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Brewskis, biking, city sights and friends; Great Lakes Pub Cruiser brings it on!

It's not a party bus, it's a party bike -- with a pub! And it's ready for you and 14 of your friends to take on a distinctly new kind of pub-crawl -- one that's people-powered for a two-hour tour of some of Grand Rapids' best watering holes.

The Great Lakes Pub Cruiser accommodates 15 people at a time, 10 of whom will power the pub using the bike pedals at the base of their barstools while the cruiser's pilot steers them to their next destination.

Teacher Laurie Ryan brought the idea home from Minneapolis after experiencing a pub cruiser there. She pitched the ideas to her girlfriends and four of them signed on as partners -- Dolores Keeley, Sharon Saladin, Diana Tomlinson and Bree Tomlinson.

"Normally when you bike, it's an individual pursuit. But when you bike on the pub, it's a social pursuit," Ryan says. "We took it out last Tuesday for the first time on the Grand Rapids city streets and we were mobbed! We gave away 400 business cards in an hour."

State law prohibits riders from imbibing alcohol while in transit, so the cruiser offers three routes around town; riders choose what pubs to visit, Ryan says. The routes cover the northwest side, the entertainment district and downtown craft brew pubs. Stops might include the Kopper Top, the Monarch's Club, Reserve Wine Bar, One Trick Pony, HopCat or Founders, as well as any number of other hotspots.

The cost for a weekend two-hour ride is $360, or $24 per person/15 people. The cost of "drinks and nibbles" is the riders' responsibility, although riders are welcome to bring their own coolers with soft drinks and food. The cruiser's bar will accommodate a keg for groups to use on private property.

Individual seat pricing is also available, plus the cruiser is available for rent for private parties.

Tours start April 14. For more information on routes and prices, click here.

Source: Laurie Ryan, Great Lakes Pub Cruiser
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Elements brings gifts, home decor, handmade art to SW Grand Rapids antiques haven

Many consider Grand Rapids' former Sligh Furniture building a haven for vintage finds and antiques shopping. And nestled amid the collectors' finds, furniture and antiques malls is elements, a new retail venture specializing in new home décor items, gifts and handmade art.

Owner Patrice Greene has been away from the retail world since closing her tiny gift boutique, Pepperberry, about five years ago. But the bug to get back into the world where she could gab with customers and sell her own art just wouldn't let her go. So, six months ago, Greene opened the 2,000-square-foot elements at 441 Century Ave. SW.

The store -- whose tagline is: bohemian artifacts - curious acquisitions -- is littered with humorous signs, furniture pieces, home décor, handmade pillows and wall art. Among the curious acquisitions, shoppers will also find Tokyomilk bath products, Votivo candles, letterpress stationery, Cavallini & Co. papers and stationery, and jewelry.

Greene's own wall art is based on her fascination with mixed media. She also has a "thing" for collecting loving cup trophies. She creates her own brand of loving cups of German glitter glass under the name The Trophy Wife, and sells them in the store and online through Earth Angels.

"I obsessively love old loving cup trophies," Greene says with a laugh. "My personal collection comes from the '20s and '30s. My best trophy is from a 1928 typing contest and has the winners' names and their typing speeds."

Elements is offering a series of art classes on Wednesday nights. Three upcoming classes, five weeks each, will engage participants in their choice of mixed media, watercolor or found objects.

"Elements is different than anything else here," Greene says. "I'm bringing the new goods, the house accessories, the candles, the jewelry. People might find a dining table [at one of the antiques stores], and find fun chairs here, or find a great couch there and find fun pillows here."

Store hours: Weds. - Fri., 10 to 6; Sat. 10 to 5; Sun. 12 to 4.

Source: Patrice Greene, elements
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

26 urban loft apartments slated for two buildings in Grand Rapids' entertainment district

Twenty-six urban loft apartments will soon grace the upper floors of two prominent buildings in Grand Rapids' burgeoning entertainment district. 616 Development, sister company to 616 Lofts, will create the lofts by combing 1 Ionia SW and 7 Ionia SW, the buildings that run a half block south from the corner of Fulton St. and Ionia SW.

Last year, Derek Coppess, owner of 616 Development and 616 Lofts, announced plans to develop urban lofts in little pockets around the city, beginning with 25 lofts at 139 Pearl St. NW and 206 Grandville Ave. SW. Now, he's ready to move ahead with a new $7.5 million plan.

