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Livable transportation engineer to share place-making strategies with West Michigan communities

The new trends shaping our cities’ urban cores diverge from sci-fi visions of flying cars and stair-stepped, congested roadways reaching up through smog-obscured skyscrapers. In reality, 21st century visionaries are asking how cities can become healthier, more walkable, bike-friendly, and include more trees and green space. Additionally, severe weather events are inspiring conversations about climate change and climate resilience—and how cities can play an active role reducing the former and creating the latter. 

As part of their “Series on Sustainable Transportation and Innovative Community Design,” the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council (MACC), Ottawa County Department of Public Health, and Ottawa County Planning and Performance Improvement Department have invited West Michigan’s city planners, developers, and citizenry to join those conversations, led by nationally-acclaimed speaker and livable transportation engineer, Ian Lockwood, P.E.

Lockwood specializes in place-making: making communities more walkable, bike-able, and transit-friendly. As city transportation planner for West Palm Beach, Florida, Lockwood earned accolades for his role in transforming the mostly blighted city into a vibrant community.

“Ian speaks to a lot of different concepts related to transportation as well as smarter community design,” says Danielle Bouchard, land use planning specialist, County of Ottawa. “His messages start from the big picture and narrow down to smaller applicable increments, things you can do every day to improve walkability, economic sustainability, and that kind of thing. His message speaks towards different ways of thinking, challenging the traditional transportation language, and opening up different ways of approaching different challenges in community.”

The evening of March 12, Lockwood will share strategies on walkability and community transformation over beer and pizza at New Holland Brewing Pub on 8th. On March 13, at Hope College Maas Auditorium, his morning presentation centers on transportation language and creating authentic character in community. In the afternoon, he will discuss how to get developments, streets, open spaces, and people to work together for a shared vision.

“Cities and communities, in general, should be designed for people not for cars,” Bouchard says. “It’s good to have those other routes for people who not are able to drive—or just to have that sense of community where you can walk outside, get from point A to point B, have things in close proximity, and feel safe.”

Sponsors of the event also include the City of Holland, Lakeshore Advantage, West Coast Chamber of Commerce, several Lakeshore businesses, and the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) Michigan Chapter. Lockwood’s articles are featured on the CNU website. According to the website, CNU’s 18 local and state chapters “help create vibrant and walkable cities, towns, and neighborhoods where people have diverse choices for how they live, work, shop, and get around. People want to live in well-designed places that are unique and authentic. CNU's mission is to help people build those places.”

Bouchard cites Lockwood’s presentation at last year’s CNU conference as inspiration for the event. 

“We are really excited about this event,” Bouchard concludes. “We want to make sure that Ian’s message can be reached in many communities, the City of Holland, the City of Grand Rapids, and West Michigan’s rural townships.”

The Ian Lockwood Series

March 12 at New Holland Brewery Pub on 8th

  • “A Casual Evening with Ian,” 6:30 – 8 p.m. Cost $20.

March 13 at Maas Auditorium Hope College

  • “Good Inputs, Design, & Outcomes,” 8:15 – 11:30 a.m. Cost $25.
  • “Making It Real & Sharpening Your tools,” 1:30 – 4:30 p.m. Cost $25.

Attend both March 13 sessions for $40. AICP credits available.


Register at Eventbrite. For information, contact (616) 738-4852 or plan@miottawa.org.

Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor
Photo courtesy Ottawa County Planning and Performance Improvement Department

Children's store Pink Lemonade opens in Gaslight Village boutique

A new children’s clothing store and boutique opened last month in East Grand Rapids’ Gaslight Village. Pink Lemonade Boutique celebrated its official grand opening with a Nov. 10 ribbon cutting at 703 Bagley Ave. SE.

Jill Zagar co-owns Pink Lemonade Boutique with her mother, Paula Hall, and said she got the idea to open the children’s clothing boutique after helping a friend start her own boutique in Pentwater called The Lemonade Stand.

“I like to shop; everything in my store is stuff I would buy for myself,” Zagar says, adding that she was in charge of buying all of the inventory for The Lemonade Stand and somewhere along the line, “got the bug.”

With an existing full-time job at Aquinas College, Zagar says she likes Pink Lemonade’s proximity to the school because it offers an easy commute for both her and the students she employs.

“I love the community of Gaslight Village, and it’s very close to Aquinas, so I have my students work for me,” she says. “And it’s nice for them because it’s close, and then I can stop in on my lunches and see how things are going.”

Featuring “unique gifts for children, home, and her,” Zagar says she designed Pink Lemonade Boutique’s interiors to be as fun and whimsical as her products.

“I wanted it to feel fun,” she says. “I wanted everyone to be able to find something for either a baby or for her, or for the home. I wanted it to have a neat feeling when you walk inside that you can’t leave without getting something.”

For more information, visit Pink Lemonade Boutique on Facebook.

By Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Pink Lemonade Boutique

New West Coast-inspired retail opens in Gaslight Village, offers paddle board rentals on Reeds Lake

After hosting its grand opening event last week, Coastal Cruisin’ Threads is bringing the spirit of the shoreline to Gaslight Village in East Grand Rapids with its new West Coast-inspired retail space at 2249 Wealthy St. SE.

Co-owner Lydia Fotis-Sweetman says the shop will not only offer lifestyle apparel for women and men, shoes, accessories, jewelry, longboards and other gift items, but also carry sought-after brands like O’Neil, Quiksilver, Roxy, and Maui Jim for both summer and winter seasons with additional plans to both sell and rent out paddle boards for use on neighboring Reeds Lake. 

“Instead of going all of the way out to Lake Michigan to rent a paddle board, we thought it’d be nice to have somewhere right here in town you could just come down to and pick one up and take it out for an hour or half a day,” says Fotis-Sweetman, who has been renovating Suite 140 at 2249 Wealthy St. SE for the past six months with her business partner Ryan Taylor. 

The retail space saw a host of remodeled features, including a brand new floor with fixtures made from barn wood and new dressing rooms, throughout the 2,400-square-foot ground floor. 

“We both really like thrift-shop type of things, we travel and we like going into thrift shops,” Fotis-Sweetman says. “We love the brands that we're carrying. There really isn't anything like this around town, so it's kind of new and fresh. So, we wanted to bring that all together with the stand-up paddle boards in town as well, with the rental and the sales.” 

She says Coastal Cruisin’ Threads plans on hosting more community events in the future centered around paddle board yoga classes and non-competitive races that will be announced on its Facebook page as the store continues to hit the ground running this summer. 

“It's fresh,” she says. “We've had a lot of good feedback from people who really love the brands we're carrying…and also just the atmosphere, the feeling of the store itself — it's not like a regular store you'd walk into at the mall. It's got more of a beach feeling to it.”

To learn more about Coastal Cruisin’ Threads and stay updated on future community events, visit them on Facebook

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor 
Images courtesy of Coastal Cruisin’ Threads

Media Place Partners celebrates 10th anniversary with office expansion and doubled business

As Media Place Partners celebrates its 10th anniversary this month, Principal Dave Kettler says the best is yet to come for the Grand Rapids media-services firm, which has doubled its business and created three new positions on staff in the past nine months already. 

"People are just finding out we're here and that we're local and have all the tools and the horsepower to handle anything they want to do," says Kettler, whose agency focuses on media consulting and strategic media planning and purchasing. "…We're leveraging our current clients to tell the story of Media Place and also over the years, we've developed a reputation for doing a good job for our clients."

To accommodate its growing team of media buying experts, MPP relocated to a larger office in Gaslight Village last October, recently expanding its floor space at 2249 Wealthy St. SE to around 1,000 square feet. 

Though MPP's clients are predominately in the markets of healthcare, grocery and higher education and operate on state- and national-level stages, Kettler says it's just as important to his agency to bring in local organizations as clients, with familiar names like Grand Rapids Ballet Co., the Grand Rapids Public Museum and the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Experience GR and Frederick Meijer Gardens on the list of those who have worked with the MPP team in the past.  

""People didn't know we we're here and we're local, so bigger buys would get moved to another town and then small- and medium-sized work didn't think they were big enough to take it to another market, but now we're doing a lot of that," Kettler says. 

He says for those medium-sized clients who don't have enough staff to manage media buys internally, having MPP manage buys from the outside allows businesses owners to focus their own company's manpower on growing their brand more efficiently and effectively. 

"It's really about time; giving people more time and the expertise on top of that to make their media dollars work faster," he says. 

He says his firm is strengthening the manpower of its own staff, looking ahead to building its next layer of employees with the addition of a few new account executives and eventually, another media buyer. Kettler says he hopes to have those new positions in place by the end of the second quarter. 

"I do think West Michigan is growing and we're filling a void that was here in the market," he says. "If we can keep it here local and service here local, everybody wins." 

For more information about Media Place Partners or careers there, visit www.mediaplacepartners.com. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Media Place Partners 

EGR offers plan to improve street, sidewalk safety on May 5 ballot

When East Grand Rapids voters go to the polls in May, they will be given the option to approve a 10-year dedicated street and sidewalk millage of up to 2.0 mills.   

Following a Citizen Task Force recommendation that the city of East Grand Rapids seek a 10-year, 2.0 mill dedicated street and sidewalk millage, East Grand Rapids City Commissioners voted unanimously Monday night in favor of putting the millage request on the May 5 ballot, tying it to the state's proposal to raise Michigan sales tax. 

Since this proposal is tied to the state's proposal to raise Michigan sales tax, if the two proposals pass, the city will collect 1.23 mill and 2.0 mills if it fails. If approved, the state proposal would provide less than 1.0 mill of additional revenue. 

Basically, if a 2.0 dedicated street millage passes in May, it will generate approximately $1,170,000 annually for improvements, with an additional $125,000 in road and sidewalk funding depending on the approval of the state proposal.

"This decline would affect safety and aesthetics," said East Grand Rapids Mayor Anna Seidbold in a press release following the Monday night commission meeting. "Poor road conditions can lead to depressed home values, unsafe driving conditions and damage to other city resources and infrastructure. If we don't act now, we will only get further behind on these much-needed repairs." 

Seidbold says it's the safety and navigability of not only the roads, but also the sidewalks that hang in the balance: "The very first thing people say about East Grand Rapids is that we're a walking community, and without being able to keep our sidewalks in walking condition, we don't want there to be safety hazards for the many, many people using our sidewalks."

In a study conducted by the Grand Valley Metro Council, the streets in East Grand Rapids received an average rating of "fair" on the council's Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating scale in 2013, and conditions have only worsened after last year's winter and continue to deteriorate currently. At current funding levels, it would take 70 years to resurface all of the local roads in East Grand Rapids.

East Grand Rapids commissioners say road funding from the state of Michigan has not accounted for the rising costs of asphalt, concrete, salt and other construction expenses, projecting that if the imbalance continues, 95 percent of the city streets will be rated in poor condition – an average rating of 2.3 on the Grand Valley Metro Council's PASER scale – by 2025. 

"I think one of the most important things is that we had a citizens group look at this and anyone was allowed to join it," Seibold says. "We gave them facts and figures, they asked for more and we gave them more facts and figures, but the overwhelming majority of the citizens group was, after the analysis, that we needed to go out for these 2 mills. So, it was a group of citizens that recommended this and it's nice to have that back up."

Seibold says road conditions rank among the top concerns she hears from East Grand Rapids voters, adding that over the next four months, the city commission with "work to ensure all residents have the details they need to make an informed decision in the ballot box." 

"I'm hoping that it will (pass)," she says. "I don't have any statistics, I don't know, we'll see but that's the great thing is that the voters get to decide. I just know that I get many, many calls and concerns and complaints from people wanting our roads to be in better conditions and as mayor, it's my job to look at how we can meet those needs. With our current funding, we can't, and we have to be realistic about that." 

Click here for more information on the proposal or links to supporting documents such as the citizens group findings, budget breakdown and millage proposal fact sheet.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor

Get a "kick" out of getting around with Micro Kickboard's stylish scooters

Even a one-year-old can handle the quick, easy, stylish transportation offered by Micro Kickboard, one of the newest shops in East Grand Rapids' Gaslight Village shopping district.

Swiss-made, sturdy, and lightweight portability all in one easy-to-ride, foldable scooter that's perfect for those quick jaunts that are too long for walking and too short for driving. Factor in the assortment of cool colors, artistic design, and on-board brakes and these scooters could truly appeal to anybody.

Geoff and Julie Hawksworth own the only U.S. Micro Kickboard distributorship and decided now is the time to open the first U.S. storefront, 2151 Wealthy St. SE, featuring only Micro Kickboard scooters, accessories, and parts and service. Previously, the scooters could only be found in places like toy stores and bike stores.

There are scooters for ages one year and up. Some have two wheels and kickstands for easy upright parking, others have three wheels for more stability, and the extreme models are for stuntsters and tricksters. Telescoping handlebars adjust to the height needed and fold down for easy storage. The scooters weigh between four and ten pounds, making them light to carry. The small size makes them ideal for students to tuck under a classroom seat or in a locker, or for businesspeople to store in a cubicle.

There's even a Micro Luggage style that combines the convenience of a scooter with a rolling carry-on suitcase -- you just get off the plane, fold out the scooter, and scoot to your next gate or to the rental car desk with your belongings safe inside the suitcase.

