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Muskegon women's apparel shop opens fashion boutique in downtown Grand Rapids

As soon as Grand Rapids entrepreneur Nikki Dykstra experienced the charm and allure of the Trade Center Building in downtown Grand Rapids, she knew it was the perfect place to open a second location of Lee & Birch, a women's fashion and home decor boutique.

Dykstra owns the original Lee & Birch shop at 255 Seminole Rd. in Muskegon and had plans to expand to Grand Rapids late next year. But Dykstra, an interior designer, fell in love with the building (50 Louis St. NW) and seized the opportunity. She opened a temporary store the day before ArtPrize 2010 began and hopes to be in the store's more permanent location in the building by "Black Friday," Nov. 26.

"I love downtown, there are so many restaurants and bars, but there's not a lot of shopping," Dykstra says. "I hope we can bring in more of a retail area. The JW Marriott and the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel are right there close by. We've already had hotel people stop by and ask for flyers so they can direct guests here."

The store offers a variety of women's fashions, jewelry, handbags and shoes, plus home décor and gift items. Brand names include French Connection, BB Dakota, Free People and Citizens of Humanity.

"Citizens of Humanity has really nice denims and we always carry their basic boot cut jeans," says General Manager Rochelle Johnson. "They also have really great skinny jeans. And we carry David Kahn Jeans, which is a nice brand for older women. They're a really good fit with a bit of a higher rise, but still a nice contemporary look."

Earlier this summer, the store launched its web site where customers can shop online.

Store hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; Saturday 11 to 6.

Source: Nikki Dykstra and Rochelle Johnson, Lee & Birch
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

After 18 years on Monroe North, Grand Rapids' LaFontsee Galleries plans move

Deborah Johnson Wood

LaFontsee Galleries/Underground Studio was one of the first businesses to brave Monroe North's collection of abandoned warehouses back in about 1992, with the hope that the district would become a Mecca of art galleries and boutiques. Instead, developers turned the warehouses into condominiums and office space.

So gallery owners Scott and Linda LaFontsee seized the opportunity to purchase a 2.5-acre property and the former Network 180 building at 833 Lake Drive and join four area galleries – Byrneboehm Gallery, Richard App Gallery, Mercury Head Gallery and Gallery 154 – in creating an art lover's destination.

"I personally walked into each of those galleries and talked to them about our move to the district," says Scott LaFontsee. "They were all very open-armed."

LaFontsee's founded the gallery 24 years ago as a small frame shop and now has 14 employees and two interns.

"A gallery our size is not this common," he says. "So we're a little different than most places because of that."

The 24,000-square-foot building will retain its mid-century modern outside, but LaFontsee plans to gut the entire inside and open it up for display space, framing and for working on large projects, such as the framing and installation of the artwork for all 13 floors of the new Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, opening soon.

LaFontsee hopes to create an outdoor sculpture garden on the property in the future. He says he'll open the building as-is to the public on October 22 when Site:Lab (of "Land of Riches" fame) will take over the building for a one-day art installation that will be open to the public.

The current gallery, 820 Monroe Ave. NW, will remain open until its move in spring 2011. For the next few weeks, it will be an ArtPrize venue for 21 artists.

"It's easy right now to be afraid of this economy, but it's not all bad," LaFontsee says. "We just bought a building we could not have afforded a year ago. I believe in this community. I believe it's not going to get worse, it's going to get better."

Source: Scott LaFontsee, LaFontsee Galleries/Underground Studio

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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.

New Grand Rapids boutique upcycles vintage goods for home, gifts, souvenirs

Deborah Johnson Wood

Angie Seabert says that in the hotel business, out-of-town visitors are always asking where they can buy souvenirs. She now has an easy answer: Minty Keen, her new boutique of upcycled, vintage and handcrafted goodies.

Minty Keen, in the Ledyard Building at 125 Ottawa Ave. NW, is situated just a short walk from Grand Rapids' downtown hotels and the DeVos Place convention center. Seabert plans to capitalize on that location. Her quirky collection of works by local artists, repurposed and reused home décor items, fresh flowers and Michigan souvenirs could help tourists fill up their suitcases before heading home.

"I worked in the hotels and had people asking about Michigan key chains and other things, but I'm not into plastic, I'm into handmade," Seabert says. "I have a nice mix of small items like magnets, key chains, drinking glasses and post cards from local artists that all have 'Michigan' on them."

But, Minty Keen isn't just for the out-of-towners – it's for anyone looking for that one-of-a-kind gift or the perfect accent for their home.

Seabert worked in the floral industry for six years and will soon offer small plants and fresh flowers. In the meantime, the shop is blooming with the works of local artists, such as Lisa Price's block print tea towels and pillows, Amy Hofacker's watercolors and pillows shaped like a Michigan license plate (they spell out ArtPrize) and Jacob Zars' sculpture and illustrations.

Events at the store will feature ReFab Fridays where customers can bring in an item that needs some fabric or new colors to get ideas on how to repurpose it. Knit-Wit Wednesdays invite knitting enthusiasts to come in and get some pointers from Seabert's mom, Sue Mesbergen.

Grand Opening events are Friday, September 17 at noon. Regular shop hours will be Tuesday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Source: Angie Seabert, Minty Keen; Anne Marie Bessette, Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority

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.

Paranormal investigations top the list at new Grand Rapids walking tour company

Deborah Johnson Wood

Ghost hunters get ready! Some of Grand Rapids' most noted shops and nightspots could be haunted and soon you'll have the chance to find out if it's real.

Cityscape Adventures, a fun and friendly way to discover Grand Rapids with walking tours, will launch on October 1 with Paranormal Investigations – a tour that taps into the city's nightlife while visiting some of the city's top paranormal sites. Cityscape teamed up with the West Michigan Ghost Hunters Society to film videos of paranormal activity in local establishments and to procure magnetic field indicators and other equipment tour-goers can use.

