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Repairs on Grand Rapids' oldest mausoleum come nearly a decade after damages, thanks to a GRCF grant

Nearly a decade after a tree limb smashed into the tomb of Sylvester Melville, the Grand Rapids Historic Preservation Commission can finally move forward with restoring what is thought to be Grand Rapids’ oldest mausoleum, estimated to have been built in the 1870s. 

Thanks to a $10,000 Grand Rapids Community Foundation grant, repairs to the historic site at 647 Hall Street SE will include a new slate roof and reinstallation of salvaged brick and stonework. Midtown Craftsman, Grand River Builders, and Milhiem Masonry are donating labor, as well as some materials, to finish the restoration project that began in 2010 when volunteers stabilized the mausoleum’s walls and salvaged the old building materials for future restoration. 

Past Perfect, Inc. Principal Rebecca Smith-Hoffman has worked closely as a consultant with HPC organizers and volunteers on the restoration efforts in the historic Oak Hill Cemetery, and says construction work should kick off in November and has to be finished before the harsh winter weather really kicks in. 

“Getting it done before winter kicks in is crucial,” Smith-Hoffman says. “It’s a fairly small building. It’s been stabilized already, but we were just looking for funding (since then.) However, there has been a lot of time donated by a lot of different people.”

The historic Oak Hill Cemetery is the burial site for some of GRCF’s early leaders, including founder Lee M. Hutchins and early chairman Melville R. Bissell, Jr. 

Smith-Hoffman says restoring the Melville Mausoleum is an important part of preserving a big piece of Grand Rapids’ history. 

“Any kind of perseveration, of course, is the most sustainable thing we can be doing,” she says. “Here in Grand Rapids, we’re preserving whole neighborhoods. This is just another little piece of our history that is extremely important.”

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor

LINC leaders host ribbon cutting on final phase of $13 million Madison Square redevelopment

Leaders from LINC Community Revitalization Inc. are gearing up for tomorrow's 10 a.m. ribbon cutting for phase two of the $13 million Southtown Square development at 413 Hall Street SE. 

The new four-story complex will house 24 market-rate apartments with 6,000 square feet of commercial space. Serenity Boutique, the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute, and the Career Testing Center have already confirmed three out of four commercial spaces. 

"What makes this building so special for the district is the fact that it's a combination of commercial and residential and both those things are a positive for the neighborhood," says Jeremy DeRoo, co-executive director of LINC Community Revitalization Inc. 

In the past few years, DeRoo says, over 100 new jobs have been created in the Madison Square neighborhood as a result of redevelopment efforts. The ribbon cutting marks the final step of the Madison Square neighborhood redevelopment project for the nonprofit housing developers LINC Community Revitalization Inc., who earlier in the project added 20 new town homes to replace sub-standard housing in the neighborhood. 

"People are excited," DeRoo says. "They've been watching the building going up and I've had a lot of great comments from people as the finishing touches are put on the building…Residents and neighbors have been really excited to see the old building that used to be there come down and get replaced by such a nice building; it's been very well received."

With 250 applications already in hand, the one-, two-, and three-bedroom units will be allocated with a lottery system and rented through Section 8 subsidized housing vouchers. 

"I think it has the ability to change the neighborhood in a very positive way," DeRoo says. "It's a beautiful building and the neighborhood has just had a lot of investment over the past few years and I think that capstone that will help change the way the neighborhood looks." 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Seyferth PR 

Grand Rapids brewer renews efforts to open ELK Brewing on Wealthy St. despite two years of delays

Eric and Lisa Karns began working to transform a former fish fry restaurant at 700 Wealthy St. SE into a brewpub way back in 2011. No matter how much they tapped the market, bank funding was out of reach because of the high failure rate of restaurants -- a business classification the brewpub couldn't get out of, even though there are no plans to make or serve food.