"They have a minimalist design, highest quality materials, and very tight construction, so we say you don't shake and rattle when you roll," says Julie Hawksworth. "They have an exceptionally smooth glide and are exceptionally durable. You feel very elegant on the adult scooters and they're very fun for getting from A to B."

Store hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon. - Fri.; 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sat.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Micro Kickboard

Celadon New Town developer puts energies, vision into new $6.5M East Grand Rapids development

The company behind Celadon New Town, a contemporary urban neighborhood development in northeast Grand Rapids, has begun construction on a project that will bring a penthouse, 10 townhomes, and a single-family home to the heart of East Grand Rapids.

Brad Rottschafer, owner of Mosaic Properties & Homes, has begun construction preparation for three new buildings where four rental houses once stood.

The buildings will consist of a three-story retail/office structure with a 2,000-square-foot penthouse, a 10-townhouse building with a central courtyard and private garages, and a two-story single-family home. The $6.5 million project, Croswell Mews, brings a new style of living to a desirable, walkable area close to restaurants, shopping, schools, and Reeds Lake -- a lifestyle that Rottschafer says has already attracted buyers.

"The live/work building is already sold," Rottschafer says, referring to the retail/office building with the penthouse. Although he declined to name the buyer, he says the owner will live in the penthouse and "is going to put his company in the building."

The single-family home and seven of the townhomes are already under contract, as well. The townhomes are each approx. 2,000 square feet with a garage and family room on the main level, living spaces on the second level, and three bedrooms on the third level. Prices range from $425,000 to $479,000.

"People want to be close to the grocery store, Starbucks, even the school for sporting events," he says. "There's a lot of energy in that downtown and people like that. (Croswell Mews) just adds to the conversation and the vision of what the city has for the community. I think it continues to build the core of the city as a very quaint, unique environment that draws people."

Rottschafer is quick to give credit for the momentum in East Grand Rapids' downtown to the new Gaslight Village created a few years back by Jade Pig Ventures.

"Building to the street, hiding the parking, making these areas walkable, that's the thing that brings energy to the area," he says. "When you revitalize an area, people want to walk and see what's there."
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Mosaic Properties & Homes

East Grand Rapids townhomes completed, 16 dwellings increase density three-fold for shops, eateries

Orion Construction has completed the construction of Bagley Townhomes, 16 brick townhomes stretching from 727 to 797 Bagley Ave. SE, East Grand Rapids, and has handed the keys to the purchaser of the final unit, says Orion Real Estate Solutions President John Wheeler.

The project to demolish six single-family houses and replace them with two all-brick buildings containing eight townhomes each was approved by the East Grand Rapids planning commission in 2007, but construction couldn't begin until five years later due to the economic recession.

Today, with all 16 dwellings filled, more than three times the number of people live in that same block compared to the number of residents in 2007 -- potential customers living just a few steps from the quaint downtown and its eclectic mix of shopping, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks.

"(The country) got a transient situation with the last recession," Wheeler says. "People want to stay in their neighborhoods where they raised their children, but they have large homes they don't need anymore. The new urbanism is a really big deal, to try to provide products where you don't always need to be in your car, where you can get some exercise, have some fun, and get to know your neighborhood better. (Cities) need to pave the way for good developers who have the vision for homes that could improve the city for everybody."

Wheeler says Orion Construction was involved with the project from the planning stage through handing off the finished final townhome to the owners after customizing the interiors.

"People get creative with their homes," Wheeler says. "You build to a generic specification, then the owners worked with interior designers to customize the interiors by moving walls and adding upgrades. Everybody had their own ideas of what was cool and we implemented many, many details like contemporary lighting in the high ceilings and high-end cabinets."

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Orion Construction

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Gazelle Sports to open branded Lole women's athletic wear store in East Grand Rapids

A new Lolë brand store offering women's athletic wear will open soon in East Grand Rapids thanks to local athletic store Gazelle Sports. The shop is only the second Lolë shop in the United States for the Montreal, Canada-based brand.

The store is under construction in the former Smooch Beauty Boutique space at 2213 Wealthy St. SE. Lolë, which stands for Live Out Loud Everyday, approached Gazelle Sports to open and operate the store.

"Lolë is one of the brands Gazelle Sports became familiar with five or six years ago, and it aligned very, very nicely with our female clients," says Gazelle's Director of Retail Stores Nancy Greer. "We have continued to grow and develop that line, and when the opportunity came, they approached us to talk about opening the store."

Lolë's only other U.S. location is in Salt Lake City, UT.    
Beyond offering women's athletic apparel and shoes, the shop aims to partner with local fitness studios, yoga studios, personal athletic trainers, and nutritionists to offer weekly athletic clinics and classes geared to improving women's health.

Greer says Gazelle is not ready to announce who those community "ambassadors" are, and is still working to seal the deal on the final relationships. She did say that Gazelle seeks 12 ambassadors throughout Greater Grand Rapids to hold the events at the Lolë store, events at their own studios, and larger community-wide events at offsite locations.

The store will open at the end of March or first part of April. Gazelle seeks 12 part-time retail associates to operate the store. For more information, contact Gazelle Sports.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Five months in, going strong, Baby Mine celebrates with grand opening

Five months after the first customer walked in its doors, East Grand Rapids' Baby Mine has weathered its first fashion season and will celebrate with a grand opening event.

The baby and children's boutique at 2237 Wealthy St. SE in Gaslight Village offers boys' and girls' clothes sizes newborn to 5T, unusual gifts for new moms, soft toys for toddlers, and more. Many items are unique to the store and not found in other stores in the area, says co-owner Kimberly Gill, who opened the store in October 2013 with her daughter Bethany Smith.

Gill spoke to Rapid Growth between appointments at an East Michigan buyer's show this week, where she and Smith were busy selecting fall 2014 fashions and toys for the store. The spring selections will start filling the racks next month.

"When we started Baby Mine, we didn't know how much inventory to buy," Gill says. "We started a little late for winter inventory, so we had a bit more than if we'd opened in August, but we had to fill the store. We're getting a lot of people buying baby gifts.

"The toys have been selling great, the Constructive Eating has been selling really well; Rubbabu soft cars and trucks have been selling really well, and the Valco Doll Prams have been selling really well," she adds. "We cater to the kids (while Mom shops), have snacks for them, cars and strollers they can play with, and they fill up the doll pram with things like a shopping cart and they love it."

And Gill says they've had many requests for kids' shoes, so summer shoes will be part of the shop's spring and summer offerings, along with clothing, bathing suits, hats, and Babiators, a line of sunglasses for infants and children.

"We are not outrageously priced," Gill says. "We try to find clothing that appeals to everybody's taste and wallet, and try to have price ranges so that anybody that comes in can find a gift."

The grand opening event is Thurs., Feb. 27, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a ribbon-cutting at 10 a.m.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Baby Mine.

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Cool kids' clothes, cuddly toys, trendy gifts for moms - Baby Mine brings it all to Gaslight Village

A year after purchase, Seva Yoga owners expand yoga school, add classes, start mountain biking team

It's been a year of passion and inspiration, says Melissa Tungl when she speaks of the purchase of East Grand Rapids' Seva Yoga studio and retail shop. Tungl and her husband Tobi bought the business in January 2013.

Since then, Melissa, who manages the business, has put heart and soul into adding classes at 2237 Wealthy St. SE, expanding the yoga certification school, and offering classes to benefit local charities. Next up is the 2014 sponsorship of a mountain biking team.

"Tobi is a mountain biker and, starting next year, Seva will sponsor Seva Cycling," Tungl says. "It's interesting how my passion for teaching yoga has blended so nicely with his passion for mountain biking."

The number of daily classes for gentle yoga, Hatha yoga, and Vinyasa has grown. This week, the studio has 26 classes on the calendar, which Tungl says is a typical number for any given week.

Along with an increased demand for classes comes a heightened demand for registered yoga teachers. Tungl has expanded the existing school, now offering prospective teachers the ability to become a registered yoga teacher with the 200-hour RYT program or an optional 500-hour RYT program.

"There are a lot of opportunities for yoga teachers in West Michigan. Seva graduates are teaching at gyms, studios, and schools," she says, adding that she got her own certification through Seva Yoga and became an instructor before buying the business. "I had always practiced yoga, and getting my certification was calling to me. I took my training at Seva Yoga, so I feel that I have roots here. When I'm teaching, it's such a unique experience. I feel a very deep connection to everyone in the room."

Throughout the year, Seva Yoga has sponsored special donation-only classes to benefit specific charities. The studio donates the space for the classes and the yoga teachers donate their time. These classes generated nearly $3,000 for the Humane Society of West Michigan, Kids’ Food Basket, and Purple Community.

"Seva means 'selfless service,'" Tungl says. "That's been one of the big highlights for me and makes it so rewarding. It's very satisfying to go to work and to just love it. I don't know how many people can say they get to show their passion to people every day."

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy of Seva Yoga

Mosaic Properties bringing new mixed-use development to East Grand Rapids

Mosaic Properties, with a portfolio that includes the rapidly growing "new urbanist" Celadon neighborhood near Knapp Street and Leffingwell Avenue in Grand Rapids, received preliminary approval from the East Grand Rapids Planning Commission on December 2nd to build a new mixed-use development in East Grand Rapids near Gaslight Village.

The project, the first of its kind in East Grand Rapids, will include twelve residential units, 2000 square feet of office space, and 1200 square feet of ground floor retail. Ten of the residential units will be three-story townhouse units surrounding a courtyard with enclosed parking facing the rear of the buildings. The project will also feature a 2000-square-foot penthouse with an elevator and a three-story live-work unit.

Mosaic currently owns the four homes on Croswell Avenue just South of Gaslight Village, which will be removed to make way for the development. The property backs up to a townhouse project that was completed last year on Bagley Avenue.

As property becomes more and more scarce in this highly sought after community, builders and developers are getting more creative and pushing for more dense, urban-style projects. Several of the Planning Commisioners raised concerns about parking and the density of the project, but eventually gave approval to move forward to the site plan review process in early 2014.

Writer: Jeff Hill, Publisher
Images courtesy of Mosaic Properties

Cool kids' clothes, cuddly toys, trendy gifts for moms - Baby Mine brings it all to Gaslight Village

Knit owl hats, brown tweed blazers, soft coats with giant roses for buttons, and spoons and forks shaped like bright yellow bulldozers -- the world of children's fashions and toys inside Baby Mine goes way beyond traditional pink and blue.

Baby Mine, a cozy boutique filled with cool boys' and girls' clothes sizes newborn to 5T, unusual gifts for new moms, soft toys for toddlers, and much more, opened last week at 2237 Wealthy St. SE, East Grand Rapids -- just a few steps from the playful splash fountain that attracts kids of all ages.

Mom and daughter duo Kimberly Gill and Bethany Smith bring their personal experiences of being moms and being a grandma (Gill) of toddlers to the fore when selecting merchandise: nearly everything in the store is not only soft, but is organic, eco-friendly, or made in the USA.

"We wanted clothes that were unique and soft," says Gill as she smoothes a blanket made from silky bamboo. "We're very kid-friendly and let the kids play with all the toys."

The store is both kid- and mom-friendly, with a private breastfeeding area for shoppers who need it and a restroom with a diaper-changing table -- amenities not often found in small boutiques.

The shop's Michigan-made items include Uncle Goose (Grand Rapids) wooden building block sets of Christmas themes, nursery rhyme images, or Braille; and Constructive Eating (Ann Arbor) utensils and plates.

USA-made items include Haute Baby clothing, City Threads boys' fashions, Bamboosa blankets, and others.

Organically produced and eco-friendly products range from GroVia cloth diapers to Kushies clothing to Sweet Peanut baby essentials.

Current hours: Mon. - Sat. 10 - 6; holiday hours beginning Nov. 29, Mon. - Sat. 9:30 - 8.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photos: Deborah Johnson Wood

Bagley Townhouses aim to bring easy living to East Grand Rapids' Gaslight Village neighborhood

Just a half a block from East Grand Rapids' chic Gaslight Village business district, 16 new townhouses rise on connected properties that used to have just six single-family houses. Bagley Townhouses -- eight units in two all-brick brownstones -- offer condominium living within walking distance of Reeds Lake, the lakeside Collins Park, and some of West Michigan's best restaurants, salons, and shopping.

Spearheaded by developer and lifelong East Grand Rapids resident Joe Hooker, the project extends from 727 to 797 Bagley Ave. SE. Main floor units offer front porches and 1,300-square-feet of living space with an optional basement buildout to 2,600 square feet. The units have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and an optional third bedroom and bath in the basement level.

Above, the second floor units feature a front balcony, 1,600 square feet, two bedrooms, and two baths, with an option to add a Murphy bed in a possible third bedroom/office combination.

Standard finishes include granite countertops and hardwood floors in the kitchens. First buyers can customize and select upgrades.

"I started buying single-family homes in 2001, and bought six single family homes over six years and rented them out," Hooker says. "[The brownstone project] was originally approved by the city of East Grand Rapids in 2007, but due to the overwhelming forces of the economy, we couldn't move forward. About eight months ago, we decided to finally move forward and demo the buildings so we could start construction."

