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Founders Brewing brings the love of craft-brewed beer into the light of day

The love of good beer is behind everything Founders Brewing creates, and that includes its new 3,000-square-foot beer garden on the front lawn of the pub, something co-owner Mike Stevens dubs "a drinkin' man's Disney Land." It's part of a $26 million expansion at 235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids.

The beer garden opened last week, bringing lovers of good craft beer outside to a space decked out with comfortable seating, a roofed area, and creature comforts to keep patrons plenty warm in the cool months: open fire pits, overhead heaters, and outdoor bar service.

In addition to the beer garden, a larger indoor taproom offers customers more seating inside. Co-owner Dave Engbers says improving the Founders experience is the reason for the expansion inside and out.  

"Everything we do is in an effort to make our beer better and to make our employees' jobs better and to give our customers the best experience we can," Engbers says. "Grand Rapids is getting all the attention as Beer City USA, and as the largest brewery in Grand Rapids we feel it's our responsibility to make sure that we lead by example."

Relocating the original bar from Founders' first pub in the iconic Brass Works Building on N. Monroe Avenue to the expanded taproom tugged at the heartstrings, Engbers says. "Mike and I both spent many a night behind that bar and it has a lot of sentimental value to us and to our patrons that have been original mug club members. We commissioned it ourselves for the Brass Works building. When we brought it into the new space, I went down to see it and it actually brought tears to my eyes. I haven't seen it in seven years."

Founders’ next project is to finish up the interior space where the company will hold its beer school, which should start in late 2013.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy of Dan Miller, The Beer Truck

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Gravel Bottom Brewery opens in Ada with five craft brews on tap, brewing supply store next door

The enticing aromas of warm yeast and roasted grains filled the taproom of Ada's Gravel Bottom Brewery and drifted through the open archway to the brew supply store in the next room. With the bright, shiny three-barrel brewing system directly behind the concrete bar, patrons can watch the brewing process, talk about home brewing with resident and guest brewers, and saunter over to the store to get supplies to take home.

The cozy taproom at 418 Ada Dr. opened Sept. 7 with five brews on tap: a crisp grapefruit IPA crafted by guest brewers John Wiechertjes and Steve Waalkes, a light pale ale, a rich porter, a robust black IPA, and a smooth, sweet Belgian Wit. Owner Matt Michiels says a pumpkin ale will be underway after barbecue company Pit Stop Catering roasts 50 pumpkins over cherry wood -- all in the brewery's parking lot.

And while drinking beer and enjoying it is the goal, Michiels says that teaching people about beer and about how to brew it is a huge part of Gravel Bottom Brewery's culture.

"We'll have free seminars, and we'll have classes for the beer lover who doesn't brew, beginning brewers, and advanced brewers," he says. "They'll be able to have class in the taproom with the brewer, enjoy the beer, then walk over to the store to get supplies."

Michiels says the brew house will share its recipes, and even help brewers determine how to give a beer more body or make it sweeter, then help the brewer choose the ingredients from the store's stock of grains, malts, spices, and hops. The store also offers brewing kits and equipment.

During last Monday's visit, Brett Langscheid, a trained cheese maker and brewer, was busy mixing up the next batch of beer, which will be ready in a few weeks. Four brewers are on staff, but Michiels says the pub will bring in guest brewers on a regular basis.

Hours: Weds.-Thurs., 2 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m. to midnight.

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

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Decadent gourmet cookies add a sweet dimension to downtown Grand Rapids shops

It was a sweet surprise to walk into MoDiv at 40 Monroe Center Ave. during ArtPrize last week and come face to face with tables of glass containers filled with decadent Monica's Gourmet Cookies. The queue of enthusiastic customers was long, but my friend and I discovered we needed every minute in line to decide which of the 26 varieties we were going to try.

Monica Mitidieri began selling her cookies online in 2001, during her years as a caterer, and the success of the cookies soon propelled her into selling them and leaving the meal catering behind. After striking a deal to supply Spartan stores with the rich, flavorful delicacies, the business took off.

