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Grand Rapids Brewing Company to open $2M microbrewery with Michigan's first certified-organic brews

The final paperwork for the organic certification process through the U.S. Department of Agriculture should be complete this week. With that, the Grand Rapids Brewing Company (GRBC) at 1 Ionia Ave. SW will open the doors to Michigan's first certified-organic brewery.  

Mark Sellers, co-owner of Barfly Ventures, which owns GRBC, HopCat, Stella's Lounge, and other Grand Rapids bars, says the brewery will open with 10 certified-organic brews on tap.

The 15,000-square-foot brewery/restaurant celebrates its official opening Dec. 5 in the totally renovated main level of the structure that combines 1 and 7 Ionia Ave. SW.

Sellers says the inspiration for the organic brewery hit him after he visited Pisgah Brewing Company, an organic brewery in Black Mountain, NC.

"It was a great brewery and I didn't even know it was an organic brewery until after I was there," Sellers says. "I thought, organic beer doesn't taste any different. I looked into the feasibility of doing organic brewing in Michigan, and we figured out a way to do it." He adds that some of the hops are Michigan-grown, and the grains and malts are from Midwest farms.

GRBC will open with a well-rounded beer menu that includes a brown ale, an IPA, a Hefeweizen, a fruit beer, a stout, a porter, and the brewery's signature pilsner-style, Silver Foam. A full food menu includes house-made sausage, burgers, and foods from local farms and suppliers.

Sellers is especially proud that the design and construction of the brewery is by Grand Rapids- and Michigan-based companies and artisans -- down to the tables, bar, and furniture -- including:

•    Architectural design: Lott3Metz, Grand Rapids.
•    Construction management: Mark Schaafsma Design Build, Caledonia.
•    Interior design: David Dodde, Grand Rapids.
•    Tabletops from wood floor joists reclaimed from 1 and 7 Ionia: Jay Ubelous, Against the Grain Concepts, Lansing.
•    Table legs for some of the tables (using the old fire protection system from the building): Harry Goossens, Total Fire Protection.
•    Bar top and back bar: Marc Wiegers of Greenwood Studio, Grand Rapids.
•    Chairs: handmade at CND Products, Grand Rapids.
•    Kitchen/bar equipment: Franklin Food Service Equipment & Supply, Holland.
•    Draft system: Quality Draft Systems, Grand Rapids.
•    Brewing system: designed and built by Craftwerk Brewing Systems, Lake Orion.

Source: Mark Sellers, Barfly Ventures; Chris Knape, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Grand Rapids electronics recycler opens resale e-store on city's southwest side

If you're looking for a bargain in refurbished computers, laptops, audio systems, or gaming systems, Comprenew's new e-store could be your playground. The new storefront at 453 S. Division Ave. follows on the success of an established store at 1454 28th St SE.

Comprenew recycles some 300,000 lbs. of discarded electronics a month, says Marketing Director Paul Kehoe, and part of that recycling push is to refurbish and sell the 15 to 20 percent of the intake that is marketable.

"Our shelves are full," Kehoe says. "Laptops and flat screen displays are big sellers and our inventory is strong. People have upgraded their electronics to new models, and the things they recycle with us are in great condition."

Comprenew gets its recycled electronics through community and corporate recycling events and from area residents who drop off their unwanted electronics at the recycling center (629 Ionia Ave. SW). Certified repair technicians refurbish the top products for resale in both stores. The mix of inventory depends on the items recycled, and Kehoe says it can include VCRs, turntables, and vintage stereo systems.

Kehoe says the S. Division store is in a century-old building. A three-month renovation readied the space for the sale of today's electronics while maintaining the vintage atmosphere with the aged wood floors and original brick walls.

E-store hours (both locations): Mon. - Fri. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Source: Paul Kehoe, Comprenew
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Two downtown parks seek new ways to honor Grand Rapids' casualties of war

Two downtown Grand Rapids parks honoring the area's military who died in wars dating from the Civil War through Operation Iraqi Freedom and the War in Afghanistan are part of a study to determine how to upgrade the aging parks and include spaces of reverence for the war memorials there.

A steering committee comprised of residents, veterans, and city parks and recreation leaders has begun the task of assessing the condition of the landscapes and war memorials in Monument Park (northeast corner of Fulton St. and Division Avenue) and the adjacent Veterans Memorial Park (bounded by E. Fulton on the south, Park NE on the east, Library St. on the north, and Sheldon Avenue on the west).