The project was re-approved in late 2011. Greenridge Realty (2213 Wealthy St. SE, East Grand Rapids) has a showroom with finishes options. Interested buyers will get help selecting their finishes from the Bagley Townhouses interior designer.

Hooker says seven of the units in the first building and two of the units in the second building are sold, leaving seven units available. The first building will be complete in January 2013; the second building will follow in February. Prices range from $289,000 to $319,000.
Source: Joe Hooker, Bagley Townhouses
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

East Grand Rapids home to new urban bicycle showroom, repair shop

A new oasis for urban cyclists is open for business near East Grand Rapids' Gaslight Village. Grand Rapids Bicycle Company renovated the former The Moving Company building (644 Lovett Ave. SE) into a hip cycle showroom offering pedal transportation for everyone from pre-pedal age through adult.

The showroom is the company's second location and follows the spring opening of its main store, Grand Rapids Bicycle Company and Trailhead Café, at 1200 East Paris SE, near Bill & Paul's Sporthaus.

"We can repair, maintenance, and tune anything out there," says store manager Thomas Fish. "The quality of personalized service is the main thing we're trying to differentiate ourselves with. No matter if you have a kids' bike or an expensive road bike, we're going to make sure it fits and that you're happy with it."

Fish is a United Bicycle Institute-certified bike mechanic. He says the Bicycle Company's other two mechanics, Eric Fisher and K. C. Trotter, have a combined 46 years of cycle repair experience and a number of certifications.

Besides maintenance and repair, the shop carries U.S.-made Jamis Bikes and Felt Bicycles, Cervelo Cycles high-end racing bikes, and Surly "fat bikes" for winter riding. The shop also offers a selection of kids' bikes from wooden, pedal-free balance bikes for tiny riders to kickbikes, to frames sized for 8-, 10-, and 12-year-olds. And the store carries a variety of accessories, including clothing, gloves, Burley products, and more.

Fall/Winter hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sat.

Source: Thomas Fish, Grand Rapids Bicycle Company
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Grand Rapids Bicycle Company and Trailhead Café

Dear Prudence offers unusual jewelry finds in small, chic East Grand Rapids shop

What's black and white and chic all over? Dear Prudence, a fun new jewelry haven in East Grand Rapids.

Dear Prudence, owned by Prudence Kauffman, is a diminutive 400-square-foot boutique with a black and white color scheme that allows the intriguing jewelry and gifts inside to take center stage. The store (701 Bagley St. SE, East Grand Rapids) carries jewelry and items that Kauffman hopes can be found only at Dear Prudence.

"We mostly carry jewelry, mostly made in the U.S., but we do have one fair trade line to support women and their families in Central and South America," says Kauffman, 40, who says both she and the store are named after the Beatles tune, "Dear Prudence." "We made sure we're carrying things that are different than anyplace in town, and have agreements with some of the artisans to be the only store in Grand Rapids carrying these products."

Besides unique Chanel button jewelry by Chicago artist Patti Lynch and Luminous Creation mixed metal jewelry by Grand Rapids artist Jaclyn Dreyer, the store also carries one-of-a-kind fingerprint jewelry made from customers' fingerprints. Customers press their fingerprints into a wax mold, and Dear Prudence sends it to the manufacturer to be dipped in silver and fashioned into necklaces, bracelets, cuff links or tie tacks.

"We just did one for a friend who had twins, and we took the babies' prints and made them into jewelry," Kauffman says.

Kauffman and her husband, Brad, relocated to the Grand Rapids area after 20 years in Winston-Salem, NC, because Brad's job was transferred here. The dream of the store has been percolating for years and became reality after Kauffman recovered from uterine cancer.

"Brad said if we get through this, we're going to do every single thing we ever wanted to do," Kauffman says. "I'm cancer free now, so we started researching the store and putting together every idea we had."

Hours: Mon. - Sat., 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sun. noon to 5. Online shopping at DearPrudence.com will be available soon.

Source: Prudence Kauffman, Dear Prudence
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Sacred Roots combines visual art, hair styling to create unique salon in East Grand Rapids

Local artists have a new outlet for displaying their work surrounded by Hollywood Glam décor at East Grand Rapids' new Sacred Roots Salon.

The salon (2237 Wealthy St. SE, Suite 150), situated between Derby Station and Hot Mama's in Gaslight Village, caters to clients' hairstyling needs and doubles as an exclusive art gallery where one local artist a month can showcase his or her works without competing with other artists.

"I love art and supporting local artists," says owner James Garnant. "So the first Thursday of every month we have a cocktail party and a new installation by a new artist goes in."

Zeeland artist Katherine Throne is there through July, says Garnant. Beginning August 2, the salon will feature photographer Mike Kelley, with another artist following in September.

Garnant says he has been a hairdresser for 20 years and the salon helps him fulfill his dream of bring art to the public in a cozy and relaxed atmosphere.

"Hair is an art form in itself, and like attracts like and so it attracts artists," Garnant says. "I'm really big on making this a community gathering space where people feel they're not just getting their hair done but can come and hang out."

Hours: Weekdays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sat., 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Source: James Garnant, Sacred Roots Salon; Carey Potter, Brick House Marketing Group
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Instructional painting studio offering food, drinks opens in East Grand Rapids

Aspiring artists can try their hand at acrylic painting over a glass of wine or beer at the newly opened Brush Studio (2213 Wealthy St. SE, East Grand Rapids).

The 1,600-square-foot instructional art studio offers two-hour instructional painting classes that take students from a blank canvas to a piece of art worthy of their household wall. Classes cost $35.

"You sign up online based on the painting that you are interested in learning," explains Lisa Jabara, owner of Brush Studio. "We have an instructor that instructs you on that painting -- say, it's Starry Night -- brush stroke by brush stroke from start to finish."

Brush is able to accommodate small groups that would like to reserve a table as well as larger private parties of 20 or more who wish to rent out the entire space. Jabara also plans to offer team-building classes to local businesses, which can be held on or off site.

In addition to painting classes and open painting, the studio has also partnered with nearby Ramona's Table to create food options for customers to enjoy while they work. The restaurant developed a menu of appetizers, sandwiches and salads. The studio will offer several Michigan beers and wines as well as some non-local options. The wine and beer menu includes Oberon, Bells Two Hearted, Little Black Dress and Dreaming Tree.

"It's such a fun atmosphere to have a bunch of people painting. And there's music, and everybody is drinking wine and beer," Jabara says. "It's a great time."

Brush is not just a place for adults; the studio offers family-focused classes on Saturdays and Sundays for parents and their kids.

The store is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for open painting. To learn more visit, www.brushgr.com.

Source: Lisa Jabara, Brush Studio
Writer: Charlsie Dewey, Freelance Reporter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blodgett Hospital's $98 million expansion includes rooms with a view

Deborah Johnson Wood

The $98 million expansion of Grand Rapids' Blodgett Hospital converts the entire facility to private rooms – many of which will have a lake view.

"It's an enormous pleasure to look out the windows, because some of the rooms face Fisk Lake," says Derrick Brown, project manager for Spectrum Health Hospital Group. "It's just breathtaking to see the lake and the gorgeous homes. This is the only healthcare facility that I've ever worked on that's had a significant view like that."

Brown says the 162,000-square-foot addition converts the entire hospital to private patient rooms and adds eight operating rooms, bringing the total operating rooms to 14 with space to add four more, if needed.

The four-story LEED project is on budget and on schedule for public tours the week of September 20 and seeing patients the week of October 10, 2010.

The drywall installation is complete on all floors, with final painting and wall coverings underway. The first floor construction is completed and awaiting the arrival of cabinets and nurses' stations, says Brown.

The original plans did not include a basement, but Brown says that was added after construction began.

But even though everything is on schedule, the project has presented its own set of challenges.

"The site has very limited space and we haven't had "lay down" space for building materials," Brown says. "Some portions have been built offsite and brought over; other things, like the steel, came precut and prepped so we were able to move a lot faster."

Throughout the length of the project Brown says Spectrum Health has kept neighbors apprised of what to expect.

"The Blodgett campus is a community hospital, and any time the work will be noisy, create vibrations or we've had to shut down a street, we've communicated that by going door-to-door," Brown says. "I've done this type of work at other hospitals for a number of years and nowhere have we had the interaction with the community that we've had here."

Source: Derrick Brown, Spectrum Health Hospital Group

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com. Development News tips can be sent to info@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

$790,000 Reeds Lake Trail phase 2 makes strides to keep walkers, cyclists safe

Deborah Johnson Wood

Phase 2 of the Reeds Lake Trail will break ground as soon as weather permits, providing an off-street walking and cycling path along the east side of Reeds Lake when completed in July.

The path will connect the existing Reeds Lake Trail at Kate Avenue SE between Reeds Lake and the East Beltline and run 0.75 miles northwest along Reeds Lake Blvd. to Manhattan Road SE. Users can then connect to sidewalks to complete the loop around Reeds Lake.

"This phase involves both East Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Township and has been over five years in the works," says East Grand Rapids City Manager Brian Donovan. "It's taken so long because of fundraising and the wetlands plan."

The wetlands plan involved having to eliminate one-half acre of wetlands along portions of the trail. Donovan says the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality required creation of a full acre of wetlands to replace it. The project will create that acre of wetlands near Waterfront Park on the west side of the lake. The city has five years to make the wetlands changes.

Completion of the trail loop allows users to travel off-street for the entire four-plus miles of the loop around the lake. Just north of the trail along the East Beltline, users can connect with Grand Rapids Township trails. In East Grand Rapids, bike lane markings on Wealthy Street run from Gaslight Village to the west city limits, where Donovan says Grand Rapids officials propose to continue the lane markings to downtown Grand Rapids.

Nearly $600,000 of the trail completion's $790,000 price tag is from private donations. Donovan says the project is within $3,000 of its goal. Those interested in providing a donation can contact the city of East Grand Rapids for more information.

Source: Brian Donovan, City of East Grand Rapids

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com. Have a development news tip for Rapid Growth? Contact us at info@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Grand Rapids athlete invents warming product for cold weather runners, cyclists

Deborah Johnson Wood

Dan Socie is an all-around guy – a freelance graphics and web designer by trade, and an amateur endurance athlete by hobby. And now he's an inventor.

Socie has invented an embrocation for use by runners and cyclists to warm up their muscles before they run outside in cold weather.

An embrocation is a warming liniment that's applied topically. Socie's embrocation consists of shea butter, capsaicin, black pepper and menthol. He and his business partner Geoff Kuyper are marketing it under the brand and business name Soigneur (swan-yer).

"Soigneur is French for 'an assistant,'" Socie says. "In professional cycling, a soigneur is an assistant that gets water, arranges for or does massage therapy, gets the food, and is basically the athlete's personal assistant. I wanted to make a product to take the soigneur role for amateur athletes."

Socie says cyclists who bike in cold weather have used European embrocations, but he plans to market his product to runners and skiers as well. He says athletes apply the embrocation to their legs before running, biking or skiing. The shea butter keeps the product on the skin, and body heat activates the capsaicin that warms the skin. That warmth penetrates to the muscles.

"Your legs are warm and it's nicer to go out in the cold with warm legs," Socie says. "It enhances the experience. When you go for a run or ride in the cold weather, it takes 20 minutes, half an hour to warm up. This product speeds up that process and you can get to the more enjoyable part of your workout sooner."

Socie says he spent the past year working with a Scottsdale, Ariz. laboratory and manufacturer to develop the product.

The embrocation is available for advance order online at www.soigneur.net and will begin shipping at the end of February. A launch party to introduce the product is planned for February 24 at Richard App Gallery from 6 to 10 p.m.

Source: Dan Socie, Soigneur

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com. Have a development news tip for Rapid Growth? Contact us at info@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

$98M Blodgett Hospital overhaul proceeding on schedule in East Grand Rapids

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

The $98 million overhaul and a 162,000-square-foot expansion of Blodgett Hospital at 1840 Wealthy Street SE is on schedule for a November 2010 opening.

When it's all done, 284 private patient rooms with family gathering space in each will bring a new dimension to patient care. The plan is to close existing patient beds in buildings built in 1916, the '50s and the '60s. To make up for that loss, the new five-story expansion includes 131 private patient rooms, as well as eight state-of-the-art operating rooms.

"The investment we're making here at Blodgett is a lot more than just the buildings and renovations," says Jim Wilson, president. "We are updating to state-of-the-art technologies all of the imaging modalities we have."

Those include two CT scanners installed last year, upgrades to nuclear medicine and fluoroscopy technologies, the addition of a second MRI machine, and an upgrade to digital mammography last year.

A renovation of the emergency room involves new patient care rooms, an already-reconstructed clinical core area, and renovation of the examination rooms.

All public spaces—lobbies, conference rooms, an auditorium, restrooms, kitchen/cafeteria—are also on the drawing board for upgrades.

Infrastructure revamps include ongoing improvements -- some began two years ago -- to the parking deck and replacement of all the elevators in the hospital's 11 elevator banks.

The Blodgett campus, part of the Spectrum Health system, provides 1,800 full-time-equivalent jobs just inside the East Grand Rapids city boundaries.

"We're excited to make this investment so Blodgett hospital continues to be a very viable part of the East Grand Rapids business community," Wilson says. "We take that commitment very seriously."