Cityscape's nearly two dozen tours will give locals and visitors the inside scoop on Grand Rapids. Tours include Urban Bites, a weekly (Saturdays) tasting trek of seven downtown restaurants; Napa Valley in River Valley, a discovery of the area's wine destinations; Hometown Heritage, a trip through time with Grand Rapids' people, architecture and history; and River's Rage, looking back on the history of development along our riverbanks.

Group tours, called City Slickers Conquest, are customized tours that can include scavenger hunts, trivia contests and interaction with a variety of businesses downtown.

"I didn't want to bring just another tour company to Grand Rapids because when I look around I see innovation," says Brenda Dyer, owner and founder. "I had a lot of collaboration with the history department at the library, Grand Rapids Historical Commission and members of the Greater Grand Rapids Women's History Council. We don't have to go to Chicago for fun anymore."

Tours range from 90 minutes to five hours and $15 to $27 per adult, depending on the tour. Children aged 10 to 16, $3; children under 10 tour free.

Source: Brenda Dyer, Cityscape Adventures

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.

Reserve wine bar to open in downtown Grand Rapids with a happy surprise for 'Open Water' fans

Deborah Johnson Wood

Billed as one of the Midwest's premier wine destinations, Reserve wine bar will open next week in downtown Grand Rapids. Inside, wine lovers can treat their taste buds to 270 wines while they treat their eyes to a mix of contemporary and vintage design elements as well as artist Ran Ortner's "Open Water No. 24," the first winner of ArtPrize.

"We're very pleased about this," says Betsy DeVos, who is a partner in Reserve with her husband Dick DeVos and Kameel Chamelly, owner of Martha's Vineyard. DeVos's son, Rick DeVos, is the mastermind behind ArtPrize.

"Dick and I didn't want to see it leave Grand Rapids," she says. "Being the first ArtPrize winner, we thought there is no way it should leave our community. We didn't have any idea where we might move it and were well into the design of the wine bar when the architect suggested the space above the cruvinet."

At Reserve, 201 Monroe Ave. NW, customers will be able to enjoy over 100 wines by the glass and another 170 or so by the bottle. A custom-made cruvinet wine dispensing system keeps wines palate-ready for about six weeks after opening, so patrons can enjoy a taste of a particular wine without having to purchase the entire bottle.

"We will have a number of different flights of three different varieties, and other wines will be by the bottle," DeVos says. "The number will ebb and flow because, if you know Kameel at all, he's always looking for new wines and new winemakers, and he's knows a lot about them."

Reserve offers a menu of small plates, wine education by sommeliers and space for private wine tasting dinners with wine pairings.

Source: Betsy DeVos, Reserve; Andrea Groom, Wondergem Consulting

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.

Grand Rapids Fulton Street Farmers Market fertile soil for $3M all-seasons market; plans unveiled

Deborah Johnson Wood

Grand Rapids' Midtown Neighborhood Association believes its Fulton Street Farmers Market is fertile ground for growing the 90-year-old open-air market into a $3 million all-season marketplace. The group unveiled its proposed plans for a LEED-certified market this week at a public event.

The proposed transformation of the market, 1147 E. Fulton St., maintains the rustic charm and warm-weather appeal with an open-air market with a permanent roof, a 2,000-square-foot building for year-round vendors, an expanded plaza, A.D.A.-compliant restrooms at both ends of the market and improved traffic flow.

"Rebuilding the plaza area where the Salvation Army sells hotdogs is tricky for foot and car traffic," says Christine Helms Maletic, an independent consultant leading the project. Maletic's involvement includes her service as Midtown board president and as project director of Midtown's Brikyaat Neighborhood Revitalization Plan.

"We're going to have an area to sit and eat, and we're hoping to get vendors to sell prepared foods," she says, adding that the new plaza area and the year-round building provide enough space for 10 to 12 more vendors than the market can accommodate now.

The new market will have about 250 parking spaces for customers and vendors – the same as the current market – but a new traffic pattern will allow cars access to either side of the market without having to exit the property.

"Right now, when you pull in, you're committed," Maletic says. "You have to go all the way down the market and out on the opposite street, then re-enter."

Sustainable aspects of the new plan include permeable paving, retaining 100 percent of the stormwater on-site and use of renewable energy sources such as rooftop wind turbines.

Maletic hopes to break ground in late 2011 provided the capital campaign is successful. A philanthropic feasibility study completed by Hopkins Fundraising Consulting in July indicates there is enough community support to finance the project.

Lott3Metz designed the proposed market.

Source: Christine Helms Maletic, Fulton Street Farmers Market; City of Grand Rapids press release

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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.

Amway Grand Plaza opens hotel's first spa for guests and walk-ins

Deborah Johnson Wood

Over the years, guests of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel (AGPH) in Grand Rapids have asked for a full service spa. The hotel answered by building the new Vasaio Life Spa and Salon. The spa occupies the former Grand Salon space in the exhibitor's building.

"We are not experts in the spa business, so we wanted to choose someone who has expertise in that. We knew Vasaio from their store (1100 East Paris Ave. SE) and from the experience with them at the J.W. where they operate the spa," says Rick Winn, vice president/managing director of the Amway Hotel Corporation, which owns the AGPH and the J.W. Marriott across the street.

"We thought we could have better amenities for the hotel customer by providing both hair services and spa services," Winn adds. "We knew there was a demand for spa services because of guest requests, and we served them through in-room services or at the J.W."