So Eric Karns reached out to private investors, and now, with financing in place, Karns and business partner Taylor Carroll are busy getting ELK Brewing (ELK = Eric and Lisa's initials) ready for a late winter 2013/early spring 2014 opening.

"[Brewing beer] is the only thing I've ever wanted to do," Karns says. "I wanted to share my passion, so I just had to stick with it. It's been a struggle sometimes to keep a positive attitude, but our location is perfect; the area around it is growing. There are so many positives of what we wanted to do here, I just couldn't let it die."

ELK Brewing's location near The Winchester, Johnny B'z Dogs and More, and Wealthy Street Bakery is a growing economic district. The brewery sits on the corner of Wealthy St. SE and Henry St. SE, and will have a 100-seat patio along Henry Street. Karns will extend the front of the building 10 feet to bring it right up to the sidewalk. The front and sides of the expansion will have window walls.

The pub's three-barrel brewing system allows Karns, who will be head brewer, to brew 93 gallons at a time. He plans to open with six beers on tap: an India Pale Ale, Scotch Ale, Brown Ale, a Porter, an ESB (Extra Special Bitter), and probably a seasonal beer.

The pub's liquor license allows ELK Brewing to distribute its product, but only sell its own beers onsite.

"The brewer community is really awesome," Karns says. "I've gone in to Mitten Brewing and Harmony Brewing to see their systems and process, and they're right there to help any time I have any questions. They don't look at it as competition, but as 'the more, the merrier.'"

Source: Eric Karns, ELK Brewing
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Creative Youth Center keeps writing, reading, and books alive at former Literary Life Bookstore

It seems fitting that a young nonprofit dedicated to helping children find their literary voice would occupy the same space as a former bookstore -- a space where the muse was, and is, nurtured and called upon for inspiration.

That's what's happening with the Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center (CYC), an after-school program dedicated to helping kids aged 6 to 16 learn to write and publish fiction, plays, screenplays, poetry, and all manner of creative literature. The former Literary Life Bookstore at 758 Wealthy St. SE is the new home of the venture begun by Schuler Books & Music owner Cecile Fehsenfeld and CYC Executive Director Lori Slager.

"We left the fireplace in place, and brought in furniture," Slager says. "We want an inspiring space for the kids to come and work, a place that's not institutional after being in school all day. We have a theme of 'adventure,' sort of an Indiana Jones explorer adventure theme. We made hot air balloons from paper lanterns hanging all over. We want them to think about traveling, exploring, and discovering new things."

The Creative Youth Center offers free, age-specific writing classes taught by experienced writers, playwrights, and others in the writing arts and publishing industry. Slager says future plans include a small bookstore that sells the CYC's own books, written by students, and other items.

The store will be named Captain H. Tanny's Adventure Trade & Supply after the organization's elusive adventurer and world-traveling mascot, Captain H. Tanny.

"Captain H. Tanny is gender-neutral and open to kids' interpretations," Slager says. "We never show a picture of the captain. The captain's is always traveling and when people we know are off traveling, we have them send a postcard from the captain from wherever they are."

The first summer classes to be offered in the new location are for high school-aged kids -- one is on the spoken word and will be taught by Grand Rapids poet Azizi Jasper; the other is about screenwriting and will coordinate with the Mosaic Film Experience 2013.

Source: Lori Slager, Creative Youth Center
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Images by Lisa Beth Anderson

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Proposed project could bring $10M in new housing, storefronts to Grand Rapids' Madison Square

LINC Community Revitalization, Inc. might be busily wrapping up construction of nine affordable-rate townhomes and prepping to break ground on seven more yet this year, but that seems to be just the steam behind the momentum for the group's next aggressive project -- a $10 million residential and commercial development in the heart of the Madison Square neighborhood.

LINC landed $9 million in Low-Income Housing Tax Credit funds from the state, and will use that money to redevelop the property at 413 Hall St. SE (formerly TJ's Appliance) into a four-story building with 24 apartments and 6,000 square feet of storefront commercial space. The property is just one building east of the intersection of Hall and Madison Avenue SE, the core of the neighborhood's business district.