The project will combine the two buildings on Ionia into one 50,000-square-foot mixed-use center that features the apartments on floors three, four and five, commercial tenants on floor two and the historic Grand Rapids Brewing Company will occupy the entire main level, including the former My Bar space. See Grand Rapids Brewing Company story here.

The tenants already on the second level, Conduit Studios and The Judson Group, will stay. Perception Gallery on the main level will relocate.

"One Ionia is five stories and 7 Ionia is four-and-a-half stories, so we will remove the floor between floors four and four-and-a-half and will make seven two-story units within that space," Coppess says. "The apartments will have windows overlooking either Ionia or Fulton and the Van Andel Arena [to the rear of the building]."

Coppess says construction will start within 30 days.

Design and construction: First Companies

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

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Historic Grand Rapids Brewing Company to open expansive microbrewery next door to Van Andel Arena

The historic Grand Rapids Brewing Company (GRBC) that once operated in the heart of downtown will be back this summer in a new, expansive location next door to the Van Andel Arena, the heart of the city's busy entertainment district. The brewery, which was in business for over 100 years, first on Michigan and Ottawa and later on 28th St. SE, will be the groundfloor tenant at 1 and 7 Ionia SW with nearly 10,000 square feet and seating for 450.

Barfly Ventures, owned by Mark and Michelle Sellers, announced today that the new venue will be family-friendly, with children's menu items as well as 8 to 10 specialty beers, including a new version of GRBC's original Silver Foam beer. Barfly owns some of Grand Rapids' most popular gathering places in the entertainment district, including HopCat, McFadden's, Stella's Lounge and the The Viceroy and is a partner in The Pyramid Scheme, all within two blocks of the new GRBC location.

Derek Coppess of 616 Development and 616 Lofts recently purchased 1 and 7 Ionia SW and will combine the two buildings to create 26 loft apartments and commercial spaces on the upper floors. The buildings front along Ionia on the east and a brick paved alley on the west; 1 Ionia NW also runs along W. Fulton St., kitty corner from The B.O.B. and its proposed market/concert venue.

New indoor/outdoor seating, created by replacing three loading dock doors on the alley side with glass garage doors, will open the bar to the Van Andel Arena and provide outdoor seating for 15.

"This is arguably the prime spot for a bar in Grand Rapids. If I could pick any location, it would be this place or where The B.O.B is -- but that's taken," says Mark Sellers with a laugh. "To have three sides facing different streets is incredible."

Preliminary plans to host GRBC in the Brass Works Building fell through, Sellers says.

The new GRBC could create some 60 jobs. Sellers hopes to have the bar open sometime in August.

Architectural design: Greg Metz, Lott3Metz

Source: Mark Sellers, Barfly Ventures; Chris Knap, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Renderings: Dixon Architecture

Davenport University to build $5M athletics complex thanks to land gift from Farmers Insurance

Thanks to a gift of 17 acres of land just south of Davenport University's W. A. Lettinga Campus, Davenport students and visiting teams will soon be able to enjoy a new $5 million baseball, softball and tennis complex.

The complex will be constructed over the summer on 68th St. in Caledonia Township, a short bike ride from campus, says Athletic Director Paul Lowden, on land donated to the university by Farmers Insurance Group.

"The complex will enhance the recruiting efforts of our baseball, softball and tennis coaches," Lowden says. "The facilities should give Davenport University a recruiting advantage because students are very aware of the facilities a university has and having facilities like this increases their interest."

The complex will feature a baseball field with artificial turf on the infield and outfield, a softball field with artificial turf on the outfield, eight tennis courts, spectator seating at all three venues, heated dugouts, concessions, locker rooms and restrooms. The baseball stadium will seat 300, the softball stadium will seat 200, and all facilities will have lighting for nighttime competitions.

"This will be used for practices and competitions, and will be a great place not only for our student athletes but for visiting teams because we'll have locker rooms for them, as well," Lowden says. "We hope to have a shovel in the ground by late April, early May and have construction completed in time for [the 2012-2013] school year."

Design: Integrated Architecture

Source: Paul Lowden, Davenport University
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

East Lansing-based Netvantage Marketing sees promise in Grand Rapids, opens satellite office

The leaders of East Lansing's Netvantage Marketing say their backgrounds in consulting gave them a desire to move web-based marketing from the sterile realm of the Internet to the more personal environment of face-to-face meetings with clients. That desire prompted the duo, Adam Henige and Joe Ford, to open a satellite office in Grand Rapids to be closer to clients here.