Besides a menu of relaxing massages and body treatments, the spa offers some decadent choices for the ultimate in pampering:
• a 24K Gold Leaf Facial to reduce lines and replace moisture
• a Diamond Dust Facial to stimulate regeneration of collagen
• and a Royal Blue Tansy Body Wrap, which calms the skin and nervous system and ends with a full body massage

Vasaio is Italian for potter, and keeping with that theme are the spa's warm, earthy colors that induce a calming atmosphere. Guests can enjoy a complete line of hair care services for men and women, manicures, pedicures and makeup application.

"There is demand for this from people downtown, so we see that as a business opportunity," Winn says. "And many convention goers use conventions as a vacation opportunity for their families. The spa rounds us out quite nicely for those people who really want a full service weekend getaway."

Source: Rick Winn, Amway Hotel Corporation; Nicole Ruggiero, Quinn & Co.

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.

Seven Steps Up Event and Banquet Center opens in renovated historic Spring Lake Masonic Temple

A Spring Lake couple is breathing new life into the historic former Masonic Temple in downtown Spring Lake. Nine years were spent transforming the empty three-story structure into the charming Seven Steps Up Event & Banquet Center, complete with a loft upstairs for their own living quarters.

Proposed $30M downtown Grand Rapids market far from sealed and delivered, but moving forward

Deborah Johnson Wood

The development of a proposed $30 million year-round urban market for downtown Grand Rapids is far from sealed and delivered, but the group behind the idea says the project is closer to being signed.

The proposed project would convert six historic buildings on Ionia Avenue SW between Wealthy and Logan streets into a 178,000-square-foot mixed-use marketplace. A March 2010 public document, Grand Rapids Urban Market: Background Information, states the initial concept envisions restaurants, indoor vendor stalls for independent owner-operated businesses selling fresh produce, baked goods, cheeses and meats, and a leasable commercial kitchen incubator space.

David Frey, co-chair of Grand Action with John Canepa and Dick DeVos, the group that spearheaded the development of the Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place, says architects are drawing up preliminary plans while crews are busy cleaning up the property.

The Downtown Development Authority owns the property, the site of the old Sonneveldt Produce Company. Frey says it "will probably be owned by a newly created nonprofit entity, but it's still in negotiation. There are no guarantees (for development of the market)."

Frey estimates the project at $27 million, plus an estimated $3 million for the 3.5-acre parcel.

"Engineers are determining if the buildings are structurally sound," says Frey. "If you drive by this week you'll see that crews are cleaning up the site so we can see what we have to deal with."

"We not only have to design a great facility we can afford to build and run, but we have to be sure the surrounding area is developed with activities compatible with an urban market and not have a contrary purpose or intent," Frey says. "The nearby Kingman's and Baker Furniture buildings would have to be developed in an architecturally- and content-compatible manner."

Grand Action hired Design Plus and urban market design expert Hugh Boyd of Montclair, N.J. for the project.

Frey expects to see the architects' design concept in early September.

Source: David Frey, Grand Action

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.

Total renovation means new image, new restaurant for downtown Grand Rapids hotel

Deborah Johnson Wood

Grand Rapids' Courtyard by Marriott Downtown recently wrapped up a $3 million renovation, bringing the hotel into the 21st Century. The renovation is part of a chain-wide upgrade that Marriott hopes will attract today's business travelers.

The total revamp of the hotel, 11 Monroe NW, includes a new restaurant and bar called The Bistro – Eat. Drink. Connect. The Bistro is an extension of the lobby and offers a casual meeting spot to enjoy a craft beer, or a place to get a tasty wrap sandwich or Starbucks coffee on the go.

All 214 guest rooms were renovated and now have mini refrigerators and a jack pack that connects laptops and iPods to a 37-inch HD flat screen television.

In the lobby, visitors will find staff seated at individual pods, instead of standing behind an imposing front desk. A 55-inch LCD interactive touch screen, dubbed the GoBoard, provides flight information, restaurant locations, news, sports headlines and maps to local attractions. Wireless Internet access throughout the building and work areas in the lobby allow guests to catch up on work without being isolated in their rooms.

"Marriott realized they have been looking for this customer from the '80s and the face of business has changed," says General Manager Mike Donnelly. "So they scrapped everything and started over."

Donnelly says that since July 21, customer satisfaction is up almost 20 percent.

The Amway Hotel Corporation owns the hotel, the J.W. Marriott and the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. All are connected by a climate controlled Skywalk that also connects to DeVos Place convention center, the Van Andel Arena, shopping and restaurants.

"The Marriott transformation completes our eleven-hundred-room concept for downtown," Donnelly says. "The Courtyard was the missing link in being able to offer three different price points and three different amenity levels. And that is so appealing to groups."

Source: Mike Donnelly, Courtyard by Marriott

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.

Local developers eye vacant Eastown storefront for Grand Rapids' brewpub

Deborah Johnson Wood

It's been vacant for over a decade, but the eyesore at 1551 Lake Dr. SE in Grand Rapids' Eastown could soon be an intimate brewpub cooking up unique libations like Crossroads Pale Ale and Grand Rapids Red Wheat.

Brothers Barry and Jackson VanDyke and their sister Heather VanDyke-Titus bought the former Jack's Liquor and plan to create Harmony Brewing Company under their development company Bear Manor Properties. The trio is known for its hand in developing The Electric Cheetah, Brick Road Pizza and The Meanwhile bar.

"The small scale of this building allows us to do what's in essence glorified home brewing," says Barry VanDyke. He and Jackson have been home brewers for 10 years and will move their expertise to the brewery. "We're not going to be a big brewery, but will be a brewpub, brewing only for consumption on-site."

The property is a 1920s house with a separate liquor store added to the front in 1933 – the year Prohibition ended.