In addition, 20 townhouses with attached garages are part of the plan, encompassing four obsolete properties in the 400-500 block of Gilbert St. SE and one at 443 Umatilla St. SE.

Vacant buildings on the properties will be razed, making way for energy-efficient structures for residents and business owners looking for a storefront location, says Stephanie Gingerich, LINC real estate development director.

"Having that huge new building right there at the intersection will create new energy and new vibrancy," Gingerich says. "People who work in the neighborhood will have an opportunity to rent decent housing right in the neighborhood. We've estimated that having the new retail spaces will create 30 jobs. It's about breathing new life and energy into the major corridor in the neighborhood on the southeast side of Grand Rapids."

Twenty-one of the apartments will be one and two bedrooms; the rest will offer three bedrooms. Gingerich says smaller apartments are in demand and LINC is listening to the neighborhood's needs.

Madison Square is about two miles from the core city, with new bike lanes along Hall St. connecting cyclists with Division Avenue and downtown.

Construction will begin in March 2013 with a Dec. 2013 completion.

Source: Stephanie Gingerich, LINC Community Revitalization, Inc.; Tyler Lecceadone, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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LINC to break ground on $1M apartment development in Grand Rapids' Madison Square

LINC to break ground on $1M apartment development in Grand Rapids' Madison Square

The paint isn't dry yet on a nine-townhouse project in Grand Rapids' Madison Square neighborhood, but one area nonprofit is ready to break ground on another seven apartments -- a $1 million continuation of an ongoing project to bring contemporary affordable housing to an area blighted by home foreclosures.

LINC Community Revitalization, Inc., is wrapping up construction on Southtown Square, and will begin construction later this month on Prospect Place (1335 to 1407 Prospect Ave. SE), bringing to the city's housing market two four-bedroom A.D.A. accessible apartments, three three-bedroom apartments and two two-bedroom apartments.

Three of the units are set aside for persons making up to 50 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) and the remaining four are for persons making between 51 percent and 120 percent of the AMI, says Alicia Dorr, LINC communications coordinator.

The project site is the former Madison Square Co-Op Apartments, which sat vacant since going into foreclosure. LINC purchased the property with the vision of creating fresh new housing options for a variety of income levels.

"The idea is to make this into a neighborhood where anybody would like to live, and to make sure housing is affordable to keep the people who live here," Dorr says. "We believe that places that are unsafe and crumbling deserve revitalization as much as any other area in the city. We are always looking for new ways to green the neighborhood, and have included landscaping plans to beautify the blocks that these units will be on."

The apartments will be LEED-certified, which will help reduce energy costs to residents, said Stephanie Gingerich, LINC real estate development director, in an August 20, 2012 interview.

The project is funded through a grant from theCity of Grand Rapids' Neighborhood Stabilization Program 3 (NSP3).

Construction manager: Orion II Construction
Architect: Isaac V. Norris & Associates, P.C.

Source: Alicia Dorr and Stephanie Gingerich, LINC Community Revitalization, Inc.
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Nine new LEED townhouses nearly ready in Southtown Grand Rapids, part of much larger project

Nine new LEED townhouses nearly ready in Southtown Grand Rapids, part of much larger project

Nine new LEED-certified townhomes in Southeast Grand Rapids are under construction as the first leg of a much larger proposed project by LINC Community Revitalization, Inc. to replace abandoned foreclosed homes with modern, energy efficient townhomes.

The project, Southtown Square, demolished two dilapidated townhouses and a vacant commercial printing business and remediated contaminated soil. Now, nine affordable-rate townhomes are heading for completion, part of a project that could replace some 20 foreclosed properties with 41 modern homes in a neighborhood where many families have struggled to keep their homes, and lost.