Source: Jim Wilson, Blodgett Hospital

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

RGTV – Sneak peek at East Grand Rapids High School's new $12.5M athletic facilities

The official kickoff to open East Grand Rapids High School's new $12.5 million football field and athletic facility is just weeks away. Once it opens on August 26, East will have the physical capacity and high quality facility to host championship playoff and tournaments in volleyball, swimming, wrestling and track – something they've not been able to do in the past.

The 8,000-square-foot auxiliary gymnasium's lights, floor and spectator seating are installed – just the overhead mechanicals remain. The gym features a Kalwal, a translucent wall that allows daylight into the space and retains the sun's heat.

Elevated seating in the pool area is in place, providing space for an additional 400 spectators. In the new 6,000-square-foot fitness centers everything is complete and awaiting the July delivery of ten core strength training platforms, recumbent bikes, stair steppers, treadmills, dumbbells and 15 multi-joint machines.

"I feel real excited about all of it," says Scott Robertson, athletic director. "I think it's important for people in our community to experience it, to come and watch ball games and make their own judgments. We worked real hard to give the community the most bang for their buck and I think they'll agree that we did a great job investing their money wisely."

Outside, a new field events center with locker rooms, new bleachers and a new press box are amenities that will welcome visiting teams and spectators.

Green features include four banks of energy efficient stadium lighting (instead of six banks of non-energy-efficient lights), and the new turf on the football field is padded with crushed recycled tires.

"There's an aesthetic appeal, it's nice looking in a real classy way," Robertson says. "But the biggest benefit to the whole school system is that we won't need to bump elementary school activities anymore in order to have practice places."

URS designed the facility. Owen Ames Kimball is the construction manager.

Source: Scott Robertson, East Grand Rapids High School

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.


$12.5M East Grand Rapids Schools' athletic facilities upgrades underway at three locations

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Some $12.5 million in athletic facilities upgrades are well underway at three East Grand Rapids Public Schools locations. A 15-year bond extension approved by voters in November 2007 is the funding source for the improvements.

At East Grand Rapids High School, changes include:

  • Replacing an outdated fitness center that accommodated 35 students with one that accommodates 120.
  • A football stadium with new turf, a two-story structure with a new press box, Internet capabilities, locker rooms and restrooms, and a new scoreboard, lights and sound system.
  • New track facilities including an electronic timing system, scoreboard and sound system.

Perhaps the biggest changes at the high school are a second gymnasium and a second balcony in the swimming pool area, bringing spectator seating to 900.

"We have six high school basketball teams and a wrestling team," says Scott Robertson, high school athletic director. "For years we had teams practicing at elementary schools at odd times of the night, and if we have a home wrestling match I have to find a place for six teams to practice."

The additional pool seating provides enough space to host state swim championships, something the school couldn't even petition for in the past.

At East Grand Rapids Middle School, Mehney Field now has a new sound system and artificial turf. At Canepa Tennis Center near Lakeside Elementary there is a new concession stand, and new restrooms replace the portable toilets the facility used to have.

"In planning the improvements, we were forward thinking, thinking about the multiplicity of different parts of our venue because we're so limited on space," Robertson says, "and we've been able to accomplish it pretty well."

URS Corporation designed the new facilities. Owen-Ames-Kimball is the general contractor.

The upgrades will be completed in August.

Source: Scott Robertson, East Grand Rapids Public Schools

Photograph by Joshua Tyron -All Rights Reserved

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

$50M Spoelhof Fieldhouse at Calvin College nears completion

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

It’s an athlete’s Utopia.

After 21 months of construction, Calvin College’s $49.5 million Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex will open in time for a January 7 basketball double-header. The 350,000-square-foot complex surrounds an existing fieldhouse, creating several state-of-the-art athletic, aquatic, fitness and physical education centers.

“The original fieldhouse was completed in 1965, so this has been a major upgrade for Calvin’s sports and athletic department,” says David Wilkins of GMB Architects-Engineers, the architect and engineer of record for the project. “It’s been a challenge to get the equipment in there because it’s such a tight space and we have about 150 contractors on-site every day.”

A two-story-high climbing wall greets visitors in the new lobby.

A 15,000-square-foot fitness center overlooks campus through an 18-foot-high, 160-foot-long window wall.

The Van Noord Arena seats 5,000 spectators on two levels, with a hospitality suite on the third level. The arena features a main court, two cross-courts, and two upper-side gymnasiums for additional practice space for basketball or volleyball. The third level features a dance studio. A removable stage equips it for live performances.

The Venema Aquatic Center contains a 50-meter pool with eight competition lanes and one- and three-meter diving platforms. The pool will be open for community use and swimming instruction.

A 200-meter track and four tennis courts provide indoor field-event space at the 55,000-square-foot Huizenga Tennis and Track Center.

The existing fieldhouse, renamed the Hoogenboom Health and Recreation Center, makes up the center of the complex; its renovation provides new offices for the Health, Physical Education, Recreation, Dance and Sport department, classroom space, and exam rooms for student health services.

Source: David Wilkins, GMB Architects-Engineers 

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Kent County’s Fuller Complex $6.5M facelift includes new animal shelter, access road

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Thoughts of visiting an animal shelter to choose a new family pooch or kitten often brings to mind rows of animals in cages. And while getting a new pet is exciting, it's hard to leave the others behind. 

Kent County aims to make the environment and the pet selection experience more pleasant for both the people and the animals with the construction of a new 23,000-square-foot Kent County Animal Shelter. 

“The new shelter is almost three times the size of the existing one and more centrally located on the campus,” says Bob Mihos, County spokesperson. “We feel the shelter provides an important service to the county and we want to present a healthy environment for that important service.”

Three “get acquainted” rooms—a new feature—provide private spaces where families can get to know their potential pet.

Another significant change is two outside entrances: one for people who want to adopt a pet and the other for bringing in strays and dangerous animals.

Separate holding areas, one for healthy animals and one for sick animals, minimizes the spread of disease. A surgical suite provides space for veterinarians to perform surgeries, if needed.

“We’ve added a training room for those who adopt,” Mihos adds, “where the shelter will offer classes to teach new owners how to take care of their new pets.”

Customers will get to the new shelter via a new access road flanked by people-friendly sidewalks and streetlights.

The $1.8 million road meanders from a new stoplight at Malta Street and Fuller Avenue on the west to the existing entrance on Ball Street to the east, providing easy auto, pedestrian and bicycle access to all areas of the campus, including the Kent County Health Department, the Sheriff’s Department and network180. The road will be completed in October, followed a month later by the completion of the $4.8 million animal shelter.

Source: Bob Mihos, Kent County

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Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Filmmaking contest for young talent will educate state leaders

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

The Michigan Municipal League wants to know why young professionals and entrepreneurs in Michigan have chosen to live in particular communities. And the way the organization wants to get its answers is through five-minute videos produced by those young persons.

An exclusive audience of over 500 elected and appointed officials from communities around the state will view the top videos of the Better Communities Video Contest as part of the MML’s annual convention on Mackinac Island in October. The videos are part of a larger discussion on how these municipal leaders can create and sustain desirable places to live that will attract and retain young talent.

A statement issued from the MML notes: We are looking for videos that provide Michigan community leaders with insight on creating, sustaining and improving the desirable and unique places to live in Michigan. Communities with vibrant downtowns, arts and culture, mass transit and overall flexible and diverse environments are what you are looking for, and they attract the 21st Century employers. Make your voice heard in a video showing us what made you stay or what made you move to your Michigan community.

The videos must be uploaded in YouTube format to the YouTube web site by 5 p.m. September 15. A separate email to info@mml.org must include the final link to the video, the name and age of the person submitting the video, address of residence and contact information.

For more details on the video contest, contact the Michigan Municipal League at info@mml.org.

The first place winner receives $300, second and third places receive $100 each.

Source: Michigan Municipal League

Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Zeeland one of 17 cities selected for Michigan Main Street program

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

The City of Zeeland is one of 17 Michigan cities selected by MSHDA to participate in the Michigan Main Street (MMS) Associate Level program, a two-year opportunity meant to return economic vitality to the state’s downtowns by providing civic leaders with training in organization, promotion, economic restructuring and design.

“We’re thrilled,” says Abigail deRoo, Zeeland’s city marketing director. ‘I see this as providing an outlet for training for city staff that works with our downtown, and training for our downtown board members and our volunteers.”

Before deRoo joined Zeeland’s city staff last year she was Main Street Manager for the City of Clare. After moving to Zeeland, deRoo established four municipal committees based on the four components of Main Street training (organization, promotion, economic restructuring and design), and immediately applied for Main Street status.

“The program provides a strong network of Michigan downtown leaders,” deRoo says. “It gives cities the opportunities to use templates other communities have used successfully to drive their economies and urban designs, so we won’t be reinventing the wheel. And we’ll be able to use the program’s listserv to communicate and find out what other cities have done [to strengthen their downtowns].”

Each committee will train only in its specific area of expertise, attending free daylong classes in Lansing.

Three other West Michigan cities/business districts were also named to the MMS program: Grand Rapids “Uptown,” Belding and Plainwell.

Since its inception in 2003, MMS has spurred some $27 million in private investment and created an estimated 338 jobs in 13 cities.

“We’re just excited to be part of it,” deRoo says. “The state recognizes that Zeeland is committed to improving our downtown and we want to use any and every tool available to us.”

Source: Abigail deRoo, City of Zeeland

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Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Grand Rapids fundraiser promotes the blues to cure cancer

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Cancer took Becky Bunting’s father at age 50 and, four years ago, the disease took her 53-year-old brother, too. That’s when Bunting decided to do something to help advance cancer research and cancer support organizations. So she founded Blue Persuasion, a Grand Rapids fundraising non-profit initially designed to raise money by selling ‘blue’ things like bottled water or blue-plate specials at area restaurants.

Now Bunting, 49, has added blues music concerts to reach a new audience for the three organizations she supports: Make A Wish Foundation of Michigan, Thirsting to Serve and Susan G. Komen for the Cure Grand Rapids.

“Every event makes money for all three groups,” Bunting says. “We’re trying to enhance what these organizations are already doing. We want to reach a part of the population that may not already be making donations, and to make it fun. Blues music speaks to the heart because it’s fun and it gets people motivated.”

A concert last winter at River City Slim’s featured the local Thirsty Perch Blues Band. But Bunting’s next event, the 2008 Dance of Life Celebration, features Thirsty Perch plus two national blues bands, Eric Lindell from New Orleans and The Homemade Jamz Band, an internationally acclaimed trio of siblings aged 9, 13 and 15, from Tupelo, MS.

“I don’t know of anyone else who’s doing blues concerts to bring people together for a great cause,” Bunting adds. “We have to do more to keep cancer from affecting our lives, and our children’s and grandchildren’s lives.”

Source: Becky Bunting, Blue Persuasion 

Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Graydon’s Crossing brings English pub and grub to East Grand Rapids

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Last March the restaurant space at 2237 Wealthy St. in East Grand Rapids’ Gaslight Village was just an empty shell. Now it’s the second location of Graydon’s Crossing, an English pub with a full line of beers, wines and liquors and an unusual menu of Celtic-style fare.

Dubbed The Derby Station, the 5,000-square-foot pub has booths and tables up front, a custom-crafted bar, and a quieter dining area in the rear. An outdoor dining patio along the front of the building adds an open-air option for diners.

“The buildout looks very English with brick interior walls, wainscoting, and lots of wood trim,” says Brian Steinberg of Fryling Construction, the company handling the interior construction. “The wood floors and wood ceiling really stand out.”

Steinberg says the construction took just 10 weeks, but because of the pub’s visibility on a corner near Gaslight Village’s fountains the activity created a lot of interest.

“The owners had put a sign and a menu in the window, and there was always people walking up and looking inside to see what we were doing,” he adds.

Pub owners Larry Zeiser and Brian Giampapa also own the original Graydon’s Crossing on Plainfield, JD Reardon’s, Cambridge House and Logan’s Alley.

Source: Brian Steinberg, Fryling Construction

Photo by Brian Kelly

Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Geothermal heat pumps boost water conservation by millions of gallons

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Did you know that a 200,000-square-foot office building that uses a conventional heating system and cooling tower—the stack that emits a plume of steam on cool mornings—can use two million gallons of water per year and sends another 20,000 gallons to the sanitary sewer?

geothermal heat pump, by contrast, uses the earth’s constant temperature to heat or cool water (depending on the season) in buried closed-loop pipes, recycling the same water through the loop over and over. No water is wasted, no heat releases into the atmosphere, and the pipes can last up to 100 years.

“The type of soil makes a difference,” says Steve Hamstra of Holland-based GMB Architects-Engineers. The company has installed geothermal heat pumps for over a decade, but is doing more of them now than ever before, including installations at Caledonia High School, which has one of the largest geothermal heat pump systems in the state, Zeeland West High School, Quincy Elementary, two schools in Kentwood, and Davenport University’s Lettinga Campus Academic Building and Residence Halls.

“We do a test bore to determine the type of soil, and then put polyethylene pipes vertically about 400 feet into the ground, it makes a U-turn and comes back up,” Hamstra adds.

“We built Zeeland West High School. It's 200,000 square feet and has 120 of these holes for the heat system. It’s a $2.2 million system, comparable to a conventional HVAC system, but it will save them $80,000 to $100,000 a year and won’t waste any water.”

