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Greenleaf Trust opens new Grand Rapids offices at recently purchased 25 Ottawa building

Kalamazoo-based Greenleaf Trust, a privately-held wealth management firm, recently announced the opening of its new downtown Grand Rapids offices at 25 Ottawa Avenue after purchasing the building in conjunction with Catalyst Development. 

John Gryzbek has been hired as the new Director of the Family Office, and Thomas DeMeester will serve as Managing Director of the new Grand Rapids Greenleaf offices. 

DeMeester says the firm now plans to develop about 5,500 square feet of the ground floor to serve as office space, with more room to grow. 

“I think GreenLeaf trust has targeted Grand Rapids because, historically, it’s looked at it as a community that I would say has a good cultural fit for Greenleaf Trust, how they’ve serviced their client base, and the types of clients that resonate well with their service model,” says DeMeester, who prior to joining Greenleaf Trust served as Senior Wealth Strategist at Northern Trust Company and Sales Director in the Private Bank division of Fifth Third Bank. 

“I joined Greenleaf Trust intentionally because I do think that providing a kind of ultrahigh net-worth service model in Grand Rapids is certainly an opportunity,” says Demeester, whose firm has experience in wealth management for clients and investors net worths over the $30 million mark. “There’s been quite a bit of movement within the industry, and some of the larger banks that have historically provided both local and very customized services have either centralized or listed out of that marketplace a commitment to the local team or local offices.”

DeMeester says his story in the Grand Rapids community, working in both the legal and wealth management fields, helps to validate a West Michigan community that is very relationship focused. 

“It’s unique to both the culture and kind of the community, so having that Michigan-based trust bank like Greenleaf here as both a new presence and service model in the Grand Rapids market, I think, will differentiate us from many of the competitors that maybe historically had a strong foothold in that market, but over time have allowed the service to move out or, again, maybe [become] centralized,” he says. 

With more than $8 billion in assets, the firm joins fellow 25 Ottawa Avenue tenants that include Spectrum Health’s Information Technology Department, Fairly Painless Advertising, and Iron restaurant. 

“We will be committed to the community, and we will be supportive of organizations in that community, acquiring that space and building it out in a manner that gives us a presence that, I think, will be very effective in helping us introduce the Grand Rapids community to who Greenleaf Trust is,” DeMeester says.  

For more information on Greenleaf Trust, visit www.greenleaftrust.com. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Greenleaf Trust 

Habitat for Humanity of Kent County, Cottage Home land awards for green building

Whether you’re a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting healthy homeownership or company that specializes in luxury beach house design and build projects, LEED certification is a lot more feasible than you may think, GreenHome Institute Executive Director Brett Little says, whose position as the organization’s executive director was created in 2008 alongside a $33,850 seed grant from the Wege Foundation to jumpstart its LEED for Homes Program,

“Depending on what side you’re on, it gets tagged to these ideas that it only works in the affordable housing urban world or only works with the high-end homes where people have a lot of money,” says Little regarding the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification process, which is essentially a rating system devised by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for evaluating the environmental performance of a building and encouraging market transformation towards sustainable design. 

For proof of his concept that any project is capable of becoming more environmentally friendly, Little points to the juxtaposition of two completely different types of West Michigan organizations: the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity of Kent County and Holland-based lakefront home builders Cottage Home, both of which were both recently awarded the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED Homes Power Builders Award. 
 
Created to recognize projects, architects, developers, and home builders who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and innovation in the residential green building marketplace, the USGBC’s LEED Homes Power Builders award mandates that winners have built at least 90 percent of their 2015 homes and units to LEED specifications of any level. Translation: they need to be super environmentally conscious.

“If we point to those two extremes of two different types of projects that are actually polar opposites, it shows that you can do green certification with anything,” Little says. 

And while many developers still struggle with retooling their building budget for long-term savings, the idea that investing now will save homeowners later is one adopted without hesitation by Habitat for Humanity KC, which has completed nearly 150 homes with some level of LEED Certification in the Grand Rapids and Kent County area. 

In fact, when Habitat KC started seeking LEED Certifications on new homes in 2006, it took the organization just about one year before they started building all new homes to the federal specifications. More recently, the organization partnered with Grand Rapids Community College’s Residential construction program to become one of the first to complete a build-out that meets LEED v4 criteria, which basically means a bulked up list of additional specifications for higher energy, water, and resource efficiency .

Cheri Holman is the executive director of USGBC’s West Michigan chapter and she, like Little, says the recent Homes Power Builders awards are just more evidence that there are opportunities for every kind of development project to manage the upfront cost of building new residential projects with LEED certification.