She created a bakehouse kitchen and café at 3668 29th St. and two weeks ago opened a small store in MoDiv (Shops at Monroe Center and Division) -- just in time to debut her specialty Grand Rapids cookie during ArtPrize: The Grand…Rapidly Disappearing cookie, chock full of rich dark chocolate, pretzels, and dark cocoa almonds, and topped with dark chocolate.

Monica describes the tasty morsels as "a mounded type of cookie, soft, dense -- they're little but they're mighty. Once a customer eats one, they get why they're $1.75 each."

My friend and I settled on four cookies: Monica's Best Signature Chocolate Chip (not your grandma's recipe!), Red Velvet Cake (with cream cheese frosting), Maple Walnut (with black walnut flavoring and Michigan maple syrup), and Cinnamon Sugar. After "sampling" each, (we ate every crumb), we voted on our favorites. The chocolate chip and the maple walnut tied for first place.

The cookies are baked fresh daily at the bakehouse, where Monica also offers cinnamon rolls, quiche, breakfast scones (think bacon), and soup. The focus at MoDiv, though, is cookies. Monica says the shop sold 800 of the comfort bombs on Saturday alone.

"I'm thrilled to be out in the public," she says, adding that she feels like the drummer who finally came out from behind the band to take the mic. "There's so much more to my business than just what's here at MoDiv. The energy here is incredible right now."

You can find Monica's Gourmet Cookies at Spartan Stores, online, or at MoDiv from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. during ArtPrize, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. the rest of the year.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Monica's Gourmet Cookies

Fresh, seasonal cuisine brings the best of Italia to Eastown's new Trattoria di' Stagione

The name Trattoria di' Stagione means "restaurant of seasons," and Chef Dan Chudik has taken the moniker to heart by creating a menu of Italian cuisine that changes not only with the seasons, but sometimes every week, depending on which ingredients are in season and plentiful.

Trattoria di' Stagione opened in April in the space that was the Radix Tavern and, before that, The Queen's Pub at 1420 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids. Balwinder Bal, owner of the adjacent Bombay Cuisine, which shares the kitchen with the trattoria, owns both restaurants. Chef Chudik, who owned the popular Tuscan Express in Cascade, is the passion behind the seasonal concept and the food.

"I've been doing the seasonal, local foods thing over 20 years," Chudik says. "Everybody thinks it's so hip now, but when I opened Tuscan Express back in '95 we were doing it. I wanted [this restaurant] based off local fresh seasonal products with our three farmers that we deal with on a regular basis. We cook for the seasons. In the summer we have light foods and in the winter we have a little heavier fare, supporting the local agriculture."

The menu changes so frequently that when asked what's for lunch or dinner, Chudik would only say that the spicy spaghetti is so popular it's offered regularly. Other than that, he couldn't say what might be available at the time this article is read.

Currently, the restaurant works with three Michigan farms: Melody Bee Farms, Green Wagon Farm, and Real Food Farm. Plus, Chudik says all fish is marine stewardship council-certified from Bensenville, IL-based Fortune Fish.

The restaurant offers a full bar, seats 120 inside, and shares a covered outdoor deck with Bombay Cuisine so patrons can order from either or both.

Hours: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mon. - Thu. 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Fri. and Sat. Follow them on Facebook here.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Planning for walkable, thriving public spaces: East Hills takes steps toward a sustainable future

Monday night a group of about 30 residents from the East Hills Council of Neighbors (EHCN) neighborhood gathered to hear the first draft of a plan that will form a framework for the neighborhood's public spaces: parks, streets, sidewalks, and business districts. The meeting was the culmination of a year of information gathering by two committees: the public space committee chaired by resident Rachel Lee, and the complete streets committee, chaired by resident Josh Leffingwell.

"We're looking at creating a possible area specific plan where pedestrians come first," says Rachel Lee, adding that the planning is funded by a $45,000 grant from the Dyer-Ives Foundation. The idea for the plan came about last year when the neighborhood's Cherry Park landed $10K from mygrcitypoints.com for a park makeover.