In addition, GMB just completed the school’s new indoor pool building and is looking at ways to heat the pool by using the geothermal heat system to capture the heat exhausted by the building’s air conditioning.

Source: Steve Hamstra, GMB Architects-Engineers

Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Dwindling sturgeon population focus of $119K Muskegon River study

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Lake Sturgeon are the largest fish in the Great Lakes, with females at times reaching longer than six feet and living some 80 years. Their numbers have dwindled precariously over the last century, placing them on Michigan’s Threatened and Endangered Species List.

A new $119,000 study by Carl Ruetz of the GVSU Annis Water Resources Institute and Kregg Smith of the Michigan DNR focuses on the Muskegon River below Croton Dam to determine how many fish are left, their spawning habits and their habitats.

Before 1890, fisherman destroyed sturgeon for ripping their nets, and later overfished them for their caviar. Dams also block streams preventing access to spawning habitats. The fish, as a result of such intrusions, have struggled to sustain their population because of their slow reproduction rates: females don’t spawn until they’re in their twenties; males spawn at about 15 years.

The study tracks the numbers, sizes and genders of adults as they enter the Muskegon River to spawn, the number of larvae emerging from the gravel spawning beds and drifting downstream and, this fall, calls for implanting tracking devices in juvenile fish.

“There are lots of unknowns, like where their rearing habitat is,” Ruetz says. “It’s logical it’s a flat-water habitat that’s rich in food sources, but we don’t know where. The transmitters will help us find out what habitats they’re using and how long they stay in Muskegon Lake and in the river.”

The DNR’s Kregg Smith has studied sturgeon for a decade and brought in Ruetz this year to increase man-hours and talent. He says that in the early 1900s there were millions of pounds of sturgeon in the Great Lakes, but a count during the 2002 spawning season estimates only 50 to 60 fish are left.

Source: Carl Ruetz, Grand Valley State University Annis Water Resources Institute; Kregg Smith, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Trio of prominent Grand Rapids developers launch investment enterprise

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

If you’ve looked around Grand Rapids and East Grand Rapids this week, you’ve probably noticed new signs advertising properties offered by CWD Real Estate Investment in several commercial buildings.

That’s because three well-known Grand Rapids developers have formed a new enterprise geared toward providing high net worth investors with a portfolio that includes a variety of real estate investment opportunities.

Sam Cummings of Second Story Properties, Scott Wierda of Jade Pig Ventures, and Dan DeVos of DP Fox Ventures LLC created CWD Real Estate Investment, a firm with 14 employees who will work out of a 4,000-square-foot space at 15 Ionia SW, the expanded former office space of Second Story Properties.

“With over 70 years of experience between us, we tend to look at investment in real estate as part of a well balanced investment portfolio,” says Sam Cummings. “Over the course of our careers there are a number of individuals who have approached us wanting to be investors in real estate, and they want to have those investments well managed by people they know and trust.”

The new company will offer clients four investment options: real estate investment, brokerage, property management and development.

“We’ve gained experience in different product types in real estate: I’ve done urban redevelopment, Scott’s done retail, and Dan’s experienced in almost everything and has an extraordinary strategic thinking capacity,” Cummings adds. “We get that diversification of product aptitude that allows us to diversify in product type and in geography. We’re looking at Midwest investments, perhaps beyond that.”

The names of Second Story Properties and Jade Pig will go away, replaced by CWD, although the former Jade Pig—the partnership between Wierda and Brian DeVries—will continue to operate as a separate company. DeVos will guide CWD’s strategic direction while continuing with DP Fox, which owns several auto dealerships and real estate endeavors.

Source: Sam Cummings, CWD Real Estate Investment; Kate Washburn, Wondergem Consulting

Photograph by Brian Kelly for CWD Real Estate Investment

Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

GVMC conference explores elements of a 21st century development strategy

How to build successful urban developments, establish entrepreneur-centric cities, and expand public transit and improve commuter mobility are just some of the topics slated for discussion at the annual Growing Communities Conference sponsored by the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council.

Douglas S. Kelbaugh, FAIA, Dean of Architecture and Urban Planning at University of Michigan and a founder of the New Urbanist movement will deliver the keynote address.

Milt Rohwer, president of the Frey Foundation, will lead a photographic tour of Grand Rapid’s progress in building a stronger community, and Dan Gilmartin, executive director of the Michigan Municipal League, will share his perspective on the direction Michigan is headed building and enhancing our cities.

The GVMC also will present its annual Blueprint Award to a recipient who has helped West Michigan achieve the goals of the GVMC.

The conference will be at the Prince Conference Center at Calvin College on June 12.

Source: Grand Valley Metropolitan Council 

Local First doubles membership, launches economic impact study

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

You’ve probably seen the yellow triangular window clings in area businesses indicating they are members of Local First. But what is Local First?

Local First, a nonprofit dedicated to creating demand for locally owned businesses and educating consumers on the economic impact of shopping at those businesses, logged 40,000 hits on its online directory in 2007. In the last 16 months, the organization more than doubled its membership of locally owned businesses, jumping from 150 members to 370.

Monthly networking events, the Local First Street Party, the Eat Local Challenge, and a new Entrepreneurial Resource Network where business owners share resources and business solutions are a few of the organization’s events to promote locally owned businesses.

“My firm landed three new clients as a result of connecting with a colleague through Local First,” says Craig Clark of Clark Communications. “Local First is the organization to belong to if you own a local business and want to connect with other individuals and businesses that support the triple bottom line theory of sustainability.”

The organization recently commissioned a local study to determine the impact of locally owned businesses on the Greater Grand Rapids economy, and to identify the number of locally owned full service restaurants, bookstores and banks. A similar study in Chicago determined that $73 dollars of every $100 spent at locally owned businesses stays in the community, compared to only $43 spent at national chains.

“We’re taking the study to the next level by asking what would happen if, as a community, we shift 10 percent of our spending from national to locally owned businesses,” says Elissa Sangalli Hillary, executive director. “What jobs would that create?”

The results of the local study will be available in a few weeks.

Source: Elissa Sangalli Hillary, Local First; Craig Clark, Clark Communications, courtesy photo

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Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Kendall student wins top honors in LEED design competition

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

He says he’s an interior designer who thinks like an architect. That thinking is what snagged Kyle Baker top honors for the 2008 Natural Talent Design Competition spearheaded by the U.S. Green Building Council’s West Michigan chapter.

The challenge? To redesign Grand Rapids Public Schools’ 52-year-old Brookside Elementary using LEED’s eco-friendly design principles.

Baker, 32, graduates Saturday from Kendall College of Art and Design with a degree in interior design. He entered the competition last year, but says “I pretty much got my butt kicked.” So this year, he geared up.

“I really wanted to win,” says Baker, who received his award at a USGBC gala event last month.

“I explored cutting-edge technology to determine if the roof shape could hold rainwater to help insulate the school and then be recycled to use in the toilets. I placed a wind turbine in front of the school to produce some energy, and made sure every space in the school has daylight.”

Baker added a second story, and instead of putting a hallway down the middle of the building with classrooms on either side, he put the hall along one side of the building (on both levels) with classrooms on one side and a 25-foot-high window wall on the other.

The two-story lobby has spaces to plant live trees. A catwalk on the second level crosses the space to join two learning areas.

Baker won a $1,000 cash prize and the opportunity to present his design at the November Greenbuild Expo in Boston, MA.

All the competitors’ designs will go to the GRPS for possible implementation.

Source: Kyle Baker

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Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Habitat teaches high school, college students LEED-construction ropes

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

In 2007, Habitat for Humanity Kent County decided that, moving forward, all the affordable houses they build will be LEED-certified. To achieve that lofty goal, the organization’s Educational Partnership Program teaches green building and LEED techniques to students enrolled in the Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Small School of Construction and in Grand Rapids Community College’s M-Tec program.

“The market wants LEED and green homes, and our students are ahead of the curve because they have the knowledge and expertise they’ll need for the construction trades after graduation,” says Pam Doty-Nation, Habitat’s executive director. “We encourage them to go to GRCC’s M-Tec program because they earn college credits in advance for having had the training in high school.”

Doty-Nation says that of the 50 GRPS students this year, many of them, because of finances, wouldn’t consider attending college without the credits already in place.

“This is a great opportunity for them to get ahead of the game on the green economy that will intensify over the next 10 to 15 years,” she says.

The chapter has built 250 affordable homes for people who make just 30 to 50 percent of the area median income — between $18,700 to $31,050 per year for a family of four. Those homeowners purchase the homes with a zero-interest mortgage and must put in 300 to 500 hours of “sweat equity” before moving in.

In Kent County, Habitat receives 1,000 requests for homes each year, but can build only 20.

In 1983, the chapter was the 13th Habitat affiliate in the U.S. There are now over 1,700 affiliates. On April 25, a Rock the Block “un-gala” 25th anniversary celebration is planned.

Source: Pam Doty-Nation, Habitat for Humanity Kent County

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Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Design competition aims to put every kid, GRPS students included, in a green school

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

In the past decade, West Michigan developers have made Grand Rapids one of the 'greenest' cities on record, and as the Grand Rapids Public Schools continue to upgrade its educational facilities its fitting that one local competition focuses on LEED design principles for the proposed renovation of Brookside Elementary School.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the nation’s leading set of standards for the construction and certification of sustainable buildings.

The 2008 Natural Talent Design Competition asks university level designers or those who have graduated in the past five years to create a plan that incorporates LEED standards into the existing 54-year-old building, or to design new construction using LEED for Schools criteria. The competition is sponsored by the United States Green Building Council's West Michigan chapter

"The USGBC has a goal of having every child in a green school within one generation," says Sam Pobst, chair of the USGBC Regional Council, "and we chose to align with that for the competition theme."

A polluted creek runs through the school's nearly 40 acres at 2505 Madison SE. The property is adjacent to the proposed Salvation Army Kroc Center and both developments will be used as a catalyst for revitalizing the neighborhood.

Criteria from the competition guidelines include:

  • Engage student populations in sustainable design
  • Improve operating conditions for Brookside Elementary
  • Provide a catalyst partnership with the Kroc Salvation Army Community Center
  • Spotlight sustainability efforts in the region
  • Expand public awareness of LEED
  • Showcase a LEED Platinum building

All designs will be shown to the architect of record for the Kroc development.

Designers have until April 14 to submit their plans. Finalists will present their plans at Greenbuild in Boston, MA. Winners will receive cash prizes and will be announced on Earth Day, April 22, at a gala event at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

Source: Sam Pobst, US Green Building Council-West Michigan Chapter

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Finalists for national urban leadership award include one from Grand Rapids

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

LISC, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, announced this week that Kimberly Van Dyk, executive director of Neighborhood Ventures, is the only finalist from Michigan nominated for a national State Farm-LISC Spirit of Revitalization Award.

Last year, LISC, a recognized powerhouse in the community redevelopment movement, invested $1.1 billion in the revitalization of local communities, which spurred some 3.2 million square feet of new commercial space and 20,400 affordable homes.

Van Dyk's nomination in the category of community leadership recognizes her work in Uptown, a collaboration of the East Hills, Wealthy Street, East Fulton, and Eastown business districts.

"There are three categories and three finalists in each category—community leadership, development, and placemaking," says Tom Pfister, Grand Rapids' LISC program director. "Neighborhood commercial district revitalization is not an easy task and it's quite an honor to be recognized by your peers across the nation."

The Uptown Forward group, spearheaded by Van Dyk, is comprised of business owners and community stakeholders who have worked closely with the city staff and officials to draft a policy for the establishment of corridor improvement districts (CIDs) in the city. The group is currently working on plans to establish CIDs in the Uptown districts.

"Kim has the rare ability to keep the big picture in mind while handling the details," says Baird Hawkins, board member of the Eastown Business Association. Hawkins works with Van Dyk on a number of committees, including Uptown Forward.

"She's very good at bringing together diverse groups of people and keeping them on task," he adds. "Neighborhood Ventures has a miniscule budget and Kim goes way beyond her pay to get done what she needs to do."

LISC will announce the winners at its Urban Forum in Indianapolis on April 29.

Source: Tom Pfister, Local Initiatives Support Corporation;

Photo by Brian Kelly

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Local interior designer launches website touting 'green' products, principles

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Sue Norman, an active member of the Sierra Club and an organizer of the local US Green Building Council chapter, is an aficionado of all things eco-friendly. But as an interior designer and owner of her own Grand Rapids area firm, Design Is, she had a hard time finding the products and sustainable design information she needed to help her complete a builder's or client's 'green' vision.

So, in January, she launched her own web-based company targeting all aspects of green design and green products specifically for interior designers: Easy To Be Green.

"The site is for interior designers who want to weave sustainability into their practices," Norman says. "The industry doesn't serve interior designers as specifically as I would like, and when I thought about the kinds of services I wanted I thought other designers would like them as well."

While the site features green products, that's a small part of the bigger picture of how to integrate sustainable practices into interiors.

"I include a book review, I research articles on sustainable topics, and I provide snapshots of sustainable concepts like chemical basics, daylight and views, and how to reduce, reuse, and recycle," Norman says. "Every product page has important sustainable attributes—it gives the manufacturing location, where the product is distributed, and a link to each company."