“We’re so proud of Habitat for Humanity of Kent County and all of the work they’re doing for affordable housing and LEED certification in showing our community that it isn’t just the high-end buildings that can be LEED certified, but that it’s for everyone,” says Holman, who works alongside nonprofits like GreenHome Institute to provide education about lending and appraisals, as well as help find them financing options that will work for their unique situation. 

“We can’t say that you can build high-end homes for the same price, but what we can say is look at the life-cycle analysis — we’re constantly pushing that, the life-cycle analysis, meaning just that it’s going to cost less to operate and maintain; your utility bills are going to be lower,” Holman says. 

“We have a building stock of low-bid homes and buildings, and we’re paying the price for it now,” she says. “Where, if we would have done better work up front and put in systems with lower maintenance and cost to run, we wouldn’t have all of these buildings eating up so much energy.”

Though figuring out how to pay for greening efforts is a little trickier for those with existing projects in limbo, Little says the GreenHome Institute has numerous alternative options for affordable greening practices. They may not all hold the official LEED Certification title, he says, but they still get the job done in creating more sustainable, efficient, and environmentally friendly places for people to live — which, lest we forget, is the point of the whole thing anyway. 

Click here to learn more about the USGBC’s LEED Homes Power Builders Award, Habitat for Humanity Kent County’s sustainable housing initiatives, the environmentally-minded Cottage Homes, and ways the GreenHome Institute can help you make your space a little greener. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of GreenHome Institute 

Kent County Habitat for Humanity renovates space for new HQ using green techniques

Habitat Kent partners with GRCC students to wrap up construction on MI's first LEED Gold v4 home
 

You're Invited: Local First hosts office warming party for its new home at 345 Fuller Ave.

It’s been about five years since the Grand Rapids-based Local First West Michigan moved from a tiny 1,000-square-foot office space on the second floor of 955 Wealthy St. SE to the same building’s main floor, nearly doubling its office’s square footage at the time.

Now, Local First has nearly doubled its space again, and the group wants to invite members of the Grand Rapids community to an office warming party on Thursday, July 21 for its nearly 3,000-square-foot headquarters at 345 Fuller Ave. NE. 

“It’s a community-wide event, so anybody in the community is welcome to attend,” says Mieke Stoub, Local First marketing manager, who says she hopes Local First programming can promote the same kind of positive business practices along its new corridor as it did while at its old Wealthy Street office. 

“We definitely want to continue to build on our programming depending on the needs of our community and the needs of our membership, and what that means is continuing to give resources to local businesses, and also helping improve their business practices,” Stoub says. “We would love to see that in the new neighborhood we’re living in. We saw that on the Wealthy Street Corridor when we were there, and we would love to see that happen along the Michigan Street corridor, as well.” 

Founded by local developer Guy Bazzani of Bazzani Associates, Local First is supported by two eight-person boards — the Local First Board and the Local First Educational Foundation Board — and it has nine full and part-time staff members. With more than 800 staff members in West Michigan, the organization hosts several annual events for business owners and community members in the region. 

Local First’s new space includes an open office layout with 12 workstations, one large and two smaller conference rooms, two kitchenettes, and one small semi-private office. 

“It was basically a white box when we moved in, so the decoration and all of the internal stuff that was there prior [to Local First] was removed. The drywall was up, but we completely renovated the space with new paint, new flooring and new furniture,” Stoub says, adding that furniture and decor was provided by a number of community partners, including Custer, Design Edge Sign Company, Lott3Metz Architecture, Silver Lining Computer Services, Steelcase, and X Ventures. 

“We want to show off our new space and give some people the opportunity to either connect with us or meet us for the first time,” she says. “We want people to see our faces and the faces behind organization and get to know us in that way, too.”

To learn more about Local First and its members, stop by its office warming party today, Thursday, July 21 from 4-7 p.m. or visit www.localfirst.com.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Local First West Michigan 

GR Child Discovery Center begins 'greening their school' following successful fundraising campaign

As it currently sits at its Heartside campus on 409 Lafayette SE, more than 75 percent of the Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center grounds are covered in concrete. 

However, thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign that won the charter school $30,000 in matching funds from the Michigan Economic Development Cooperation and Michigan State Housing Development Authority’s Public Spaces Community Places Initiative, the process of de-paving is poised to begin. 

“Well, with the campaign closed, we have the funds necessary to begin work, so now we’re in the process of communicating with the vendors, getting the plans drawn up, and getting the appropriate permits from the city,” says GRCDC principal John Robinson, adding that the project is slated for completion at the end of the summer and will be ready for the school year come fall. 