Ted Lott, architect and partner at Lott3Metz Architecture, and Mark Miller, urban planner at Nederveld, Inc., led the discussion and gathered ideas from attendees. Lott began the meeting by saying that there is "planning fatigue in the city" and, therefore, the focus has been to use information already gathered by others and to add to it with ideas from the neighborhood residents.

The neighborhood, bounded by Fulton St. on the north, Union Avenue on the west, Wealthy St. on the south, and Fuller Avenue on the east, includes two large public parks: Cherry Park and Congress School Park. Brainstorming possible improvements generated ideas that included lighting, a new water play area (Cherry), new public-friendly fencing at both parks, electrical connections for events usage (Cherry), bike racks, a skating rink, a possible dog park area, board games spaces, more shade, an amphitheater for public and school events/outdoor classroom (Congress), and improved soccer and track facilities (Congress).

Ideas for pedestrian-friendly streets included considerations for Congress Elementary, the East Hills business district, and residential streets. Ideas included sheltered bus stops, safer crosswalks, more brick streets to add character and slow traffic, four-way stops in lieu of traffic lights, and parking improvements.

Redevelopment ideas ranged from identifying places that need redevelopment or infill buildings to promoting economic diversity by encouraging a greater variety of retail businesses.

Lott says the next steps are to meet with the EHCN to review the ideas and develop the next steps of the plan, which will be presented at the EHCN annual meeting at 6:30 p.m., October 21 at the Inner City Christian Federation building, 920 Cherry St. SE.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

1.4M rides, crowded buses spur The Rapid to study bus rapid transit for Lake Michigan Dr. corridor

A record 1.4 million rides last year and crowded buses despite service every five to six minutes have prompted The Interurban Transit Partnership (The Rapid) to find a way to improve bus route 50, its busiest route.

Bus route 50, which transports mainly Grand Valley State University college students between GVSU's downtown Grand Rapids Pew Campus and its Allendale Campus along Lake Michigan Drive, is the subject of a long-range study that will offer up answers on the feasibility of a bus rapid transit (BRT) line to serve the entire 13-plus-mile corridor.

The $600,000 study, led by URS Corporation, will take about a year, says The Rapid's long range planner Nick Monoyios. Construction has begun on the city's only BRT line, the $30 million Silver Line, which will run along Division Avenue. But it's not clear until the new study is complete whether the solution for route 50 is a BRT or something else.

"Eleven buses make 300 trips every day, crammed full of kids. The ridership has been growing exponentially since we started the service 10 years ago," Monoyios says. "We don't know if the problem is a frequency problem and we need to add more buses, which could cost more than adding longer buses that have more capacity. It's hard to pinpoint with accuracy."

The study will gather public input from riders and stakeholders, as well as riders and stakeholders of routes 7, 12, and 18, which also operate within the same corridor, says Jennifer Kalczuk, external relations manager. "We have [bus] stops today, but do those make the most sense, or would there be better locations? What is the best way to serve that whole corridor?"

Monoyios and Kalczuk agree that the primary goal of the study is to gather significant public input from every stakeholder, institution, and rider. Plans are underway for a number of community meetings over the next year, online tools and apps, and meetings with neighborhood associations, business leaders, and others. Information gathered will guide an advisory committee and a policy committee in determining a solution that works for the corridor.

Public meetings will be announced on The Rapid website and via the media.

Monoyios expects to have the study results by August 2014.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Kendall College plans to further its presence down South Division with two new studios

Kendall College of Art and Design and Ferris State University recently shook up the downtown development scene with the announcement that they would be merging with Grand Rapids' home of contemporary art, UICA. But without missing a beat, Kendall has additional plans to remake the corner of South Division and Fulton, thus extending its presence further down Division Avenue.

Part of the UICA complex at the corner includes two retail spaces facing South Division. Other than using it as a raw ArtPrize venue and some classroom space, UICA has so far been unsuccesful in finding retail tenants since they moved into the Gallery on Fulton complex in 2010.

