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$32 Million Transit Operations Center Set To Roll

Doubling the number of transit riders in 10 years requires a lot of planning and some large investments in infrastructure. And with riders on The Rapid reaching a record high of 10.8 Million in the last year, a greatly enhanced and larger operations center could not have come at a better time.

The Rapid, Grand Rapids' transit authority, marked the opening of its newly renovated $32 Million Wealthy Operations Center this past week. The three-year project was made possible with a combination of $10.7 Million in Federal stimulus money and $17 Million in Federal transportation funding dollars.

To mark the occasion, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Senator Carl Levin made a special visit to participate in the ribbon cutting. As Ray LaHood pointed out, "The $10 Million for this project that came from Federal stimulus dollars did exactly what it was supposed to do: create jobs."

Carl Levin spoke about the reputation for collaboration in the area, saying, "West Michigan is known for working together. The biggest example of this is the 6 cities and suburban areas that make up the Interurban Transit Partnership (ITP), a feat that the Detroit area has not been able to accomplish."

The renovation project doubled the size of the old operations center to approximately 280,000 square feet, providing space for a much larger fleet (over 150 busses) and for future expansion of services. With the design work of ProgressiveAE and construction management from The Christman Companies, many "green" features were added to the building including large skylights to greatly reduce the need for artificial lighting, a 40,000-square-foot green roof (the largest in West Michigan), a water reclamation system for bus washing that saves 9 million gallons of water a year, and 95% of construction and demolition materials being diverted from landfills.

The facility also contains operations staff, driver training facilities and will soon house an on-site fitness room.

Writer: Jeff Hill
Source: Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transport; Carl Levin, Senator; Jennifer Kalczuk, The Rapid

Seva Yoga opens larger studio, yoga store in East Grand Rapids

A larger yoga studio and more space for a boutique dedicated to the yoga lifestyle is not what Seva Yoga owner Michele Fife expected for a company just five years old. But in November, she moved her yoga studio and retail shop from an upstairs space in the back corner of a building on Wealthy Street SE to a 1,800-square-foot space (2237 Wealthy St. SE) that overlooks the fountain in East Grand Rapids' Gaslight Village.

"This is my third move in five years. I started with a very small studio because I was being conservative, and 12 months later, I expanded into a larger space and stayed there four years," Fife says. "I'm constantly amazed. I had always worked for someone else since I was teenager. Until I opened the studio, it never popped into my head that I could make a living running my own business."

Seva Yoga has 12 yoga instructors that offer classes and one-on-one yoga sessions in a variety of styles: Kripalu, Anusara, Ashtanga, Yin Yoga classes, Vinyasa classes and gentle yoga classes. The boutique offers lululemon yoga-inspired athletic clothing, books on yoga and vegetarian and vegan cooking and eating, ayurvedic aromatherapy oils, Banyan Botanicals, plus yoga mats and other products.

"There is a variety that I like that about my studio," Fife says. "It's a blend of many different yoga styles, so we can represent everything. We have package pricing, but for any of our classes people can show up and just pay whatever they can afford. It takes a certain amount of trust that I can do something like that and believe that the business will be alright."

Fife says she's registered through Yoga Alliance to teach people how to be yoga teachers, and conducts those classes in the studio. You can follow her video segments on WOOD TV's new ABC channel, WOTV 4 Women, where she is the wellness expert.

Source: Michele Fife, Seva Yoga
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Proposed Grand Loop bike park in Grand Rapids gears up to add Richmond Park trails

The proposed Grand Loop bike park in Grand Rapids could get more traction soon when park proponents meet at Richmond Park to review trail possibilities and estimate costs.

The Grand Loop would use a series of existing off-street and on-street urban bike trails to connect a number of Grand Rapids parks in each quadrant of the city, where pump tracks and natural mountain bike trails would be developed or enhanced. Parks under consideration are: Grand Rapids Bike Park, Ken-O-Sha Park, Richmond Park, Ball Perkins Park and some unused cemetery property near Alger and Kalamazoo streets SE.

The Grand Rapids parks and recreation department, the West Michigan Mountain Bike Association (WMMBA) and Friends of Grand Rapids Parks have been working on the concept for a couple of years, says Jay Steffen, director of Grand Rapids parks and recreation.

