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HyperOptik aims to bring a new kind of spectacle to Grand Rapids' Wealthy St.

Funky, urban and eclectic are the words Christopher Conens uses to describe the trendy eyewear he and his dad Rob Conens and business partner Daryl Kamp will soon offer at their proposed HyperOptik Spectacle Studio at 1134 Wealthy St. SE.

But the shop is more than just a store -- it's also a finish lab for custom-grinding prescription lenses and a photo studio where Rob Conens, an avid portrait photographer, will photograph customer "models" wearing their new eyewear.

"Rob has always done the portrait work for the ad campaigns for our other store, Cascade Optical, but we've always set up a temporary photo studio," says Christopher Conens. "Now we'll be able to photograph every customer who wants to be part of our ads. Over the years, we've found that far more people want to do it than don't want to."

Cascade Optical has brought high-end eyewear to Grand Rapids patrons for 17 years and Christopher says he and Rob have envisioned an urban store for the past five years or so. He says the 1,200-square-foot location one door east of Wealthy Theatre is the perfect spot.

"We've found that the urban pockets of Grand Rapids are just incredible renaissance zones of energy, with more people moving there and a younger generation with a strong community spirit," Conens says.

"HyperOptik will offer less expensive and funkier eyewear than we have in Cascade," he says. "We already work with a number of artists and very creative colorful customers, and we wanted more of a presence in an urban environment, something a little more dynamic."

The store's product brands include l.a.Eyeworks, Booth & Bruce, X-I-T and Cutler & Gross. The shop will offer retail only, and will not have optometrists onsite.

Conens expects the shop will open in mid-October.

Source: Christopher Conens, HyperOptik Spectacle Studio
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

City approves proposed $27M Grand Rapids Urban Market for next step, could see early 2013 opening

Despite concern over the question of adequate parking, the Grand Rapids Planning Commission approved the requested liquor licenses and site plans for the proposed $27M Grand Rapids Urban Market with the condition that a parking management plan be submitted and approved.

The market, a project led by Grand Action, the group behind development of the Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place, will cover most of a city block at 435 Ionia Avenue SW and 109 Logan St. SW. It could be the first major project to extend the downtown shopping district south of Wealthy St.

The 3.5-acre site, bounded by Wealthy (north), Ionia (east), Logan (south) and US-131 (west), is the former home of the Sonneveldt Produce Company with six worn out warehouses that will be demolished in November.

The vision is to replace them with a 130,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor market that could include eateries, a brewpub, a retail incubator, a rooftop greenhouse, meeting space, office space and two commercial kitchens -- one for culinary education purposes and one to serve as an incubator for fledgling food-production businesses.

All of this is contingent on enough parking space onsite, or a viable parking plan that will accommodate peak shopping periods and increased traffic, says the Planning Commission. Requirements are 318 spaces onsite; plans thus far have just 200 spaces onsite, plus on-street parking. The expectation is that many shoppers will come by bus, the proposed Bus Rapid Transit which could be running by 2014, and by bicycle. Construction can begin once a parking plan is approved. Completion of the project could be spring 2013.

The property is owned by the Downtown Development Authority, which will lease it for 99 years to a corporate entity created by Grand Action, says Jay Fowler, DDA executive director. Fowler says the city “plans to reconstruct Ionia, Logan and McConnell streets over the next two years to greatly improve adequate access to the market and to Acme Insulations (100 Logan St. SW), and to separate the antiquated storm water and sanitary sewers.”

Architects: Design Plus and New Jersey-based Hugh Boyd.

Source: Sept. 22 Planning Commission meeting; Jay Fowler, Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority;
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Elk Brewing to brew up beers, ciders, meads in former restaurant on Grand Rapids’ Wealthy Street

Eric and Lisa Karns have big plans to bring a small brewpub to life on Grand Rapids’ Southeast side, and they got the go-ahead from the Grand Rapids Planning Commission on Sept. 22 to pursue state approval for the liquor license.