The new office is on the third floor above San Chez A Tapas Bistro (38 W. Fulton St., Suite 301). It's part of a group of offices under development by CWD Real Estate Investment that have private offices and shared conference rooms and a kitchen, says Henige.

Netvantage hopes construction will wrap up for an early April opening. An East Lansing employee will relocate to Grand Rapids and staff the office.

Netvantage Marketing specializes in search engine optimization, social media consulting and paid search management, says Ford. "With most of our clients, the key overarching statement we hear is 'when someone Googles our service, we don't come up,'" he says.

"We've found that a lot of people are really good at developing websites, but not good at directing people to them," says Henige. So, the company focuses on helping other companies build a web presence. If web design and development are needed, Netvantage collaborates with local companies who specialize in those services.

The client list for the four-year-old company is impressive and varied, including: Autocam Medical, DTE Energy, Hyundai, Suzuki, General Motors, University of California Berkeley and Gordon Food Service.

"We've been able to get national clients that we've never met, but we really like to give it the personal touch," Henige says. "To be able to sit down in someone's space or walk through it is one of the reasons we've been so successful so far."

Source: Adam Henige and Joe Ford, Netvantage Marketing
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Haven's new Splattered Ink Press helps budding authors self-publish, market their books

You've spent months, maybe years, writing your book and now what? Shove it in a drawer and forget about it? Splattered Ink Press has another idea -- publish it yourself and control how the finished product looks, the marketing, and maybe make a profit.

Tricia McDonald, owner of Splattered Ink Press and the writing school A Writing Passage, both based in Grand Haven, has self-published two books and has a third one out next week. She says Splattered Ink Press is a natural outcome of her five years as a writing coach.

"As I worked with writers, they asked if [self-publishing] was a service I would offer," McDonald says. "The more I thought about it, the more I realized I could help them get their books printed and on the shelves of some local book stores."

McDonald coaches writers throughout the writing process. She offers manuscript editing, book design and text formatting to prepare the book for printing, secures ISBNs and bar codes, and works with half a dozen Michigan printers who can print and bind hardcover or softcover editions. She teaches them how to approach book stores to get their book on the shelves and arrange book signings. McDonald also offers e-book conversions for download on Kindles, iPads and other e-readers.

Splattered Ink contracts with Grand Rapids illustrator Sean Wallace and with graphic designer and photographer Jacob Kubon, McDonald's son, who create visuals for book covers, inside pages and children's books.

"Traditional publishers are more likely going with celebrity names or established authors," McDonald says. "Print-on-demand authors have to buy their own books from the printer, and they end up making very little money per book. We offer a real personable experience; we're not just an online experience where the author doesn't get to talk to anyone."

To-date, Splattered Ink has produced McDonald's Life With Sally - Still Spinnin' Tails and her upcoming book on novel writing, Quit Whining Start Writing. She says she's working with six clients to get their books published, including a novel of historical fiction, two children's books, a memoir and Dog 281, by Michigan writer Janet Vormittag, editor of Cats and Dogs Magazine.

McDonald will speak on writing and self-publishing at the West Michigan Women's Expo on March 9, 10 and 11.

Source: Tricia McDonald, Splattered Ink Press and A Writing Passage
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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It may not be paradise, but Grand Rapids' Creston area will have its own islands

When we think of islands with trees fluttering in the breeze and lots of water, we probably don't picture Grand Rapids' Creston business district. But after receiving a $146,667 Transportation Enhancement grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation, Creston is moving forward with plans to bring seven water quality islands (with trees) to its main thoroughfare.

Seven small water-retention islands with trees and native plants will be located at intervals down the center of Plainfield Avenue NE, between Leonard and Dean streets. The islands will create a boulevard and will serve several purposes: to capture and retain stormwater runoff to keep pollutants from running into the Grand River, to slow traffic through the business district, to make the area pedestrian-friendly and to beautify the business district in order to attract shoppers and new businesses.

The islands will be installed this summer in conjunction with a sewer separation and resurfacing project, says Creston Neighborhood Association Executive Director Deborah Eid.

"This particular design for boulevards is unique," Eid says. "This is the only project in the state, as far as I know, that has these islands, so we could get some statewide attention from that."