According to steering committee chairman Christopher Reader, the project proposes to gather recommendations from monument preservation specialists, landscape designers, and the public.

"The area around the monuments is kind of like a sacred space," Reader says. "You want it to be special and different. How do you delineate between the sacred space and the public space? How do you tell the story of the conflicts that the memorials represent?"

Monument Park features a monument to the Civil War and a series of historical plaques. Veterans Memorial Park has monuments to WWI, WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam War, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a Purple Heart monument, a bust of Longfellow, a bust of Grand Rapids philanthropist Thomas D. Gilbert (a driving force behind the creation of Monument Park), a fountain, a concrete plaza, and lights -- all of which are aging. Many have been vandalized.

"The community's expectation as to how those spaces may want to function in the future may look different [than when the parks were built]," says Jay Steffen, director of Grand Rapids parks and recreation.

"We want to honor the veterans," Reader says. "That's our first priority."

Public focus group meetings are planned for November. More information, including dates, locations, and progress, will be available soon on a website accessible through the city's planning department web page.

Source: Christopher Reader, Parks Steering Committee; Jay Steffen, Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Microbrewery, $7M apartments nearing completion in Grand Rapids' entertainment district

The 10,000-square-foot Grand Rapids Brewing Company pub and microbrewery under construction is what passersby notice on the corner of Ionia Avenue SW and W. Fulton St. in downtown Grand Rapids. But sitting above on the fifth floor is the new 1-bedroom apartment model for the $7 million urban dwelling project that combines the buildings at 1 and 7 Ionia Ave. SW -- a project that's nearing its November 20 opening.

A walk through the buildings on a chilly September morning reveals dozens of workmen in hard hats unloading lumber, running electric lines and painting amid the din of hammers, saws and sanders. But inside the apartment model with its windows overlooking both Ionia and Fulton, it's quiet, tidy and sunny.

"All of the apartments have views over either Fulton Street, Ionia or the Van Andel Arena," says Monica Clark, director of community development for 616 Development, the developer of the apartment project. "I love the old-meets-new look. The old brick with the new granite up against it is awesome."

The two buildings, now combined by entryways through the common wall, will soon have 26 one- and two-bedroom loft apartments, all with higher end finishes like granite countertops and hardwood floors. Prices range from $1,000/mo. to $1,450/mo., and the apartments on the fourth floor of 7 Ionia will have two levels with a loft bedroom above.

"We own, manage and develop for ourselves," says 616 Development Owner Derek Coppess. "You take care of your own stuff the best. Urban living is coming back to where it was before people moved to the suburbs."

Coppess recently announced his plans to develop the historic Kendall Building on Monroe Center NE, his fourth Grand Rapids development, and says he's working on 269 Lofts in Kalamazoo.

The apartment model, staged by Stone's Throw Furniture, is open during ArtPrize. 616 Lofts is accepting lease applications now.

Coppess says the Grand Rapids Brewing Company, owned by Mark Sellers, is on schedule for a late fall opening.

Apartment design and construction: First Companies
    
Source: Derek Coppess and Monica Clark, 616 Lofts and 616 Development
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photography: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Finally, Grand Rapids' historic Kendall Building on $4M journey from crumbling to renewal

Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority okays $36M apartment development in Heartside

The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority approved the creation of a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) for the proposed construction of an estimated $36 million apartment development on the city's south side in Heartside.

The development, proposed for vacant properties at 205 S. Division Ave., 26 Cherry St. SW and 240 Ionia Ave. SW, is a new project by Midland-based Brookstone Capital, LLC, developers of millions of dollars in housing in Serrano Lofts, 101 S. Division, Metropolitan Park Apartments and other projects in Heartside.

Combined, the three new buildings could bring over 130 new affordable and market rate apartments to an area undergoing a surge of development.

"Eighty percent of the apartments are for people making 60 percent of the area median income -- they have to be bringing in a paycheck," says Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Kristopher Larson. "It will be mixed income, with a market-rate component for 20 percent of the units."

Unlike zoning, which stays with the property and not the development project, the PILOT is approved for the property improvement project only, says Larson. The DDA and Grand Rapids City Commission both approved this pilot for 40 years at 205 S. Division Ave. and 26 Cherry St. SW, and 35 years at 240 Ionia Ave. SW.

Larson says the PILOT means that "instead of the new tax increment that would have been collected coming to us (the DDA), a large portion of it is abated to contribute to the operational costs in developing workforce housing."