With its crowdfunding campaign launched May 17 via the Michigan-based crowdfunding platform Patronicity, GRCDC’s “Greening Our Schools” project was able to raise $38,981 by the June 17 deadline. The funds will be used to de-pave the majority of the current concrete parking lot to offer an open and accessible community and public green space for the students and surrounding neighborhood residents, leaving new grass to root and replace what is currently 30,000 square feet of concrete.

GRCDC’s proposed plans leave the south end of the lot for parking, but also call for a re-routing of current traffic flow for pick-up and drop-off, and though Robinson says the specifics of the new routes are still being determined, the idea is to relieve some of the current traffic congestion on Lafayette and the Wealthy Street round-about by diverting it south. 

The new green space will also divert and reuse rainwater, for both sustainability and educational purposes, as well as provide a space for creating natural play structures, community meeting areas, and outdoor classrooms.

Robinson says that although early discussions about possible natural play structures and outdoor classroom designs including things like using repurposed Sycamore trees as climbing structures and wood balance beams, or creating man-made structures focused on tactile learning and sense awareness, there are still more ongoing conversations to be had among students, staff and administrators at GRCDC before making any final decisions. 

However, teachers and school officials are already in the process of creating the proposal for a new rain garden, which would utilize the new rainwater systems as an educational tool for teaching students about sustainability through rainwater diversion and re-use, and Robinson knows that when the time does come to start making decisions on those big things, all of the new play structures and outdoor learning spaces will all be designed to align with the school’s approach to education — one which champions a collaborative approach and emphasizes the impact of connectedness, whether it be with other students, neighboring community members, or even just the ground beneath their feet.

“As we consider designing those spaces, we’ll consider our approach, which is about collaboration, and using the environment as a teacher, and connecting with our community,” Robinson says. “We really believe the importance of the natural environment and in being a part of that. We’ve seen how our children can learn things like collaboration in outdoors, and even just kindness in being outdoors, so it’s a great connection to who we are as a school…this a big step in that direction of living more fully to that approach.”

For more information about GRCDC’s educational philosiphy or its Greening Our Schools project, visit www.grcdc.org. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center

New S. Division gallery space, Cerasus Studio, debuts with focus on new and local talent

With a little less than one month to go until its official ribbon-cutting ceremony, the new Cerasus Studio at 120 S. Division was designed by founder and curator Callin Cherry to be more than just 144 square feet of display space. 

“The name Cerasus refers to a species of tree that can only grow when cultivated well; the same can be said of our talents, and the goal of Cerasus Studio is to provide fertile soil for undergraduate art students,” says Cherry, who signed the lease on the space with Dwelling Place back in May. “I think it's important to show that just like any other career ‘tree,’ artists are just as sturdy and upward-moving. Connotations of art as a natural process and a source of vitality are of course very much also a part of that.” 

For the past three years, Cherry has worked as curator for Art.Downtown, also occupying the role of Avenue for the Arts’ education coordinator last winter and spring, as well as assistant curator of the Cathedral Square venue during ArtPrize 7. 

The decision to open Cerasus, she says, was in part an effort to create more opportunities for herself to experiment with her style and approach to curating as an art all its own, but it was solidified while working as education coordinator with Avenue for the Arts, for which she provided business classes to career artists. 

“I realized that a lot of creatives go into a career and still have a lot of questions,” she says, adding that she noticed many art students, after earning their bachelor’s degrees, still aren’t comfortable with writing artist statements and are often unfamiliar with how to write proposals, as well as some of the other practical skills that come with being a career artist.

“Along with skills like pricing work and marketing, I intend to help young local artists cultivate a confidence to communicate their art to others in a way that will make them successful,” she says.

Though Cherry says renovations on the space weren’t super extensive, she and her boyfriend — who together occupy the back of the property as living space — spent the last few months repairing a good amount of drywall and repainting the walls.

“The floors are resin, as far as we can tell, and show a lot of paint from previous tenants who used this as studio space,” Cherry says. “I think it's an interesting character to a gallery, which are often very minimalist.”

As far as the art itself goes, Cherry says she welcomes anything and everything, but is looking forward to working with contemporary and installation artists in particular. 

Cerasus Studios will open its doors for the first time on Aug. 5 at 5:30 p.m. during a ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc., followed by the exhibition “Black Borders” featuring artists Caroline Cook and Lesley Albert.

“We'll have snacks and beverages for guests, but the public is also welcome to bring their own and celebrate with us,” Cherry says. “In addition to providing local artists with skills, I'm really passionate about changing what it means to be in a space with art; let's have some fun!” 