Elk Brewing will transform the former Southern Fish Fry building on the corner of Wealthy St. SE and Henry St. SE into an 80-seat microbrewery/pub with an 80-seat outdoor patio along Henry St. The brewpub will be allowed to sell its wares onsite only. Eric Karns, a veteran homebrewer, will head up the brewing team and has plans to offer patrons site-made specialties beyond beer.

“We’ll start out brewing ciders, meads and beers,” Eric Karns says. “We want to have seven to eight beers on tap. Brewing beer is the only thing I’ve really loved doing. We’ll be getting a 100-gallon brewing system and will do construction over the winter, with an opening sometime next year.”

The pub will also offer a selection of wines, but will not sell hard liquor.

Planning Commission also approved a 40-square-foot addition to the Wealthy St. side of the building, which will incorporate a glass façade. The Grand Rapids Historic Preservation Commission approved conceptual plans on March 17, 2010.

The Karns have worked out preliminary agreements with nearby restaurants including The Winchester, Johnny B’z Dogs and More and Wealthy Street Bakery to provide their menus and a delivery service for patrons of Elk Brewing, says Karns.

Design: Lott3Metz Architecture

Source: Eric Karns, Elk Brewing; Greg Metz, Lott3Metz Architecture
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Uptown Kitchen invests Grand Rapids 5x5 winnings in licensed public commercial kitchen in Eastown

Kelly LeCoy is busy these days. She’s working a fulltime job at Steelcase and developing Uptown Kitchen, a licensed commercial kitchen and event space in Grand Rapids’ Eastown business district. This shared-use kitchen will be available for lease to fledgling and established food producers who need a licensed facility.

LeCoy, who’ll be 23 next week, says she’s investing the monies she won at three local business plan competitions -- $5,000 at 5x5 Night in Grand Rapids, $1,000 in the Calvin College BizPlan Competition and $3,000 in the West Michigan Regional Business Plan Competition.

Uptown Kitchen begins construction this week at 1514 Wealthy St. SE, in the former City Knitting location.

LeCoy envisions the endeavor as a way for caterers, food producers and other related businesses to cut overhead costs by having use of a fully licensed kitchen that’s available 24/7, without the cost of creating a kitchen or owning the property. It also allows small food-focused businesses to earn more money than the state cottage law permits, thus allowing businesses to grow.

The kitchen space has three distinct areas: a prep kitchen, a pastry kitchen and a catering kitchen.

“This actually started as a final project in the honors program at Calvin College, where I graduated this spring,” LeCoy says. “I began interviewing local small businesses and realized the need for commercial kitchen space because people wanted to sell their food products and couldn’t because of the cottage food law. Under the cottage law, you can sell food made in home kitchens at farmers markets [and] roadside markets, but there’s a huge leap to selling a food product in a store because it needs to be made in a licensed commercial kitchen.”

Uptown Kitchen will include an event and meeting area with a demonstration kitchen for people wishing to hold cooking classes or other events for up to 50 people.

If all goes as planned, the kitchen will be available for rent in November. For more information, you can contact Kelly LeCoy at 616-776-2655 or Kelly@uptownkitchengr.com.

Source: Kelly LeCoy, Uptown Kitchen
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photography credit: Kelly Powers, courtesy of Calvin College

The Dirty Hippie, Grand Rapids -- Get your caffeine fix and star in a reality show at the same time

Getting a latté and being in a reality show at the same time has never been so easy!

Step inside The Dirty Hippie (133 S. Division) in Grand Rapids and you could be part of the next big scene in Tyler and Vinny Trierweiler’s imaginative web-based show that puts a new twist on life in GR.

The Trierweilers, 23-year-old twin brothers from Portage, came to Grand Rapids this spring to start The Musician’s Cooperative based on an organization Tyler Trierweiler says they started in South Bend, IN. They wanted a larger city to work and play in, so they scoped out Grand Rapids and made the move.