The PILOT paves the way for Brookstone Capital, LLC to be part of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority Low-Income Housing Tax Credits Program. Brookstone also seeks State of Michigan Brownfield Tax Credits.

At press time, Brookstone Capital had not returned Rapid Growth's request for comment.

Source: Kristopher Larson, Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority; agenda packet information from Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority meeting of Sept. 12, 2012
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Finally, Grand Rapids' historic Kendall Building on $4M journey from crumbling to renewal

If Derek Coppess's plans work out, the regeneration of the dilapidated historic Kendall Building in downtown Grand Rapids will begin in 30 days -- a venture that could infuse a neglected, yet vital, corner of the downtown core with renewed vibrancy and energy.

The Kendall Building (16 Monroe Center Ave. NE) sits next to longtime business Reynolds & Sons Sporting Goods and overlooks the intersection of Fulton St. and Division Avenue. Coppess and his 616 Development plan to bring $3 million in new retail spaces, 12 market rate apartments, and his own company to the circa 1880 structure. This, in conjunction with the Downtown Development Authority's proposed renovation of the adjacent Monument Park, could continue the shift of one of the city's major gateways from desolate to thriving.

Coppess paid $750,000 for the five-story building.

"Placemaking is a real buzz word, and the beauty of making a place is to fill the places with people," Coppess says. "We think the upper floors have been vacant three to four decades; it's a little bit frozen in time."

He adds that, in addition to the recent construction of the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts and the creation of The Gallery Apartments, both at Fulton and Division, "MoDiv helped bring people further down Monroe Center. The Children's Museum is great, and if we get [Monument] Park done into a great new green space, and with the old JA Building across the street under the control of some really great developers (Locus Development), the energy coming in and out of our building will create a lot of energy and harmony on that corner."

Construction plans include a rooftop deck, a large media/gathering room in the basement (which has original brick floors), and re-use of many of the building's architectural elements. Those elements include iced-glass dental office doors with hand-painted signage on them, which will be reinvented as barn-style sliding doors for the apartments.

Architect: Lott3Metz
Construction manager: First Companies

Source: Derek Coppess, 616 Development; Chris Knape, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Cherry Deli owner to open urban deli in Grand Rapids' Heartside "38" building

Scott Schulz, owner of Grand Rapids' Cherry Deli, has been working over a year to bring his unique recipe for a new deli to Heartside. The eatery, called Two Beards Deli, will open in 2,200 square feet on the main level of "38," the new liner building that fronts along Commerce Avenue SW and Weston St. SW.

The name "Two Beards" came about because both Schulz and deli general manager Chris Sommerfeldt have beards. The name started as a joke when brainstorming names with building owners John Green and Andy Winkel of Locus Development, Schulz says. "About a year later, they brought up the Two Beards name and we figured if they remembered it after a year, that it was pretty good."

The deli menu will feature about 100 sandwiches named after famous people with beards, like ZZ Top and Obi Wan Kenobi, and the décor will include wall images of the eight major styles of beards.

Schulz says the deli ventures into new territory by offering its first breakfast menu that includes breakfast paninis, oatmeal, yogurt and a coffee bar. The menu also features vegan and vegetarian options for both breakfast and lunch.

"The location has us pretty excited, because it's close to Van Andel Arena, lots of office workers, and the building itself has residents living here and people working in the building," Schulz says. "And Cooley Law and Aveda Institute [are] on the street." Schulz says the deli expects to work with Pyramid Scheme down the street, which doesn't offer food service.

Schulz says a planned Kickstarter campaign will help the restaurant raise funds to transform some of the Grand Rapids' ash trees that were cut down due to the Emerald Ash Borer into tabletops and chairs for the deli.

Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days.

Source: Scott Schulz, Two Beards Deli; Locus Development
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Rapids' WMCAT Building renovation looking good to become new HQ of Acton Institute

Raising the floor on the main level of the building at Fulton St. and Sheldon Blvd. SE could be just the beginning of raising community awareness of The Acton Institute, a faith-based proponent of free-market economies across the world. The institute could make 25,000 square feet of the first floor and basement level of the building its new headquarters come December.

The move will bring the Acton Institute from quiet office space tucked away inside the Waters Building in downtown Grand Rapids to a prominent corner of a busy, redeveloping neighborhood just a block east of the new Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts and The Gallery Apartments.