Ken-O-Sha Park saw some trail work last fall, and in the next couple of weeks, Steffen and others will walk the Richmond Park trails to determine what work needs to be done and approximate costs before applying for a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Passport Grant, Steffen says.

"We'd like to work with the WMMBA to make some of the trails more formalized," Steffen says. "When I say that, I mean there have been trails blazed in wooded areas that probably shouldn't be in those locations because of environmental issues. We'll work with the group to develop areas where there won't be so much environmental damage."

Steffen says the concept of connectivity was a key theme in the Green Grand Rapids Master Plan and the Five Year Parks and Recreation Master Plan completed about two years ago.

"Many of the on-road facilities also correspond with The Rapid's stops, so they are very much interconnected," Steffen says. "I believe Grand Loop is one of those quality of life amenities that has the ability to attract and retain people in Grand Rapids. Once it's completed, it will provide new, better and safer biking facilities for the biking community. It doesn't just accommodate the on-street bikes or off-road bikes; it's a good mix of both."

If the DNR grant is approved, Steffen says work could begin on the Richmond Park trails in spring 2013.

Clear here for an interactive map of West Michigan bike trails.

Source: Jay Steffen, Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Director
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Ferris State University adds first pharmacy college to school choices on Grand Rapids' Medical Mile

Future doctors, nurses, clinicians and medical researchers have had education and training opportunities along Grand Rapids' Medical Mile for several years. And now, Ferris State University says it has added the area's first pharmacy college to the growing mix of healthcare training options along Michigan Street NE.

University, city and state leaders will cut the ribbon to a new 26,000-square-foot, $9.1 million pharmacy education hub on Friday, Feb. 3., when the College of Pharmacy will officially open its doors to its new location on the 7th floor of 25 Michigan NE.

Pharmacy students have been part of the Grand Rapids healthcare landscape since the 1970s, says Steve Durst, college of pharmacy dean, but students have been located around the city for clinical training, and haven't had a central hub for training, studying and collaboration with neighboring training programs.

The school, which opened unofficially in early January, is home to some 150 third-year and 80 fourth-year pharmacy students.

"Michigan Street has three healthcare programs with Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine, Grand Valley State University's Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences and now Ferris's College of Pharmacy," says Dean Durst. "This brings with it a great opportunity for collaboration, particularly focused on inter-professional education and understanding how to work on a medical team, as well as having the Van Andel Research Institute for research opportunities and graduate education."
Durst says first- and second-year pharmacy students will still study on Ferris's Big Rapids campus.

The new facility offers a combination of typical classrooms and large classrooms, with technology to connect a number of Ferris locations for distance learning. Gathering spaces for a handful of students as well as a student lounge equipped for larger groups give students spaces to connect with each other and study. The facility also offers a clinical skills room where students can receive hands-on training.

Source: Steve Durst, Dean, Ferris State University College of Pharmacy
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Tonic Salon brings a splash of color to Grand Rapids' Eastown

Tonic Salon is a treat for the eyes, and maybe even the soul. Splashy orange chairs, bright against muted gray and soft white walls, hint at owner Daniel Dauser's playful side, and the daylight sifting through a bank of east and south windows brightens the spirits. But the overall feeling of this full-service salon in Grand Rapids' busy Eastown business district is one of calm, relaxing welcome.

Dauser, a hair stylist and yoga instructor who helped develop East Hills' Hotel Venus and East Grand Rapids' Seva Yoga, created Tonic Salon (1331 Lake Dr. SE) using the interior design skills he developed as an interior design assistant in Chicago. His goal was to create "a place where customers feel like they've stepped into another place that isn't their home, but is hip and trendy, yet not hoity-toity."

One aspect that attracted Dauser was that the building is LEED certified. The 1,000-square-foot salon includes four styling chairs, two private massage therapy rooms and a small kitchenette/break room.

The salon's list of services includes haircuts, color, styling, up-dos, waxing and massage therapy. In addition to Dauser, the stylists, who each rent chairs at the salon, are Jennifer Grace, Melody Stone and Raven Bassett. The two massage therapy rooms accommodate guests for massage therapists Jamie Hance and Ashley Wall.