For more information on the space or its Aug. 5 opening event, find Cerasus Studios here on Facebook.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Cerasus Studios/Callin Cherry

Field & Fire Bakery holds behind-the-scenes event, prepares for new NW Monroe location

In its sixth year, the annual Bread Bakers Guild of America’s Bakery Open House event on June 25 provides an opportunity for local bakers to give current and potential customers a look inside of their operations. For the owners of Field & Fire Bakery at 435 Ionia Ave. SW, the event creates an avenue through which they can not only connect with their community, but their community can also form a deeper connection with them. 

“You think of a business and you don’t necessarily think of people, but there are always people running them,” says Shelby Kibler, who opened Field & Fire Bakery alongside his wife Julie a little over three years ago at the Downtown Market. “If I meet the owner and know the faces of some of the people who work there and dedicate themselves to making whatever it is that’s so special, it matters more, and makes me more inclined to go spend money at theses places.” 

The event comes as a preface to the opening of Field & Fire’s second location, slated to open sometime in September on the ground floor of 616 Lofts at Monroe, located at 820 Monroe Ave. NW. 

Field & Fire Bakery will join current retail tenants City Built Brewery, Fido and Stitch, CKO Kickboxing, and Essence Restaurant Group, who have committed to building a new restaurant location next to the development. 

“We have essentially a pretty empty space, and we have to build a sizable kitchen in there with everything that a bakery or restaurant needs, so it’s a little more expensive than one or the other, but I feel pretty confident we can get it done within 70 to 80 days once we start,” says Kibler, who is still waiting for approval on permits from the city to begin with the build-out at the new location. 

The new location won’t be using a wood-fire oven like the one at the Downtown Market, he says, but will have a different focus on food, including pastries, breakfast foods, and brunch on the weekends. 

Plus, the new location finally affords Kibler the opportunity to move forward with a part of his original business plan that fell by the wayside due to cost concerns — a large bread mixer and flour mill, which at the start will create a higher quality product by closing the gap of time between when the grain is first crushed and when it’s added to the mix. 

“One you grind it, the smell — the aroma and the flavor — are really strong and noticeable at that time, and every day after that it kind of decreases a bit,” he says. “There’s a vitality you get when you mill something and put it right into the mixing bowl … I think that makes a difference for the healthfulness, fragrance and flavor that you’re going to get out of that grain.”

Secondly, having an in-house flour mill works toward an even greater goal the Kilbers have always had.
 
“I have this long-term goal in engaging a few farmers in the area to grow specific crops for us that we can contract and pre-pay for, so they’re not having  to swallow a terrible year alone — we can share the cost that goes into a failed crop season,” he says. “It’s as local as you can get and more sustainable than what has been happening over the last 100 years in the country. It truly used to be like that all of the time…it’s not like that anymore, but there’s definitely a trend toward that and the mill is a crucial component to making that happen.”

For more information on Field & Fire Bakery, or to stay updated on the opening of the new space, visit www.fieldandfire.com or find Field & Fire on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Grand Rapids Downtown Market 

Grand Rapids-based Sun Title Agency opens new Grandville location

Replacing its current Grandville location at 4693 Wilson Ave., Sun Title Agency has recently announced the opening of a new 3,000-square-foot offices at 4600 Ivanrest.

"The challenge we're having is that our southwest market has grown so much and frankly, we just needed a couple more closing room and the ability to accommodate a few more employees,” says Tom Cronkright, co-owner of Sun Title Agency, which provides commercial and residential title insurance and closing services in Grand Rapids and throughout West Michigan.

Formerly occupied by a residential home, the newly converted space will accommodate as many as six employees and help to expand its presence in the Grandville community.

Though Cronkright and his co-owner acquired the space a few years back, it wasn’t until a recent rezoning — brought about by a new Goodwill location being built in an adjacent lot — made the space easier to renovate for new office spaces. Cronkright was supported by Craig Architects for the design, and Chad Moore from Prestige Construction acted as project manager.

The new space features an outdoor lounge area for employees, a large atrium and customer lounge, and three private closing rooms. The existing driveway was relocated and expanded to offer private parking areas for customers and employees.

“It’s a really cool building because we added just a bunch of large window openings with store-front glass and aluminum siding," he says. “When you’re in there, that office has more natural light — because it’s a standalone and not a downtown office — this one is a 360 and allows a tremendous amount of light in and makes it feel really open inside.”

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Sun Title Agency 

The Collective Artspace builds on S. Division artist community with new shared gallery, studio space

When The Collective Artspace Co-Director Rachelle Wunderink sits down to talk with prospective new members, there’s only really one big thing she wants to know.