But in an interview with David Rosen, President of Kendall College, he outlined plans to take over the two retail bays and outfit them for studios for two new programs for Kendall: the Masters of Architecture program that is scheduled to begin in fall 2014, and their newly accredited apparel and fashion programs. The goal is to have the studios open to the outside world, both letting in the light and energy of downtown as well as adding street-level vibrancy to a corner that has seen fits and starts of revitalization over the years.

Those fits and starts are all about to drastically change as these two studios join the growing list of projects on that corner. 616Development is nearing completion of its remake of the long vacant Kendall Building into a mixed use complex that will include apartments, its new company headquarters, and a new ground floor tenant to be announced soon. The complete revamp of Monument Park is also well underway, with plans that include two new streetscape plazas, movement of the monument to a more prominent spot on the corner, new trees, and brick pavers that will better tie the park into Monroe Center to the West.

Also on the corner is the revitalization of the "Old JA Building" into new offices for Kalamazoo-based architecture firm TowerPinkster.

With the addition of the two new retail studio spaces, Kendall will have effectively stretched its Division presence from Lyon Street at the north all the way to south of Fulton Street. As David Rosen, a big fan of "urban placemaking" remarked, the "goal is to make downtown Grand Rapids an increasingly vibrant place for young and old creatives alike. We want to give our Kendall College graduates the idea that they can indeed stay in Grand Rapids after they graduate, by making downtown a vibrant center of arts and culture."

Writer: Jeff Hill
Photography: Jeff Hill

Moving on up to the west side: Rockford Construction moves 100+ workers to new Grand Rapids HQ

Rockford Construction's co-founder Mike Van Gessel grew up on Grand Rapids' west side, so the idea to rehab a defunct paint and powder coating facility at 601 First St. NW into the company's headquarters seems a natural fit and promises to be the catalyst for more development on a side of town with an industrial history.

The $5 million renovation of the Miller Products Paint factory brings 100-plus workers to the west side, all potential customers of area restaurants, pubs, shopping, and residential. Employees relocated in July, but Rockford Construction officially cut the ribbon Tuesday night with several city officials joining in.

The site cleanup included removing 1,375 tons of contaminated soil, painting equipment, and other hazardous waste, says Jennifer Boezwinkle, VP of business development to make the 75,000-square-foot structure habitable. But that was just the beginning.

Rockford reclaimed Grand Rapids' ash trees destroyed by the emerald ash borer, stained the wood to stunning mahogany and walnut colors, and clad the lobby walls and stairways with it to add warmth and richness to the open industrial design. Natural light floods the work areas through clear windows, opaque glass walls, and skylights. Room sensors dim or brighten the overhead lights, as needed.

Employees can work outside in the central courtyard with its mural of west side icons by ArtPrize artist George Eberhardt, on the rooftop deck, in the cozy break area that's set up like a coffee shop, or in a colorful gathering space with couches and wireless electronics-charging technology built into the work surface.

Rockford has applied for LEED Platinum, the highest level of LEED certification.

Other renovations include:

•    High-tech event space and training facility with seating capacity for 180 and adjacent caterer staging area.
•    Second- and third-level conference rooms with glass walls offering clear views of the city to the north, south, and east.
•    Innovative acoustics control.
•    Reverse osmosis drinking water system.
•    Roofing that combines light-colored membranes and a green roof to help prevent "heat island" effect.
•    Bikes employees can use to get to area restaurants or offsite meetings.

"We have been engaged with the urban (development) with Cherry Street Landing and our developments on Monroe Center," says Mike Van Gessel. "When we started Cherry Street Landing (Cherry and Commerce), Cooley Law wasn't there, the entertainment district wasn't there, so I see this as our next take on the gnarly, if you will -- the west side coming back to what it always was with industrial, residential, walkable with great retail, trees and grass."

Source: Mike Van Gessel, Jennifer Boezwinkle, Rockford Construction; Chris Knape, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Re-imagining Grand Rapids' busiest corner: TowerPinkster injects new life in derelict JA Building

The iconic building with the curved corner façade at the intersection of Fulton Street and Division Avenue is, literally, the center of Grand Rapids -- the place where the NE, NW, SE, and SW quadrants shake hands. As of January 2013, 40,000 cars passed through the intersection daily.