After gathering ideas about what they could do for a living that was different and sustainable, the guys launched The Dirty Hippie reality show premise where staff and customers in a bona fide coffee shop are the stars. The shop opens officially Oct. 1, the same date the show debuts on the web at dirtyhippievenue.com.

“We’ve been filming for the past two-and-a-half weeks,” says Trierweiler, who graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in video production. “First episode is about setting up the business.”

He adds that if a customer walks in during an event at the shop they can “be assured filming will be going on and you may be in the episode. We edit the best stuff just like any TV producers do. This is more than an everyday coffee shop, but you can come in and do your homework here, too.”

Trierweiler says Grand Valley State University interns are handling the filming. Customers can sit down in front of the self-confessional camera and talk about whatever they want to, or grab one of the foot cameras to film themselves or their friends.

The 1,000-square-foot shop will be open seven days, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., with special events, music, open mic nights, showings of the reality series and other happenings scheduled throughout the week.

Source: Tyler Trierweiler, The Dirty Hippie
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Madison Square Apartments gutted, geared up for $21M overhaul in SE Grand Rapids

The residents of Madison Square Apartments on Grand Rapids’ Southeast side have endured years of poor housing in a residential community with a less than stellar reputation. But the folks at Dwelling Place say all that is changing. Dwelling Place purchased the 60-unit, three-story building in June and has since gutted the building in preparation for a complete overhaul. The project, including the building's purchase price, will run some $21M.

Besides new interiors for the apartments -- which include new kitchens and bathrooms -- and all-new common areas, Triangle Associates is building  three additions, including a community room large enough to accommodate all residents for special events and a gathering room where residents can meet to for crafts or exercise classes.

“This is a Section 8 property and we’re doing this renovation to preserve the affordable housing in the Grand Rapids area,” says Dwelling Place’s Director of Housing Development Jarrett DeWyse. “We bought the property from MSHDA (Michigan State Housing Development Authority), who could have sold this to another developer and we’d have lost the affordable aspect of this housing.”

The apartments (500 Hall St. SE) were built as one-bedroom senior housing in 1984, which included housing for persons of any age who had physical disabilities. Forty of the apartments were occupied. Last December, Dwelling Place helped those residents find temporary housing in some 16 locations throughout the city until construction is finished. Most of those residents will opt to return to what DeWyse says will be, basically, a brand new building.

Upgrades include new HVAC, new windows, an outdoor deck and a community garden area for residents. DeWyse says that conversations with service providers such as Senior Meals and Gerontology Network will put services in place for the residents, something they didn’t have before.

The additions do not add any new apartments, but allow space for enlarging 25 of the apartments to about 700 square feet; the remaining apartments run about 540 square feet, says DeWyse.  

Residents have been invited to join a contest to give the new building a new name.  

Funding for the project came from American Reinvestment and Recovery Act stimulus funds, low-income housing tax credits and MSHDA, says DeWyse.

“The residents can’t wait to get back,” DeWyse says. “They feel we are invested and we are concerned about them, and they feel really good about that.”

Construction should wrap up in March 2012.

Construction manager: Triangle Associates
Architect: Destigter Architecture & Planning

Source: Jarrett DeWyse, Dwelling Place, Inc.
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Baxter Community Center's new greenhouse will sprout healthy food options for Grand Rapids neighbors

About the time their summer vegetable gardens are just a fond memory to most Grand Rapids gardeners, the Baxter Community Center will be setting up its first year-round gardening environment in its new heated greenhouse.

The 1,060-square-foot greenhouse is the latest addition to Baxter Community Center’s ongoing efforts to bring fresh produce and budget-friendly foods to a neighborhood classified by the Public Health Department as a “food desert,” a place lacking sources of easily accessible foods and fresh produce. Construction began Sept. 6 and the greenhouse will be completed by the end of November.

