Category Archives: Development

Hey! What’s Growing On?

As I am sure everyone knows Start Garden started today.  Start Garden is the next big thing from Rick DeVos and Pomegranate Studios, where people can submit ideas for a chance receive $5,000 in an initial investment.  Each week, 2 ideas will be chosen and given $5,000 and then the winners will be required to come back in 60-90 days and present where they are at with their winning idea for opportunity to get additional funding, in the amount of $20,000.  Ideas that are progressing well and have potential to become viable businesses can in theory receive up to $500,000 dollars from Start Garden.  The fund is backed up $15 million commitment from the DeVos family, so there is plenty of opportunities for many ideas to get a lot of investment dollars.  Throughout the process, ideas receiving funding will be able to get some resources and mentoring from Start Garden to help their idea move ahead.  The public gets to be involved in the process as well by choosing one of the weekly winners and public events will be held to present the progress of previous winners.

Some things I like about Start Garden:

  • Accountability.  Unlike the 5×5 Nights winners, who are not required to update anyone on their progress or what they have done with money that they won, Start Garden requires winners to come back in 60-90 days and update everyone on their progress.  Not to mention that great minds think alike, here is my tweet to 5×5 Night (Pomegranate Studio) on January 24, 2012 and their response.  I asked them if they followed-up with winners on their progress or what they were up to, and 5×5 responded that they didn’t..  I was always curious if there was an mechanism in place besides one own morals which prevent someone from coming up with a fake idea (charity/or good cause) and win the competition and just take the $5,000 and run.  Granted it would be a lot of work for someone to do all that but I am sure there must have been at least some hucksters who submitted ideas with this premise.  Plus people what to know what happens next, its like a cliffhanger and people want to see a resolution or at least the next chapter.  Start Garden did a great thing by adding in this extra step.
  • Helping ideas get off the ground, and giving them money
  • General philanthropy of the DeVos family
  • Getting exposure to some new, great, and interesting ideas (it could potentially give me more fodder for my blog)
  • And this great quote form Mlive “Backed by his wealthy family, [Rick] DeVos…” Wow way to empower all the troll commentators to like to spout negatives about the DeVos family.

Some things I don’t like:

  • All the garden talk.  I know its part of the name, and it helps complete the narrative, but look at this quote from Rick DeVos: ““Start Garden creates the field and brings the water. We ask the people to bring their ideas and plant them. And we ask existing businesses in our region to become the farmers. Because we believe the soil is fertile for business here and we can be the best place for somebody to have an idea and run with it”
  • Never did they really say what is going to happen to 5×5 Night, though by looking at the website, it does say “Site Closed Temporarily closed. Check out our new project Start Garden.”  None of the stories I read mentioned it, even the official press release never states what is going to happen to 5×5.
  • The logo should be green or brown instead of yellow… you know garden, things growing, greenery and soil.

Start Garden, cool idea, that I will be curiously following, and I am especially looking forward for the 60-90 day recaps which I think is the best part.  What are your thoughts?

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Update on Scott Bosgraaf

Well its gotten to that point, where Scott Bosgraaf deserves his own post. Oddly enough it seems that he has been following in his former lessee, Brett Flipse’s footsteps.

Scott Bosgraaf in front of what could be a building (at least GR Press knows how to label file photos)

Last time I wrote about Scott Bosgraaf he seemed to be doing quite well, owning several companies and building developments, but as you can see many of these are running into trouble:

Huntington Bank was a major financier for Bosgraaf, had enough, and decided to pursue action against Bosgraaf.  The bank began to take some properties into foreclosure, and initiated some lawsuits to receive payment on loans.  Auto Sports Unlimited (which was used as an umbrella company to Bosgraaf Commercial, and Holland Transmission Service) and Faargsob (Bosgraaf backwards) where used as collateral for some of his developments, and both have filed for bankruptcy.  The legal battles between Huntington Bank and Bosgraaf are ongoing so we will have to wait and see how this will all play out.

The situation between Bosgraaf and his lenders has been brewing for awhile.  Back in January 2011, I noticed lots of visitors to The Ledger were searching for “Scott Bosgraaf foreclosure” or some variation of that.  At the time I could not verify any of that information, but now the press has caught wind of the story.

Read more at Holland Sentinel, Grand Rapids Press, Argus Press, and my original post here.
Though I do love the title for this Scott Bosgraaf photo “Scott Bosgraaf of Baker Lofts stand in the wine cellar at what could be Theodore, the new restaurant at Baker Lofts. ”  At what could be… really?

Case in Point – People love Big Brands

In my recent post about well known stores & brands taking up shop in Grand Rapids like Anthropologie, The North Face, Apple Store, I made the following comment regarding a question about the trend of supporting local businesses:

“Thanks Wendy. I broadly define the local population of GR into the following two areas a) social activists, proponents of GR, and local first types b) everyone else. Everyone else consume based on familiarity, and convenience. So whereas you hear about all the good thing the type A population is doing, most consumers probably fall into type B, where it would be nice to drive an extra 20 mins to go to local store, then another 15 mins to go to local store B, but if I go to Big Chain I can just do all my shopping at once.

Plus big brands are identifiable. You can be reasonably assured that no matter who you talk to they have heard of GAP, H&M, and Nike. When you talk about the major shopping areas like the Magnificent Mile in Chicago, almost all the stores are either designer luxury brand stores, or well known national stores with multiple locations. That is what people talk about and that is what really gets the general populace excited.