The place has been gutted, exposing the house's façade on the interior wall of the former liquor store. That section will have customer seating and a small bar, with additional seating in the house's living and dining rooms.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the renovation will be the brewery itself.

"We're going to completely cut out the floor in the kitchen, so from the basement you'll be able to see the ceiling of the kitchen," says Barry VanDyke. "We'll stack in our brew kettle and mash tun and will be piping the brew up to a hallway where we'll have seven fermentation tanks."

VanDyke says the place will have an atmosphere more like a coffee shop than a pub, with the intention of being a family-friendly hangout that also serves ice cream and homemade root beer. A lunch and dinner menu will include garden-inspired dishes, salads and breads. Special "tasting plates" will be designed to be paired with specific beers.

Previous plans for a rooftop deck have been nixed in deference to the wishes of neighbors.

To-date, the Grand Rapids Planning Commission has approved the project, and the Uptown Corridor Improvement District board has given its okay to pursue a liquor license, VanDyke says. The project still has to get the go-ahead from the Grand Rapids City Commission, the state and the federal government, but VanDyke is optimistic for a late spring 2011 opening.

Source: Barry VanDyke, Bear Manor Properties

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.

Holland restaurant offers intimate dining paired with a walk-in wine cellar

Deborah Johnson Wood

A walk-in wine cellar greets diners as soon as they walk through the doors of Theodore's, but the aroma of gourmet dishes for vegans and meat-lovers alike is what beckons them in to enjoy an intimate dining experience.

Theodore's at 217 E. 24th St. is a new addition to Baker Lofts, which also houses Baker Lofts Events Center banquet facility and Deli Joe's – all owned by Scott Bosgraaf.

Executive Chef Eric Fick is the mastermind behind the menu, with creations that include shared plates, the house specialty chicken pâté that changes daily, and delectable entrées like bourbon braised filet mignon and rack of lamb with pomegranate glaze.

Vegetarian offerings include eggplant with puff pastry and tomato saffron sauce.

"We have a walk-in wine cellar, but we're not a high-end pretentious place," Fick says. "I have cooked for two people on a Wednesday night for a 30th wedding anniversary. We have vegan offerings and will cook anything to order."

As for the wine selection, sommelier Michael Sweeney says he has "30 wines by the glass from $5 to $8.50 a glass, and bottles in those categories from $20 to $34." Number of wines to choose from? Right now, about 600.

The cellar list features a number of '89, '94 and 2000 Bordeaux, a '96 Dom Pérignon which Sweeney say is "one of the best vintages of the century for Dom Pérignon" and retails at $400, and a "big group of California Cabernet 'cult wines' like Harlan, which sells for $2,500 a bottle."

Hours are Wednesday and Thursday, noon to 7 p.m. with a wine tasting and a limited menu of shared plates; Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to midnight with a full menu.

Source: Eric Fick and Michael Sweeney, Theodore's

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.

Proposed $1.5 million downtown Grand Rapids concert venue clears first major hurdles

Deborah Johnson Wood

A new concert venue complex proposed for downtown Grand Rapids has received the stamp of approval from Grand Rapids' Planning Commission and Downtown Development Authority.

A couple more hurdles to clear and Pyramid Scheme at 68 Commerce Ave. SW and a restaurant, brewery and pub in the adjoining 62 Commerce can begin construction for a projected 2011 opening.

Pyramid Scheme is a partnership between brother-sister duo Jeff and Tami VandenBerg, owners of The Meanwhile bar, and HopCat owner Mark Sellers. They plan to develop 68 Commerce into a 400-person capacity concert venue and a neighborhood bar. The DDA awarded a $50,000 Building Reuse Incentives Program grant earlier this month toward the redevelopment of the building and also approved liquor licenses for both buildings.

Mark Sellers is the sole developer of the adjoining building, 62 Commerce. He proposes development of Beatnik Brewing, which includes a restaurant, banquet facility, and, according to the brewery's Facebook page, a bowling alley. A rooftop deck atop the concert hall next door at 68 would be accessed via a door from the second level of 62.

The planning commission approved the redevelopment of both buildings this week.

Sellers said in an email that he still needs to procure funding for 62 Commerce and get approval for the rooftop deck from the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC).

The HPC has approved the concert venue's new façade, says Tami VandenBerg.

VandenBerg says the purchase and development of the concert venue will run about $1.5 million.

"This is something we (Jeff and Tami) wanted to do even before we opened The Meanwhile," she says. "We love music and have gone to shows in Detroit and Chicago and have always wanted to bring shows and bands here. We're doing this to bring more jobs and activity downtown, and to make the city a better place to be so that people stick around."

Lott3Metz is the architect for the project.

Source: Tami and Jeff VandenBerg, Pyramid Scheme; Mark Sellers, HopCat

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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.

Casual dining restaurant and bar opening soon on Muskegon's waterfront

Deborah Johnson Wood

By land or by lake, no matter how patrons arrive at a new waterfront restaurant in Muskegon, they'll find a bar and eatery with lakeside dining and fabulous views of Muskegon Lake sunsets.

So says Jon Rooks of Parkland Properties, developer of The Lake House Waterfront Grille, 730 Terrace Point Blvd., the latest piece of a multi-million dollar renovation of The Shoreline Inn & Suites and Terrace Point Marina complex. The restaurant, formerly called Rafferty's, retained only its original structure.

"Everything is brand new," Rooks says. "We added a herringbone maple floor and have 160 feet of windows facing the water. There's also a 160-foot-long deck out over the water that faces west for watching the sunsets."

Most of a custom walnut and granite curved bar created by Troy Bosworth from Studio Wise is indoors; the rest, which is shaped like the aft of a boat, is outdoors. Patrons can enjoy their drinks on the deck, or on a patio under the Locust trees the grow through the floor.