“We’re working to set up holistic support for our neighbors, and the greenhouse will be a learning space to teach people how to garden and to provide starter plants for them to use,” says Melanie Beelen, executive director. "Our partners in the program are the YMCA and Our Kitchen Table -- the Y will focus on teaching nutrition, youth gardening and exercise; Our Kitchen Table will work with neighbors to provide one-on-one support for their home gardens.”

The greenhouse learning experience ties in with Baxter’s onsite community garden where neighbors plant and grow food for their families. And it will have a direct connection with Around the Table, a program that teaches people how to cook fresh produce now and preserve some of it for later use through canning. That program, in turn, works hand-in-hand with Double Up Food Bucks, which teaches people how to get more for their grocery dollar.

Dan Vos Construction is building the $200,000 structure, which was paid for with funding raised by Baxter Community Center. Dan Vos Construction has worked with Baxter on other projects, including the 2006 LEED-certified gymnasium.

“My dad was on the (Baxter) board for many years,” says Dan T. Vos, executive VP. “The passion the Baxter Community Center feels for their ministry is very contagious -- when you walk in there, you feel like you just want to help them. I think what they’re doing is going to give some health benefits to the neighborhood.”

Source: Melanie Beelen, Baxter Community Center; Dan T. Vos, Dan Vos Construction
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Haworth, Interphase to open creative design showroom in Grand Rapids' new MoDiv retail incubator

Haworth and its Grand Rapids dealer, Interphase Interiors, announced plans this week to open an 1,800-square-foot showroom and retail store in the new Shops at Monroe Center and Division, or MoDiv, in downtown Grand Rapids.

MoDiv, a new retail incubator endeavor launched by Rockford Construction, will make some 8,500 square feet of the Peck Building on the corner of Monroe Center and N. Division Avenue available for businesses wanting to get a toe in downtown's retail waters. The Haworth/Interphase showroom and 6.25 Paper Studio (formerly Syd Design) are the first tenants.

"The space will be a working showroom and a retail space for us," says Ray Kennedy, Haworth's director of North American marketing. "It will be a space to bring customers to experience our Haworth products, and it will be available to other tenants and the community if someone needs a large space for events."

Haworth products are custom designed, Kennedy says, so most retail shopping will be via special orders. But he says "there may be some pieces they can walk out the door with."

The showroom will have kitchen, living room, library, foyer and office areas that will demonstrate how workspaces have taken on a casual feel akin to a home environment.

Moreover, Haworth envisions the space as a launching pad for innovative ideas on the changes in workplace environments.

"It's going to be a great place to bring the community together, and a great place to test products out," Kennedy says. "It will be great to have the connection with the incubator space and the retail outlets that are there. There will be lots of opportunities to co-market and coexist, and they'll have access to our space so they can use it and build up that corner of downtown Grand Rapids."

Rockford Construction says it will invest some $400,000 in the incubator.

Source: Ray Kennedy, Haworth; Michael Zalewski, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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6.25 Paper Studio is first small retailer to join MoDiv retail incubator in downtown Grand Rapids

At just 335 square feet, the new outlet for 6.25 Paper Studio in downtown Grand Rapids will give owner Abbey Fowler the opportunity to see if her new venture will pay off and possibly lead to an even bigger store. The stationery and gift boutique is one of the first two tenants announced this week for retail incubator Shops at Monroe Center and Division, or MoDiv, 40 Monroe Center.

6.25 Paper Studio, once known as Syd Design, is Fowler's first step in introducing her lines of custom made invitations and personally designed greeting cards to a larger client base than she attracted by working out of her Kentwood home.

Fowler hopes to have the studio open by the start of ArtPrize (Sept. 21). She'll offer her own greeting cards for holidays, birthdays and gift sets of blank cards.

Fowler, who, with her husband Mac, is in the process of adopting an 18-month-old girl from Africa, has also created a line of greeting cards for adoptions.

