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Grand Rapids Junior Achievement Building lands anchor tenant, long-awaited restoration to begin

It's been vacant and decaying for 15 years, and after multiple attempts by various developers to renovate the iconic Junior Achievement Building at one of Grand Rapids' most prominent intersections, Locus Development announced today that architectural firm TowerPinkster will be the anchor tenant, moving all 25 of its employees to the city center.

The building, with a new address of 4 E. Fulton, is just blocks from three multi-million dollar preservation and construction projects TowerPinkster was involved with: the LEED Gold-certified Kendall College of Art & Design’s Historic Federal Building, the Kent County Courthouse, and the renovation of Grand Rapids Civic Theatre.

After TowerPinkster landed the contract for the design and engineering of 4 E. Fulton, the company decided it was the perfect place to relocate from its temporary offices in Byron Center, says TowerPinkster CEO Arnie Mikon.

"I think if you go to almost any city around the world, most of the leaders are downtown and we wanted to be where the leaders are," Mikon says. "In addition to that are all of the things you've heard the governor talking about with developing communities and keeping talent downtown. We feel we'll be better able to attract the talent we want, and we're in a creative profession so we want to be closer to the arts community."

TowerPinkster will occupy the entire second floor, some 7,500 square feet, of the building. Mikon did not disclose the company's financial investment in renovating the space to LEED Gold for Commercial Interiors, but Locus Development's John Green, owner and developer of the building, says his company's investment is $3 million.

"About 40,000 cars a day that pass through that intersection," Green says. "Yet [people] can't see the vision. We hope to draw multiple retailers -- the building is designed to have a number of storefronts. We also have a lower level with tall ceilings and could provide an opportunity to become an entertainment venue."

The exterior of the building will remain much the same due to historic preservation rules. The interior design will honor the building's Art Deco style, yet have a contemporary appeal. Demolition has begun and TowerPinkster hopes to move in by late 2013.

Architect and engineer: TowerPinkster
Construction: Pioneer Construction

Source: Arnie Mikon, Matt Slagle, TowerPinkster; John Green, Locus Development; Chris Knape, SeyferthPR
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photography: Aaron Boot

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New owner, new vision for dilapidated Junior Achievement building in Grand Rapids
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Grand Rapids' Bread Square Bakery plans to offer vegan baked goods for wholesale, walk-in customers

Matthew Russell arrived for our interview at the location for the proposed Bread Square Bakery (8 Jefferson Ave. SE) on his bike, glasses slightly fogged from the cold air. He carefully unstrapped a bakery box from the bike and we moved inside. The box, filled with samples of dark brown bread, colorful frosted cupcakes, and huge sandwich-style cookies, infused the air with scents of cinnamon and chocolate.

Bread Square Bakery is part of Bartertown Diner, a popular and unique vegan restaurant next door, and Russell is one of the employee-owners in the venture. He guides the restaurant's Internet presence and supplies the eatery with vegan cookies from his side business, Wednesday Evening Cookies. Soon, he'll head up the baking at Bread Square Bakery.

As a journalism student at Western Michigan University, Russell cooked for himself. Meat was pricey and he didn't eat packaged foods, so he bought what he could afford. It took a while before he realized he was eating a vegetarian diet. After that, he studied vegetarianism and decided to pursue it in earnest.

"When I moved to Grand Rapids, I started Wednesday Evening Cookies for a group bike ride around town every Wednesday night," Russell says. "People [from the rides] started ordering cookies from me. It's just grown from there."

Russell says it makes sense for Bartertown Diner to have its own bakery that can provide wholesale vegan baked goods to its own customers, as well as to area restaurants, stores, coffee shops, and walk-in customers. While the restaurant's plan is to continue buying certain baked goods from existing suppliers, Bread Square Bakery will provide some of its vegan and gluten-free breads, cupcakes, and cookies to keep costs down.

The bakery will occupy the rear 750 square feet of 8 Jefferson. The Bloom Collective will occupy the front third. Customers will enter the bakery off the back alley where Russell hopes to add a small patio. The alley is accessible by foot or bike from Jefferson SE and from Fulton St. NE.

Russell hopes to have the bakery open by late spring.

Source: Matthew Russell, Wednesday Evening Cookies and Bread Square Bakery
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Long vacant space in Grand Rapids' Heartside is "right space, right fit" for new promotions firm

The owners of Creative Studio Promotions say that, after months of searching for office space in downtown Grand Rapids, a long-vacant location in Heartside is the "right space, right fit" for the company and its staff of eight.

Ann Vidro and Menda Wright launched Creative Studio Promotions in June 2012 out of temporary space at Davenport University. When they looked at their future space at 25 Jefferson Ave. SE, it had been vacant for three years and was in need of an image. The pair rehabbed the space with industrial finishes, slat walls, and bright colors and opened on Sept. 1, just in time to entertain clients during ArtPrize 2012.

Wright says her expertise as a sales rep and Vidro's experience as a CPA have given them a combined 30 years of background in preparation for this endeavor. They launched the company with several clients already on board, and have since created several e-commerce sites clients use to promote and manage their arsenal of promotional items. Two of those sites are Helen DeVos Children's Hospital and Priority Health.

"Instead of having a closet full of logo products, we manage that for you," Wright says. "We have our own warehouse partner, Advanced Fulfillment. Clients and their employees and agents can log on and order for trade shows or meetings, and have it shipped to the show, to the client, or to their home, and we track the inventory here."