One building facing that corner, known as "the Junior Achievement Building" or the "JA Building" and now called 4 E. Fulton, is no longer the derelict eyesore it has been for years, but is undergoing a dramatic transformation of its entryway and second floor by its new second-floor tenant, TowerPinkster Architects & Engineers.

The building, owned by Locus Development, has a historic designation, so façade repairs had to conform to historic requirements. But inside, the 7,500-square-foot second floor has joined the 21st Century with a sleek energy-efficient new interior for 40 of TowerPinkster's employees; 25 will move in sometime in October, leaving room for future growth.

"The elevator core is wood reclaimed from Asian shipping crates, and we designed the entry with the kitchen space forward to act as a lobby/welcome area," says Matt Slagle, design architect. "We saved the glass from the building's 1937-era windows; we crushed them and used them as aggregate in the countertop in the front of the space. Throughout, there are Interlam 3-D wall panels that look like crinkled paper to give dimension to the space. The countertops in the kitchen and bathroom are recycled aluminum shavings in a resin base."

Other features include:
•    Roller window shades attached to solar sensors for auto control of daylight levels.
•    Open workspaces for collaboration.
•    Height-adjustable work surfaces so employees can sit or stand.
•    Soft seating areas where employees can work away from their desks.
•    Polycom video conferencing system with a 70-in screen.
•    Private offices.
•    A 1,500-square-foot event space available to the community.

The lobby will be open during ArtPrize and will exhibit the works of three artists.

Click here to view an animated video of the interior.

Source: Matt Slagle, TowerPinkster; Chris Knape, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Popular East Lansing deli gets a slice of Grand Rapids' entertainment district with first GR store

Menna's Joint, an East Lansing-based deli known for its youthful vibe and giant "dub" burrito-style sandwiches, hopes to get a healthy slice of the restaurant crowd in Grand Rapids' entertainment district with the opening of its first Grand Rapids location at 44 Ionia Ave. SW.

The new store, kitty-corner from HopCat and next to McFadden's, will offer food service and local delivery into the wee hours -- a trend that has helped make its four existing stores successful, says Hank Andries, company owner with Gary Adam.

"We're typically open until 4 a.m. on weekends and will deliver to 3 a.m. or 4 a.m.," Andries says. "We'll be offering delivery, sit-down, and takeout. We'll deliver to the downtown GVSU campus and student housing, and offer our products to the growing business environment downtown."

Menna's Joint will offer is nearly-famous dub sandwiches -- a grilled tortilla overloaded with meat, veggies, and cheeses and wrapped up like a burrito -- but without beans or rice. The menu touts nearly two dozen dubs, including mouthwatering spicy-hot dubs, tasty veggie dubs, and protein-loaded breakfast dubs, as well as salads, soups, and Momma Menna's delectable chocolate chip cookies.

Andries says the decision to open Menna's Joint locations in college towns near the campuses (MSU, Western Michigan, GVSU, Central Michigan University) fits with the eatery's youthful, student-oriented brand, which he says attracts the young and the young-at-heart.

The Grand Rapids location will open mid-October.

Source: Hank Andries, Menna's Joint
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Big city sophistication with a small town feel in Rockford's new Artesian Distillers Underground Bar

A stylish throwback to the prohibition-era speakeasy, the new Artesian Distillers Underground Bar (49 Bridge St.) in Rockford has been capturing the interest and business of passersby since it opened in July. Soft lighting, quiet music, and intimate seating entice patrons to linger while they enjoy cocktails crafted with flair by a gregarious bartender. Although the space is only 1,100 square feet, it seems bigger, opening to a wider area in back, boasting a handcrafted bar lined with comfortable stools.

Amir Haririan and his wife, Leslie Iglesias, opened Grand Rapids' first liquor distillery, Artesian Distillery, in 2010. It manufactures RMD vodka and rum, 1492 Cristobal aged rum, Prohibition Edition bourbon, and other premium spirits, all served at the bar in Rockford and sold by the bottle in both locations. Customers can enjoy a wide variety of creative cocktails combining craft liquors with special ingredients like seasonal fruit and herbs.