For products like paint, Norman lists the volatile organic compound content. Chemical basics helps designers take into account the entire life cycle of a product from manufacturing through the chemical breakdown in a landfill.

Annual membership fees are $85 for individuals. Norman also offers group and student rates.

Source: Sue Norman, Easy To Be Green

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Grand Rapids forum debuts first-ever standards for racism-free organizations

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

The Partners for a Racism-Free Community have a goal: in 10 years, 50 percent of all organizations in Greater Grand Rapids will achieve the designation racism free.

The clock begins ticking March 28 at the 2008 Partners for a Racism-Free Community (PRFC) Forum, formerly called the Racial Justice Summit, where the first-ever standards and credentialing process for creating racism-free environments will be revealed.

"The PRFC defines racism-free as the individual and systemic condition achieved when all persons, regardless of skin color, feel welcomed and wanted in all places and treat others the same way," says Faye Richardson, chair of the standards and credentialing committee.

The standards target six areas of an organization:

  • Leadership engagement
  • Internal policies, practices and processes
  • External collaborations and relationships
  • Contractor, supplier, and vendor practices
  • Client, congregation, customer and marketplace practices
  • Measurements and results

The process helps organizations determine:

  • What do our leaders practice concerning racism?
  • How do we create a rich environment for everyone?
  • Who are we working with to remove racism from the community?
  • How do our suppliers reflect our values?
  • How are we reaching out to a diverse base of students, customers, or congregations?
  • How do we identify best practices and measure where we stand now?

Several area businesses, nonprofits, and service organizations, including the YWCA, Steelcase, and the West Michigan Strategic Alliance, are testing the pilot program, which started in January. The committee will reveal the results of the pilot to-date at the forum.

"Creating these standards for organizations is very unique to Grand Rapids," Richardson says. "We're hoping it catches on around the state and the country. It's really way past time for us to be eliminating racism."

Source: Faye Richardson, Partners for a Racism-Free Community

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Legislative luncheon targets mass transit funding for Grand Rapids

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

On Monday, Disability Advocates of Kent County will hold a Legislative Lunch on Transit to bring state legislators and city, county and township elected officials up to date on the progress of mass transit in the county. The nearly 100 attendees include Senators Bill Hardiman and Mark Jansen and Representative Glenn Steil.

"We’ll talk about funding from the feds for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line and will ask the state legislators to vote for the 20 percent financial match needed to receive the 80 percent federal funding," says Frank Lynn, spokesperson for Disability Advocates.

The federal government approved some $29 million for the BRT, the most advanced transit undertaking in the state to-date. Disability Advocates emphasizes that public transit is a good economic engine. Citing the publication Property Futures by Jones Lang LaSalle, Lynn says that 77 percent of new economy companies rated access to mass transit as an extremely important factor in selecting corporate locations.

"We're hoping that some of the attendees will make a commitment to funding the matching portion of the BRT proposal," Lynn adds. "We’ll also encourage them to fund the comprehensive transportation fund with the full 10 percent of the gas tax allowed by law."

Statewide, the transportation fund pays for road repairs and maintenance, and provides funding for mass transit.

"The potholes we have in the roads right now are because of a lack of a state funding for roads," Lynn says. "A raise in the gas tax provides better roads and an increase in transit funding statewide."

The luncheon is open to the public and will be at LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church from noon to 1:30. Cost is $10.

Source: Frank Lynn, Disability Advocates

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Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

New Belmont organization helps families flower

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

A new baby brings much happiness to a family. But that little bundle of joy also brings fatigue, confusion and, in some moms, extreme postpartum depression.

MomsBloom.org, a web-based nonprofit in Belmont, aims to help Kent County parents of infants from newborn to three months old get the support they need to be successful parents.

“We train volunteers who are passionate about the bond between mother and baby—grandmas, moms, empty nesters, social workers. They provide non-judgmental support to parents of infants,” says Sara Binkley-Tow, president. “We're the extended family for the 21st Century.”

The volunteers provide services at any time of day or night, including emotional and physical recovery from birth, lactation consultation, teaching baby soothing skills for screaming infants or infants with colic, meal preparation and light housework.

The group helps families connect to community resources that can include finding a postpartum depression support group or getting help with addictions.

“Our goal is to reduce child abuse, such as shaken baby syndrome, by reducing the postpartum depression and the fatigue,” says Binkley-Tow, 36.

Binkley-Tow, a certified Happiest Baby Educator, infant massage instructor, and certified postpartum doula, began providing services for parents about a year ago as All In The Touch, the forerunner to MomsBloom. That’s when she spent time caring for an infant who slept all day and was awake all night.

“I went in to their home and cared for the baby during the night so the parents could sleep,” she says. “This is not something parents can prepare for. Many parents are worn out.”

She founded MomsBloom with Angie Walters and Alice Christensen last July. The group received its nonprofit status in February, and begins accepting clients mid-April.

MomsBloom’s services will be provided free to families of any income level. Volunteer training begins in March.

Source: Sara Binkley-Tow, MomsBloom.org

Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Sports Commission partnerships could generate $12M in tourism

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

The West Michigan Sports Commission spent 2007 building partnerships with local sports associations. Those partnerships, which now involves at least 17 different events, could generate 20,000 tourists and $12 million for West Michigan in the next three years.

"We want to focus on the opportunities out there, like fencing, rugby, gymnastics, and hockey," says Mike Guswiler, sports commission executive director, "Our relationship with the Amateur Athletic Union will bring the 2008 AAU Softball Central Region Championship and a national beach volleyball national qualifier to the region."

U.S. Airborne Gymnastics is one of the commission's new partners. The commission is helping with the annual U.S. Airborne Gymnastics Invitational at Cornerstone University on March 1 and 2. The event attracts 350 competitors and their families from Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Canada, and could inject some $185,000 into Grand Rapids hotels, restaurants, shops, and attractions. Winners will move to national competitions as Olympic hopefuls.

"We can raise awareness of any event and what it brings to West Michigan," Guswiler says. "We help put proposals together highlighting the benefits of the area, we identify the needs of the tournament organizers, locate facilities, get sponsors and volunteers, and other services. And it all gets to the underlying reason of why we exist and that's to draw economic benefit to the community."

Other partnerships the commission established involve a variety of events, including the Great Lakes Lacrosse Classic, the Grand Haven Beach Vault, the Men's and Women's Collegiate LAU Rugby Championships and the National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions. The latter event, alone, will bring some $1 million to the region.

Source: Mike Guswiler, West Michigan Sports Commission

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

New agency targets water quality in the Lower Grand River Valley

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

A four year effort to create a regional association to restore, protect, and enhance water quality in the Lower Grand River drainage basin has culminated in the development of LGROW, the Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds.

LGROW will act as an agency of the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council, overseeing environmental activities concerning Michigan waterways in an area covering over 3,000 square miles from a point where the Grand and Looking Glass rivers meet in downtown Portland east through Metro Grand Rapids to Lake Michigan.

Ten counties and several rivers and creeks, including the Grand River, Thornapple River, Flat River, Coldwater River, Plaster Creek, and Buck Creek are included.

Funding for operations comes from an Urban Cooperation Board grant and two U.S. EPA grants.

Source: Grand Valley Metropolitan Council

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Gilmore Waterfront Park plan taking shape in East Grand Rapids

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Last Monday, East Grand Rapids residents turned out for the third in a series of community workshops designed to solicit public input on establishing 17-acres of trails, boardwalks, fishing docks, as well as a picnic and playground area in the proposed Gilmore Waterfront Park.

The park will occupy wetlands and woods on the Reeds Lake shoreline from Lakeside Drive northeast along both sides of Reeds Lake Boulevard.

East Grand Rapids purchased part of the property from local businessman John Gilmore in 1992, funded in part by an $800,300 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF). Mr. Gilmore donated the rest of the property.

“We're hearing loud and clear from residents that this is an asset to East Grand Rapids and the greater Grand Rapids area,” says Fred Bunn, director of parks and recreation. “We'd like to bring in native trees and plants, and restore and improve the existing wetland eco-system. That could mean deepening the wetland and expanding the wetland to the east.”

The proposed plan includes improvements to the existing paved trail along the lakeshore, a picnic, playground, and viewing area overlooking the lake, nature trails on the west side of Reeds Lake Boulevard, three interpretive nodes describing the flora, fauna, and history, and two observation decks.

Upcoming workshops will culminate in a grant application to the MNRTF for an amount not to exceed $500,000. The grant will require a 25 percent match from the community. To date, project planners have not determined the cost of the proposed park.

Source: Fred Bunn, City of East Grand Rapids

Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Private investment in Millennium Park spurs development of 20 miles of trails

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

On January 9, Ambassador Peter Secchia unveiled the new Fred Meijer Millennium Park Trail Network, a 20-mile system of non-motorized and nature trails that will run throughout Millennium Park's 1,500 acres.

Private donations fund most of the $9 million project, including a lead gift of an undisclosed amount from the Meijer Foundation. Kent County gave $1.1 million toward the project.

Millennium Park's stretches southwest three miles from Butterworth Street and I-196 to the recreation core on Maynard Street, then extends to Johnson Park in Walker. The trails will create multiple loops of various distances within the park for rollerblading, biking, running, walking, and cross-country skiing. The trail network will connect with the City of Walker trails, City of Grand Rapids trails, and Kent Trails.

"The trail network will be developed over three years," says Roger Sabine, Kent County Parks Director. "Since 1999 we've acquired property, and we've purchased the property from the John Ball Park area along Butterworth all the way to Maynard."

Twelve-foot-wide paved trails and a six-foot-wide trail with natural surfacing feature street bridges and boardwalks over creeks, lakes, and wetlands. A tunnel under Maynard Street connects to the recreation core's playgrounds, swimming areas, and picnic grounds.

Millennium Park runs along sand and gravel mining property, wetlands, and floodplain through parts of Grand Rapids, Wyoming, Walker, and Grandville. Phase 1 of the park's development is complete. The trails will be finished in 2010 followed by the final phase of the park project in 2014.

Source: Roger Sabine, Kent County Parks; Kate Washburn, Wondergem Consulting, Inc.

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

From Grand Rapids, Michigan's top 'green' builder executes $28M in LEED projects

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

The Engineering News-Record recently ranked Rockford Construction Michigan's largest 'green' contractor, based on the company's LEED building revenue in 2006. Rockford is one of two Michigan companies on the list, ranking number 44 out of 50 companies evaluated.

In 2006, Rockford's green projects topped out at over $28 million. That number represents LEED educational facilities, retail shops, offices, banks, and religious and cultural non-profits.

"We're honored," says Mike VanGessell, who co-founded Rockford with partner John Wheeler. "My initial reaction was 'Great! We're kind of where I'd hoped we'd be.' It validates that we're doing the right things, we're benchmarking against the kind of companies we want to be associated with."

Rockford's LEED projects include two world firsts: the first LEED-certified church, Keystone Community, Ada, and the first LEED-certified new construction art museum, the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Other projects include the rectory at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, Grand Rapids; the Blue Cross Blue Shield building, Grand Rapids; the restored D.A. Blodgett Home for Children, Grand Rapids; and renovation of the Alano Club, Grand Rapids.

"I've got to complement Mr. [Peter] Wege who has made sustainable building a prominent issue in West Michigan," VanGessell says. "Even our furniture companies, before LEED was a word, they pushed sustainability in their design and materials. West Michigan has been on the front edge of this movement."

Source: Michael VanGessell, Rockford Construction

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at

West Michigan awards program honors 45 construction projects

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

The Associated Builders and Contractors Western Michigan Chapter (ABCWM) received 110 nominees for its coveted 2007 Construction Awards Program.

This year's nominees include notable projects like GVSU's John C. Kennedy Hall of Engineering, Zeeland West High School Pool, Boatwerks Restaurant, the East Grand Rapids Community Center, West Ottawa North High School, the JW Marriott Hotel, and the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre.

"When we started the program in 1985, contractors were not advertising oriented," says John Doherty, ABCWM president and CEO. "They were doing a lot of very unique projects people didn't even know they were doing."

Forty-five prize categories cover several areas of expertise, like structural steel fabrication, restoration glazing, communications and data, interior finishing, religious facilities construction, and green building.

Some 40 independent judges visit each construction site. The judges come from a variety of construction industry segments, including facilities management, building inspection, and architectural and engineering trades.

"Because of the credibility these judges bring to the projects, the award has the benefit of the impartiality we maintain and has more meaning to the winners," Doherty says.

The awards banquet is Thursday, October 25, 2007 at the Pinnacle Center in Hudsonville. Each winning entry will show a three-minute scripted video highlighting the scope of the project, the intricacies of installation, and aspects that make the project unique.

The awards recognize high quality construction by members. And the banquet gives members a chance to see what other contractors are building, and provides opportunities to generate business.

Winners receive three crystal trophies shaped like an urban skyline—one each for the contractor, architect or engineer, and owner. Project managers receive an engraved plaque.

Source: John Doherty, Associated Builders and Contractors Western Michigan Chapter

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Already a hit in Chicago, LEED-certified neighborhoods get a look in Grand Rapids

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

The US Green Building Council (USGBC) wants to move the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) concept beyond specific buildings to encompass entire neighborhoods. Grand Rapids and several other municipalities have answered the call to participate in a pilot program, LEED for Neighborhood Development Rating System (LEED-ND).