“What’s your dream project you’ve always wanted to do but never could do because you don’t have the space? How can we try to help and make that happen?” asks Wunderink, who opened the Collective Artspace alongside fellow co-director Ryan Hay just a little over a month ago at 40 S. Division Avenue, on the heels of the closing of former event-based exhibition space Craft House.

In fact, it was through an email introduction by former Craft House director that Wunderink and Hay first connected — and it was just a couple hours into their first meeting when they both realized they both saw enormous potential in the idea of having a dedicated collaborative space accessible for young Grand Rapids artists

“We both wanted to collaborate, wanted to have a space — almost like an incubator — where we could really push the Grand Rapids art scene and push ourselves as artists with others in the community,” says Wunderink, shortly thereafter bringing the Collective Artspace’s third main organizer and longtime friend, Tia Wieringa on board.  

Currently 16-members strong, the new headquarters provides open upstairs gallery space with five studio spaces in the basement, which rent alongside membership fees for a total of about $115 per month. 

“You’re sharing a space with other people, so you’re not gaining a whole room, but with that comes more collaboration and discussion and being around artists who are also working,” Wunderink says. 

Which, makes sense, seeing as the mission of The Collective Artspace is about as straightforward as it sounds — to create an accessible, affordable avenue for local artists to grow and nurture their own unique creative sensibilities alongside those with different, unique, creative sensibilities. 

“A lot of what we want to do with our members is have them collaborate with each other or artists outside of the Collective space and think outside the box, or do something maybe they normally wouldn’t,” she says. “Instead of making what you always make, how can we pair you with someone who can really challenge and push you in a different  direction, or incorporate the art you make with what another artists makes?” 

Last weekend, The Collective Artspace hosted its first event of the collaborative kind, hosting a gallery for Detroit artist Matthew Milla that incorporated both his mixed-media tangible work and music from his band Frontier Ruckus. 

“We had 45 people come to that concert, which for us we thought was really great start,” Wunderink says. 

For more information on The Collective Artspace gallery, its members, or upcoming events visit www.collectiveartspace.com or find The Collective Artspace here on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of The Collective Artspace

Triangle Associates, Inc. keeps momentum, follows up finished projects with more summer construction

After recently completing a round of construction jobs that totaled $22.8 million, Grand Rapids-based construction company Triangle Associates, Inc. isn’t slowing down just yet. 

Either announced recently or currently underway, Triangle Associates has 11 more building projects in its state-wide summer line-up — including a few highly anticipated Grand Rapids rehabs — valued all together at $177.5 million when completed. 

Kate Pew Wolters Center at IKUS (Indian Trails Camp

Though the new Kate Pew Wolters Center at IKUS’ Indian Trails Camp falls into the completed category, having already held its grand opening earlier this month, the 17,500 square-foot facility is one of a kind

Established more than 50 years ago, Indian Trails Camp offers recreational camping for children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities, and the new, fully handicap accessible activity center not only allows staff to work year-round with camp patrons for the first time, but is also tricked out with a full-court gym and bleachers, new staff offices and meeting rooms, a lounge/cafe area, and full kitchen and laundry rooms — all designed specifically for those with disabilities and geared toward fostering valuable learning spaces for students and campers. 

“What is cool about these types of projects, at least for me personally, and I know  for a lot of others at Triangle, is that moment you see peoples faces light up for what (the space) is actually going to do and how it’s actually going to impact these campers,” says Jim Conner, Triangle’s vice president. “…When you see that kind of smile and that kind of pride come out for people that have had a much more challenging life than many, that’s probably what makes me most proud.” 

The Rowe (Atwater Brewery)

Located at 201 Michigan St., in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, Triangle’s construction teams are nearing completion on the $24 million complete renovation of the historic 1923 Rowe Hotel

At an impressive 14,000-square-feet, 77 new residential units are being added to the hotel’s upper levels, while 5,800-square-feet of The Rowe’s ground floor will become the new home of Atwater Brewery. Complete with a 120-seat dining area and 20-stool bar area with glass viewing walls behind, the brewery space includes a gift shop and an additional 1,500-square-foot outdoor patio. 

Connor says there were moments when the age and crumbling infrastructure of the old hotel made renovations a bit more difficult — the discovery of an abandoned underground canal that made incorporating underground parking a challenge, or the process of carefully removing existing terra-cotta fixtures on the buildings exterior and making a mold that was then shipped to an overseas manufacturer for production before finally arriving back in Grand Rapids, to name just a few. However, he says being able to keep the buildings authenticity in tact makes those smaller struggles worth it. 

New additions to The Rowe include a new penthouse level with eight condominiums, underground parking, and rooftop collaboration space with a completed, move-in ready space scheduled for mid-August.