Eid says the City of Grand Rapids, Creston Neighborhood and Business Associations, and The North Quarter Steering Committee worked together to incorporate construction of the water quality islands into MDOT's plan for resurfacing the roadway. The work is part of the larger master plan for the Creston area and fulfills some of the vision of the Green Grand Rapids plan.

In order to qualify for the MDOT grant, community partners raised some $158,000 in just 40 days, which includes funding of a 20-year endowment fund for maintenance of the islands.

The public is invited to a meeting and pancake breakfast to discuss the project with city engineers and a landscape designer from Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber, the company handling the landscape design. The meeting is March 10, 8:30 to 11:00 a.m., Second Congregational Church, 525 Cheshire Dr. NE. Adults: $6; Kids 5 to 12 yrs. $3; 4 yrs. and under FREE. Family price: $15.

Source: Deborah Eid, Creston Neighborhood Association
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Goodwill launches upscale resale boutiques in East Hills and downtown Grand Rapids

These aren't your grandmother's Goodwill Stores. These are upscale resale shops that will showcase a definitive fashion sense and boutique style.

Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids, Inc. has plans to launch two new boutiques that will show off some of the hip new and gently used items donated to the resale giant, including merchandise that has been repurposed and upcycled. The stores, called blue, will open in April in downtown Grand Rapids' MoDiv (40 Monroe Center Ave. NW) and in East Hills (974 Cherry St. SE) with a focus on women's vintage and retro designer apparel, shoes, jewelry and home décor.

"When customers walk in, they'll be blown away by what we have to offer and the look and feel of the shops," says Goodwill's Chief Communications Officer Jill Wallace. "The blue boutiques will have new apparel mixed in as well, and the apparel will have a more chic-funky-glam look. We're really looking for the market to be women between ages 20 and 40."

Wallace says this is Goodwill's first foray into the boutique business. While the merchandise will have slightly higher prices than the traditional Goodwill Stores, the stores will have bargains and all proceeds will go to fund Goodwill's workforce training and placement programs.

"Last year, we placed about 1,300 people [in jobs], and the higher [sales] margins bring more money in for these programs," Wallace says. "Goodwill is one of the world's largest recyclers of textiles through reselling, diverting five million pounds of textiles, including shoes, from Grand Rapids-area landfills every year.

"I think the boutiques will open people's minds to what you can find at any Goodwill store," she says.

Wallace says she expects both stores to open mid-April and says grand opening events are being planned.

Source: Jill Wallace, Goodwill Industries
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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

The downtown Grand Rapids building often known as the "Wim-CAT Building" will soon undergo a facelift and transformation that will meet the needs of its new owner, the Acton Institute.

The Acton Institute, a faith-based proponent of free-market economies worldwide, will relocate from leased space in the Waters Building to the historic two-story structure on the corner of Fulton St. NE and Sheldon Blvd. The building's current tenants, West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT), will continue to occupy the building's second level. Acton Institute will move into the main level and basement.

"We're growing internationally and domestically, and have over 40 staff, so this means we will have space for meetings, technology and lectures," says John Couretas, director of communications. "We also have an office in Rome and affiliates in Brazil, Austria, Zambia and Argentina, so we're doing events all over the world and a lot of that is managed from Grand Rapids."

Design plans are in the beginning stages, but Couretas says the space will include a multi-purpose meeting and lecture space, as well as accommodations for Acton's documentary and video curricula, in addition to office space. He expects the new location will provide room for educational events for students, seminarians and clergy who enroll in Acton's programs, as well as enough space for future growth. Couretas says the institute's largest event, Acton University, attracted 625 participants from 69 countries to Grand Rapids in 2011.

"We wanted to stay downtown and invest in downtown Grand Rapids, and this was an ideal place for us," Couretas says. "Obviously, we're going to be one of many organizations and investors that are helping Grand Rapids create a vibrant downtown for the future. That's an effort where there's a lot of shared activity going on. It's a much bigger picture when you look at downtown as a whole, and we're big believers in the downtown of Grand Rapids."

A construction start date has not been determined.

Architect: Via Design
Construction manager: Pioneer Construction

Source: John Couretas, Acton Institute
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Trillium Haven Farm eyes Grand Rapids' Eastown for fresh-produce restaurant

The owners of Jenison-based Trillium Haven Farm are making drastic changes to their Community Supported Agriculture operations in order to open a new farm-to-table eatery in Grand Rapids' Eastown.

