suitable for vegan and vegetarian diets could be coming to an end in Grand Rapids. A fresh grocery option could be available as early as next week at TreeHuggers (947 Wealthy St. SE), an option which will offer package-free products for customers to take home in their own containers.
"I hate having to get everything in plastic," says TreeHuggers owner Angela Topp. "Grocery stores have everything in plastic, and I've been trying to reduce the packaging. Ryan [Cappelletti] (owner of Bartertown Deli) is able to bring in the sustainable nutritious food, and I can do it without getting all this packaging with it."
Topp says the store has combined its food orders with Bartertown's orders from local farms and food producers, so the type of products Bartertown orders hasn't changed, only the quantities have.
The store will offer products that include maple syrup, honey, hot sauces, nuts, condiments, sodas by the tap, spices, teas and much more. Ready-made menu selections from Bartertown will be available daily, such as sandwiches and cookies. Plus, there will be a selection of prepared breads from vegan bakeries, says Topp.
Customers will be able to pick up a limited number of containers at the store, but are encouraged to bring their own to encourage the reduction of plastics consumption at home, Topp says.
Once the grocery aspect of the store launches, Topp says the store hours will become 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.
The initial funding of just over $8,000 for the project came from a Kickstarter campaign that Topp says created a lot of buzz and support for the new business.
Source: Angela Topp, TreeHuggers
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Six studio apartments on the drawing board for Grand Rapids' Avenue for the Arts

For the past four years, Lucky Chana, owner of Lucky's convenience store on Grand Rapids' Avenue for the Arts (24 S. Division Ave.), has fielded all sorts of questions about the two empty floors above his store -- questions from college students wondering if he has any budget-friendly apartments up there. By this fall, Chana hopes to answer that question with a hearty yes.
"We get so many students from GRCC, GVSU and Cooley who ask the same question," Chana says. "They are looking for a medium price apartment, and all the apartments they're building around town are a little bit high end."
Chana's plans are to create six studio apartments above the store. He says he's received approval from the Historic Preservation Commission for his plans to restore and beautify the building's façade -- a $40,000 investment for brick repair, new windows and a new store canopy. He hopes to begin construction within the next four weeks.
"I think 30 to 40 years ago, there was some type of apartments upstairs," Chana says. "I thought, if I could rehab those into 300- to 500-square-foot-apartments, it will be easy to rent at a reasonable price to these college students. My building looks like an eyesore, along with a couple of other buildings right now, and it's time to do it and make it look better for the area. Hopefully it will bring better business to me and to my neighbors down here."
Architectural design: R2 Design Group
Construction: Wolverine Construction
Source: Lucky Chana, Lucky's
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Miscellany combines vintage, retail and art for unique store in Grand Rapids' Heartside

With its clean urban décor and an eye to presenting artists' works to the public, Miscellany combines fashion, vintage, new artworks and style for shoppers in Grand Rapids' Heartside district.
The store (136 S. Division) is the creation of Patrick Lelli, who designed the shop in a small live/work space built by Dwelling Place. Lelli, an all-around artist with skills in photography, store design, graphic design and music, returned to Grand Rapids after several years of using his talents in Los Angeles and New York City.
He divided the space into three sections: one for living, one for the retail store and one for the art gallery. Lelli has a passion for collecting and selling handmade art books. He says his collection is modest right now, but he would like to make the art gallery and the art books a strong focus of the store.
The gallery's current show of works by Grand Rapids printmaker Todd Freeman coincides with the release of Freeman's book of his drawings of industrial nets entitled Gather. (Show runs through mid-August.) Lelli is a little surprised at the success of his first two art shows.
"About a week ago, the guitarist from the Red Hot Chili Peppers came in when they were here playing at the Van Andel and bought half of Todd's show and took it with him," Lelli says. "And our first show, which was Amanda Acker, had a lot of traffic and she sold out half of her show, as well."
The retail side of the shop offers American-made men's and women's clothing from the fifties and sixties by brands like Pendleton and Woolrich, Lelli says.
"These live/work spaces are set up for this, like the traditional spaces where people lived in the back of their stores," Lelli says. "It makes it possible financially. My commute's about 30 seconds, and I love being central to everything that's downtown."
Store hours: Tues. through Sat., noon to 6 p.m.
Source: Patrick Lelli, Miscellany; Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

$1M rehab makes Grand Rapids' Paul Phillips Rec Center the city's newest activity hub for children

A $1 million renovation of one of Grand Rapids' best-kept secrets has transformed the place into a virtually brand new 29,000-square-foot hub for children. Through a partnership between the City of Grand Rapids and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth, the Paul I. Phillips Recreation Center (726 Madison Ave. SE) becomes the newest center for health, education and leadership development for the city's children ages 8 to 18.

The Paul I. Phillips Recreation Center, which has been unused since 2009, features an expansive gymnasium where basketball games, scooter races and volleyball matches will be just a part of a balanced menu of children's activities from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., weekdays.