The nine two-story townhomes (537 and 539 Hall St. SE; 454 and 456 Umatilla St. SE; 429, 431 and 433 Umatilla St. SE; and 428 and 430 Woodlawn St. SE) will run 800 to 1,150 square feet. Most offer three bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths, says Stephanie Gingeritch, LINC real estate development director. All of them will have full appliance packages and in-home laundry. One home will have a handicap accessible main floor bathroom and bedroom.

LINC purchased the properties from the Michigan Land Bank, Gingeritch says. Work on another two-building townhouse project near Hall and Madison Avenue SE begins in September.

"This is part of a larger redevelopment project where we will be purchasing additional foreclosed townhouses from the State of Michigan and redeveloping those as affordable units," Gingeritch says. "We recently submitted an application for tax credit financing for an additional 41 units of housing (five additional sites, 20 buildings) on Umatilla and Gilbert. We'll hear in March 2013 if that is awarded.

"We're glad we can bring this quality development to the neighborhood where there are already families who are established and don't have to move out of the neighborhood to have this," Gingeritch says.

The project is part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 to stabilize neighborhoods damaged by the economic effects of properties that have been foreclosed upon and abandoned.

Architect: Isaac V. Norris & Associates, P.C.
Construction: Orion II Construction Inc.

Source: Stephanie Gingeritch, LINC Community Revitalization, Inc.
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Rapids' Reflections senior housing project re-opens after $6.5 million renovation

Senior citizens in Grand Rapids' Madison Square neighborhood have something to be excited about with the reopening of the area's senior housing apartment building, renamed Reflections.

Located at 500 Hall Street SE, the $6.5 million renovation was a gut rehabilitation of the former Madison Square Apartments by Dwelling Place, Inc. The project was undertaken following Dwelling Place's purchase of the building from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority in 2011.

The renovation includes two additions, a new front entrance, and an upgrade to all of the systems in the facility. The building was expanded from 45,811 square feet to 65,486 square feet.

New and returning residents will find that 25 of the 60 units have been expanded and the community room and sitting areas are larger. There are now three laundry rooms instead of one, the building now has a large craft room, a deck and energy-efficient geothermal heating.

"The residents love it," says Jarrett DeWyse, director of housing development at Dwelling Place. "It is so much improved. It's so bright and cheery. We used light wells, so the natural light comes in from the ceiling. It's very well insulated, so the utility bills will be a lot lower. It's just a beautiful building."

All the units are one-bedroom apartments and residents must be 62 or older and meet the requirements for subsidized housing. The project is one of several attempts to revitalize the area.

"It's really important," DeWyse says. "It's a whole revitalization of the neighborhood . . . we changed the name to give it the status of being new. Across the street, LINC Community Revitalization is also doing some new housing in that neighborhood and there's some other housing around there that is being redone as well."

Source: Jarrett DeWyse, Dwelling Place, Inc.
Writer: Charlsie Dewey, Freelance Reporter

Klipper Kingdom barbershop brings inspiration to Grand Rapids' Madison Square neighborhood

The buzz of hair clippers hums through the air Tuesdays through Saturdays at Klipper Kingdom, where owner Israel Johnson says his business is growing.

Having opened in fall 2011 as part of the LINC Community Revitalization retail incubator, Klipper Kingdom is among eight new businesses to set up shop at the LINC Business Center (1258 Madison Ave. SE). The incubator program assists entrepreneurs in building the foundation for a successful business and hopes to revitalize the neighborhood through creating a thriving business community.

"I'm proud to be down here because, number one, it brings a positive atmosphere to this community," Johnson says. "A lot of people look at this community and just see negative. I'm proud to be a young, black business owner and show kids that they are able to achieve their goals when they apply themselves."