The local LEED-ND Member Circle consists of representatives from 11 companies, 10 nonprofits, and several universities. Metro Grand Rapids is one of 236 US communities researching how to bring LEED principles to neighborhoods.

"LEED-ND is a certification that provides for independent third party verification that a development's location and design meet accepted high standards for environmentally responsible sustainable development," says Linda Frey, executive director of the USGBC West Michigan Chapter, the group heading up the local pilot program.

LEED-ND looks at a neighborhood's 'green' possibilities, including:

  • A smart location with links to housing, jobs, schools, and transportation.
  • Diversity of housing, transit facilities, and road design.
  • Universal accessibility, particularly for disabled people.
  • Local food production.
  • LEED certified green buildings, reduced water use, and reuse of historic buildings.
  • Building designs that maximize solar energy.
  • Minimization of nighttime light pollution.

The group meets to educate themselves on the proposed program and to do preliminary fact-finding.

"When the post-pilot phase begins in 2008, we want to have informed people who can participate in the next step, which is the public comment period at the national level," Frey says. "Based on the feedback, the rating system is revised and improved."

In 2009, the revisions will be put to a ballot using the USGBC's consensus process and approval by the Congress for New Urbanism and the Natural Resources Defense Council, before becoming a certified LEED rating system.

Source: Linda Frey, US Green Building Council West Michigan Chapter

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Two dance studios join forces in East Grand Rapids

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

T3 Dance Elite has teamed up with East Grand Rapids-based The Moving Company to form a dance instruction alliance that maximizes the strengths of each company's instructors and choreographers. This year, T3 Together with The Moving Company expects to teach 730 students in its expanded studio at 644 Lovett Street.

Torrey Thomas, director and owner of T3, is the artistic director for the new alliance.

"Torrey is a very successful competition teacher and director who wins awards all over the state for his choreography," says Lynda Durell, owner of The Moving Company. "We're very interested in learning what it is in those routines that make them so great. As a complement to the choreography, The Moving Company teaches excellent technique."

The alliance brings together nine instructors who are learning new dance techniques, teaching methods, and artistic interpretation from each other.

Students range in age from three-years-old to mature adults. The studio offers tap, jazz, ballet, point classes, hip-hop, Irish dance, and tumbling, with a specialty in boys-only classes.

"They like coming in with just guys," Durell says, "and we do a lot of sports training and muscle building in those classes."

In addition to regular classes, competition teams prepare for competitive dance events across the state.

Durell and Thomas have known each other for ten years. Durell says they had a sense they'd be working together sometime.

"We share the same passion for teaching," Durell says. "We got together for lunch one day, and by the end of lunch we knew we were going to do something really great together."

Source: Lynda Durell, The Moving Company; Michelle C. LaPreze, Professional Marketing

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Osta's will be first sidewalk café in East Grand Rapids to serve beer, wine

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Osta's Lebanese Cuisine, a longtime eatery on the East Grand Rapids scene, received the city's first permit to serve beer and wine at a sidewalk café located on city property. The restaurant began in downtown Grand Rapids in 1990, moved to 2228 Wealthy SE in 1993, and has had a few dining tables outside its front door for several years.

"Our customers requested we serve beer and wine outside, and it's something unique for the area," says John Aouad, chef, and co-owner with his wife, Diane. "We're trying to bring a bit of the big city to our city."

"We want to keep people in Gaslight Village longer into the evening to promote the downtown area," says Diane Aouad. "Instead of going home to watch TV or rent a movie, they can stay around here and bring life to the area."

The city stipulated that the café area be fenced. The Aouad's will do that in time for next summer's outdoor dining season. Because the restaurant gets a lot of business from students who attend the high school next door, the Aouad's also agreed to stop serving alcohol outdoors on Labor Day, before the school year begins.

John came to the US from Beirut in 1989 after graduating from culinary school in Lebanon. His father, a well-known chef, taught him how to cook and how to run the family restaurant business. John named the restaurant Osta's in honor of his father who dreamed of opening a restaurant in the US, but passed away before he could fulfill that dream. Osta is a Lebanese word meaning "master chef."

Source: John and Diane Aouad, Osta's Lebanese Cuisine

Photograph by Brian Kelly

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Voilá Café cooks up new style Euro cuisine in EGR

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

With blonde woods, black tabletops, a fireplace, and a flood of natural light through the east windows, East Grand Rapids' new Voilá Café is an urban chic setting for the light fare and specialty pastries its manager calls "nouveau Euro cuisine." The restaurant opened in the former Kabookies space at 2232 Wealthy SE last June and has already attracted a following of regulars.

"Most of the people who come to visit us for breakfast and lunch come back for dinner, even if they don't live in the area," says Marisol Green, general manager. "We have people who are jogging by and stop in for breakfast, and we have moms whose small children like our grilled cheese sandwiches."

The dinner menu has an unusual twist: all dinners are offered as three-course meals with salads, breads, a choice of four entrees, dessert, and espresso—all for $11 or $15, depending on the entrée selected.

Pastry chef Denise Mayo bakes up her own creations, including pecan rolls, cinnamon rolls, and raspberry Danish, plus a plethora of distinct desserts, such as, Decadent Layered Tortes.

Beginning this fall, Voilá will feature live R&B or jazz one night a week.

"We felt that East Grand Rapids is such a growing community, and I think that it's a good place for something new, something a little different," Green says. "It's a place where our café can really flourish."

Source: Marisol Green, Voilá Café

Photograph by Brian Kelly - All Rights Reserved

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

"Unbuildable" EGR lakeside transformed with LEED-certified floating house

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

They said it couldn't be done. That's why an acre-plus of frontage on the south shore of Fisk Lake remained vacant and "unbuildable." But all that changed when architect Dale Ferriby and his wife, Chris, decided that's where they'd put their new home.

The problem? Too much water, too little soil. So, Ferriby designed the 2,200-square-foot structure to float on a foundation of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) Geofoam blocks.

"We saved $40,000 by using the EPS blocks instead of reinforced concrete piers," says builder Rich Bloem, True North Homes.

Construction generated just six bags of scrap because the walls and roof are structural insulated building panels. And Ferriby designed the house so the trees on the thickly wooded lot remained intact; the house sits among them, the closest just a foot from the garage.

Three glass walls provide unobstructed views of the lake. In summer, the owners can enjoy the soothing lap of the waves because there's no noisy air conditioner to drown out the sound. Radiant heating coils under the floors will contain cool water in the summer, and airflow between the patio doors and the skylights will pull cooled air off the lake.

"The forethought in the design to be able to do this is pretty amazing," Bloem says. " The utilization of space and the natural light coming into the home is just incredible."

The floating theme is carried throughout the home: both the 12-foot-long kitchen island and the bed in the master bedroom are built on pedestals and appear to float in midair.

Bloem expects the home will receive Silver LEED certification.

Source: Rich Bloem, True North Homes; Debbie Schuhman, Coldwell Banker

Photo by Brian Kelly - All Rights Reserved

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

East Grand Rapids boutique marks inaugural year with significant growth

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

In tough economic times when many boutiques go out of business in their first year, Smooch Beauty Boutique is celebrating success. Next month, owner Mia Walker will celebrate her first year in business, and a remarkable 62 percent increase in staff from five employees to eight.

The shop specializes in exclusive cosmetics and skin care brands—Stila, Bare Escentuals, NARS, and others—normally found only in places like New York or Chicago. After working 18 years for cosmetics giant Estée Lauder, Walker decided to stop traveling and opened the 1,200-square-foot store in East Grand Rapids' Gaslight Village.

"I've always had a passion for cosmetics," Walker says. "I told my husband, 'there's such a miss in the Grand Rapids area for these very exclusive products.' I saw the [Gaslight Village] development happening and thought it was the very right location for this type of shop. I had a lot of connections in the industry, and always wanted to own my own business and went for it."

The boutique is a place where, as she says, "a girl can be a girl," with a New York-esque décor with lots of white and a touch of pink. Services include makeup application and lessons, manicures, pedicures, waxing, and facials, all performed in stations designed with privacy in mind.

"The community has been very supportive," Walker says. "I feel we have a huge potential for growth in the next year."

Source: Mia Walker, Smooch Beauty Boutique

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Grand Gallery soon to mark one year in EGR’s Gaslight Village

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

This September, Grand Gallery will mark its one-year anniversary as one of the first shops to open in East Grand Rapids’ new Gaslight Village development. Owners Don and Chris Prys opened the gallery at 2237 Wealthy Street SE immediately after seeing the space, even though the building was still under construction.

Gaslight Village is built on the site of the former Jacobson’s Department Store. It takes its name from the traditional name of East Grand Rapids’ downtown business district.

“I’m pleased with the amount of business we’re getting,” says Don Prys. “We love the village. It’s the only walking village in the Grand Rapids area, so it’s real conducive to a nice environment for business.”

The gallery offers contemporary landscapes, sculpture, jewelry, and more.

“We show over 40 artists, most of them are from all over Michigan, including several West Michigan artists,” says Chris Prys, manager of the gallery, which is close enough to home so she can walk or bike to work.

“There is no other original art gallery in Gaslight Village,” Chris says. “We’re introducing good, beautiful art to East Grand Rapids.”

The Wealthy Street location is the Prys’s third Grand Gallery, joining sister galleries in Ada and in the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, Grand Rapids.

Source: Don and Chris Prys, Grand Gallery

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Ford International Airport begins $115M parking revamp

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

The $115 million parking project at Grand Rapids-based Gerald R. Ford International Airport won't officially break ground until September, but crews are already moving the utilities in anticipation of relocating roadways. Beginning the first week of August, several sections of existing short- and long-term parking and rental car areas will be closed and relocated to make room for a new four-story, 4,900-space enclosed parking structure directly across from the terminal entrances.

Phil Johnson, deputy aeronautics director, expects the parking structure alone will run about $70 million.

"Two sky bridges will connect the parking structure to the terminal," Johnson says. "All of the roadways that come into the airport will change to accommodate the various decision points: rental car return, long-term parking, and short-term parking."

Plans include a 600-foot-long canopy between the parking structure and the terminal, a gateway plaza, elevators and escalators from the upper parking levels to the terminal's main level, and a scrolling message board displaying messages of welcome for specific groups or security messages when needed.

A three-story "welcome wall" on the outside of the parking structure will greet arrivals.

"You'll see it as you walk out of the terminal," Johnson says. "It'll have pictures about west Michigan, depicting the lakeshore, downtown Grand Rapids, Meijer gardens, things like that."

This week the airport launched a communication plan called Ramp Up!, which will assist drivers by announcing updates and information throughout the course of the project. Drivers can get the information at www.flygrandrapids.org, airport radio AM 1610, and recorded messages at 616-233-RAMP. October 2009 is the expected completion date.

Source: Phil Johnson, Gerald R. Ford International Airport; Casee N. Willoughby, Seyferth Spaulding Tennyson Inc.

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Blodgett Hospital unveils $98M expansion plan

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Blodgett Hospital will sport more than just a pretty new face when a planned $98 million overhaul is finished three years from now. Transformation of the 164-bed facility includes renovating all patient rooms into private rooms, adding 120 rooms in a new five-story, 125,000-square-foot surgical building, and a multitude of other changes.

The plan, announced Tuesday, expands patient services with the addition of a heart catheterization lab, upgrades to medical and surgical intensive care units, and renovations to six nursing units.

"We want to underscore our commitment to keep Blodgett and its legacy of quality care here in this community," says Matt Van Vranken, Executive Vice President, Spectrum Health System/President, Spectrum Health Grand Rapids. "Blodgett services will be complementary to those offered at Butterworth and, combined, will provide the broadest scope of clinical services in the area.”

Other details announced include:

  • Fourteen state-of-the-art operating rooms.
  • Some existing inpatient rooms will be converted to 75,000 square feet of future office and multi-purpose space.
  • New electrical, HVAC, sprinkling systems, and roof.
  • Renovation and repair of the existing parking structure.
  • Renovation of the kitchen, cafeteria, entrance, lobby, and public meeting spaces.

In addition to the building expansion, Spectrum Health named Jim Wilson president of Blodgett Hospital. Wilson previously served as vice president of clinical operations for Spectrum Health.

Source: Spectrum Health

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Sustainable business academy prepares students for green economy

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Leaders at Aquinas College’s Center for Sustainability and Calvin College’s Computer Science Program have developed an innovative curriculum for Comprenew Academy, an after school sustainable business and electronics recycling program for inner city high school youth. 150 teens took the semester-long course last year. This year the Academy becomes a two-year program and only 42 teens will be accepted.

Grand Rapids-based Comprenew Environmental started the Academy in spring 2006. Students recycled electronics from individuals and corporations, including Haworth, Cascade Engineering, and Davenport University. Parts were harvested, laptops rebuilt and resold at Comprenew’s store, and the rest broken down and recycled.

“Comprenew Academy is focused on sustainable business, information technology, job training, and learning how to participate in a workforce,” said Lynell Shooks, director of business development.