"When I came here, I had the philosophy of build it and they will come," Dauser says. "I had no stylists, but when I built it, the stylists came on one by one. I didn't advertise -- I just suddenly had people calling or coming to the door."

Dauser opened the salon in June 2011 and says his $50,000 investment is paying off as business continues to grow.

Salon hours: Tues., Weds. and Thurs., 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Fri. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays and Saturdays by appointment.

Source: Daniel Dauser, Tonic Salon
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photographs: Deborah Johnson Wood

Grand Rapids' Eastown becoming a used books haven? Icapsa Used Books aims to make it so

Eastown's gigantic Kingsley Building, the former Zondervan Publishing warehouse, is once again home to hundreds of thousands of books -- this time, the used books of Grand Rapids' Icapsa Used Books.

Icapsa, book shelf in Latin, began in 2005 as a strictly Internet sales used book supplier operating out of owner Steve Howells' northeast Grand Rapids garage and a spare bedroom. Since then, Howells and his partner and brother Mark Howells, have moved the warehouse to increasingly larger facilities on the city's west side.

Now the duo have relocated 100,000 of their used books (the ones already online) to 7,000 square feet of the Kingsley Building's (Lake Dr. SE and Robinson Rd.) second floor, another estimated one million unsorted, uncategorized books to the fifth floor, and plan to open a used book shop on the main level, says Steve Howells.

Howells hopes the shop, which will be less than half a block from well-established bibliophile haunts Argos Books (1405 Robinson Rd. SE) and Redux Books (1349 Lake Dr. SE), will make Eastown the "used book central for West Michigan."

"Our intent is not to compete with what they're doing, but to complement them," he says. "Hopefully, there'll be a synergy between us that will bring a lot of bookphiles to that area."

Howells has been in and out of the book sales industry for over three decades, having owned Lantern Book and Bible House in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, which he sold to Family Christian Stores, and having worked for Zondervan in the 1970s.

He says Icapsa Used Books sells on every major book website, including Amazon, Alibris, Biblio.com and Barnes & Noble. The store ships an average of 75 books per day.

The walk-in store, however, will have 1,700-square-feet of display space and will feature a large section of children's books, one of Icapsa's biggest selling categories.

While no opening date has been set, Howells hopes to have the store ready by March 1.

Source: Steve Howells, Icapsa Used Books
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Local mountain bike enthusiast to open urban bike shop in downtown Grand Rapids

It used to be known as City Market, but soon 52 Monroe Center NW in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids will become Central District Cyclery, an urban bike haven that's a longtime dream of mountain bike enthusiast Nate Phelps.

Phelps is the director of advocacy and a past president of the Michigan Mountain Bike Association, and VP of its local chapter the West Michigan Mountain Bike Alliance. He was also one of the driving forces behind the development of the Grand Rapids Bike Park, a mountain bike course with connecting trails at 580 Kirtland SW.

The 3,100-square-foot shop will feature a showroom for bikes, clothing and shoes; a maintenance area for bike repairs; bike storage for urbanites who need it; and a rental option for people who don't own bikes. The shop will also offer organized group rides, and pickup and delivery services for bike repairs.

"We're catering to the urban cyclist who wants to do road rides after work," Phelps says. "We're really reaching out to create an urban market, and feel that within a three-mile radius, we have a potential clientele of 200,000 people who live and/or work downtown."

Phelps plans to open the shop by March 1, and plans to offer brands that include West Michigan bike maker 616 Bicycle Fabrication, Traitor Cycles, Linus Bikes, Gore Bike Wear, Club Ride Apparel, Izip and Sidi bike shoes.

Phelps, an inventory manager for local greeting card company Design Design, will leave his job to focus full time on the bike shop when it opens.

"I've thought about opening a shop for years, and have been looking for a location for the past couple of years," he says. "I think this is a winning location. I really love Grand Rapids and want to participate personally in the re-growth and revitalization of the downtown area."

Source: Nate Phelps, Central District Cyclery
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Proposed Grand Rapids Urban Market lands $1M grant toward contamination cleanup

A proposed $28 million urban market with a focus on food preparation and sales got a huge shot of energy this week with the award of a $1 million grant for the cleanup of contaminated soil and removal of dilapidated buildings.