Wright says the company also designs specific products for clients to help promote a particular message. They can also recycle client's products into new logo items for a specific audience.

Source: Menda Wright, Creative Studio Promotions
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Preservation of century-old 4-plex brings new apartments to SE Grand Rapids' Tapestry Square

It might have been easier to raze and rebuild a circa 1915 four-plex on Grand Rapids' southeast side, but the building's character in a neighborhood with just a few stable older buildings is irreplaceable. So, the Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF) chose to invest $540,000 in the reconstruction of 528 Sheldon Ave. SE.

Jonathan Bradford, CEO of ICCF, the nonprofit leading the charge to redevelop a neglected area of housing now called Tapestry Square (four blocks bounded by Wealthy St. on the north, Division Avenue on the west, Buckley St. on the south and LaGrave Avenue on the east) says the stability of the building meant it should stay in the neighborhood.

Bradford says an absentee landlord "'re-muddled' the building in the mid-1980s and basically threw away any kind of historic character it had."

To fix that, the building was jacked up four feet off the foundation, the foundation was excavated and rebuilt with poured concrete wall and new footings, and the structure was settled on the new foundation. The inside was gutted and rebuilt. The roof, which was the wrong pitch, was rebuilt and replaced, and the outside clad in cement board siding and painted.

Each unit has three small bedrooms -- the original configurations -- and all four units are leased. Tenants will move in at the end of the month.

Bradford says construction students from Grand Rapids Community College worked on the project as part of their training.

A ribbon cutting at 10 a.m. today celebrates the completion of the project.

Source: Jonathan Bradford, Inner City Christian Federation
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Grand Central Lofts opens new doors for people seeking downtown Grand Rapids living spaces

A once vacant and decaying brick warehouse just east of downtown Grand Rapids' popular entertainment district has a new life as a vibrant apartment community. The former Grand Central Engineering Co. (100 Commerce Ave. SW) is now 31 modern, daylight-filled apartments known as Grand Central Lofts.

Developer Doug Gulker of Gulker Group and Fusion Properties says his experience leasing the three- and four-bedroom units at Hopson Flats just across town convinced him that many renters looking to live downtown wanted smaller one- and two-bedroom units. That prompted him to buy the Grand Central building a few years back -- he then had to stall development until the economy recovered enough for banks to take a risk on the project.

His $3 million investment seems to have paid off, since he says 22 of the apartments were preleased. Folks were moving in as we toured the building this week.

"This building sat vacant for 15 years," Gulker says. "This and Rockford Construction's (GRid70) project across the street finishes off the redevelopment of this part of the Commerce Avenue corridor."

The building offers open living areas with bamboo floors, three-piece bathrooms, views of the city from the upper levels, and a modern laundry room and bike storage areas in the lower level. Gulker says two ground-floor apartments are fully accessible and A.D.A. compliant.

"Everybody here likes this location because they don't have to have a vehicle downtown," says Property Manager Alisa Burgess.

Some 1,500-square-feet of commercial space opens to the corner of Commerce Avenue SW and Oakes St. SW and has two levels with a walkout. Gulker says the space could be an ideal location for a coffee shop to serve the hundreds of students, teachers, and workers who frequent Cooley Law School, The Pyramid Scheme, and the Heart of West Michigan United Way, all within steps of the front door.

Developer: Fusion Properties
Construction manager: Gulker Group
Architectural design: Hooker DeJong

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

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Not your average cupcake shop, Stiletto Sweets brings sweet sophistication to downtown Grand Rapids

It's not your girly-girly purple-and-pink-swirls cupcake shop, but a sophisticated space decorated in black and white where unusual cupcakes reign supreme.

Stiletto Sweets, a pop-up shop dedicated to selling only delicious cupcakes in tantalizing taste combinations, opened last week at 20 N. Monroe Center, right across from Monument Park. Owner Noddea Skidmore started by creating her cupcakes and party cakes sensations as special orders for events. But after winning $5,000 in a recent Start Garden competition, she decided to try the tiny 650-square-foot location in the heart of downtown as a part-time, pop-up shop venture.

Skidmore doesn't shy away from long hours -- she works full-time as an events producer for ArtPrize and bakes her cupcakes at night using the licensed kitchen at Saburba restaurant in Ada. And she draws on her experience as a former bridal stylist and as a former freelance calligrapher to inspire the artistry behind her special-order cupcakes and cakes.

"Stiletto Sweets is very specifically a cupcakery," Skidmore says. "Each day we're open, we present five different cupcakes. We combined the notion of a cake shop and an art gallery. People say they're too pretty to eat. They're like art, and we have them displayed like art."

Skidmore says two of the shop's 20 cupcake flavors vie for most popular: PMS (yes, that's what it means), made with chocolate cake, caramel drizzle, vanilla buttercream, chocolate chips and sea salt; and Red Velvet Redhead made with red velvet cake, chocolate ganache, and cream cheese buttercream.

Some of the other cleverly named creations are Sexpot, Warm Fuzzy, Chai Baby, Jack and Coke, and Boys' Night. Click here to see the entire menu with descriptions.

Hours: Thurs., Fri., 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and from 5 p.m. until the cupcakes are gone. Sat. from 11 a.m. until the cupcakes are gone.

Source: Noddea Skidmore, Stiletto Sweets
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Photography: Bryan Frank

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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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
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