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Catherine's Health Center cuts ribbon on new $1.2M HQ in Grand Rapids' Creston neighborhood

When Catherine's Health Center had the opportunity to relocate from its cramped 1,200 square feet in the basement of St. Alphonsus Church to three times the space in a LEED-certified property, it was all systems go. On Feb. 14, the free health clinic celebrated its 15-year anniversary with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new digs in the former St. Alphonsus Elementary School (1211 Lafayette Ave. NE, Grand Rapids).

The center offers no-cost healthcare to Creston and Belknap residents who are uninsured and underinsured. When operating at full capacity, the new 6,800-square-foot center will be able to serve 1,200 to 1,500 patients a month -- an increase of 700 to 1,100 patients per month, says Development Director Janet Zahn.

"We have six exam rooms, plus two treatment rooms for additional services we'll soon offer," Zahn says. "For instance, we're working on an agreement to bring in optical services for diabetic patients that need dilated-eye exams, and we'll also have room for the rotation of different providers like physical therapists, podiatry and therapeutic massage. We're still forming the relationships and the plans are in the making."

A capital campaign to raise $1.275 million came in over goal at $1.4 million, instead, Zahn says. Some $200,000 of that is earmarked as "cushion" funding to cover the increase in operating expenses over the health center's first two years.

"Inside, the colors are soothing, the furnishings are beautiful," Zahn says. "We're excited to be able to offer our clients the beauty of this place as well as the expanded room."

Catherine's Health Center is open Mon., Tues. and Thurs. 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Weds. 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Source: Janet Zahn, Catherine's Health Center
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Grand Rapids Diocese, Saint Mary's Health Care roll out plans for pedestrian plaza in Heartside

The empty former St. Andrew Elementary School and the long-vacant Eerdman's Publishing building could soon be rubble, a next step toward completing the vision of building an attractive gateway to both the Grand Rapids Catholic Diocese's new Cathedral Square and to a proposed new entrance to Saint Mary's Health Care.

The diocese, which owns the school building (corner of Sheldon and Maple SE), and Saint Mary's, owner of the publishing building (corner of Maple and Jefferson SE), have submitted joint plans to the Grand Rapids Planning Commission to level both buildings. This would create an unobstructed view across several acres of land stretching along Jefferson and Maple streets between Saint Mary's Hospital (200 Jefferson St. SE) and the Cathedral of St. Andrew (265 Sheldon SE).

The proposed result is a lighted, pedestrian-friendly plaza along Maple St. SE, incorporating pedestrian and automobile access to and from points in-between. The project, the Maple Street Improvement Plan, wraps up construction of the diocese's $22 million Cathedral Square development. In addition, Saint Mary's will develop the west side of Jefferson directly in front of the hospital.

"Our front parking lot will be reconstructed and will include a sculptural centerpiece and more green space, but leaving room for parking on either side," says Micki Benz, Saint Mary's VP of public relations. "It will lead right into the new boulevard on the west side (of Jefferson). Saint Mary's had this in our master campus plan we presented to the city in 2006; this is the second phase of implementation.The first phase was completing the Hauenstein Center."

Benz says the project has generated some interest from physicians and developers that could result in a mixed-use development on the west side of Jefferson, but that is several years off.

A news release dated Feb. 6, 2011 states that the planning commission will review the plans in March. No demolition or construction dates have been set.

Source: Micki Benz, Saint Mary's Health Care; Diocese of Grand Rapids
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Hand-blown glass studio a Grand Rapids' Avenue for the Arts live/work success story

Glass artist Joe Sherry would be the first to say he's not exactly living on Easy Street. But for the past five years, he has lived in a small live/work art studio in the heart of Grand Rapids' Avenue for the Arts, and, in his words, "I love every bit of it."

Sherry, 29, owns En Fuego (Spanish for "on fire") Hand Blown Glass (235 S. Division Ave), a 1,000-square-foot studio and residence developed by Dwelling Place  Sherry crafts hand blown wine glasses, bath and kitchen faucet handles, jewelry and chess sets, and teaches students glass blowing techniques in one-on-one sessions.

"I've been blowing glass for nine years and I just wanted to open up to Grand Rapids and start teaching as many people as I could," Sherry says. "I've been really trying to get into the interior decorating industry with custom faucet handles. I did all 102 tap handles for the new Reserve wine bar."