The grant, part of Clean Michigan Brownfield Initiative, was awarded by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and will be administered by the City of Grand Rapids. The grant joins another $4.7 million awarded to the project by the Michigan Economic Growth Authority in November 2011.

"In terms of regional scope and draw, the urban market project is probably along the same lines as the Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place projects," says city Economic Development Director, Kara Wood. "We're hoping this project serves as a catalyst for additional redevelopment in that area, and could bring about 200 jobs to the city."

The proposed 130,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor market, a project spearheaded by Grand Action, the group behind development of the Van Andel Arena over a decade ago, could occupy some 3.5 acres bounded by Wealthy St. SW (north), Ionia Avenue SW (east), Logan St. SW (south) and US-131 (west), on the former Sonneveldt Produce Company site. The land, now owned by the City of Grand Rapids, will be leased to a corporate entity for 99 years upon development of the market.

"I think the important thing is that we've worked through public and private partnerships on this development, and it's only with the state and local governments that this project is possible," says Wood. "The next step is for the private funding to come through, and Grand Action is working to raise those funds."

If funding comes through, the market could be open in time for the 2013 season.
For more details on the market's plans, click here.

Source: Kara Wood, Economic Development Director, City of Grand Rapids
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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MoDiv cuts ribbon, celebrates new idea to bring a host of fresh retail to Grand Rapids

In celebration of nearly filling 8,000 square feet of prime downtown Grand Rapids real estate with new and established retail businesses, the shop owners and developers of Shops @ Monroe Center and Division, or MoDiv, cut a block-long ribbon Monday night to mark the official opening of the retail incubator and the grand opening of the Haworth Interphase Showroom.
Nine shops divided by glass partitions enliven the formerly vacant space in the Peck Building and have brought a host of retail shopping and custom design studios downtown, a feat long championed by many as being a necessary component of keeping downtown alive.

"It really was an effort to try to figure out how to take away obstacles for retailers to come downtown," says Kurt Hassberger, COO of Rockford Construction, a partner in the project. "There are a lot of people with energy and good ideas that don't necessarily have a lot of capital. The big thing is that retailers could move in without a lot of buildout costs and long-term leases."

The aim of the incubator was to bring together fledgling and established retailers in an environment where they could lease small, flexible spaces downtown at affordable rates. The glass partitions allow shoppers to see through from one boutique to the next, and promote a sense of space and inclusion.

Many of the shops opened in September; others more recently. One 750-square-foot space remains open, ready for lease.

Current tenants include:
•    Wolverine Company Store
•    Haworth Interphase
•    bokay by Eastern Floral
•    KITCHEN Sinc
•    6.25 Paper Studio
•    Chai Boutique
•    Sofia Bella Couture
•    Vue Design
•    Studio cPrime

"We were never going to complete the Downtown Development Authority's vision of extending the shopping district to N. Division until we could get businesses down there," Hassberger says. "With the hotels on the west end of Monroe Center, now there's a lot of reason to go to the other end of Monroe Center and pull that traffic past a lot of other people."

Source: Kurt Hassberger, Rockford Construction; Michael Zalewski, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Florida, Muskegon air services to bring private hangar, in-flight catering services to Ford Airport

Muskegon-based Rothbury Executive Air could soon bring a $7 million transient air terminal to the Gerald R. Ford International Airport -- facilities complete with West Michigan's first in-flight catering kitchen.

The 37,000-square-foot terminal will include banquet facilities, flight crew sleep rooms and showers, and an antique car showroom for visitors to enjoy. But developers say the most important amenity could be the 2,400-square-foot catering kitchen operated by Florida-based Silver Lining Inflight Catering to provide private and corporate clients with meal services ranging from light snacks to complete formal dinners for consumption onsite or in-air.

The project is the result of a new partnership between Rothbury Executive Air and Silver Lining Inflight Catering, which prompted Silver Lining to launch its first venture outside Florida, says Alison Albright of Rothbury Executive Air.

"Catering is a huge business in private aviation -- the standards and quality have to be a much higher scale, and we found that Silver Lining has what we wanted to bring to Grand Rapids," Albright says. "There is no other facility of this type at the airport."