Iglesias explains, "We try to use as many fresh ingredients as we can get our hands on -- like ginger, tarragon, basil, peaches, and berries." Most of the cocktails are priced from $5 to $7 and many are cleverly named. Iglesias says, "Chillax and Rockford Slugger are two of the most popular cocktails. No matter what people order, we make sure customers are happy with their drink and it's what they expected. We want their input."

Presently, the menu offers finger foods like the meat and cheese Anti-Prohibition Platter or the Purple Gang, featuring hummus. Iglesias says, "We're exploring extending the menu and hours. But before we do that, we want to make sure our six employees are fully prepared to make complex cocktails and serve food when it's busy."

Artesian Distillery Underground is open Tuesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to midnight. Happy Hour $3 drink specials are offered from 5 to 6 p.m. Within the next month, the bar will open at noon to serve lunch and Happy Hour will extend to 4 to 6 p.m.

For more information, visit their Facebook page or call (616) 252-1700.

Source: Leslie Iglesias, Artesian Distillers Underground Bar
Writer: Susan Julien Larimore, freelance reporter

New small business online directory, Shop Small GR, is all about connecting on a local level

Interested in finding a neighborhood deli with one-of-a-kind sandwiches or a charming ice cream shop your kids will adore? There's now a new online directory of small local businesses called ShopSmallGR.com to help you locate the perfect place in Grand Rapids.

Launched by Grand Rapids native Brett Wohlgemuth on June 15, Shop Small GR is designed to easily connect Grand Rapids residents with local businesses: restaurants, hair salons, yoga centers, antique stores, boutiques, and much more.

On the website, users can find places using the navigational tabs (Eat, Shop, Stay, Do, Local Services) or the Search function, complete with a search by zip code. To-date, there are over 500 local businesses featured on the site, with new listings being added daily. To add a place or event, click the appropriate tab on the home page and follow the instructions.

There's no fee for businesses to add a place or event. At this point, the site is not revenue-generating; it's simply a directory to connect local people with local places. Maps are provided too. Wohlgemuth says, "Businesses control their own listing. The general description is what they want to say, not what we want to say about them. If they want their logo and a photo with their listing, they can do it. If they want to enable users to share their listing on social media sites, they can. Customers can even post reviews if the business wants to offer that option."

To help create awareness and attract new customers, ShopSmallGR.com is hosting a Gift Card Giveaway, Sept. 1 through Nov. 30, which is Small Business Saturday. Over 50 businesses have donated gift cards for the giveaway. To enter, click here.

For more information on Shop Small GR, visit their website. To get daily updates on local businesses and events, connect with Shop Small GR on Facebook.

Source: Brett Wohlgemuth, Shop Small GR
Writer: Susan Julien Larimore, Freelance Reporter
Images courtesy of Shop Small GR

High Five Co-op Brewery makes it official with membership buy-in party

It will be high fives all around for the organizers of The High Five Co-op Brewery when they host the first membership buy-in party at Harmony Brewing Company on Sept. 9 at 6:00 p.m.

The cooperative, which will be the first brewing co-op in Michigan, began as a winning "pitch" by Dallas McCulloch at 5x5 Night (the pre-cursor to Start Garden) in December 2011. 

The pitch earned McCulloch $5,000, which began the very long process of officially organizing a co-op.  

Joshua Smith, board member, summarizes the timeline.

"Dallas won the $5,000 in December 2011. We held regular open meetings from that time until our board elections in August 2012. Since August, the board formed and finalized the co-op's bylaws, submitted their articles of incorporation to the state on July 4, 2013, and announced its legal existence as a co-op in the state of Michigan via the Facebook page." 

As far as membership goes, Smith says certificates will be sold for a one-time fee of $150. "Purchase of a member certificate makes you a member of the co-op, which is limited to one certificate per person. You must be 21 or older and Michigan resident. A member certificate entitles a person to an extended membership to the co-op."