The building, known locally as "The Wim-CAT Building" for its second-floor tenant, the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT), will have a high-tech auditorium with tiered seating on the lower level for conferences and global education events. The Acton Institute has offices in Italy, Brazil, Austria, Zambia and Argentina and manages events from Grand Rapids.
 
Pioneer Construction is the construction manager of the project. "The [original] floor on the main level has an area that's raised about two feet," says Pioneer Construction Project Manager Mike Verbeek. "The basement ceiling height is only about nine feet, and the first floor ceiling height is 15 feet. So we're raising the floor a couple feet to make the main floor all one level and excavating down a couple of feet in the basement for the tiered seating area [in the auditorium]."

The main floor will be office space for Acton's 40-plus staff. The building is being constructed according to SERF (Society of Environmentally Responsible Facilities) standards, and is, perhaps, the first building in Grand Rapids to be built to these standards.

"SERF is a fairly new certification that's an alternative to the LEED certification," says Chris Beckering, Pioneer Construction business development director.

"This is another catalyst project that will bring in extra people to the area who will use the restaurants and the shops," Verbeek says. "And Acton will bring in speakers and conference people as well."

Source: Mike Verbeek, Chris Beckering, Pioneer Construction
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Tech company Springthrough to make leap downtown

You know it's a good sign that when you order new furniture for your growing office, by the time it gets delivered, you need to order more.

That's the situation that rapidly growing technology company Springthrough is facing these days. Their growth has been so dramatic in the past few years that they've decided it's time for a new home, and have chosen 62 Commerce SW in the Heartside District in downtown Grand Rapids to call their own.

They plan to lease both floors of the 13,500-square-foot building that sits wedged between 38 Commerce SW and Pyramid Scheme. The vacant, ornate brick and wood-beamed building dates back to the early part of the 1900s, when the historic Heartside District and Commerce Avenue went through a building boom. Commerce Avenue has seen another bit of a boom in the last 10 years, making it one of the fastest redeveloping areas in downtown.

According to LeeAnne Williams, marketing director at Springthrough, the company embarked on the strategy to find new space in November of last year, which had only become more imperative in 2012. They currently are housed in two former industrial buildings on the NE side of Grand Rapids. While certainly not a bad area, Williams explains that "having our workers in two separate buildings isn't the best situation for employee morale."

Springthrough has nearly 50 employees, and are "hiring weekly," according to Williams. They've had great success finding local internship talent out of Grand Valley State University, but do find it challenging to find good software developers and architects.

"We feel that downtown has the look, fit, feel and atmosphere for our people," says Williams. Moving into the new building in September of this year will give them the ability to put everyone under one roof, and provide expansion space for the foreseeable future.

Springthrough, founded in 2000 by Mike Williams, provides software solutions in five practice areas: managed services, support services, interactive services, app development and technology solutions consultants. Their customers are located throughout the Midwest and U.S., including providing Facebook application services for a division of Disney.

Source: LeeAnne Williams, Springthrough
Writer: Jeff Hill, Publisher
Photography: Jeff Hill, Publisher

$28.5M renovation of Grand Rapids' Historic Federal Building several steps closer to completion

The $28.5 million renovation of the former Federal Building in Grand Rapids (17 Pearl St. NW) is close to being ready for students and faculty this fall. The renovation will provide some 91,000 square feet of classroom and gallery space for Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University.

A soft opening earlier this week showcased the art of Kendall’s Studio Excellence Award winners -- students selected from the graduating class of 2012 -- and allowed visitors to take self-guided tours, the only sneak peek for the public until the facility opens later this fall.

"All the interior renovation is complete," says Dr. Oliver H. Evans, Kendall president. "We have expanded our sculpture program, so there are ceramics and metal facilities. We've established space for our new fashion studies program, and space for our new undergrad in collaborative design, which includes a materials library."

The building's most recent long-term use was as the site of the Grand Rapids Art Museum, which used the third and fourth floors as storage space. Those floors "have been completely redone and will be completely utilized," says Dr. Evans.

The original wide stairwells, the marble throughout the building, and many other historic aspects of the facility have been maintained, says Dr. Evans. The façade has been cleaned and the original windows replaced with historically accurate new windows.  

In addition to more gallery and studio space for students, the building will have a small café.

"This building really allows Kendall to expand and to grow how it serves our credit and non-credit students," Evans says. "Kendall now occupies three city blocks -- where we are now (17 Fountain St. NW), the Federal Building and 5 Lyon student housing. We really have been able to create a community of learning in a revitalized downtown area where there's a developing and very rich arts community."