"It's a 24/7/365 operation," says Terry Boer of Executive Air Transport, the entity that will manage the facility. "Our facility will be the gateway into West Michigan. Customers will arrive in private airplanes to meet with local businesses, and our ramp agents will take care of the aircraft and fuel them, do flight planning, wait for customers and passengers to return, and will order catering through us for their arrival or return flight."

Plans call for a groundbreaking in May, with completion of the facility in late fall. A private investment company is developing the project, Boer says, but he declined to name the investors.

"This facility brings a lot of new services to the airport that aren't being offered," he says. "We're going to meet the needs of the airline community through the catering and our ability to house larger aircraft in the hangar."

Source: Alison Albright, Rothbury Executive Air; Terry Boer, Executive Air Transport
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Okemos' Maru Sushi & Grill plans new restaurant near Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids' East Hills

Now that the renovation of a former chapel into a Belgian-style brewpub is complete, Grand Rapids' Locus Development hopes to break ground soon on a new building next door that will bring Okemos'-based Maru Sushi & Grill to the East Hills business district.

"We’ve executed a lease with Maru and will be moving them into a new building late spring, early summer," says Locus Development principal John Green in an email. "We will be constructing a 2,500-square-foot building along Cherry Street in front of Brewery Vivant."

Maru owner Robert Song says he was introduced to East Hills about three years ago after visiting the Grand Rapids Chair Company to get furnishings for his Okemos location. It was suggested that he go to The Green Well, across from what's now Brewery Vivant, for dinner. Since then, he and his family have visited the neighborhood often for dinner and have seen the changes take place with the brewery renovation and the creation of Grove restaurant nearby.

"We thought Cherry Street would be a great place to have a sushi restaurant," says Song. "My cuisine is not all traditional Japanese sushi because that is somewhat foreign to American palettes. Our menu is diverse, not limited, with great salad items, and a wide variety of vegetarian items plus grilled steak and grilled shrimp dishes. The sushi will set us apart from other restaurants, but we do have many items most diners would feel comfortable having, with just a little twist of who we are."

A lunch with sushi could run about $10-$11, with dinner at about $20-$25, Song says.

The restaurant has applied for a full liquor license and Song hopes to offer a range of selected wines and beers. He expects the new business will create some 30 full-time and part-time positions, headed by a few employees from the Okemos store.

"We are a fun restaurant, with new things going on and our presentation will outdo many restaurants by far," Song says.

Song expects the restaurant to open by summer 2012.

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

Tiger Studio interactive design company expands from Zeeland, opens shop in Grand Rapids' Heartside

Zeeland-based Tiger Studio is doing so much work for Grand Rapids clients the owner has opened a new satellite base in Heartside at 38 Commerce. The studio is one of the first tenants in the new liner-building development that replaced an aging and outdated structure on the corner of Commerce Avenue SW and Weston St.

Tiger Studio, headquartered at 201 W. Washington, Zeeland, creates interactive technology, industrial design and designs mobile apps for iPad, iPhone and other technology, interaction for consumer products, and works extensively with the medical community.

"In Zeeland, we're in an old restored factory, which is a cool space," says Luciano Hernandez, owner. "But we like 38 because it's the complete opposite. It's modern and simple, and it reflects the kind of work we're doing in the digital age."

Hernandez says the 1,000-square-foot space is open with modular furniture that can be configured for four or five people to collaborate or to accommodate a client meeting. Large windows overlooking Commerce Avenue provide natural daylight and a view of the activity on the street.

"This space is an expansion of what we're doing now and who we're serving," Hernandez says. "We wanted a place in Grand Rapids to meet with clients, a space where we could look around and see who our neighbors are and collaborate with them. We do a lot of work in the medical device arena and want to be part of that vibrant, growing community."

Studio employees will split their time between the Grand Rapids and Zeeland offices, says Hernandez. Grand Rapids office hours will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. through Fri.

Source: Luciano Hernandez, Tiger Studio
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

The Rapid adds new late night bus hours to accommodate riders

The results of a millage increase approved by voters in May 2011 are on the road this week in the form of late night bus runs on The Rapid and other expanded services, including Quick Response Code (QR Code) signage at some stops. Riders with QR code readers on their phones can scan the code to get real-time transit tracking for that route.