“We’re working a lot of hours to make that happen,” Connor says. 

CA Frost Environmental Science Academy

It isn’t the first time Triangle Associates has worked closely with the Grand Rapids Public School District — in fact, Connor says Triangle has been working for GRPS on K-12 construction projects in some capacity for the past 15 years or more, and managed CA Frost Academy’s first construction project back in 2003. 

However, with the school’s future expansion bringing its K-8 student body out to include preschool and grades 9-12, and new facility features that include everything from environmental science labs, a robotics room, outdoor classrooms, and a nature trail, Conner says managing CA Frost construction feels a lot different this time around.  

“We build a lot of traditional K-12 school,  so to be creating learning environments like CA Frost [is] a little outside of the norm,” he says. “I think GRPS is doing a lot of things right on many fronts, but one of them is how they’re creating environments and learning places to give students different experiences and help keep kids engaged.” 

To learn more about what Triangle Associates, Inc. has worked on and is currently working on now, visit www.triangle-inc.com.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Triangle Associates, Inc. 

 

New chocolate shop Mokaya debuts this Saturday on Wealthy Street

This Saturday, June 25, Mokaya, a family-owned and operated chocolate confectionary, will celebrate its grand opening at 638 Wealthy St. SE. At the site of the former Johnny B’z, Mokaya will be sharing half of the hot dog restaurant's former space with LAMB BRIDE, a new bridal shop and studio. Mokaya is owned by Charles "Smitty" Golcyzynski, who will work with his son, Max, who serves as the shop's general manager. The Golcyzynskis will craft unique chocolate truffles, ice creams, sodas, and hot chocolates year-round.

"This was kind of a retirement plan," Max says about his father's new chocolate venture. Smitty, who pursued marine biology in college, went on to own Jersey Junction in East Grand Rapids and, later, his own catering business, The Catering Company, on Fulton Street East.

Almost two decades into his culinary career, Smitty began crafting chocolates, and soon began learning the art of confectionary from his friends and colleagues at the Culinary Institute of Michigan. Falling in love with all things chocolate, he looked forward to owning his own chocolate shop and sold The Catering Co. two years ago to pursue Mokaya. With his son at his side, the two sought out the cozy space on Wealthy Street and got to work on renovations.

Working alongside his father, Max is no stranger to the culinary world. "I grew up in his kitchen," he says. Even while pursuing an undergraduate degree in anthropology, Max was drawn to the food and beverage industry and continued working for his father, along with working for other local businesses such as Lyon Street Cafe.

Opening this Saturday at 11am, Smitty and Max will debut a large, varied menu that principally focuses on creative truffles. "Everything is house-made," says Max. In addition to traditional flavors like almond and coconut, Smitty will also showcase some more daring combinations, such as a sun-dried tomato jelly, chocolate toffee popcorn with duck cracklings and a beer flight of truffles. Despite this experimentation, Smitty will stay true to his mission, and Max notes that, "Everything has some form of chocolate." Sourcing mostly from South America and Europe, Smitty's combinations always starts with high quality chocolate at their base.

Starting out with a killer location and over three decades of experience, Mokaya looks forward to other outlets like wedding favors, graduation parties and beer and chocolate tastings. Prioritizing partnering with other local businesses like The Peoples Cider Co. and neighbor Rowster Coffee, Smitty and Max are excited to join the local scene. Named for "an ancient meso-American tribe that's currently recognized as the earliest group to bring chocolate all over the Americas," says Max, Mokaya seeks to spread the love of chocolate throughout GR. Check them out at their opening this Saturday at 11am.

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/MokayaGR/.

Photos by Leigh Ann Cobb

Locally-owned Kingma's Market coming to Ada

Though the locally-owned Kingma’s Market has been part of the larger Grand Rapids community for 80 years, the popular store’s owners have recently announced the opening of its second location, which will debut in Ada Township at the northwest corner of Fulton Street and Ada Drive. 

While its existing market at 2225 Plainfield in Grand Rapids will continue operations, the new 13,000-square-foot facility is expected to open in 2017 with an extensive inventory of local, Michigan-made products, fresh produce, and meat. 

“Opening a second location in Ada is a great opportunity to expand the brand and be part of a historic village that is undergoing an exciting transformation,” says Alan Hartline, owner of Kingma’s Market. 

The new Ada location will feature a butcher shop that will offer all-natural, locally procured products, including fresh, in-store made sausage, jerky, and bacon alongside a large variety of gourmet, imported and local cheeses. All of this will be complemented by a selection of more than 300 specialty, craft imported and Michigan beers, as well as more than 750 wines. 