Construction and renovation: The Christman Company

Source: Dr. Oliver H. Evans, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Law firm Bloom Sluggett Morgan opens in Grand Rapids' entertainment district

In the midst of Grand Rapids' thriving entertainment district, a new law firm quietly opened its doors last week and the owners can't wait to become fixtures in this neighborhood of change.

Bloom Sluggett Morgan (15 Ionia Ave. SW) chose to put down roots in the growing Heartside neighborhood next to the Van Andel Arena because of its vitality.

"We really wanted to be in the middle of everything," says Crystal Morgan, a partner in the firm with Cliff Bloom and Jeff Sluggett. "It feels very positive and all the restaurants give us an opportunity to get out into the community and to bring clients to a fun area."

Morgan says that, although the firm just launched, the three partners and attorney Richard Butler have some 75 years' experience in general municipal law -- a niche market of government, municipal and public sector clients. In addition to the municipal law background of each attorney, Morgan says Bloom is an expert in riparian law and Butler has library law expertise.

The 2,500-square-foot office on the sixth floor has a traditional loft feel with high ceilings and exposed-brick walls.

"West Michigan is a growing area and there are a lot of exciting [municipal] projects," Morgan says. "Though cities are strapped for money, they're really looking for ways to share services and survive in this economy. We're here to stay; we're dedicated to the area and to our clients."

Source: Crystal Morgan, Bloom Sluggett Morgan; Andrea Snyder, STUDIO3TWENTY
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Perception, longtime Grand Rapids gallery, moves to new Heartside location after 19 years

When Perception opened at 7 Ionia Ave. SW in 1989, owner Kim L. Smith says the only other business was Richmond Stamp across the street. Now, with the thriving entertainment district that's sprung up around the Van Andel Arena and the future Grand Rapids Brewing Company development in Perception's space, Smith, an energetic and passionate lover of art, seized the opportunity to buy a building and relocate the gallery.

The new location at 210 E. Fulton St., in the former EyeCons Gallery, offers 2,000-square-feet of gallery space and 2,200-square-feet of workshop space. The iconic brick building greets visitors with a unique corner entry framed by storefront windows that will give passersby a glimpse of the treasures inside.

The current gallery overflows with original art from America and Europe, with hundreds of oil paintings, watercolors and acrylics, and an eclectic mix of furniture pieces, like the ancient hand-carved chair for royalty that sits next to a 1970s polygraph chair.

Smith, who was constantly on the move during our interview -- pointing out works in the current gallery, then seated, then giving a free appraisal on an Asian carving to a customer, then getting a chart from the backroom, then talking with a utility service technician -- seems to put the same energy into art research and customer service.

"I offer a free verbal appraisal for anyone who brings anything through the front door," Smith says. Last year, according to Smith's hash-marked, color-coded chart where he tracks the number of visitors, appraisals and other things, he appraised 881 pieces brought in by 322 people.

Knowledge of his trade -- much of it gained through research, he says -- is crucial to his paying business: written, documented art appraisals for insurance purposes and estate valuations for which he charges $150 per hour.

Smith expects to stay open during the relocation and will have a sale on hundreds of frames and some art at the end of April. He hopes to be in the new shop by April 30.

Source: Kim L. Smith, Perception
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photographs: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

An outdated Heartside building becomes modern guest house for Saint Mary's Health Care families

Saint Mary's Health Care is in the midst of transforming an outdated mid-century building directly behind the hospital into a contemporary and welcoming guest house for the families of patients.

The former St. Luke's House on the corner of Lafayette Avenue SE and Cherry St. SE will soon be the new $3.5 million Sophia's House, named after the mother of lead donor Peter M. Wege.

The guest house features 15 private guest rooms with televisions and wireless Internet access, a larger family-sized guest room, and common areas that include a kitchen, living room/library, a game room with a television and Wii, a children's alcove, computer center and a fitness room.

"The guest house will be for patient families who come from over 30 miles away while their loved one is being cared for at Saint Mary's," says Michelle Rabideau, executive director of the Saint Mary's Foundation, the fundraising arm of Saint Mary's Health Care and overseer of the guest house operations.

"Also, if a patient is coming from over 30 miles away and has an early morning surgery, they can come in the night before and stay at Sophia's House," Rabideau says. "They'll be less anxious, their car is already parked and then can just walk across the street to the hospital."