"I'll also offer products from 50 or 60 small companies, artisans and crafters," Fowler says. "I have some cute owl pillows from Belding artist Katie Mulder and Michigan Awesome T-shirts. I'll also do custom gift wrapping and sell gift packaging."

The shop will include a small design studio where Fowler plans to create her cards and meet with clients to design custom wedding invitations. She says the retail incubator concept of MoDiv, the ability to rent such a small space and the promise of having foot traffic generated by other future tenants has made a coveted downtown shop affordable.  

"I was looking downtown about a year and a half ago, and even looked to partner with a photographer," she says. "By the time we added up the price per square foot and added on utilities, it was over my budget. Here, everything is covered in my rent. Hopefully this will give me a jumpstart into transitioning into a larger space."

Source: Abbey Fowler, 6.25 Paper Studio; Michael Zalewski, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Holland city block revitalized as $15M Midtown Village apartments, linear park

A full city block just outside of downtown Holland has gone from a desolate property with empty high school and junior high buildings to what could soon be a thriving residential and commercial center featuring a linear park.

The block, bounded by W. 15th St. (north), S. River Avenue (east), W. 16th St. (south) and Pine Avenue (west), will soon have bragging rights to Midtown Village, a complex of 30 new one- and two-bedroom senior apartments developed by Grand Rapids-based Dwelling Place. The nonprofit housing organization has invested some $15M in renovation and development of the circa 1912 E. E. Fell Junior High School and will open it to the public on October 11.

The housing portion of the revitalization joins Jubilee Ministries' earlier renovation of a former high school on the property into Midtown Center, a commercial development where several nonprofits have office space, including Jubilee Ministries, Grand Rapids Community College and Latin Americans United for Progress.

Dwelling Place CEO Dennis Sturtevant says the development has been five years in the making and is consistent with a City of Holland visioning process and study called Center of Centers.

"This whole block was middle and high schools for nearly 100 years," he says. "All the residential area surrounded the schools and was a focal point of the community. When the schools moved out in the 1960s, it created a dilemma for the city of what to do with these huge buildings that were functionally obsolete. The Center of Centers study is what we used as our template of how to use these buildings and for this linear park."

Construction has broken ground on Midtown Green, a proposed linear park with a bicycle and pedestrian pathway that crosses the green space and connects 15th and 16th streets. Sturtevant expects the park to open next spring and says Dwelling Place's Jenn Schaub is working with local artists to develop a vision for outdoor art in the space.

The final piece of the puzzle, a gymnasium building attached to the middle school, is for sale. Sturtevant says negotiations are underway with an undisclosed bidder.

Dedication ceremony: October 11, 11 a.m.
Public open house: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Source: Dennis Sturtevant, Dwelling Place
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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$100M available for Michigan businesses, developments in place of brownfields, historic tax credits

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) has $100M it wants to give out in fiscal year 2012 to Michigan businesses that are creating jobs and to development projects that aim to revitalize urban areas through reuse of vacant or historic buildings or creation of sustainable and mixed-use developments.

Under the purview of the Michigan Strategic Fund board, two new programs will replace Michigan Economic Growth Authority (MEGA), brownfield and historic tax credit programs, all part of the former Michigan Business Tax that will be eliminated.

The Michigan Business Development Program and the Michigan Community Revitalization Program will each provide up to $10M per approved project via grants, loans and other economic assistance.

The Michigan Business Development Program will consider projects that create jobs and new investment in the state.

The Michigan Community Revitalization Program will work with developers and property owners to revitalize regional urban areas through reuse of vacant or obsolete buildings, historic buildings and sustainable and mixed-use developments.

Both programs begin October 1, 2011, the start of the fiscal year.

"Before, incentives were tax credit based, so when the projected milestones were met [the business or developer] would file for the tax credit with the department of treasury," says MEDC Director of Policy Peter Anastor. "In the new model, when milestones are met they will get a cash check from us instead."