Hartline says the market has plans to hire between 25 to 30 employees for the new market location. 

“We are delighted to bring our local flavor and unique shopping experience to the Ada community,” Hardline says. “Kingma’s Market offers consumers a fun, foodie environment with a distance service-oriented charm. Ada offers us the perfect location to grow the Kingma’s Market brand. We are excited to join this transformational development.” 

For more information on the Ada expansion project, visit www.AdaMichigan.org.  

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Kingma’s Market

133-year-old St. Cecilia's Music Center to undergo $2.4 million renovation to historic building

The St. Cecilia Music Center at the corner of Ransom Avenue and Fulton Street has, since its inception, been home to vibrant concert series that include top-name jazz artists, chamber musicians from such prestigious groups as the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and touring folk musicians. 

This summer, SCMC leadership have launched a $2.4 million campaign to provide long-awaited and needed improvements and upgrades to the building, including new seating in Royce Auditorium, a new roof, professional sound and lighting systems for Royce Auditorium, a remodel of the lower administration offices and rehearsal space, and upgraded HVAC equipment. 

“We just keep getting stronger, making a profound mark on music appreciation within our great community and offering world-class music in our first-class facility,” says SCMC executive director Cathy Holbrook. 

The SCMC Board has set a campaign goal for endowment funds of $3 million to help sustain the organization on an annual basis. Catalyst funding is also being collected to allow for expanded programming in the near future. 

The capital portion of the campaign will fund $2.4 million for various upgrades and improvements for the 133-year-old St. Cecilia Music Center building at 24 Ransom Ave. NE. 

For more information, visit www.scmc-online.org

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of St. Cecilia’s Music Center 

New street signage in East Hills supports neighborhood's 'people first' mantra

After last week's public unveiling of the handful of non-motorist street signage and marking improvements, collaborators from the City of Grand Rapids and the East Hills Council of Neighbors want both residents and commuters to remember: East Hills is a people-first neighborhood and its transit structure should support and help enforce that idea. 

Rachel Lee is director of the EHCN, and she says implementation ideas surrounding the possible non-motorist street upgrades began as part of a larger discussion during the drafting of the 2014 Public Spaces Plan, which included a Complete Streets section — or, in other words, an emphasis on design solutions, policies and initiatives that make the neighborhood's streets safer for all users, no matter what your mode of transportation.

“…Since we consider ourselves a ‘people first neighborhood,'  one where we like to plan for pedestrians, transit, cyclists and then cars, we wanted to take those strategies to the next level,” Lee says.  

So, members of the EHCN worked alongside the City of Grand Rapids to brainstorm different kinds of non-motorized strategies East Hills could implement in partnership with the city to help encourage pedestrian and bicycle safety and create a more walkable neighborhood overall. With the ever-growing population of new non-motorized commuters adding to that foot traffic each day, making a few user-friendly adjustments seemed like the best place to start. 

“People always talk about that thing of when you go to a big city, and you step on the street and all the cars just stop for pedestrians,” Lee says. “That doesn’t really happen here, and that’s a cultural thing…So, how can we help impact the culture so that people understand that when they’re driving through the central city neighborhood, there’s also going to be people walking around, or using city transit, or riding bikes, and that they’re also part of that urban fabric?”

The majority of recent updates focus on the functionality of crosswalks in high-trafficked areas, many of the changes informed by a walking audit of the neighborhood to identify areas of high pedestrian traffic.

Funded by the city’s traffic calming and safety initiative budget, the $14,473 project afforded the enhancement of two existing crosswalks (resurfacing severely worn crosswalks with a higher quality, longer lasting thermal plastic paint); the creation of five new crosswalks; shallow markings along Wealthy Street, Eastern Avenue, and Diamond Avenue; “no bikes on sidewalks” signs posted throughout the commercial corridors along Cherry Street; and, finally, the city’s first-ever installation of “in-yield pedestrian” signs within select crosswalks on Cherry, Wealthy, and Lake Drive. 

Following the neighborhood's signage installation, Western Michigan University will study the impact of the East Hills “pilot program” launch, such as analyzing where the best possible placement of new signage might be, to help create strategies for potential city-wide implementation in the future.

“This is just a start for our neighborhood, and it’s taken us since fall 2014 to get where we are today, so we’re by no means finished with what we want to do,” Lee says. “Our streets and our sidewalks are not seasonal attributes to our city. They’re part of everyday life and because of that, we need to make them as safe. and as inviting, and as welcoming as we possibly can.” 