Sherry started out making pipes and other paraphernalia for Purple East, but didn't like the "bad rep you get making all that stuff," he says. So he segued into custom hardware for interior design and collaborates on projects like the glass chandelier he's making with fellow artist Steven Mark Fidler.

Hard glass comes in tube and rock forms. Sherry heats it with a gas torch, infuses it with color, silver or 24-kt. gold, then shapes it freehand and cools it in a kiln.

As for making a living in the city's arts district, an area sprinkled with soup kitchens and homeless shelters, "It's not for everybody. You have to be able to bring people down here and make them feel safe," Sherry says. "My old roommate Bill Kirk owns Open Source next door; he set up a stage in there so we've been doing dual parties and bringing a lot of musicians down here."

Source: Joe Sherry, En Fuego Hand Blown Glass
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Construction begins on $13M downtown Grand Rapids Serrano Lofts, Division Park apartments

Construction to renovate three historic Grand Rapids buildings in the Heartside neighborhood into low-cost urban apartments begins on Feb. 14 with 17 Williams St. NE, the first of the three to undergo renovation.

Midland-based developer Brookstone Capital, Inc., the company that dipped its toe into Grand Rapids' multi-million dollar redevelopment scene with projects like Metropolitan Park Apartments and 101 S. Division, plans to transform 209 and 217 S. Division Ave. into Division Park, with 30 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, including six live/work units on the ground level.

Around the corner, Serrano Lofts (17 Williams) will offer 15 one- and two-bedroom units.

"209 was originally built in 1911 as a hotel for furniture buyers who came into town during the furniture boom," says Aaron Jonker, project manager for Wolverine Building Group, the company handling construction. "It was billed as having indoor plumbing because it had two bathrooms for guests."

Jonker expects the renovations, which are actually two separate projects, to receive LEED Silver certification. He expects LEED points will be given for green features including the reuse of buildings in a core city, proximity to transit, renovation of obsolete buildings (brownfield), and installation of high efficiency HVAC systems.

Renovation of the buildings' exteriors includes replacing the windows with historically accurate and energy efficient types and cleaning and tuckpointing the brick facades. Norton Shores-based Concept Design Studio handled the architectural design.

The expected project cost is $13 million, writes Brookstone's Development Coordinator Shawna Bergman in an email dated Feb. 7. She adds that public funding (approximately $12.4 million) will come from several sources: state and federal historic tax credits; MSHDA low-income housing tax credits; brownfield tax credits; City of Grand Rapids HOME Loan monies; and Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority grants.

"I think these two projects have an opportunity to be a driver for development," Jonker says. "(The business district) has had some issues with keeping businesses in the area and the more people we can bring down there, the better."

Source: Aaron Jonker and Danielle Wells, Wolverine Building Group; Shawna Bergman, Brookstone Capital, LLC
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Century-old Grand Rapids manufacturer launches new business venture near Old North Boundary

The 134-year-old Bissell Homecare, Inc. has launched a new think tank in Grand Rapids' Old North Boundary building -- a venture focused on leveraging Bissell's core competencies for innovative new business opportunities that will grow the company's global market.

Bissell Business Ventures, a group of about 15 employees, launched in January to build on the momentum begun last August when the group released its first new venture, Bissell Big Green Rental. The group moved into the Old North Boundary building (1140 Monroe NW) last week.

"Bissell entered into the floor cleaning rental industry with a new carpet cleaning machine we developed over the past two years," says Jim Krzeminski, president of Bissell Business Ventures, LLC. "How do we bring an easy-to-use product to a community rental over and over again? How do we make sure the machine is clean and ready to use for the next customer? It required a whole new business model, a whole different infrastructure, a whole new machine."

Krzeminski says Bissell Big Green Rental draws on Bissell's engineering expertise and test laboratories, making it a "first cousin" to the Bissell brand. Big Green Rental is now in about 900 Lowe's stores nationwide with a planned rollout to Canada and other countries later this year.

Krzeminski says the formation of Bissell Business Ventures keeps the brains behind the venture in West Michigan.

"We moved just three miles down the road (from the Walker headquarters)," he says. "The idea isn't to invest in bricks and mortar; the idea is to break out and think differently to foster innovation.

"For a company coming up on its 135th anniversary celebrating the issuance of the first sweeper patent (Sept. 19), we continue to grow and prosper and make investments. We now have a place to bring new ideas, entrepreneurs and new investments so we continue to grow in different ways."