The Lake House opens July 28, offering a full drink menu, as well as dining creations by Chefs Dustin Schultz and Charlie Forrester. The menu ranges from appetizers like Lake House fish tacos and Tuscan bean and goat cheese dip, to sandwiches, burgers, pasta, steaks and seafood.

Rooks says the complex takes up only five acres of the 20-plus-acre property.

"I want to attract other developers to what I think is the best opportunity in Michigan right now, and that's the Muskegon shoreline," he says.

"Muskegon has a host of amazing events occurring all year round," he adds. "People recognize that it's a great place to be in the summer. We want to use the hotel and restaurant to attract people and events in the nine months of the off-season. If the owners of the waterfront properties can work together, we can accomplish the synergy that's possible."

Source: Jon Rooks, Parkland Properties

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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.

Caribbean restaurant to bring heat of the tropics to Grand Rapids' Eastown

Deborah Johnson Wood

Olga Benoit has catered her Haitian-style cuisine in the Grand Rapids area for the past 12 years, and now she's opening Chez Olga to bring her taste treats to the community on a larger scale.

Benoit came to Grand Rapids as a refugee and used to operate Benoit's Family Fashions on Leonard Street. But it is her love of cooking and the catering she's done that sealed her decision to start the restaurant.

Benoit has spent the last several weeks renovating the interior of 1441 Wealthy St. SE in the distinctive McKendree Silver Works building. That space has seen its share of restaurants come and go, but spokesperson Monica Sparks of Sparks Consulting says the renovation will open up the space and make it more inviting.

"Customers are going to find a very festive but comfortable, relaxed feeling of, well, love, I guess is the best way to say it," Sparks says. "The recipes are time honored, passed down from generation to generation, straight from Haiti. Olga had to go to a lot of different vendors for spices, because she couldn't get the more uncommon ones at the larger food suppliers."

Benoit's tagline, "Feel the Caribbean Heat," is represented in dishes such as the fried plantains appetizer with spicy coleslaw, Creole chicken, and red beans and rice. The menu also offers a couple of vegetarian and vegan dishes, and everything is under $10.

The grand opening is July 9 and 10, with free food to those who have preregistered on the Chez Olga GR Facebook page.

Chez Olga will be open Monday through Thursday 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Source: Monica Sparks, Sparks Consulting

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.

Hansen Nature Trail opens in Grand Rapids' Millennium Park

Deborah Johnson Wood

A new nature trail that winds around several ponds in the most undisturbed natural area of Kent County's Millennium Park opened last week.

The Hansen Nature Trail, named after donors Dick and Sandy Hansen who funded the $100,000 project, is just over a half-mile long, but it connects to more than 20 miles of the Fred Meijer Millennium Trail Network within the park as well as the Kent Trails system and a Grand Rapids City Trail along Wealthy St. SE.

The trail is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, made of compacted crushed stone that will accommodate wheelchairs and mountain bikes. The pathway loops through the property of a former fish hatchery near the intersection of Butterworth and Riverbend streets. Users can fish from a wheelchair-accessible fishing deck that extends over one of the ponds.

"The Hansen Nature Trail adds another element to the park," says Roger Sabine, director of Kent County Parks. "It's the most natural area we have that's open with trails, a little closer to nature than the rest of the trails. There are more sights and sounds than there might be on other trails because it's a little less busy."

Millennium Park is open to the public at no cost, and features age-appropriate playgrounds, picnic areas and a boardwalk along the water's edge. Access to the swimming area ranges from $2 to $4 per person per visit, or via a $50 family pass.

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

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.

Historic Grand Rapids home revived as one-of-a-kind bed and breakfast inn

Deborah Johnson Wood

Legend has it that in the 1900s wealthy businessman Harry C. Leonard gave his daughter Dorothy a gift – a massive home complete with servant's quarters and a third-floor ballroom.

That home at Logan and Morris streets in Grand Rapids is now open as the Leonard at Logan House Bed & Breakfast, following an extensive renovation to bring it back to its former glory by owners Ann and John Finkler, Paul and Charles DeVos and Mark Zimmer.

A wide, open staircase leads from the foyer to the five guest rooms on the second floor. Each guest room, tastefully appointed with period-style furniture, has a private bath. On the main floor, visitors will find a relaxing sitting room with a fireplace, a dining room and a modern gourmet kitchen.

The house has oak floors throughout, except for the ballroom, which has maple – a hardwood not easily marred by dancers' shoes. The ballroom is now the owner's quarters.

Modern amenities include free Wi-Fi, keyless entry and 32-inch flat screen TVs in each guest room.

"We started with the roof because it was leaking, and leaks mean cracked plaster, which was throughout the house," Zimmer says. He and Ann Finkler are part of Team Restoration, the group that handled the restoration.

"We added half a dozen chandeliers throughout the house to make it more elegant," Zimmer says.

Outside, the owners removed two overgrown pine trees that blocked the view of the house from the street. They're currently adding an outdoor patio for guest use. Zimmer says an existing lawn area accommodates canopies for outdoor weddings and parties.

Breakfast is designed to fit the needs of guests – an extensive weekday continental breakfast allows business guests to eat on the go; weekend guests experience a more leisurely meal.

"During the week we attract quite a number of business travelers, and overseas contract designers who work for Steelcase," Zimmer says. "We're more laid back than a hotel, so a lot of times they'll stay here."

Source: Mark Zimmer, Leonard at Logan House Bed & Breakfast

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.

CityFlats Hotel in Holland eyes downtown Grand Rapids for next boutique hotel venture

Deborah Johnson Wood

The owner of the CityFlats Hotel in Holland plans to transform the former Fox Jewelers building in downtown Grand Rapids into a new 28-room boutique hotel. The announcement last week moves owner Charter House Innovations a step closer to developing the hotel model into a national franchise.