The Rapid, Grand Rapids' transit system, says all fixed routes are now running until 11:15 p.m. on weekdays, until 10 p.m. on Saturdays, and every 30 minutes on weekdays between 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. The only exceptions are the Woodland/Airport route 17, and 44th St. route 44.

In addition, the seven busiest routes will run until 12:15 a.m. Monday through Friday with 30-
minute service, Grand Valley State University's route 50 will extend to Rapid Central Station on weekday evenings from  6:45 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., and the GO!Bus on-demand service for senior citizens and disabled persons will run until 12:15 a.m. weekdays.

"This is just the first round of changes," says Jennifer Kalczuk, The Rapid spokesperson. "Between now and August all fixed routes will be impacted. More routes operating in the evening mean so much more access for riders to second and third shift jobs, as well as access to entertainment and social options."

Kalczuk says ridership has more than doubled since 2000, showing growth even in years when there were no new ridership options. One of those years was 2011 when ridership jumped 10.7 percent, despite no increase in services says Kalczuk.

For more information, click here or call 616.776.1100. Schedules are posted at each stop.

Source: Jennifer Kalczuk, The Rapids
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Eastern Floral tests downtown Grand Rapids market with cash and carry florist shop

Longtime floral design company Eastern Floral has launched a new kind of flower venture in downtown Grand Rapids' Shops at Monroe Center and Division, (MoDiv, 40 Monroe Center NE) -- a cash and carry flower shop designed to fit the needs of downtown dwellers and workers.

The shop, bokay by Eastern Floral, has more of a flower cart kind of feel than a flower shop atmosphere, says Eastern Floral President Jason Goei.

"It's kind of out in the open in the lobby of MoDiv," Goei says. "We want to get people thinking about Eastern Floral in a different way, to reach that downtown shopper that we've never really had."

The shop, which opened Dec. 2, specializes in hand-tied bouquets that are easy for customers to carry back to their offices or take home to put in their own vases. Tying the bouquets allows them to keep their design intact.

"We're showing different designs and styles and even different flowers and greens than in traditional cash and carry bouquets," Goei says. "We bring fresh flowers in everyday; we're making them up at the main store on Butterworth, then selling them the same day and bringing in fresh the next day."

The shop carries a few vases, some potted plants and a few gift items, but the focus is on the ready-made bouquets. Customers wanting custom flower arrangements or delivery would still order through Eastern Floral's main store.

"We wanted to support a retail business model that could mesh with what we're doing at the Goei Center to support small businesses," Goei says. "People are happy to have a florist downtown again and we're getting a lot of good feedback we hope will translate into sales down the road."

Store hours: Mon., Weds., Fri., Sat. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Tues. and Thurs., 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Source: Jason Goei, bokay by Eastern Floral
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Growing Cinematic Arts college a picture perfect fit for former UICA space in downtown Grand Rapids

Leaders of the Compass College of Cinematic Arts say that its student population has tripled and with that growth comes the need for more space and a location central to Grand Rapids' downtown. On Dec. 8, the college cut a filmstrip "ribbon" to mark the opening of its new location at 41 Sheldon Blvd. SE, the former home of the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts.

The college, previously at Fifth St. NW and Seward Avenue, is excited to have a space with a dedicated film theater already in place, says Admissions Director Tom Lowe.

"Our new location has a sound stage and a 175-seat theater as options for students to be able to create and show their films," Lowe says. "Our school is a media arts training college where students learn to be directors, writers, screenwriters, animators and do jobs behind the camera. They're not just confined to [creating for] the big screen, but for anything today that would be video-centric."

The college has 50 students this year, ranging in age from recent high school graduates to adults in their forties. Lowe says the school, formerly called Compass Film Academy, gained accreditation in 2010. Successful completion of its 60-credit-hour course gains students a bachelor of arts in motion picture arts and sciences.

The school shares the main level with the offices of ArtPrize, and also occupies the entire lower level. Three classrooms, a computer lab, plus student and faculty lounges round out the facility.

Lowe says students have had a hand in several successful commercial projects including 30 Minutes or Less, a movie shot in Grand Rapids; Avatar; CSI Miami; Fast and Furious; Marmaduke; and a Disney remake of Return to Oz, in production now.

Source: Tom Lowe, Compass College of Cinematic Arts
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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