The renovation includes the creation of a new computer and learning center, an arts and crafts room, classrooms, restrooms, an administrative office and second-level game rooms overlooking the gymnasium, says executive director Rick Huisman.

"We look at the club as a gift where kids can have fun as they learn and make new friends," Huisman says. "Whether they're looking to get help with school work, play video games or play in the gym, they are nurtured as they become our future leaders. There will be structured classes in the gymnasium, in the classrooms, and arts and crafts, but we also want them to have time to do what they want to do and hang with their friends."

The center is open to any Grand Rapids child ages 8 to 18 for $5 a year. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Mon. - Fri., beginning Monday, June 11. Beginning June 18, children will receive a lunch and a snack daily, which is included in the membership price.

The center is the Boys and Girls Clubs' third facility in the city. Club leaders and city dignitaries were on hand for a ribbon cutting ceremony on Tues., June 5.

Source: Rick Huisman, Boys and Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Rapids' John Ball Zoo opens Idema Forest Realm, gift shop; readies for funicular's first trek

High atop the hill that is the backdrop to John Ball Zoo's entrance is a lush, green forest that visitors have never been able to explore … until now. The John Ball Zoo (1300 W. Fulton St.) recently opened its new Idema Forest Realm, threaded with a tree-shaded boardwalk/pathway that leads visitors to the hilltop viewing area to catch an eyeful of scenic views of Grand Rapids.   

The Idema Forest Realm is part of a $12.5 million project, paid for with private funds, to create new adventures for zoo visitors. The three-year project includes an expanded gift shop, a new visitor plaza entryway, three play zones along the forest path, and a multi-function events center called The Bissell Tree House, all of which opened last month.

A much anticipated three-car funicular (tram), which will take riders up and down the hill, will open within the next couple of weeks, says Brenda Stringer, executive director of the John Ball Zoo Society.

"It's in the testing phase right now," Stringer says. "We have to have a computer setting for each foot of track to keep the cars level so the passengers stay level on their way up and down the hill."

Stringer says that even more changes are coming, changes geared to delight visitors and make the zoo the best it can be for its four-legged inhabitants. The Meijer Grizzly Bear Exhibit opens in 2013 and includes a much larger grizzly bear viewing area, the removal of the moat that separates the bears from the fenced boundary, and the addition of a glass wall that will allow the bears to get up close to visitors. Atop the hill, the Jandernoa Children's Tree House (opens 2013) and the Crawford Tiger Exhibit (opens 2014) are in the design phases with construction slated to begin soon.

A $5 million gift from Bea Idema and the Bill & Bea Idema Foundation spurred development of the Idema Forest Realm & Funicular. The $12.5 million raised will fund all of the projects, plus a central services warehouse.

Source: Brenda Stringer, John Ball Zoo Society
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Grand Rapids' Organicycle works to turn organic waste from homes, businesses into something useful

Many homes and businesses in Grand Rapids already recycle cans, bottles and paper, but even the most conscientious recyclers have had to forego recycling their organic waste like food scraps and used pizza boxes. Until now.

Organicycle (1560 Taylor NW, Grand Rapids) has spent the last few months picking up organic waste from local small and mid-sized businesses, and now the company is preparing to launch a test residential service in select Grand Rapids neighborhoods.

For $7 a week, Organicycle customers receive a 35-, 65- or 96-gal. cart for their organic waste -- which includes food, paper, pet waste, coffee grounds, junk mail, cardboard, lawn and leaf debris, and used paper towel and microwave meal containers. Organicycle picks up the cart weekly and delivers the waste to Spurt Industries to convert to compost.

"Look in the trash in the bin under your office desk, and I guarantee most of it is organic waste," says Dan Tietema, a partner in the business with Justin Swan. "There are leftovers from your lunch and scrap paper. It's pretty easy to separate it; you just need to know what's organic and what's not."

In addition to picking up the waste and diverting it from local landfills, Tietema says the company will consult with businesses to help them educate employees on what items are organic waste, to put together a sustainable program for their business, and help them develop best practices.

Tietema says the residential program is a few weeks off, but the company has wrapped up its study of Grand Rapids neighborhoods and hopes to launch its test program in areas within the Ottawa Hills and the North East Citizen Action neighborhoods, as well as the Breton Village/Calvin College areas.

For more information on Organicycle, click here.

Source: Dan Tietema, Organicycle
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Rapids' $45M Wealthy-Jefferson project gets new name, launches phase 2

The seemingly impossible vision of creating a community filled with housing options, retail shops and an urban grocery store where there were once dilapidated buildings and vacant land is close to becoming reality.

As construction continues on 32 apartments in two new buildings along Wealthy St. SW between Sheldon and LaGrave avenues, the developers of the project, the Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF), announced today a new name for what was known as the Wealthy-Jefferson Project: Tapestry Square.