"We still have ambitions for CityFlats to be a franchise, and we're using the Grand Rapids location to show that it can be franchised all over the country," says Sarah Lilly, marketing coordinator.

The 16,000-square-foot building at 83 Monroe Center was on the drawing board as Fox Lofts residential condominiums after Fox Jewelers moved out, but the condominiums idea never took off. Situated in the heart of Grand Rapids' downtown, it has been vacant for several years.

Each room of the hotel will offer a design and color scheme different from the other rooms. Each of Charter House's 13 designers will create a unique design for the guest rooms and the hotel's public areas.

"There have been discussions about finding a creative way to keep the original marquee, but nothing has been determined yet," says Lilly of Fox's signature signage above the main entry.

Charter House's Holland facility will design and manufacture the products used in the hotel's interior, Lilly says. The hotel will be LEED certified, similar to the Gold LEED certified CityFlats Hotel.

"We feel we're offering a unique product with it being a boutique hotel and being LEED certified," she says. "The customer gets a more personalized experience because of the smaller and unique design. A lot of the customers in Holland stay in a different room each time to experience the different designers."

The Grand Rapids location will include a lounge, coffee bar, a fitness center and meeting rooms.

Plans are in the early stages and Lilly says more details will be announced as they become available.

"We're really excited about being a part of downtown Grand Rapids," Lilly says. "We're looking forward to really great things happening."

Source: Sarah Lilly, CityFlats Hotel

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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.

Grand Rapids artist opens studio gallery in historic warehouse building

Deborah Johnson Wood

Grand Rapids artist Nathan Goddard says the daylight streaming through the east windows of his new studio space casts is just right for working with the earth-friendly materials he creates for his paintings.

The studio and gallery space, nrg studio, occupies some 1,300 square feet of a former furniture factory at 445 Century Ave. SW. Goddard moved his work there in January because his home studio was no longer big enough to accommodate the larger pieces he wanted to create.

"This is a space where I could work large and could have (art) workshops," Goddard says. He also needed more room for mixing his own materials for what he calls his Earth Paintings.

"I make my own clay slips using clay earth I gather from places like the Grand River, West Virginia and Utah," he says. "I create my own pigment using soy resin as my binder, not using anything oil based. West Virginia and Utah clays have unique colors I haven't found elsewhere."

Those colors include a particular red from Utah and a bright yellow-gold from West Virginia. The Grand River yields "dark brown, almost black, clay that fires to orange," Goddard says.

Goddard's focus is on painting and landscapes, but he also does graphics design and 3-D work, such as the trophy design selected by ArtServe Michigan for the Guvvy Award, the Governor's Awards for Arts and Culture.

In 2009, the Creston Public Art Project selected Goddard's mural Should Be Culture as one of two new public art murals in the Creston business district.

nrg studio's grand opening is Friday, May 21 at 6 p.m. Goddard will showcase his work and work by his wife, Elizabeth Goddard.

Source: Nathan Goddard, nrg studio

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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.

Grand Rapids eclectic home decor shop specializes in artfully redesigned, recycled goods

Deborah Johnson Wood

When Dann Boyles and Chip Minor moved to Nashville, Tenn. a couple of years ago for jobs, they didn't know the housing market crash would mean their home in Michigan wouldn't sell and they'd lose it to foreclosure. But now they're back in Grand Rapids and have launched a new venture of their own – an eclectic home décor shop that specializes in artfully redecorated vintage pieces and used items.

Boyles' success in Nashville with several antique booths he owned and operated at local marketplaces inspired the new store, Rebel Reclaimed, 926 E. Fulton St. When his friend Stephanie Johnson opened the women's consignment shop, Urban Exchange, next door, she encouraged Boyles to bring his redesign talents to a small space in the same building.

"I was an interior designer for 12 years and I am now taking a design eye to reclaiming vintage pieces and redesigning them for the home," Boyles says. "Right now I have a brass chandelier from a thrift store and I took two U.S. maps and decoupaged the entire chandelier with little torn pieces of the maps."

Boyles says he also made an ottoman slipcover out of a Red Wing Linseed Meal burlap bag and throw pillows out of other burlap bags. Artwork pieces include an extensive collection of framed crewel work from the '60s and '70s, a vintage sign from the former Moored & Sons service station in Burnips, and some architectural salvage.

"I watch very closely what's happening in color trends," Boyles says. "I'm very specific about what I show and all the pieces work together to create an overall aesthetic."

Rebel Reclaimed is open Monday - Friday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Source: Dann Boyles, Rebel Reclaimed

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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.

Grand Rapids Bike Park combines grand opening with Mayor's Bike Ride, park cleanup

Deborah Johnson Wood

The rollers and berms on the pump track are in place, ready for the inaugural ride of Mayor George Heartwell during the Grand Rapids Bike Park grand opening Saturday, May 15. The mayor will lead his annual family-fun Mayor's Bike Ride after a morning of park cleanup by Friends of Grand Rapids Parks volunteers.

The pump track, designed with mogul-like rollers, keeps a rider's momentum going without pedaling. But more than that, the track teaches balance and turning skills mountain bikers need to know, says Nate Phelps, president of the Michigan Mountain Biking Association. Phelps approached the city of Grand Rapids four years ago with the idea to create the urban bike park.

The park, 580 Kirtland SW, is the only urban mountain bike park in the Midwest, Phelps says. Its design focuses on tracks and trails that help beginning mountain bikers learn basic skills and challenge experienced riders who want to build up speed and agility.

Two additional tracks, The Bob Loop named after bike park volunteer Bob Zeilman and a beginner loop, are under construction but will have sections done for the grand opening for visitors to experience.