Anastor expects the state to give out the full $100M in 2012, money appropriated from the State of Michigan General Fund ($75M) and from The 21st Century Jobs Fund ($25M). He says the amount appropriated each year could fluctuate.

Each program requires a staff, financial or economic commitment from the local municipality.

"We've built in greater flexibility than in past programs that were structured in the tax credit model, and can really focus on what the business or developer needs for development of their project," Anastor says. "You hear that Michigan is eliminating tax credits and is not open for business, and that's not true. We want to be sure people understand the money is available."

Source: Peter Anastor, Director of Policy, Michigan Economic Development Corporation
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Rapids' Owens-Ames-Kimball invests $1.2M to continue 120-year tradition downtown

Owen-Ames-Kimball has been a fixture in downtown Grand Rapids since the company launched in 1891, and now the 120-year-old construction and design firm is investing some $1.2M to revamp its company HQ and stay in the urban core.

The company, known for projects like Van Andel Institute's Phase II, Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park and the restoration of Wealthy Theatre, has 85 West Michigan employees, including 27 headquartered at 300 Ionia Ave. NW. OAK renovated the two-level building back in 1980 and now its maroon interior is in need of an aesthetics overhaul.

"The old space had enclosed offices for everybody, with executive offices around the perimeter," says Bill Ogden, director of operations. "We've gutted it to create an open office space, added conference rooms and built a new glass entryway with an elevator on the southwest corner of the building."

One feature is a large community space outfitted with technology for training and company events. A sliding glass wall opens to a conference room. Both spaces look southward over downtown.

"We had just one relatively small conference room and never had a space to spend time to discuss trends," says President Bill Schoonveld. "Now everyone gets some daylight where they work and we have lots of room for collaboration."

OAK built the 14,000-square-foot structure in 1969. The renovation is part of the company's 120-year anniversary celebration.

"We've been talking the last six years, how do we fit everybody, do we sell and move, what would it take to stay here and allow for future growth?" Schoonveld says. "We're staying downtown because since 1891, we've seen the ups and the downs and the constant goings on down here, and we want to be a part of it."

OAK handled the design and construction. Construction will wrap up in December. Schoonveld expects the project will receive LEED certification.

Source: Bill Schoonveld, Bill Ogden, Rachael Ritzema, Owen-Ames-Kimball
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

$2M downtown Muskegon retail incubator in Russell Block Building moves toward fall completion

It's been four years now, and Gary Post's vision for creating a retail marketplace in downtown Muskegon is drawing steadily toward the end of its construction phase.

Post envisions a retail incubator of over 20 100-square-foot bakery, deli, artist and retail outlets that would create a "synergistic collection of retailers and businesses as a destination for people coming into town and as a catalyst for people to develop the downtown."

The location is the Russell Block Building (360 W. Western Ave.), and the Russell Block Market, Inc., operating as an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit.

The building, built in 1890, shares a wall with The Century Club, where Hegg's Gallery of Fine Furniture has downsized to just the main level, 11 commercial suites ranging from 200 to 2,000 square feet for retail and offices.

Post developed both buildings and holds out hope for completing the $2M Russell Block Building restoration by late fall. To-date, the nonprofit Russell Block Market, Inc., is still hammering out details on contracts, procedures and funding, says Post. When that's completed, they'll be able to bring incubator tenants on board.

"We still have work to do on the building," Post says. "We will be putting in an elevator, and we're still looking for tenants for floors two and three."

Thus far, the restoration of the building's original façade is in process. Post's Port City Construction company has matched the old brick, rebuilt the entire cornice and replaced 22 windows on the upper floors. The storefront, which originally had five bays, will soon have five bays again, Post says, plus two bay windows that were removed when the building was skinned with metal in the 1940s.

"Somewhat tongue in cheek, I said after I took the metal skin off, the first thing I wanted to do was put it back on," Post says with a laugh.