Source: Jim Krzeminski, Bissell Business Ventures
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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$200K in grants fuel alternative energy, life sciences, biotech startups in Grand Rapids, Muskegon

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) has awarded $200,000 in grant monies to fuel the continued development of two Grand Valley State University incubator programs for life sciences, high technology and alternative energy startups.

The incubators, housed at the West Michigan Science and Technology Initiative (WMSTI) in Grand Rapids' SmartZone and the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center (MAREC) in Muskegon's SmartZone, each received $100,000 in separate grants.

"MAREC has always had incubator capacity, but it's never been fully developed, never had staff allocated," says Director Arn Boezaart. "The grant will allow us to ramp up the visibility of the incubator and the incubator capacity, and have some money to help entrepreneurs."

MAREC will combine the $100,000 grant with some $90,000 already on hand to fund enhancements that include furnishings, supplies, marketing and professional consultation services for incubator clients. The largest allocation ($44,000) will subsidize MAREC's first incubator manager, a two-year part-time position. Some $13,000 will also be allocated to a seed capital fund for energy and high-tech startups.

Boezaart says 60 percent of MAREC's 6,000 square feet of office and dry lab space is available for high-tech and alternative and renewable energy startups.

"Right now, MAREC is the lakeshore area's only publicly operated incubator facility," Boezaart says. "Given that we're so focused on economic development and entrepreneurial activity, it seems that we can make this facility as supportive as we can possibly be to new business development."

WMSTI will invest its $100,000 grant to continue development of its mini-lab incubator option for life sciences and high-technology startups, and to increase its marketing research and communications capacities to reach biotech entrepreneurs who need immediate lab space, specifically those receiving SBIR/STTR grants.

Background materials provided by GVSU state that the new funding will allow WMSTI to accommodate up to five more incubator members, who will have access to over 100 pieces of shared equipment and instrumentation.

WMSTI's funding will also support professional consulting services, marketing, business development and licenses for specialized management and tracking software to assist incubator clients in the development and commercialization of their product.

Source: Arn Boezaart, Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center; Bonnie Dawdy, West Michigan Science and Technology Initiative; Lambert Edwards & Associates
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Final piece of Grand Rapids' $225M Michigan Street Development Project to open doors in July

Planning began in 2004, construction in 2005 and this summer and fall will mark the opening of the final piece of the $225 million Michigan Street Development Project -- a project that has been a driving force behind the creation of a healthcare Mecca along Grand Rapids' Medical Mile.

Since breaking ground in 2005, Michigan Street Development Corporation, a 50/50 partnership of RDV Corp. and The Christman Company, has constructed the $90 million Secchia Center campus of the Michigan State University College Of Human Medicine, the $92 million Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion, 25 Michigan, and now 35 Michigan, which will house outpatient services and labs for Helen DeVos Children's Hospital.

With 200,000 square feet spread over seven levels, 35 Michigan will consolidate pediatric outpatient services (floors 2, 3 and 4) that now extend over a two-mile stretch of Michigan St., says Bridget Menzel, who oversees operations of the children's hospital substations. The hospital, located across the street, connects to 35 Michigan via an elevated, enclosed pedestrian bridge over Michigan Street.

"(The building) will have administrative space for physicians and their support team, an outpatient lab and a pediatric sleep studies area," Menzel says. "Plus we'll have neurology, nephrology, infectious disease, pulmonary, rheumatology and orthopedic practices. We (want) to bring everyone together so we can have our consultative physicians in one area for patients who access multiple practices."

Joe Hooker, development services manager for The Christman Company, says 25 Michigan and 35 Michigan connect via a two-story atrium that will be a gathering point for a food court serving patients, visitors and medical staff. Six retail bays provide space for various restaurants to offer their wares.

"The building will be completed in phases from July through the third quarter of the year as we bring in the tenants," Hooker says. "The first to open will be the food court in July. Right now, we're excited about putting these final pieces of this entire project together."

URS is the architect. The Christman Company is the construction manager.

Source: Bridget Menzel, Helen DeVos Children's Hospital; Joe Hooker, The Christman Company
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Grand Rapids approved $235M in new development projects in 2010, reaps $1.5M in new tax revenue

If one goes by the numbers, 2010 was a good year for Grand Rapids. Compared to 2009 tallies, investments in economic development, new jobs, new residents and new tax revenues are all up considerably, a trend the city's economic development office hopes to continue.