"The Bob Loop is in the Plaster Creek riparian corridor, so we're making use of the unique terrain next to the creek," says Phelps. "The Bob Loop undulates with small climbs, but it's mostly about flow with big wide turns and a great line of sight with nothing hidden."

Future plans include adding challenges like a mock log pile and stair steps, re"cycling" the concrete from the park's former baseball dugouts into raised tracks, and more riding loops.

The grand opening celebration begins at 9 a.m. with a two-hour park cleanup open to anyone who wants to help (bring gloves), followed by a ribbon cutting at 11 a.m., the Mayor's Bike Ride and a ride down the Plaster Creek Trail.

Source: Nate Phelps, Grand Rapids Bike Park and Michigan Mountain Biking Association

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.

Grand Rapids' new Stella's Lounge to feature 200 whiskeys, vegetarian menu

Deborah Johnson Wood

Beginning May 1, Stella's Lounge will light up the Grand Rapids night with punk and alternative music selections compiled by Herm Baker of Vertigo Music, a vegetarian menu, vintage video games from the 70s and 80s, and whiskey – more than 200 different kinds.

The new bar, 53 Commerce Ave. SW, has what owner Mark Sellers calls an "old school, 70s vibe" and shares an address, a kitchen and restrooms with its sister bar next door, Viceroy, which is still under construction.

Sellers and his wife, Michele, came up with the idea for the bar following a successful run with nearby HopCat, their first foray into the Grand Rapids bar business after living in Chicago and returning to Mark's hometown.

"The bar is handmade by Aaron Heineman of Heineman Bar Company, who made the bar for HopCat and is making the one for Viceroy," Mark Sellers says. "He's a Chicago guy I used to know when I lived down there. The bar will be 40 feet long.

"Stella's is a place I'd go for fun," Sellers adds. "When I open bars I kinda just think about what I would like. I love craft beer so that's what HopCat is all about, and I love the older video games so that's what this bar is about."

The games include pinball, Ms. Pac Man, Frogger, Tron and Centipede. Sellers bought the real thing – used games from eBay, and some from Chattanooga Pinball Co. and Belmont-based Game Room Guys.

The vegetarian menu includes one meat lovers pick: a colossal stuffed hamburger with pepperjack cheese and jalapeno, topped with a specialty hot sauce.

As for drinks, "we're not going to reinvent the wheel," says Garry Boyd, general manager. "As a matter of fact we're going to make it really simple – you'll be able to get drinks for a good price and the draft list will be independently-owned breweries, no Bud, Miller or Coors."

The bar's opening created just under 50 new jobs, including full-time management and chef positions.

Source: Mark Sellers and Garry Boyd, Stella's

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.

Kilwin's makes a sweet move, serves up tasty treats from new Holland location

Deborah Johnson Wood

After 12 years at 24 E. 8th St. in Holland, the location for Kilwin's just wasn't working anymore. The confectioner was sandwiched between retail shops that closed early, greatly reducing customer traffic during the evening hours. And there wasn't enough room for the coffee shop that owners Darl and Judy Dalman wanted to add for Kilwin's new line of cappuccinos, lattes and hot chocolate.

So they relocated to the corner of E. 8th and College, where JP's Coffee House, The Curragh Irish Pub and New Holland Brewing occupy the opposite corners.

"The coffee shop and restaurants have longer hours that match our hours," says Darl Dalman. "People congregate on that corner later in the evening. It's kind of a magnet spot. I hope that we benefit the other restaurants, too, because we will draw more people down there."

Kilwin's 1,850 square feet provides enough room for a 17-seat coffee shop and space for the kitchens where they make Mackinaw Fudge, Kilwin's chocolates, caramel corn, a variety of nut brittles and other delectable confections.

There's also plenty of space for the freezers where employees serve up 32 flavors of ice cream.

The building dates back to the 1920s, says Dalman. Recent renovations retained the original wood floors and tin ceiling, and added mahogany woodwork throughout.

"It feels like you're in somebody's house with beautiful woodwork," Dalman says. "The fronts of the ice cream cases are surrounded with real wood and the bar that encloses the fudge kitchen is done in wood. We have the light wood floors, caramel-colored walls and a chocolate brown ceiling."

A cozy fireplace and a large screen TV provide places where customers can sit and relax with a coffee or take in a football game.

In front of the building is the city's new outdoor fireplace that's surrounded by built-in, heated seating for four-season enjoyment.

Source: Darl Dalman, Kilwin's; Mimi Fritz, Downtown Holland Prinicipal Shopping District

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.

Grand Rapids' Aquinas College invests $7M in athletic facility renovation, shoots for big win

Deborah Johnson Wood

Grand Rapids' Aquinas College has begun a massive overhaul of its outdated athletic facility that promises to transform the 1957 structure into a showplace for college sports and fitness training.

The existing facility on the north side of the campus was mostly gymnasium. The basketball and volleyball courts ran north-south, but will be reoriented to east-west in the center of the main level. That makes room for the addition of interior second levels to the north and south, says Scott Vyn, design director for Integrated Architecture, the firm that designed the new structure.

The $7 million renovation includes a new student fitness/workout room, new concessions, locker rooms, classrooms, coaches' offices and the Aquinas Hall of Fame.

"We made this change for multiple reasons," says Greg Meyer, Aquinas' associate vice president for advancement. "The building was built 40 years ago when we had six sports and we now have 18. But the primary reason was admissions. At any college now, students look at the academic side and the quality of life on campus; not having a fitness center was a handicap to us."

Having three classrooms and a training room in the facility provides a setting where students will train and learn as part of their academic program, Meyer says.