To create an inspirational environment, Johnson has filled the 700-square-foot space with boxing memorabilia collected through the local boxing community. Clients will find boxing gloves hanging from the walls, photos of Little Floyd (Mayweather), Floyd Mayweather, Sr., and Larry Holmes, as well as a TV that is almost always tuned to a boxing match.

Johnson invested $3,000 to convert the one-time clothing store into a barbershop. The renovation included gutting the space, electrical and plumbing upgrades, the creation of hair cutting stations and building a break room.

So far the investment is paying off. Johnson is looking to add a third employee to help keep up with demand.

Johnson is taking advantage of all of the opportunities provided by the incubator program, which include several classes and resources, so that within three years he will graduate the program and possibly continue his business in a new permanent location.

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tues. - Sat.

Source: Israel Johnson, Klipper Kingdom
Writer: Charlsie Dewey, Freelance Reporter

Sydney's Boutique brings a new shopping experience to Grand Rapids' Madison Square

Bringing women's fashions and accessories to the Madison Square business district in southeast Grand Rapids wasn't what owner Kristian Grant thought she'd be doing when she hit age 25. But the budding entrepreneur says she couldn't pass up the opportunity LINC Community Revitalization's retail incubator program provided. So she opened Sydney's Boutique (1258 Madison Ave. SE) a few months ago and hasn't looked back.

"I thought this [store] would be something I'd do when I was retired and sitting on a beach," Grant says with a laugh. "I was blogging about being a young professional in West Michigan and was looking for a reason to stay here. I wanted to do something that would leave a mark. When I sat down with LINC and talked to them about their [incubator] program, I thought this would be perfect."

The shop, named after Grant's eight-year-old daughter Sydney, has a unique selection of women's business, casual and evening attire in sizes zero to 28. Shoppers will find delightful jewelry items, chic purses, phone accessories and other fashion-forward items, as well. The boutique also offers an extensive online shopping selection at www.sydneysboutiquegr.com.

LINC's business incubator program is a three-year program that offers business owners one-on-one assistance with marketing, legal advice, accounting and other business services at reduced rates or free. All participants meet as a group each month, and many have storefront spaces at reduced rates.

"I could have started my own store and decided to create some change myself," Grant says. "But LINC has a real niche in this community. Ten years ago, Madison Square wasn't like this. LINC is really creating a space where kids and families can be, and I decided to be a part of it."

Hours: Thurs. and Fri., 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Sat. noon to 7; and open by appointment.

Source: Kristian Grant, Sydney's Boutique
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

LINC incubator launches with six new businesses in Grand Rapids' Madison Square

Six new businesses opened their doors on Friday, Nov. 11 in Grand Rapids' Madison Square business district, the first step in an economic development push by Grand Rapids-based LINC Community Revitalization, Inc. to help entrepreneurs launch local businesses and create jobs.

The businesses are all part of a new business incubator, the LINC Business Center, formerly C & J Plaza, an abandoned, ramshackle building at 1258 Madison Ave. SE. The shops range from 400 square feet to 1,000 square feet, all available at reduced rates to give entrepreneurs a leg up. The business owners enter a three-year business development program that will equip them with the knowledge to keep the business running, including legal advice, payroll processing, accounting, business plan development, networking skills and mastering social media.

"I wasn't sure if we'd have enough businesses that qualified, but for these six spaces, we had over 20 applicants," says LINC Economic Development Director Jorge Gonzalez. Gonzalez says LINC reviewed each business plan to determine if the business was ready to move forward and could be sustainable.

"We want them to be able to get their own space in the community at market rate by the end of the three years," he says. "If they're ready earlier, we'll help them move out earlier."

The businesses are:
Epic Emporium, art gallery and gift shop featuring local artists
Klipper Kingdom, barber shop.
Southtown Guitar, offering guitars and guitar lessons
RaiderTek, computer repair
Sydney’s Boutique, women's apparel.
WYGR 1530 AM, radio broadcasting studio.

Gonzalez says there are four spaces still available. Lease rates begin at $200/month, depending on the shop size and location within the building.

