| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed

Visitors : Development News

39 Visitors Articles | Page: | Show All

'It's not too far': Grand Rapids plans new wayfinding signage to encourage more walking downtown

As organizers with Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. plan the installation of a new wayfinding system in the urban core of downtown Grand Rapids, they hope new signage will not only act as practical guides for tourists and visitors, but also serve the same larger goal that has been behind much of Grand Rapids’ recent downtown development initiatives – walkability.

“It is meant to be a little more casual and really focused on the time it takes people to walk from one place to another,” says Bill Kirk, mobility manager at Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. 

The Downtown Development Authority approved up to $10,000 for purchasing the corrugated plastic signs from North Carolina-based startup Walk Your City, which provides assistance in the planning, production and implementation of fully customizable pedestrian and bicyclist wayfinding signs in cities throughout the U.S. geared at encouraging more pedestrian foot traffic. 

Kirk says walkability and pedestrian/cyclist accessibility not only makes for a more livable downtown core, but also a stronger retail district. 

“Countless studies and other downtown experiences have shown the increase in pedestrian and cyclist traffic does have a positive effect on retail activity,” Kirk says. “Just from a logical perspective there’s that aspect of, the more people you get walking and riding around your city the more you get to know your city. I think a lot of people find that when they give it a try, they discover things they might not have known were there before, say a little shop or pocket park or something like that. It all fits into the mantra of really creating a walkable, bikeable, livable downtown all built around and on the human scale.” 

Instead of measuring the distance to downtown attractions by mileage, these new signs will offer pedestrians and cyclists more tangible directions like  “It’s a 10 minute walk to Rosa Parks Circle,” Kirk says.

The signs also feature QR codes that can be scanned for more detailed Google Map walking directions, which serves not only the functionality of the signage, but also acts as a built-in performance metric that will help the city understand how the signs are being used and whether or not the pilot project is worth continuing and expanding when the 18-month lifespan of the signage rolls around. 

One of the perks of the system is the ability to easily adapt to how the city is using the signage, Kirk says, adding that they will keep a consistent finger on the pulse of the project and take things like ArtPrize and weather into consideration when evaluating those numbers down the line. 

“I think at the end of the day we just want people, by walking, to connect with their city and with each other more,” Kirk says. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer
Image courtesy of Walk Your City

$10M concourse upgrades, West Michigan beers, new security checkpoints planned for Ford Airport

Changes are in the air for the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, including plans for a $10 million expansion to accommodate new airline services, creating a single security checkpoint, and new retail and concessions that promote products and brands unique to West Michigan.

One of those products is Kalamazoo-based Bell's Brewery. A new Great Lakes Tap Room will replace the current Home Turf pub at the airport, offering Bell's craft brews, says airport Executive Director Brian Ryks. Ryks says concessions operator HMSHost has contracted with Bell's and is working to engage other local microbreweries to get their products into other areas of the terminal.

"We wanted to bring more local and regional aspects into our environment, so when people land or fly out they recognize Grand Rapids and the region and what it has to offer," Ryks says. "Once we get the new checkpoint built in the next three or four years, then we'll put out other RFPs (Requests for Proposals) to bid on opportunities to create branding for new concessions opportunities in the concourses."

The new concessions are part of the concourse expansion plans, which include adding two more gates to Concourse B -- one to serve Southwest Airlines, which begins service in August, and another gate that will accommodate future growth. Concourse A will see some upgrades, and the separate security checkpoints for each concourse will eventually be consolidated into one large checkpoint area where the current retail travel store is now. Construction on the security checkpoint begins in late 2014 or early 2015.

A new partnership between HMSHost and Grand Rapids Magazine brands the retail store as the Grand Rapids Magazine Travel Retail Store and includes products from Schuler's Books and Music. Renovation of the current store begins this summer. The store will relocate when the security checkpoint consolidation begins.

Source: Brian Ryks, Gerald R. Ford International Airport
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Wolverine Company Store celebrates grand opening in downtown Grand Rapids

Wolverine Company Store, an upscale shoe store representing only the brands made by Wolverine Worldwide, celebrated more than just a grand opening on Weds., March 21. It also used the event to say thank you for three awards the store garnered since its opening.

The shop is located in 800 square feet of MoDiv (40 Monroe Center NW) and sells men's and women's casual and dress shoes, boots and footwear for active outdoor living.

The store is unique in that it is the only store in the U.S. dedicated to only Wolverine brands -- all 12 of them -- even though Wolverine Worldwide has nearly 90 stores, nationwide, says Brian Cousins, store manager. That uniqueness spills over into the store's environment and service-focused culture, and could be part of the reason for the awards:
•    Chain Store Age: 2011 Retail Store of the Year (for softlines under 5000 sf)
•    ARE: Individual Element -- Wall Treatment Award (for the logo wall)
•    West Michigan ADDY: Gold ADDY for Mixed/Multiple Media.

Wolverine Company Store's brands include the world renowned Hush Puppies plus Merrill, Cushe, Sebago, Patagonia, Caterpillar and others.