Benefits of being a member include an equal vote in board elections and general issues the board deems important for a poll. It also entitles an individual to an opportunity to run for the board of directors, employment opportunities, member discounts, and a variety of brewing options and member-only benefits.

Smith says they hope to never close buy-in opportunities and to also eventually have memberships that can be purchased online. He also advises to watch for a Kickstarter campaign and for information on investments over the $150 buy-in price. 

"The cooperative business model puts its membership first. We're building a community of beer enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, and local business supporters to create a place that we own together, and that we frequent together, because we love it."

The co-op is still in the process of identifying a location, but is keen on staying the Eastown or East Hills neighborhood if at all possible.

You can get more information about the buy-in, including needed documents, and follow the progress of the organization at beer.coop and or on Facebook

Source: Joshua Smith, High Five Brewery Co-op
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Muskegon's new $3.8M downtown farmers market lays groundwork for year-round activity center

The decision to move Muskegon's already successful farmers market to a new location in the center of the downtown has had its hurdles and challenges, but work has begun on a new $3.8 million facility that includes a performance stage, a certified commercial kitchen for startup food companies, and an ice skating rink.

The market, now located at 700 Yuba St. just outside the city center, draws some 10,000 people every Saturday and hundreds of farmers and other vendors from Ottawa, Muskegon, Oceana, Newaygo, and Mason counties, says Cindy Larsen, president of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce.

The new market at 1 Market St., bounded by Western Avenue, Terrace St., and Morris, will offer flexible-sized stalls that will accommodate from 130 to 150 vendors in the outdoor portion of the market, which features permanent roofs over each stall. The stalls include electricity, lighting, and water hookups, which the existing farmers market doesn't offer. An indoor market building provides space for 20 vendors. Onsite and offsite parking in area lots and streets will accommodate over 600 cars.

"We really worked with the farmers to design it for them," Larsen says, adding that the farmers had input on every aspect of the design. The market will also act as a marketplace for artists, craft fairs, car shows, holiday markets, and other events when the Muskegon Farmers Market is not scheduled.

But Muskegon's downtown community is banking on the market being more than a destination for shoppers.

"The whole point of our market is to build our downtown," Larsen says. "It's not supposed to be 'come to the market and leave,' but to 'come to the market and then go shopping in the downtown.'

The Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, the Community Foundation of Muskegon County, and the Paul C. Johnson Foundation spearheaded development of the marketplace.

The market opens in May 2014.

T4 Group: construction manager
Paradigm Design: architectural design
Schultz Transport: excavation

Source: Cindy Larsen, Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Rapids Public Museum's Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium reaches for the stars with $1.2M overhaul

The Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium inside the Grand Rapids Public Museum is one of the museum's most popular attractions. Besides making learning about earth science and space exploration a heck of a lot of fun, the planetarium has entertained thousands with its Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and winter holiday laser light shows.

A planned $1.2 million renovation of the planetarium will ensure that the technology and environment is state-of-the-art to keep crowds entertained for years to come, says Kate Moore, director of public relations. Up until 5 p.m. on Sept. 14, visitors will have a last chance to see their favorite shows before the planetarium closes for five months for the renovation. The renovated space will open in February 2014.

The renewed planetarium will have the latest Digistar projection equipment with HD technology, a spectrum of new software that will enable planetarium staff and university/college students to write new astronomy shows, as well as new reclining seating.

"Right now, the Digistar equipment is outdated by three or four versions, and we're finding it difficult to find new shows that will run on the older equipment," Moore says. "With our high definition programming, we're hoping to form partnerships with local universities and physics departments so students can come in and create their own shows."

Moore says that, because many of the shows, including the laser light programs, were created in-house with the old Digistar capabilities, those shows will not work with the new technology. The plan is to create new shows to entertain audiences and to keep people coming back for more. In the meantime, a full schedule of the favorites will run until Sept. 14 so everyone who wants to see them before they're done will have the opportunity.

Click here for the planetarium schedule.

Source: Kate Moore, Grand Rapids Public Museum
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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