Grand Rapids Economic Development Director Kara Wood says projects approved by the city in 2010 for tax abatements -- brownfield redevelopment, Renaissance Zones, Neighborhood Enterprise Zones and the like -- total $235,617,515 compared to last year's $142,619,927, an increase of over $90 million.

Projects range from an $11 million expansion approved for Dematic projected to retain 790 jobs and create 505 more, to a $60,000 project approved for Able Manufacturing, which will retain four jobs.

Other projects approved for tax abatements include the recent $6-plus-million Founders Brewing expansion, as well as proposed projects, such as the $31 million Urban Market, the $3.5 million CityFlats Hotel, "Bobville's" $24 million project and the $23 million Health Park Central near Saint Mary's Health Care.

"The city has abated, or 'forgiven,' $224,825 in taxes," Wood says. "But a good contrast to that number is the total new annual income taxes and property taxes generated for the city, which is nearly $1.6 million."

The new tax revenue trumps 2009 numbers ($432,738) by about $1.2 million.

While some of the projects predict the creation of new jobs, others could attract new residents to the city through residential construction projects, such as Serrano Lofts. Those numbers, combined, suggest the city could gain 1,964 new workers and residents, up from the projected 480 in 2009.

"In 2009 we saw a huge decline in companies willing to commit to creating jobs," Wood says. "But (2010 investments) show that we have existing companies committed to continuing to improve their businesses in the city and grow jobs."

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

Proposed homestyle breakfast restaurant to be only sit-down eatery in Grand Rapids' Madison Square

Grand Rapids' Madison Square business district at the corner of Madison Avenue SE and Hall St. SE could be on the verge of getting its only sit-down eatery, part of a coordinated response to neighborhood demand.

The proposed B & W Breakfast Bar could open in April as part of a $1.7 million renovation of a century-old storefront at 1167 Madison. The project, spearheaded by LINC Community Revitalization, Inc. (formerly Lighthouse Communities), includes LINC's Development Center containing administrative offices, a retail incubator, a co-working space and a community police station.

Robert Ball, owner of Grand Rapids' Southern Fish Fry and a partner in the new venture, will manage the restaurant, says spokesperson T. A. El Amin, a consultant on the project.

"We're aiming for a home-style place, kind of a combination of Waffle House and Cracker Barrel," El Amin says. "We're looking at breakfast and lunch to start, and we'd like to be open from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. If it goes well, we could add dinner hours, and if that goes well, it could become 24-hour."

El Amin says the focus will be a country-style breakfast and lunch menu with favorites like waffles, bacon and eggs, southern grits, and "a little bit of soul food," as well as heart healthy choices such as turkey sausage, fresh salads and homemade soups.

The 1,500-square-foot space will seat 40.

Attracting a sit-down restaurant to Madison Square is part of a broader push to fill gaps in the business district's offerings, an initiative that began with a neighborhood charrette in 2005.

"This is one of the fastest growing areas around and the region is well thought out and well planned, except for the core city," El Amin says. "If we can get something going in the neighborhoods around the core city, we're going to have something really great.

"The next generation will inherit whatever we do now," he adds. "We'll teach them how to grow it and expand it and there'll be no stopping us with what we can accomplish."

Source: T. A. El Amin, El Amin Associates; LINC Community Revitalization, Inc.
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Grand Rapids $1.2M arena expansion serves purpose, beer and eats

Two months after an expanded concourse area opened in Grand Rapids' Van Andel Arena, arena representatives say the $1.2 million addition has already served its intended purpose to alleviate the elbow-to-elbow congestion event attendees have contended with since the arena opened in 1996. The 3,500-square-foot area, situated on the second level of the northwest concourse, includes a new sit-down bar/concession area with a glass wall where patrons can get a bird's eye view of the city.

The arena has a 12,000-person capacity, and a full house meant attendees would have to inch their way through the formerly too-small concourse to get to restrooms and concessions.

"The northwest corner was always a bit of a bottleneck during Griffins games and packed concerts," says Sean Wright, vice president of corporate sales for DP Fox Sports & Entertainment and the Van Andel Arena. "When fans are spending their hard-earned money to come and have a good time, the last thing we want to do is make it hard for them to get from point A to point B inside the arena."

Ada-based Amway Corporation sponsors the concourse, named Amway Section A.

"We saw this as an opportunity be a part of this beautiful new area in the arena and for the Amway name to be proudly displayed inside one of Grand Rapids' top destination spots," says Amway Brand Manager David Madiol. 'We're excited to leverage the space for product sampling opportunities and we have plans to conduct live radio shows there with our radio partner, Citadel Broadcasting."

Wright says regular attendees of Griffins games, one of the arena's biggest draws, have already seen the benefits of the larger space. "Last Friday, just over 10,000 people attended the Griffins game and didn't have to fight the crowd to get around the corner," Wright says.

Source: Sean Wright, DP Fox Sports & Entertainment and Van Andel Arena; David Madiol, Amway Corporation
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

New owner, new vision for dilapidated Junior Achievement building in Grand Rapids

A dilapidated eyesore on Grand Rapids' most visible corner got a new lease on life in December when commercial developer Locus Development purchased it with plans to revitalize the building as the gateway to the city's Avenue for the Arts.

Locus purchased the two-story building at 2 East Fulton St., on the corner of Fulton and Division Avenue, the central intersection where the city is divided into its northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest sections. Locus purchased it for an undisclosed amount from Mercantile Bank, who acquired the property for $650,000 through a Sheriff sale, says John Green, Locus co-owner.

"Our plan is, over the next 12 months, to work through the building evaluation, architectural drawings and project costing and pursue all applicable incentives available for that property," Green says.

Those incentives could come from state and federal historic tax credits, Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority programs and TIF credits that could include brownfield redevelopment monies, Green says.

Green wouldn't pinpoint a specific potential tenant or final vision for the renovation, but noted his desire to use the building for an arts-centric purpose.

"I, ideally, would love to see some type of arts-related organization on the main floor," Green says. "The lower level ceilings are 16 to 18 feet in some areas and could be quite a spectacular gallery space if done right. The second floor could be a great commercial space for offices for any company that wants to be in the heart of the city.

"I think (the building) will stand as a symbol for the Avenue for the Arts," he adds. "It's at the gateway where our core business district joins with the arts, which is a critical part of what we have going in Grand Rapids."

Construction could begin in early 2012 with completion before ArtPrize 2012.

Source: John Green, Locus Development

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

On-demand daycare opens on Grand Rapids' Medical Mile, announces new franchise opportunities

Nanny on Demand is barely out of diapers, yet this growing enterprise providing flexible daycare without requiring a long-term contract announced this week that it's ready to take its franchise opportunity beyond Michigan's borders.

The newest of West Michigan's first three Nanny on Demand locations will open in early- to mid-February along Grand Rapids' Medical Mile at 545 Michigan St. NE, behind El Barrio Mexican Grill.

Nanny on Demand provides daycare for up to four hours for small groups of children aged one to seven years. Parents register online or in-person.

"A lot of moms use us when they have a doctor appointment or they just need daycare for a few hours," says Nanny founder Velda Rockel. "It's spontaneous. Once you register, you can use us however you need to use us."

The cheery interior invites children and parents to enter a garden of play through an arched trellis, part of a white picket fence that divides the play area from the entry. Whimsical murals by West Michigan artist Linda Lueders enliven the space with playful fairies, flowers, even a hedgehog, all painted in soft pastels.

The Nanny cares for up to 15 children at a time with a staff ratio of one teacher for every six children. Rates are hourly: $8 for the first child, $4.50 for the second, and the third child is free.

"Most of our staff are teachers and we use the Mother Goose curriculum," Rockel says. "The kiddos sing songs, do arts and crafts and sometimes when you pick them up, maybe they've learned a new color."

Rockel's goal is to locate Nanny centers in strategic areas so parents can get spontaneous daycare wherever they are. The first three locations -- Caledonia, Byron Center Rd. near Metro Health, and Michigan St. -- set the tone for franchise opportunities in other West Michigan areas and Detroit. Rockel will announce the details on the new out-of-state franchise opportunities this summer.

Source: Velda Rockel, Nanny on Demand
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Sisters open new Grand Rapids day spa featuring whole body vibration machines

Whole body vibration machines are in demand in Sahuarita, Ariz. where Char Tudor spent a number of years in the spa industry. Now Tudor, 26, and her sister Janelle Zachow, 32, have opened Amira Spa Hair & Body Therapy (629 Michigan St., Grand Rapids) offering whole body vibration as one of the services -- possibly the only spa in town that does.

The sisters are Cedar Springs natives, and decided to open the spa when Tudor moved home after having a baby. Tudor knew she wanted to include whole body vibration machines after seeing the physical benefits they provided to her Arizona clients, she says. They planned the spa via phone and web, and began construction in April.

"I worked with whole body vibration machines for almost three years in Arizona," Tudor says. "The machine sends a frequency through your body that makes every muscle contract and relax. That increases energy, decreases stress and helps with things like back problems."

Clients stand on the machine for a maximum of 10 minutes for each session, up to three times a week. Tudor says one of her Arizona clients had severe fibromyalgia, took morphine and used two canes to walk.

"Within a month she was biking and hiking," Tudor says.

Amira Spa's other offerings include a full menu of hair services including color and cuts, as well as massage therapy, manicures, pedicures and tanning.

"We have three stylists including Janelle, and six stations, so we're looking for three more stylists with a clientele," Tudor says.

The salon is also looking for a second massage therapist and an esthetician.

"We're in a great location on the Medical Mile, in the same building as Urban Mill and next to the women's health center," Tudor says. "There isn't any other spa or salon on (this part of) this street and we knew we wanted to be here."

Source: Char Tudor, Amira Spa Hair & Body Therapy
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Deloitte to lease two floors of Grand Rapids' $26M "Thirty-Eight," near capacity since April opening

As soon as the busy 2011 tax season comes to a close, the 90 employees of Deloitte LLP's West Michigan office will pack up their files and folders and move across town to their new location at Thirty-Eight (38 Commerce, Grand Rapids). The consulting, audit, tax and corporate financial advisory firm will relocate from its current space at 700 Bridgewater Place to the fifth and sixth floors of the mixed-use Heartside district building.

The firm recently signed an 11-year lease with Locus Development, who also has office space in the $26 million building. That leaves only one commercial space available for lease since the 68,000-square-foot building opened in April 2010.

Deloitte will occupy the top two floors. John Green, partner of Locus Development, says he expects the relocation process to begin by May 1, 2011.

"This move represents a significant advance in our use of space as it relates to environmental sustainability, employee collaboration, and our multi-generational workforce," said Lou Moran, managing partner of Deloitte's West Michigan Practice. "It also underscores our commitment to downtown, our support of the city center as a great place to live and work, and to West Michigan as a whole."

Deloitte's 12,000-square-foot space will feature an open floor plan to encourage collaboration among the company's business units. The design will make use of natural light and will also incorporate energy efficient features such as lighting sensors to minimize electricity use.

Locus Development is pursuing Silver LEED Certification for the core and shell of the building.

Source: John Green, Locus Development; Lou Moran, Deloitte LLP
Writer: Kelly Quintanilla

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Grand Valley Metro Council sets 25-year West Michigan transportation plan, seeks public input

The Grand Valley Metropolitan Council (GVMC) has developed a road map for the area's long-term transportation needs, outlining projects to improve transit over the next 25 years.

The GVMC created the 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan to secure federal funding for everything from bike lanes to road resurfacing to bridge repair in Kent and Ottawa counties. The plan involves dozens of objectives, including ways to develop the region's non-motorized transportation network to improve user access to jobs, services and schools.

Most of the projects are those that are most critical to public safety, including street and sidewalk resurfacing initiatives and road widening projects.

Large-scale projects, like reconfiguring the intersection of I-96 and I-196 for a full range of movement, are included in the plan but won't begin until 2025.

The GVMC's Metropolitan Planning Organization is hosting a series of public open houses to gather public sentiment on the plan, with the last two scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 20. An afternoon session will be held from 1 – 3 p.m. at Georgetown Township Hall in Jenison, and another from 6 – 8 p.m. at Hudsonville City Hall. The group will accept comments from residents for consideration in the plan until Jan. 30, 2011.

"We'll discuss the major features of the transportation system, offer steps and conclusions, and have time for people to give comments," says Andrea Dewey, transportation planner for GVMC, who will be joined by representatives from The Rapid and the Michigan Department of Transportation. "Anyone can come to learn and get a better idea of what is going on."

Dewey encourages public involvement and grassroots support because the transportation initiatives outlined in the plan require $26 to $33 million annually, while only about $15 million in federal funding will be provided. The plan does not factor in expansions such as additional routes for The Rapid, non-motorized projects and other initiatives that are based on competitive state funding and grants.

Source: Andrea Dewey, Grand Valley Metropolitan Council
Writer: Kelly Quintanilla
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