Source: Jorge Gonzalez, LINC Community Revitalization, Inc.
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Madison Square Apartments gutted, geared up for $21M overhaul in SE Grand Rapids

The residents of Madison Square Apartments on Grand Rapids’ Southeast side have endured years of poor housing in a residential community with a less than stellar reputation. But the folks at Dwelling Place say all that is changing. Dwelling Place purchased the 60-unit, three-story building in June and has since gutted the building in preparation for a complete overhaul. The project, including the building's purchase price, will run some $21M.

Besides new interiors for the apartments -- which include new kitchens and bathrooms -- and all-new common areas, Triangle Associates is building  three additions, including a community room large enough to accommodate all residents for special events and a gathering room where residents can meet to for crafts or exercise classes.

“This is a Section 8 property and we’re doing this renovation to preserve the affordable housing in the Grand Rapids area,” says Dwelling Place’s Director of Housing Development Jarrett DeWyse. “We bought the property from MSHDA (Michigan State Housing Development Authority), who could have sold this to another developer and we’d have lost the affordable aspect of this housing.”

The apartments (500 Hall St. SE) were built as one-bedroom senior housing in 1984, which included housing for persons of any age who had physical disabilities. Forty of the apartments were occupied. Last December, Dwelling Place helped those residents find temporary housing in some 16 locations throughout the city until construction is finished. Most of those residents will opt to return to what DeWyse says will be, basically, a brand new building.

Upgrades include new HVAC, new windows, an outdoor deck and a community garden area for residents. DeWyse says that conversations with service providers such as Senior Meals and Gerontology Network will put services in place for the residents, something they didn’t have before.

The additions do not add any new apartments, but allow space for enlarging 25 of the apartments to about 700 square feet; the remaining apartments run about 540 square feet, says DeWyse.  

Residents have been invited to join a contest to give the new building a new name.  

Funding for the project came from American Reinvestment and Recovery Act stimulus funds, low-income housing tax credits and MSHDA, says DeWyse.

“The residents can’t wait to get back,” DeWyse says. “They feel we are invested and we are concerned about them, and they feel really good about that.”

Construction should wrap up in March 2012.

Construction manager: Triangle Associates
Architect: Destigter Architecture & Planning

Source: Jarrett DeWyse, Dwelling Place, Inc.
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

29 LEED Townhomes proposed for Grand Rapids' Madison Square neighborhood

Representatives from LINC Community Revitalization will go in front of the City of Grand Rapids April 14 to request approval for 29 townhomes in the city's Madison Square neighborhood.

LINC, formerly Lighthouse Communities, will present its plan for the modern multi-family units, which would be located on nine parcels on four streets near the intersection of Madison Avenue SE and Hall St. SE. The city has already approved development of a tenth parcel on Prospect SE.

The proposal is part of the community development organization's $10 million plan to develop 55 residential units in the area. An additional 21 units will be located at 413 Hall, in the planned Southtown Square mixed-use development.

The plan for the nine Madison Square units includes replacing aging multi-family buildings with the new, modern townhomes. Some of the structures that will be torn down are already vacant, while others are occupied.

LINC Co-Executive Director Jeremy DeRoo says current homeowners will not be displaced, but will have the option to move into the new units. Rent for the townhomes will retain the current rental rates of $500 to $725, and Section 8 assistance will be available to low-income tenants.

"The goal is to provide high quality, affordable housing in the neighborhood," says DeRoo.

All units will be LEED certified, with two to four bedrooms and at least two bathrooms. DeRoo says the project has been well received in the neighborhood, with a petition for the project garnering more than 120 signatures.

"The [housing] design is more modern than is typically seen in the area," says DeRoo. "There is room and a desire for improving the diversity of housing."

The first phase of construction, slated to begin in June, will involve tearing down three parcels that are contaminated and boarded up.