The restaurant, called simply Trillium Haven, could open at 1429 Lake Dr. SE in the Kingsley Building this June with a focus on bringing seasonal fresh vegetables to customers through both the items on the menu and boxes of fresh veggies CSA members will pick up at the restaurant.

Husband and wife team Michael VanderBrug and Anja Mast currently serve some 450 farm members, who prepay for organic produce and pick it up from the farm weekly, June through October. The couple will reduce the number of memberships to just 30, and drop production acreage from 23 acres to 12. The change will allow them to focus their energies on food production for the restaurant and other outlets they supply.

"We didn't start out to be CSA farmers as the be all and end all," Mast says. "We're interested in opening businesses that connect people. Most of the produce grown here is shipped all over the U.S. -- we need to get more people interested in vegetable eating in Michigan."

The 4,000-square-foot restaurant will have locally grown meats on the menu, but the main focus will be vegetarian and vegan dishes prepared from organic in-season vegetables grown on Trillium Haven Farm, as well as fruits from other farms in the area. An open kitchen will allow customers to see how the food is prepared in the wood-fired oven. Tables and a bar, all hewn from barn beams, will keep the atmosphere casual.

The bar will offer local micro-brews and Michigan wines.

To get financing off the ground, Trillium Haven is offering 20 memberships to the restaurant for $1,200 each. Members will receive a $1,200 gift card to be used at $100/month at the restaurant, free cooking classes, invitations to taste test new dishes and more.

"One of the interesting components of this is that instead of us imposing on the community the foods we think they would like, our membership members will be our tasters and they'll be telling us what they want in a restaurant," Mast says.

Source: Anja Mast, Trillium Haven
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Rapids appoints task force to identify solutions for city's street crisis

The Grand Rapids City Commission has appointed a Sustainable Streets Task Force to identify solutions for what a city press release identifies as "the City's street crisis."

The city reports that its general operating fund will run out of money for streets in fiscal year 2014. The Sustainable Streets Task Force's recommendations will guide the city's Transformation Investment Plan in development of investment recommendations in the face of drastically reduced funding that will cover the cost of work on main thoroughfares only unless other funding sources or budget realignments are identified.

The task force consists of some 40 business and community leaders, including three city commissioners, many of whom participated in the 21st Century Infrastructure Task Force a decade ago.

"The hope is that they will be able to provide multiple recommendations to the city commission that cover everything from level of service, the quality of our streets and benchmarks for quality, and also funding ideas to support that level of quality," says Planning Director Suzanne Schulz.

"It's not a good situation to be in, and one we don't want to be in, but the state has cut $100 million in tax revenue sharing, and we're trying to support police and fire services, street lighting; it's been a really tough policy decision," Schulz says. "The general fund should be putting in $3 million to $4 million for streets. It put in $3 million last year, is putting in about $1.5 million this year, and will go down to zero [for streets] in 2014."

Schulz says a couple of big concerns are that the general fund money has been used in the past as matching grant funding to leverage grants, and that the project to separate the storm and sanitary sewers, which provided funding for some new streets in conjunction with that work, is drawing to a close.

The task force will meet twice a month and will make a state of the streets presentation to the city commission on May 15. Community meetings in May and June will provide information to the public. Over the summer, the task force will investigate alternatives and possible solutions and will take the information to the community for ideas and feedback in the fall, followed by a final presentation to the City Commission by December.

Editor's Note: A few days after completing the interview for this article, reporter Deborah Johnson Wood received and accepted an invitation to sit on the Sustainable Streets Task Force.

Source: Suzanne Schulz, City of Grand Rapids Planning Department
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

GVSU's Annis Water Resources Institute to build $3.4M field research facility on Muskegon Lake

A new $3.4 million field research facility on the shore of Muskegon Lake will bring new environmental research laboratories, classroom space and dock space to Grand Valley State University's Robert B. Annis Water Resources Institute.

The AWRI, which studies freshwater resources and provides education and outreach to preserve those resources, will raze an outdated warehouse structure on its complex at 740 W. Shoreline Dr., Muskegon. In its place, a new two-story building will be constructed next to the existing Lake Michigan Center that will increase the research and educational capacity of the institute.

"One reason we needed an additional building is because during the summer months we bring in 15 to 20 graduate students and are packed to gills," says AWRI Director Alan Steinman. The students are in addition to the institute's 65 staff members.

"Right now, our research labs are totally full," Steinman says. "Our new labs will be designed to look at climate change and invasive species for the 21st Century, so can target the issues and try to come up with solutions."