The structure will be certified as LEED-NC (new construction) due to the extent of the rebuild and the incorporation of sustainable elements such as re-insulating the entire structure and adding windows around the building.

The finished facility will sport a grander Fulton Street entrance some two stories high with columns, bronze panels, glass and ground face masonry.

The project is phase 1 of a $12 million plan that will eventually add an intramural building to the west that will house an indoor track and intramural basketball and volleyball courts.

Phase 1 will be completed in August 2010.

Rockford Construction is the construction manager.

Source: Scott Vyn, Integrated Architecture; Greg Meyer, Aquinas College

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.

Hope Network brings therapeutic architecture to life at new $1.2 million Center for Autism

Deborah Johnson Wood

Hope Network's new Center for Autism maximizes the positive effects that a building's interior shape, color and noise level can have on persons with autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities.

The Center for Autism is an outpatient facility for adolescents located on Hope Network's Coral Lettinga Campus, 3361 36th Street SE.

Mike and Connie Lettinga drove from the Grand Rapids area to the east side of the state regularly to get their daughter, Coral, the special services she needed to help her with her autism. It was the Lettinga's idea to develop a comprehensive and innovative autism center close to home.

"People with autism have under- or over-developed sensory systems that are highly reactive to colors, odors, and noise," says David Gamble, Hope Network's director of children's services. "Often this affects their balance or they have spatial issues, like not knowing the distance between themselves and the wall. That's why it's important for them to touch things and walls when they walk."

The autism center incorporates design elements to relieve some of this stress, such as, curving walls, rounded corners and pastel colors. Noise reduction materials, including acoustical ceilings and special padding under the gymnasium floor, prevent sound reverberation.

Framed pictures of children or a leaf or flower painted on the walls create simple and calming wayfinding signage.

The 12,000-square-foot former warehouse features a Model Living Unit with a bed and dresser, laundry facilities, a kitchen and bathroom.

"The Model Living Unit is where we teach clients how to make their bed, wash and dry and fold laundry, and do other things that are part of daily living," Gamble says. "I was just down there the other day and we were teaching two students how to make cookies."

There are also rooms for sensory learning, occupational therapy, psychotherapy, medical exams, speech therapy and family visitations. Outdoors is a playground, basketball court and a track.

A grand opening on April 23 from 5 to 7 p.m. is open to the public.

Source: David Gamble, Hope Network; Craig Clark, Clark Communications

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.

ArtPrize announces six neighborhood exhibition centers, opening of venue registration

Deborah Johnson Wood

In an effort to make it easier for visitors to get to more venues during ArtPrize 2010, six new exhibition centers have been selected as beginning points where visitors can register to vote, shop for ArtPrize memorabilia and see works by at least 25 artists at each location.

Each of the exhibition centers is a nonprofit organization. ArtPrize officials hope the centers will encourage visitors to explore more areas of the three-square-mile downtown exhibit district. The exhibition centers are:
Grand Rapids Art Museum
Diocese of Grand Rapids' Cathedral Square
Women's City Club
Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts
Grand Rapids Public Museum
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, the only center outside the downtown district.

"David Hooker is the president of Meijer Gardens and an ArtPrize board member, and Meijer Gardens was active in curating some of the downtown locations last year," says Rick DeVos, ArtPrize founder. "They wanted to open up their spaces at the gardens and provide a shuttle at their expense in and out of downtown."

DeVos says each exhibition center will be sponsored and professionally curated. The curators will respond to artists' requests for venues, selecting the art for the venue, choosing its placement in the venue and managing the show as an overall experience.

Registration this year is more structured due to having more time. Last year, venues and artists registered at the same time. This year, venues register from March 15 to April 15; artists register from April 19 to May 27. Artist and venue matching takes place from June 1 to July 1. ArtPrize 2010 runs from September 22 through October 10.

Venues pay $100 to register, artists pay $50.

"We're not making any estimates on numbers of participants this year," DeVos says. "Part of the fun and excitement is not really knowing what people will do from year to year. We'll just wait to see what happens."

Source: Rick DeVos, ArtPrize; Michael Zalewski, Seyferth & Associates

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.

Holland sells its neighborhoods, schools and culture on new web site to attract talent

Deborah Johnson Wood

The City of Holland has launched a new web site geared at promoting the city to people looking to relocate for jobs, college or retirement. The site, www.enjoyhollandmichigan.com is an opportunity for people to explore what Holland has to offer them, from their homes or offices and that their own pace.

"The ultimate goal is to create a one-stop shop for people who want to know what it's like to come and live in Holland, Michigan," says Joel Dye, city of Holland community development coordinator. "We are anticipating the primary users to be Realtors, who will show it to clients considering relocating, and recruiters looking to bring employees into the area."

The web site includes pages about Holland's neighborhoods and schools, its economy and jobs. Other pages tout the downtown shopping district, recreation programs throughout the city, including those at Evergreen Commons and the Holland Community Aquatic Center, and information on the city's parks and beaches.

"If you're relocating for a job in Holland and bringing a spouse, you can go to the jobs page to see what work is available for them," Dye says. "There are links to the area's largest employers, to the Chamber of Commerce, to Lakeshore Advantage and to others. Ten people who work in Holland are quoted on what they like about working in Holland."

The home page includes a promotional video of Holland originally created for another web site, www.hollandbythelake.com. The video garnered 21,000 hits and prompted local fans to urge the city to expand on it and create the new web site.

Grooters Productions created both web sites and the video.

Source: Joel Dye, city of Holland

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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.

Downtown Grand Rapids shoppers receive holiday present: 60 minutes of free parking - a $2 value

To encourage shoppers to visit downtown Grand Rapids, motorists will be offered 60 minutes of free parking again this year during the holiday shopping season -- a $2 value.

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