Source: Jeremy DeRoo, LINC Community Revitalization
Writer: Kelly Quintanilla

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Proposed homestyle breakfast restaurant to be only sit-down eatery in Grand Rapids' Madison Square

Grand Rapids' Madison Square business district at the corner of Madison Avenue SE and Hall St. SE could be on the verge of getting its only sit-down eatery, part of a coordinated response to neighborhood demand.

The proposed B & W Breakfast Bar could open in April as part of a $1.7 million renovation of a century-old storefront at 1167 Madison. The project, spearheaded by LINC Community Revitalization, Inc. (formerly Lighthouse Communities), includes LINC's Development Center containing administrative offices, a retail incubator, a co-working space and a community police station.

Robert Ball, owner of Grand Rapids' Southern Fish Fry and a partner in the new venture, will manage the restaurant, says spokesperson T. A. El Amin, a consultant on the project.

"We're aiming for a home-style place, kind of a combination of Waffle House and Cracker Barrel," El Amin says. "We're looking at breakfast and lunch to start, and we'd like to be open from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. If it goes well, we could add dinner hours, and if that goes well, it could become 24-hour."

El Amin says the focus will be a country-style breakfast and lunch menu with favorites like waffles, bacon and eggs, southern grits, and "a little bit of soul food," as well as heart healthy choices such as turkey sausage, fresh salads and homemade soups.

The 1,500-square-foot space will seat 40.

Attracting a sit-down restaurant to Madison Square is part of a broader push to fill gaps in the business district's offerings, an initiative that began with a neighborhood charrette in 2005.

"This is one of the fastest growing areas around and the region is well thought out and well planned, except for the core city," El Amin says. "If we can get something going in the neighborhoods around the core city, we're going to have something really great.

"The next generation will inherit whatever we do now," he adds. "We'll teach them how to grow it and expand it and there'll be no stopping us with what we can accomplish."

Source: T. A. El Amin, El Amin Associates; LINC Community Revitalization, Inc.
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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$5.5M LEED housing, commercial development proposed to spur growth in Grand Rapids' Southtown

Five years ago a neighborhood charrette called for the creation of quality housing and commercial development in Grand Rapids' Madison Square business district, part of a greater Southtown objective that includes revitalization of business districts at Franklin and Hall streets and S. Division Avenue.

Now, after tens of millions of dollars in public and private investments in infrastructure, streets and lighting, new townhomes, commercial spaces, and the Lighthouse Communities Development Center (1167 Madison Ave. SE), nonprofit Lighthouse Communities, Inc. plans to continue the vision with Southtown Square, a proposed $5.5 million LEED-certified development.

Lighthouse has an option to buy the former TJ's Appliance Store (413 Hall St. SE), across from Duthler's Family Foods. The plan is to raze it and construct a four-story mixed use building with 6,600 square feet of commercial space on the main level and 21 affordable-rate apartments above.

"What makes this exciting is that it's not a stand-alone project, but it's connected to the development of the entire neighborhood," says Jeremy DeRoo, Lighthouse co-director with Darel Ross.

"We will have approximately 20 percent of each new commercial development devoted as incubator space for startup retail or services businesses that can function within the district long-term," Ross adds.

The incubators include access to free or discounted business services such as attorneys, insurance agents and accountants, and qualify for training and business plan development through Lighthouse Communities, Ross says.

"We will close on the property once the state approves our application for low-income housing tax credits, which represent over 50 percent of the funding," DeRoo says. "I'm hopeful those will be approved within the next 30 days. If we're not selected, there will be another round for applications and we'll move up the line for approval."

DeRoo says Lighthouse has applied for Brownfield Redevelopment tax credits for remediation of chemical contaminants from a former dry cleaner on the property.

The architect for the project is Grand Rapids-based Isaac V. Norris & Associates.

Source: Jeremy DeRoo and Darel Ross, Lighthouse Communities, Inc.
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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