Aquinas’ sustainability curriculum will include instruction on energy and material processes, the triple bottom line (profits, planet, people), natural recycling processes, energy issues, and closed loop cycles.

The computer science curriculum from Calvin includes the basics of computer recycling, as well as instruction on Internet services, computer upgrades, and basic computer architecture—networking, creating and managing databases, basic web development, and programming.

The students get “paid” for the program in points which can be redeemed to buy things like laptops and desktops—which they may have rebuilt themselves—or components.

“You can be in business, or you can be in the business of changing a community,” Shooks said. “When students come out of the program they have knowledge and skills that impact their lives.”

Source: Lynell Shooks, Comprenew Environmental

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Deborah Johnson Wood is Development News Editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Energy, historic tax credits focus of 2nd annual GR property owners workshop

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

State and federal historic preservation tax credits, boosting a building’s energy efficiency, federal energy tax credits, and general do-it-yourself repairs are the topics of an upcoming workshop sponsored by the City of Grand Rapids Planning Department and the Historic Preservation Commission.

The so-called Preservation Workshop on House Remedies and Tax Incentives is for residential and commercial property owners, whether or not their property is an historic property.

"This past year everybody’s concern has been the rising price of gas for heating," said City Historic Preservation Specialist Rhonda Saunders. "This workshop is focused on getting people the knowledge and tools to help them make their homes and businesses more energy efficient."

  • Robbert McKay from the State Historic Preservation Office will explain the historic tax credits for improving historic properties.
  • Bob Fegan from DTE Energy will present ideas for making a building more energy efficient and will discuss the tax credits provided by the Federal Energy Policy Act of 2005.
  • Brian Black will conduct a workshop on do-it-yourself repairs.

"The things participants learn in the energy efficiency portion and the things they learn in the do-it-yourself portion are all things they could use to apply for the tax credits," Saunders said. "This is an educational tool to help people find these avenues."

Although the presentations will be conducted simultaneously, participants can learn from them all; each presentation will be videotaped and converted to DVD for distribution through the Grand Rapids Public Library and the neighborhood associations.

This free workshop is scheduled for 6:30 to 9:30 PM on Monday, May 21, at Central High School, 421 Fountain Street SE.

Source: Rhonda Saunders, City of Grand Rapids Planning Department

Deborah Johnson Wood is Development News Editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

State and commercial realtors form unprecedented partnership

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

On April 25, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced the nation's first agreement between a state and a commercial realtors association. The announcement came from MEDC CEO James C. Epolito during his speech at "Synergy," the sixth annual statewide commercial real estate conference in East Lansing.

For the first time, the 650-member Commercial Board of Realtors (CBOR), the 80 local economic development corporations (EDC), and the MEDC will use the same online resource, CPIX (Commercial Property Information Exchange), to advertise Michigan's commercial properties.

"CPIX is a statewide commercial property database designed by Michigan commercial realtors for Michigan commercial realtors," said Nancy McKellar, executive VP of CBOR. "A lot of marketing web sites own the data once you give to them and they can do anything they want to with it. They can even stop you from using photos you've sent to them."

With CPIX, the brokers can advertise their properties and control the information, the EDCs can advertise EDC or government properties, and both groups can work together to find buyers. Property information must be verified every 30 days (minimum) or that property becomes non-visible after 60 days.

The database is linked to about 100 web sites that have access to national data.

CPIX was created in 2003 with no members and no properties. Today, 2,400 people are inputting properties and information for approximately 20,000 listings, and the database receives 38,000 hits a day, McKellar said. When the EDCs are brought online over the next few months, McKellar expects the number of properties to double.

"The goal is to have every single commercial property in the state on this database," McKellar said.

Source: Nancy McKellar, Commercial Board of Realtors

Deborah Johnson Wood is the Development News Editor for Rapid Growth. She can be reached at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Voters to decide fate of $2.2M for transit improvements

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

On May 8, voters in East Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids, Grandville, Kentwood, Walker and Wyoming will decide if they want a 0.17 millage increase to implement Phase 2 of an improvement and expansion plan for The Rapid public transit services.

The proposed Phase 2 improvements include:

  • New regional transfer points and increased connectivity.
  • New/extended areas of service.
  • Increased weekday frequency (15 minutes) on five main routes during peak hours.
  • Improved Saturday frequency on select routes.
  • Additional weekday evening service and additional Sunday service on select routes.
  • New route to northwest Grand Rapids and Union High School

In 2006, The Rapid's ridership increased by one million rides—five times the national average.

"I think we're at a critical turning point," said David Bulkowski, campaign co-chair for Friends of Transit. "Back in the 20s and 30s mass transit was seen as a way to get around, and cars were a luxury. From the 40s to now transit was a social service. Now we're making the switch back to transit being a great transportation option."

Bulkowski cites the route between Grand Valley State University's Allendale Campus and downtown Grand Rapids as a case in point. Many times during the day there's not an available seat on the bus, Bulkowski said. Students see it as a convenient option to get to work, school, and home, creating a generation of riders who want the availability of that piece of urban infrastructure.

Recently raised issues of the adverse environmental impact of pollutants from buses may or may not be moot. A study done in 2000 indicated that increased pollution from buses (versus cars) could be reduced if the buses used low-sulphur diesel.

"The Rapid's been using low-sulphur diesel for 18 months, which reduced certain pollutants by 90 percent," Bulkowski said. "Plus with the addition of the new hybrid buses, we'll be able to determine if it makes sense environmentally and financially."

The ballot proposal is for a total of 1.12 mills—the 0.17 increase and a renewal of the existing 0.95 mills. If passed, an owner of a $100,000 home will pay $56 a year, an $8.50 increase over the current $47.50.

Source: David Bulkowski, Friends of Transit

Deborah Johnson Wood is the Development News Editor for Rapid Growth. She can be reached at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

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GR designer wins regional LEED design competition

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

The US Green Building Council’s NaturalTalent Design Competition was daunting: re-design an existing 40,000-square-foot manufacturing facility into a LEED-qualified space and do it in 10 weeks. The winner, Ryan Garone of Design Plus, wasn’t deterred. He out-designed a total of 71 competitors that included 17 teams of architectural design students from 7 different colleges as well as one designer from another firm

The site selected for the re-design is Comprenew Environmental, 629 Ionia SW, a non-profit electronics recycling and resale center. Last year the company recycled nearly one million pounds of discarded electronics. This year they'll double that.

“The competitors looked at the building from the perspective of the owner and designed a green building with a very small environmental footprint,” said Sam Pobst, president of the West Michigan Chapter of the USGBC.

Water conservation, energy consumption, use of recycled and recyclable materials, indoor environmental quality, and land use had to be addressed. Some of the energy-saving features Garone used are:

  • A 6,800-square-foot double wall glazing system with building-integrated photovoltaic cells that can produce 100 kW of energy
  • Solar glass chimney "heat sinks" that work in conjunction with a modular floor to pull fresh air through the building
  • Eutectic salt tubes sunshade system; a salt solution that easily melts and freezes. Each freeze cycle emits one million BTUs of free heat that can be captured to warm the building.

The design had to provide: 30,000 square feet for manufacturing, deconstruction, storage, and recycling; 20 offices and a Board Room; two training rooms; locker rooms, showers, outdoor gathering space, and 4,000-square-feet of retail space.

"A lot of work went into it," Garone said. "I spent from January to March working on it after work and eight hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays."

Garone won $1,000 and an all-expenses-paid trip to the USGBC’s upcoming Green Building Conference in Chicago, where his design will be entered in the national competition.

Comprenew Environmental teaches disadvantaged inner city high school students how to run a sustainable business. Currently the program has about 40 students who harvest and reuse electronics parts, rebuild laptops, and recycle the unusable materials.

“This competition gives Comprenew Environmental the material to do a capital campaign for the renovation,” Sam Pobst said.

Teams from Michigan Technological University and Andrews University took second and third place, respectively.

Source: Sam Pobst, USGBC; Lynell Shooks, Comprenew Environmental; Ryan Garone, Design Plus

Deborah Johnson Wood is Development News Editor for Rapid Growth. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

115-plus visionaries participate in 2nd WM regional design charrettes

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

In 2005, the first West Michigan Regional Urban Design charrettes sponsored by the West Michigan Strategic Alliance (WMSA) and the American Institute of Architects Grand Valley Chapter tackled urban and environmental challenges in the greater Grand Rapids, Holland, and Muskegon Heights/Norton Shores area.

Those charrettes produced more than plans and designs. They generated, to-date, nearly $7 million dollars in funding for the projects proposed by the charrettes.

More than 115 architects, planners, engineers, residents, elected officials, and other members of the WMSA's Green Infrastructure Leadership Council gathered earlier this month to develop possible solutions for several more projects: the Holland Gateway at 8th Avenue and Chicago Drive, the proposed Bus Rapid Transit route on Division Avenue between 36th and 60th streets in Grand Rapids, and the expected growth around Michigan's Adventure in Muskegon County.

"Charrettes normally cost tens of thousands of dollars," said Katie Kahl, WMSA's Green Infrastructure project manager. "All the professional services we got were pro bono."

The sessions produced a portfolio of ideas that contained drawings, a PowerPoint presentation of each plan, and aerial photos of the areas involved—all the tools needed to pursue funding. Community involvement and implementation are needed, as well.

"It's so exciting to see all the planners and designers and people interested in keeping the environment healthy all in the same room together," Kahl said. "That is a natural partnership."

The WMSA plans to do 45 charrettes in the next five years.

More information can be found at the WMSA web site at www.wm-alliance.org.

Source: Katie Kahl, West Michigan Strategic Alliance

Deborah Johnson Wood is the Development News Editor for Rapid Growth. She can be reached at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Updated design, and new city boundaries, for $35M Calvin fieldhouse

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

A planned enclosed tennis and track facility that was to be attached to the northeast side of Calvin College's gymnasium now will be moved. The new design places the 61,000-square-foot addition—part of the $35 million Spoelhof Fieldhouse project—on the northwest side of the gym. And that places 20 percent of it within the East Grand Rapids city limits.

No problem. Except that the rest of the nearly 400,000-square-foot sports and recreation complex is in Grand Rapids.

The solution? A land swap between the two municipalities.

"As we reviewed that area for fire safety access and visual and aesthetic impact on the college, we felt it would be prudent to move the indoor track and tennis facility," said Henry DeVries, vice president for administration and finance information services at Calvin. "Because we have to have room for four tennis courts and a 200-meter indoor track, the length and width of the building are fixed."

Having one building in two cities raises some issues.

"If there's a fire, who responds, East Grand Rapids or Grand Rapids?" DeVries asked.

Other practical considerations include zoning issues and jurisdiction over building permits and approvals.

The Grand Rapids Planning Commission has approved the new design.

The two municipalities are exploring an agreement to move the boundaries of both cities: Grand Rapids would acquire the tennis and track facility and adjacent north parking lot, and East Grand Rapids would acquire an undeveloped area of equivalent size.

DeVries did not know when the transaction will be completed.

The college hopes to break ground on the fieldhouse in May. The complex includes a 5,000-seat arena, a 50-meter pool, a health center, aquatic center, and a student/faculty fitness center.

Source: Henry DeVries, Calvin College

Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be reached at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Metropolitan Hospital site to become $75 million retirement home project

On November 9, the City Planning Commission gave Michigan Christian Home (MCH) the approval to demolish the former Metropolitan Hospital to make way for the proposed Beacon Hill at Eastgate retirement and assisted living homes. The next step is to receive approval from the City Commission to rezone the area to a Planned Unit Development District.

Housing options range from independent living to assisted living to full-time nursing care, all on the same site. Anchoring the 140 independent living units and 50 assisted living units will be a community center with two dining venues, a kitchen, a wellness center, chapel, and a library. The design includes covered parking for 150 vehicles and outdoor parking for 66 vehicles.

“Michigan Christian Home is staying where it is now,” said Jeffrey Huegli, president of MCH. “We’re continuing to see an increase in assisted living needs throughout our independent living areas, so we’re going to be delivering new systems for personal assistance and medical care.”

“Last week we did an inventory of the site,” Pete Lazdins of Design + told the Planning Commission. “There is a tremendous amount of vegetation on the site that can be saved. We are going to catalogue it and set up an on-site nursery to hold the plants during construction. We’ll then incorporate the plants into the landscaping later.”

The plan also calls for preserving the trees on the property.

Beacon Hill residents will enter into a non-equity based contract agreement that includes living spaces, all the amenities, and an ongoing healthcare component.

“A resident would make an investment in a lifestyle, they’re not investing in the bricks and mortar,” said Brian Mack, marketing director of Beacon Hill at Eastgate. “In a continuing care retirement community, the residents have the assurance of knowing that if they need additional service, we have the ability to meet that need. In many cases, it has nothing to do with geography in terms of where that individual is living.”

MCH expects to invest about $75 million in the project. They are pursuing steps to have the existing tax-free Renaissance Zone reassigned to the new development. If successful, the residents will be able to live virtually tax-free until 2017.

Demolition will take place over the next months after the hospital has relocated to its new facility. Construction will break ground in spring 2008.

Source: Jeffrey Huegli, Michigan Christian Home; Brian Mack, Beacon Hill and Eastgate; Pete Lazdins, Design +

Renderings Courtesy of Design Plus

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