"We see this project as the beginning of the retail core that Muskegon needs and a way to help retailers develop a customer base and develop their product so they can move to a permanent downtown location. The Century Club could be a next step for some of them."

Source: Gary Post, Port City Construction, Russell Block Market
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Bros BBQ & Ice Cream, a new combo for an old eatery in northeast Grand Rapids

Folks in Grand Rapids' Creston neighborhood used to walk to Frosty Boy on the corner of Ann St. and Plainfield Avenue for ice cream on a hot summer day. The property sat vacant for years, but now families can gather once again for a stroll down to Bros BBQ & Ice Cream for a pulled pork sandwich and a soft serve cone for dessert.

Longtime friends Andrew Finn and Rob Carranco launched the new take-out eatery after many months of searching for "the perfect location," says Carranco, who used to go to Frosty Boy as a kid.

"People started coming for the ice cream, but now they're coming back for the food," Carranco says.

Carranco handles the front counter and the back office, but says that Finn, a veteran of the restaurant business, is the grill master.

"He loves to cook and I've been eating his food for years," Carranco says. "He was trying out a new rib recipe and I went over to his house to try it. I said, 'You've got to sell these things!'"

The duo leases the building and Carranco says they have invested over $30,000 in electrical, plumbing, air conditioning, lighting and a new bathroom. Finn works the business full-time; Carranco kept his day job as a welder and works the restaurant part-time.

Right now, the menu is takeout only, but Carranco says they'll offer delivery service in the fall. The menu features pork from Coopersville-based DeVries Meats. Besides pulled pork sandwiches, ribs and French fries, Bros offers tasty beef, pork or chicken mini sliders, rib tips, a quarter of a chicken, mozzarella sticks and sweet potato fries. The ice cream menu tantalizes with sundaes, shakes and floats.

"A lot of people walk down and bring their kids. I've heard a lot of comments like 'we've been waiting for something to come here,'" Carranco says. "Without the support of the community, we're nothing."

Hours are: Mon. thru Sat., 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sun. noon to 8 p.m.
Source: Rob Carranco, Bros BBQ & Ice Cream
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Rapids' new The North Quarter looks at bike lanes, street repairs, improved shopping districts

Uptown has its four distinct business districts of Eastown, East Hills, East Fulton and Wealthy Street. Southtown has five: Boston Square, Division South, Franklin/Eastern, Madison Square and Oakdale/Eastern.

And now, northeast Grand Rapids businesses and neighborhoods in the Creston, Cheshire Village and Leonard/Monroe/Coldbrook areas have come together as The North Quarter. The initiative launched last spring to rekindle efforts for a Corridor Improvement District (CID) proposed several years ago.

The Creston Business Association, Creston Neighborhood Association, Cheshire Village Business Association and business owners in the Monroe/Coldbrook/Leonard area came together last fall and winter to map out a plan for improving the city's northeast quarter.

"Our first goal is to work on getting the CID," says Duane Culver. Culver owns the Creston area accounting firm Culver, Wood & Culver, and is president of both the Creston Business Association and The North Quarter.

"The CID will help us get funding from city property taxes and from grants in order to do capital improvements in the district, such as, streetscaping and new building facades," Culver says. "The work was begun with the outdoor art project and the community design charrette done a few years back, but we need to move and do something with the information we've gathered or all the work we've done is going to be wasted."

The group also has representatives working with the City of Grand Rapids and the Michigan Department of Transportation on a plan to repave portions of Plainfield Avenue in summer 2012, Culver says. MDOT already planned to do the paving, and The North Quarter has joined the planning to review the possibilities of adding bike lanes, better on-street parking and other design aspects to keep vehicle traffic flowing while making the street safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

Source: Duane Culver, Culver, Wood & Culver and The North Quarter
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Creston Public Art Project gets $15,000 boost, next step in corridor improvement initiative

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