For more information about how you can help make East Hills even more people friendly, visit EHCN online at www.easthillscouncil.org.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of East Hills Council of Neighbors 

Holland's new kid-friendly museum celebrates West Michigan's design roots, encourages hands-on play

With its design-based aesthetic an intentional homage to West Michigan’s own rich history in the design world, the new hands-on interactive learning and play space inside the Holland Area Arts Council is clearly not just a kid thing. 

Housed in one of the HAAC’s former Holland gallery spaces, The Studio totals out a cozy 3,530 square feet, effectively affording a sort of miniaturized hands-on children’s museum to the Holland arts community, who because of its theme and more intimate size are also able to take the concept and make it their own. 

“West Michigan has such a huge reputation for design, we thought that could not only draw visitors into our state if we talked about hands-on education with design, but would at the same time draw in the manufacturing community to be more invested in our space so that they would be able to profile their industry’s design triumphs,” says Lorma Williams Freestone, executive director of HAAC. 

In an old gallery space located at one of the building’s corners, Williams Freestone says The Studio’s new home allows for a much natural light to complement its modern-industrial aesthetic — which, she adds, was more directly influenced by installations specifically crafted by local artists and designers for The Studio’s rotating interior.

“We wanted it to be clean and almost industrial, create a real clean slate with the white walls and the galvanized fixtures, which also gives it a very modern, clean look,” Lorma Williams Freestone says. 

The galvanized action, she says, was directly influenced from an artist installation that used palm-sized blocks of found objects to create a massive magnetized texture wall, with magnetic sheets for the galvanized fixtures produced by Zeeland manufacturer K2 Metal. 

“We needed a metal wall to put it on, so we had a galvanized sheet wall brought in for us, and that was the jumping off point where we stepped back and said, ‘This is really beautiful and let’s make everything in this space accented with that galvanized metal.’” 

Conceptualized back in February 2014, HAAC staff held rounds of strategic planning sessions, visited interactive art spaces from around the country, and engaged a group of local designers , educators, artists, and engineers to create The Studio.

The HAAC building, located at 150 E. 8th St. in Holland, will host different kinds of indoor and outdoor activities for families at The Studio’s June 11 grand opening. Open to the public with no RSVP required, there is a $5 admission fee for the event, which will last from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more information about the space, visit Holland Area Arts Council or The Studio online or find them here on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Holland Area Arts Council 

$9.2M Fulton Square development progresses ahead of schedule for Dec. 2016 opening

When Orion Construction’s Fulton Square development is finished come this winter, the new mixed-use project will boast 55,000 square feet between its two buildings, housing 47 residential units, 3,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, a 4,000-square-foot restaurant, and 92 parking spaces in total.  

Straddling the neighborhood boundary between Eastown and Fulton Heights, the new Fulton Square is located next door to Opera Grand Rapids on the corner of Fulton Street SE and Carlton Avenue, occupying a lot that has been long vacant since its last tenant, Michigan Lithos, burned down several years ago. 

“We’re excited to be able to bring back another Eastown development from vacant land, like Eastown Flats,” says Jason Wheeler, spokesperson for the Grand Rapids-based Orion Construction, which opened its 35-unit Eastown Flats apartment building during summer 2015. “It’s always good if we can take something that was creating no taxable valuable and made it into something that provides economic impact.”

The $9.2 million project was funded by a combination of Brownfield redevelopment  and Neighborhood Enterprise Zone tax incentives, with additional financing from majority investors SIBSCO and Sparta-based ChoiceOne Bank. With Concept Design Group as the project’s architect, Colliers International is managing the leases of the developments. None of the leases have been signed yet, though Wheeler says ORES has been in talks with potential restaurant and retail tenants who are interested in the space. 

The project, which Wheeler says is ahead of schedule with an anticipated December 2016/January 2017 completion, received unanimous support from the city, planning commission, and area neighborhood association before breaking ground in April. 

With Aquinas College just a stone’s throw away, Wheeler says Orion hopes to bring more than just new housing options to the college’s students, faculty, staff, and community members at large. 

“What Fulton Square offers is a housing component and additional entertainment opportunities within that Eastown area that we think will be supported well by Aquinas College students and faculty, as well as being an additional entertainment offering to the Grand Rapids Opera House,” Wheeler says, adding that there’s an added bonus of potential for increased exposure to the GR Opera by some who otherwise may have not visited on their own. 

“I also want to thank the neighborhood association for being such a strong supporter and providing so much valuable insight into the design and different components of development so that we knew it met their standards and expectations,” Wheeler says. “Their input was really valuable and we took that into consideration during the design and continue to take that into consideration as we finish the development.”

To learn more about the future Fulton Square, visit fultonsquaregr.com.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images & renderings courtesy of Orion Construction Co. & Concept Design Group
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