Rabideau says the design includes a homey feel with all the amenities of a hotel, warm colors and is just yards away from the hospital and Lack's Cancer Center.

An overnight stay is $35 per room, and guests can bring in their own food to prepare in the kitchen, says Rabideau.

The guest house will open on Monday, June 4. Sophia's House will begin taking reservations in May.

Interior design: Progressive AE
Construction manager: Erhardt Construction
Furnishings: Custer

Source: Michelle Rabideau, Saint Mary's Foundation
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Downtown movie theater proposed for the Heartside District

Grab the popcorn and the Mike & Ikes. Many residents of Grand Rapids have long been clamoring for a downtown movie theater as one of many "must haves," and it appears as though that may become a reality in the coming years. J.D. Loeks, President of Loeks Theatres, Inc and Celebration Cinemas presented conceptual designs of a new 60,000 square foot movie theater and retail complex to the Downtown Development Authority this week, capping off weeks of rumors that a new entertainment complex might be coming to the Heartside area.

The city-owned parking lot where the development is proposed, known as Area 5, is located south of the Van Andel Arena near Ionia Ave. and Oakes Street. The lot was listed by the DDA in February of 2012 to solicit potential development proposals. Jackson Entertainment LLC, representing Loeks, presented an offer on the property, and was seeking approval of the option before the board (which was approved) at this week's meeting. 

In addition to showing first-run movies on eight or nine screens using advanced audio/visual technology, Loeks is hoping that the theater will provide multi-use functionality for the growing convention and life sciences industries in downtown Grand Rapids. This sentiment was echoed by Doug Small of Experience GR at the DDA meeting. Their goal is to attract over 400,000 visitors to the theater each year.

Dating back to 1944, the Loeks family has had a movie theater presence in Grand Rapids, beginning with the purchase of the Midtown Cinema at the corner of Pearl St. and Ionia Avenue. Though the downtown area has not had a working stand-alone movie theater in over 50 years, Loeks Theatres operates four movie theaters in the Grand Rapids area, as well as numerous other locations around the State.

No specific timeline was given by Loeks for when the project would start, but optimistically,  construction would begin within a year.

A similar movie theater, retail and nine-story condo complex was proposed in 2006 for the same parcel by a Farmington Hills based developer, but never materialized. The Heartside Historic District surrounding Area 5 has seen over $500 Million in new and redevelopment projects in the last 15 years, much of which was initiated after the building of the Van Andel Arena in 1996.

Source: Anne Marie Bessette, Downtown Development Authority

31 apartments underway near Grand Rapids' Cooley Law with development of Grand Central Lofts

One of the last vacant buildings to be redeveloped on Grand Rapids' Commerce Avenue SW should be complete by late fall, bringing 31 loft apartments to Heartside.

Fusion Properties is giving the building a massive $3 million overhaul following a 15-year stretch when the building at 100 Commerce, at the crossroads of Commerce and Oakes St. SW, sat vacant and decaying across from Cooley Law School's Grand Rapids campus.

"I was a partner and contractor in the development of Hopson Flats, which is mostly three- and four-bedroom apartments," says Doug Gulker, managing partner of Fusion Properties and Gulker Group. "Gulker Group manages Hopson Flats, and we found there is a need for more one- and two-bedroom apartments. Grand Central Lofts is not a student-only project, but we expect a lot of our tenants to be Cooley Students."

Gulker says his research shows that the aging four-story building was once a commercial bakery called City Bakery. It's most recent use was as a manufacturing facility for Fireboy, maker of fire protection products.

Of the 31 apartments, six will be studios, plus 16 one-bedroom and 9 two-bedroom lofts. Some 1,500 square feet on the main level will be retail with storefront windows overlooking both Commerce and Oakes.

"Ideally, we would like some kind of coffee shop or small convenience store for local business people and students, maybe something with a lounge area," Gulker says. "There's not much around there where residents can go to grab a gallon of milk."

The apartments will have exposed brick walls, new wood floors in the main living areas, ceramic tile in the bathrooms and carpeting in the bedrooms, says Gulker. Ten-foot-high ceilings and numerous windows maximize the natural light.

The project secured State and Federal Historic tax credits and Brownfield Credits, totaling about 40 percent of the project costs, says Gulker.

Design architect: Hooker DeJong, Inc.
Construction manager: Gulker Group

Source: Doug Gulker, Fusion Properties and Gulker Group
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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