"Caterpillar, or 'Cat,' footwear is number one in Europe and Latin America from the fashion side," Cousins says. "I got a women's Bajan boot in here today that's not available anywhere else in the U.S."

Cousins says because the downtown hotels attract guests from all over the world, Wolverine Company Store serves customers all over the world.

"There was a gentleman from Dubai in here on Saturday. Isn't it amazing?" Cousins says. "I had a Limited Edition 721 boot from our 1000 Mile Collection. There's only 1,000 made and they're pretty pricey ($725 retail). A customer from Atlanta purchased them for her husband for Christmas; her husband had been in here [when he came to Grand Rapids] on business."

Grand opening sales at the store continue through Saturday. Store hours: Mon., Tues., Weds., Fri. 11 to 6; Thurs. 11 to 7; Sat. 11 to 5.

Source: Brian Cousins, Wolverine Company Store
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Florida, Muskegon air services to bring private hangar, in-flight catering services to Ford Airport

Muskegon-based Rothbury Executive Air could soon bring a $7 million transient air terminal to the Gerald R. Ford International Airport -- facilities complete with West Michigan's first in-flight catering kitchen.

The 37,000-square-foot terminal will include banquet facilities, flight crew sleep rooms and showers, and an antique car showroom for visitors to enjoy. But developers say the most important amenity could be the 2,400-square-foot catering kitchen operated by Florida-based Silver Lining Inflight Catering to provide private and corporate clients with meal services ranging from light snacks to complete formal dinners for consumption onsite or in-air.

The project is the result of a new partnership between Rothbury Executive Air and Silver Lining Inflight Catering, which prompted Silver Lining to launch its first venture outside Florida, says Alison Albright of Rothbury Executive Air.

"Catering is a huge business in private aviation -- the standards and quality have to be a much higher scale, and we found that Silver Lining has what we wanted to bring to Grand Rapids," Albright says. "There is no other facility of this type at the airport."

"It's a 24/7/365 operation," says Terry Boer of Executive Air Transport, the entity that will manage the facility. "Our facility will be the gateway into West Michigan. Customers will arrive in private airplanes to meet with local businesses, and our ramp agents will take care of the aircraft and fuel them, do flight planning, wait for customers and passengers to return, and will order catering through us for their arrival or return flight."

Plans call for a groundbreaking in May, with completion of the facility in late fall. A private investment company is developing the project, Boer says, but he declined to name the investors.

"This facility brings a lot of new services to the airport that aren't being offered," he says. "We're going to meet the needs of the airline community through the catering and our ability to house larger aircraft in the hangar."

Source: Alison Albright, Rothbury Executive Air; Terry Boer, Executive Air Transport
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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

Related Articles
Long Live LaFontsee
Amenta -- A Man of Riches

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

Related Articles
Proposed $2.8M upgrades to Grand Rapids farmers market include new layout, year-round shopping
Plan for historic Brikyaat district adopted into GR Master Plan

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

Sharon Hanks

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.

Built in 1919 at 116 S. Jackson St., one block south of M-104, owners Gary and Michelle Hanks purchased the vacant red brick building in 2001 with plans initially to renovate the entire building for their home. But when they were unable to obtain approval to rezone the two lower floors from commercial to residential, they opted to restore the building to its original character and open Seven Steps Up for small gatherings, such as wedding receptions, showers, reunions, corporate parties and special events.

The name "Seven Steps Up" comes from the seven steps leading to the front door where guests from a bygone era entered the Masonic Temple's Grand Ballroom. Each floor has about 2,400 sq. feet, with the top floor serving as the couple's living quarters since 2002. The opening is a welcome addition to the Village of Spring Lake, which has suffered the loss of several storefront buildings in the downtown area due to the struggling economy.

Gary Hanks says they spent nearly $400,000 on renovations, with a considerable amount spent on construction to meet current building codes. Other makeovers included the removal of industrial grade carpeting covering original maple hardwood flooring and plaster hiding a fireplace and beautiful Chicago brick walls. Ten large double-hung windows were replaced with more energy efficient ones. He says tax incentives and grants from the Village of Spring Lake helped ease the burden of financing.

The couple, formerly from Amarillo, Texas, has attempted to create a cozy, intimate setting where guests feel like they're being entertained in someone's home rather than a "table and chair" event hall, Hanks says. Guests can enjoy a game of pool, ping pong, darts and Wii games, while casual seating areas with comfy sofas and chairs are available for private conversations. A modern media center, video projector and screen are also available.

Seven Steps Up can accommodate 70 guests for a traditional wedding reception with sit-down dining. For what's called the "strolling, buffet cocktail party," the center can accommodate 150 guests.

Hanks, a former vice president of sales and marketing at Bennett Pump in Spring Lake, served as general contractor throughout the renovation, while his wife maintained her fulltime job as a CPA and position as a band member of Exit 9 Left.

Source: Gary Hanks, co-owner of Seven Steps Up, Village of Spring Lake

Sharon Hanks is innovations and jobs news editor at Rapid Growth Media. Please send story ideas and comments for the column to Sharon at sharon@rapidgrowthmedia.com. She also is owner of The Write Words in Grand Rapids.

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.

39 Visitors Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts