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

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

$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
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