"We hope that there are several messages contained therein," says ICCF CEO Jonathan Bradford. "A fabric is made strong by the weaving of the cords vertically and horizontally; so, too, is a community strong by the weaving together of a variety of uses and a diversity of people. We're sending a message of stability, safety and opportunity with the name Tapestry Square."

Tapestry Square encompasses four blocks bounded by Wealthy St. on the north, Division Avenue on the west, Buckley St. on the south and LaGrave Avenue on the east.

Construction on the first two buildings, which will offer 32 affordable rate apartments, is well underway. Construction of the adjacent Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy along S. Division has begun (not funded by ICCF, but through a public-private partnership between the Grand Rapids Public Schools and the Grand Rapids University Preparatory Association). A grocery store with residential space above it is in the financial planning stage, says Bradford.

"This fall, we will start construction of 16 ownership townhouses at [the] south end of same block as the apartment buildings," says Bradford. "Next Monday, we're starting reconstruction of a four-unit building at 528 Sheldon Avenue."

Tapestry Square also includes several new retail spaces and a Bus Rapid Transit station.

Bradford says a study of 35 city blocks in the area showed that residential occupancy declined some 80 percent from 4,744 people in 1912 to 946 in 2000. The number of retail businesses dropped from 43 in 1950 to just two in 2002. He adds that the development of the Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center in the nearby Vandenberg Elementary School building and the future UPrep Academy will help to attract new families and many more businesses to a once-thriving neighborhood.

"Tapestry Square seeks to transform this neighborhood into a tightly woven, functional urban fabric again," Bradford says.

Source: Jonathan Bradford, Inner City Christian Federation and Tapestry Square
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Grand Slam Subs to open near GVSU's Pew Campus after two years of setbacks

It's been almost two years since Aaron Baker first approached the City of Grand Rapids about opening a sandwich shop on the corner of Lake Michigan Dr. NW and Seward Avenue. Now, after working through rezoning controversies and construction delays, Baker says the shop could be open by July 1.

Grand Slam Subs will feature deli sandwiches, salads and soups, all served in a circa 1880s one-story building that was once two stories tall. The building has housed an upholstery shop, a bar and a manufacturing office. Baker says a fire destroyed the top story many years ago.

"From inside, you can see a perfect skyline of downtown," Baker says. "It's a million dollar view that showcases the Y, GVSU, the Amway Grand Plaza and the J.W. Marriott."

Baker chose a sports theme for Grand Slam Subs because of his intent to highlight local sporting events and the local sports community. Names of sandwiches and other menu items will incorporate baseball terminology, such as, single, double, slider and curve ball.

The building's most recent users, Metrol, configured the interior as an office with an open floor plan, so "the layout was great," Baker says. He removed about five layers of wall coverings, including sheet rock and mortar, to expose the brick walls. The restaurant will have inside and outside seating, plus will offer takeout.

Baker grew up in the Ann Arbor area and moved to Chicago for work. He came to Grand Rapids looking to open a business in a place where "I felt I could flourish and get to know people," Baker says. "And it's been that way. I've gotten to know a lot of people and businesses from the West Fulton business district and from South West Area Neighbors (SWAN). They see me here working on the building and know my face and it's all good."

Architectural design: Jeffrey Klum
General contractor: Jerry Fishburn

Source: Aaron Baker, Grand Slam Subs
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

After 15 years in mobile classrooms, a new Blandford School is on the rise in Grand Rapids

The Grand Rapids Public Schools has broken ground on a new $2.3 million building for Blandford School. The school (3143 Milo Ave. NW), located in the farm area of Blandford Nature Center, is a hands-on, place-based school where sixth graders study the natural surroundings and ecology of the school's location.

The new 7,000-square-foot facility will be LEED certified, says Ryan Huppert, school administrator, and will replace four 15-year-old "temporary" mobile classrooms in use currently. Sixty students attend the school, which conducts many of its classes outdoors in the hills and ponds of the nature center, and will use the proposed new learning laboratory to complete their research and experiments. The new building will be complete in January 2013.

The facility will also offer two classrooms, a multi-use common area for exhibits and large gatherings, and a demonstration kitchen shared by the school and the nature center.

"The school will have several permanent art installations involving students, staff and community residents, including a mosaic to honor founder Mary Jane Dockery," Huppert says.

Students raise chickens and sell the eggs, learn the ecology of the nature center and act as trail guides, and gather sap from the center's trees for use in the center's Sugarbush, Huppert says.

"Blandford School is an impactful program, an immersion experience with a family feel," he says. "It's a small number of students working together on big projects. This permanent building will help us ensure a lasting legacy of the program so it can serve students for decades."

The Wege Foundation was the lead donor with $1.5 million, and led the campaign to raise the $2.3 million needed. Huppert says GRPS provided $250,000; the rest was raised from private donors.

Architectural design: Progressive AE
Construction manager: Rockford Construction

Source: Ryan Huppert, Grand Rapids Public Schools
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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