The 14,800-square-foot building will meet LEED certification criteria and will include, besides the laboratories, a mesocosm (tank) facility, offices for researchers and graduate students and a boat-loading bay for its two research vessels, the D.J. Angus and the W.G. Jackson.

"For every new research scientist we bring in, there tends to be the creation of two to three jobs," Steinman says. "As we move to a knowledge-based economy, having a knowledge-based institution on the lakeshore is always a good thing. This will lead to the creation of jobs, both in the construction [of the facility] and in the growth of the institute."

Construction will begin in August 2012 and wrap up in December 2013.

Architect: Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr and Huber, Inc.

Source: Alan Steinman, Robert B. Annis Water Resources Institute of Grand Valley State University
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Holland upcycle boutique, Found, brings vintage clothes, home decor to Grand Rapids' East Hills

Inside a new vintage and upcycle boutique in Grand Rapids' East Hills shopping district, the friendly banter and easy laughter of the shop's three owners fills the air with a sense of fun.

Found, a cozy 700-square-foot shared space with Gingko Studio, is the inspiration of Susan Langejans who started her first shop, also called Found, in Holland (203 E. Eighth St.) three years ago. Within the past year, partners Abby Hoppen-Albers and Kelley Howley have come aboard, adding their specialties of upscale vintage clothing and shoes (Hoppen-Albers) and antique industrial furniture (Howley) to Langejans' design and upholstery talents.

The desire to open a second shop in Grand Rapids came about because "we kept hearing 'drive all the way to Holland' from customers," says Hoppen-Albers. "This is an up-and-coming area and we wanted to get our foot in the door here."

Found offers a mesmerizing blend of vintage-inspired new items, like jewelry, and genuine vintage items that have been re-purposed or upscaled to fit into modern lifestyles. Those items include party dresses and everyday clothing, framed vintage prints and needlework, lamps, upholstered furniture, and metal filing cabinets, desks and lockers.

"With Heritage Hill nearby, people are redoing their homes with vintage furniture and décor," Howley says. "We heard that Mary Ignatoski (Gingko Studio) was renting out the front of the store, so we ramped it up and were open in December in time for Shop Hop."

"I think more and more people now are really appreciating the quality of clothing and furniture from the past," says Langejans. "We're keeping things from being tossed aside."

The store will have a Valentine's Day sales event Feb. 9 from 6 to 9 p.m., featuring a photo booth.

Winter hours are: Tues.-Fri. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Source: Susan Langejans, Abby Hoppen-Albers, Kelley Howley, Found
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photographs: Deborah Johnson Wood

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Grand Rapids launches "Quality of Life" game to gather ideas for Michigan St. corridor improvement

First it was the Green Grand Rapids initiative's Green Pursuits game in 2008 that provided citizen feedback on improving the city's green spaces. Now, following that same successful and fun avenue for collecting data, Grand Rapids city planners have launched Quality of Life, a board game to gather ideas on how the users and residents of Michigan Street would like to see the corridor improved.

The city's planning department devised the game hoping that Michigan Street businesses, drivers, employees, residents and other stakeholders will gather with friends to think about, talk about, and mark on the game's board anything that would help improve the corridor from the E. Beltline to the Grand River.

"It starts with an ice breaker about why you use the Michigan Street corridor, what you like and don't like, and you share that with the other players," says Planning Director Suzanne Schulz. "You structure conversation around what things are on Michigan Street, you write down the answers and get them back to us."

The game includes a corridor map game board, instructions, game pieces, colored markers and sticky dots. Players will travel the corridor on the game board, thinking and talking about infrastructure, traffic, housing and other aspects of the street. They'll place the sticky dots on the map to indicate what improvements -- green spaces, trees, businesses and services, traffic controls, etc. -- they'd like to see and where.

"The game gives everyone a framework to have a good discussion about what the future holds," Schulz says. "At the same time, it gives the city some really good information to understand what our goals should be for the corridor. This is a regional corridor and we want to make sure it operates that way, plus represents all the users in the area."

The corridor improvement steering committee began a planning process last fall to determine what improvements are needed to serve businesses, the Medical Mile and others who use the corridor.

The game is free and is available now from the planning department at 1120 Monroe NW. Players should return the completed game to the planning department by March 2.

Source: Suzanne Schulz, Grand Rapids Planning Department
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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