Of course Grand Rapids will probably never get the wide range of stores that are featured in the key retail shopping districts in Chicago and New York, but I think that they can get a good mix of a couple of national brand stores to rally the masses, and then sprinkle in with a lot of smaller local retailers to fill in the gaps and help feed off the energy and masses that the national brand stores bring in.

But then again I have had no experience in urban design or economic development. I just call it like I see it.”

Well I think the recent news of P.F. Chang’s China Bistro coming to Grand Rapids (East Beltline & Knapp) illustrates my above comment perfectly.  WZZM tweeted about this on November 18th.  To show the excitement news about P.F. Chang’s in Grand Rapids, this news was tweeted and retweeted by about 23 different people (5 here , 6 here, 3 here, 4 here, another 5 here,).  Mostly with comments like Yum, and Yummy.

I could only find one negative tweet by CreativeIncite who stated the following: “Not excited about PF Chang’s coming to #gr – why would I be excited about another non-unique nat’l chain? Blah. #anywhereUSA”

I am surprised that there was not more of the negative backlash against this especially on twitter, which seems to have quite a high percentage of local-philes (my new name for Proponents of their city, region etc.).

Thoughts?

It’s A Bird, It’s a Plane, No It’s ……

Mumbai, Minneapolis, and Grand Rapids, Oh My – What do they all have in common….. Skywalks!

So Grand Rapids has a Skywalk, which is an elevated enclosed walkway between buildings. The main point of skywalks is to give users a safe way to move between buildings (avoid traffic, congestion on streets) and to protect pedestrians from the weather.

The Grand Rapids Skywalk is 1.4 miles long, covers 7 city blocks, and connects multiple buildings.  The Skywalk starts at Devos Place off of Monroe, and snakes it way down Monroe, and heads East on Fulton and ends at the Van Andel Arena.  Here is a map and here is another map, and here is a confusing map with entrances and exits and non identified buildings.

It is hard to get information on the SkyWalk and so I took it upon myself through visual observation and Bing Maps and their Aerial View (which rocks) to create my own map of the Grand Rapids SkyWalk and identifying what buildings it connects (and the businesses inside those buildings).  But of course soon after I created that map I found this one which is perfect – oh well.  Please click on my map to make me feel better about not wasting my time.

I have been on the Skywalk once after a Griffins hockey game at Van Andel Arena, promptly got lost and exited as quickly as I saw an exit.  But luckily it looks like the City of Grand Rapids is fixing the Skywalk system with a series of wayfaring signs by Corbin Design out of Traverse City (the same company that did the street wayfaring system for the downtown).  Additionally according to this article they are also looking for ways to beautify the Skywalk.

With out further ado here is the path of the Grand Rapids SkyWalk (my map): Also note that the numbers below correspond to the Bing Map I created)

Van Andel Arena (#1)to 25 Ottawa SW Building (#3) to both 32 Market SW Building (#5) and the Parking Lot on Market/Fulton/Monroe (#7) to Courtyard by Marriott (#8) & Plaza Towers (#9) (at 11 Monroe NW) to Campau Square Parking Lot on Campau & Monroe (#11) to Campau Square Plaza Building (#13) (99 Monroe NW) to National City Bank Building (#15) (171 Monroe NW) then splits to JW Marriott (#17) and Amway Grand Hotel (#21) & Plaza.

The JW Marriott Route (#17) goes to Riverfront Plaza Building (#19)(55 Campau, 88 Campau) and ends.

The path to Amway Grand Plaza (#21) goes to Windquest Building (#24 my personal favorite) and  DeVos Place/Performance Hall (#25).

So it seems that this Grand Rapids SkyWalk may still grow in the future.  In fact the city of Grand Rapids as recently as 1/20/2010 in a Economic Development Corporate meeting was asking about viability of a skywalk at the Old Post Office, which it was told that a Skywalk is too expensive and not a part of the plan for the building (here is the link to the notes from that meeting).  But it goes to show that is still on the minds of city leaders and developers.

There  is a photographic slideshow of the Grand Rapids SkyWalk through Flickr.

Please share your SkyWalk stories and thoughts in the comments.  Does Grand Rapids even need a SkyWalk?  How did this all get started in Grand Rapids?

An Anthropologie Study on Grand Rapids Retail Environment

I am somewhat surprised that there isn’t more of a hub-bub surrounding the recent news that Anthropologie, a trendy & popular woman’s apparel, accessories, and home decor retailer, owned by Urban Outfitters is moving to Breton Village in Fall 2011.  The community has always been striving for well known brand names to move into the area, and Grand Rapids is heading in the right direction  look at some of the other current “cool” tenants of Grand Rapids like the Apple Store, and The North Face (which is opening up next weekend in Woodlawn Mall).

Well part of the reason people still do not think Grand Rapids has arrived could be  because we do not have a Trader Joe’s. (though it shouldn’t be) See examples here – read the comments as well 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
Not to mention Facebook Groups – by the way Trader Joe fans get your act together and consolidate, no wonder why Trade Joe’s doesn’t want a store here, look at this mess below:

So why is it thought that Grand Rapids still hasn’t arrived yet?  The real reason (my hypothesis) is that these stores are not in downtown Grand Rapids.  They are on the outskirts of town, or in the mall (which in many GR proponent view as evil).  Right now when people talk or brag about Grand Rapids they start with downtown, which basically has everything, except for a strong retail shopping presence.  When people talk about other downtown areas that they are found of retail shopping usually comes up, and more often than not the talk leads to international brand name stores, trendy boutiques, and the like.  Perhaps the DeVos family can kick off this initiative as well, after all Pamela DeVos (wife to Dan) is the designer and president of the Pamella Roland brand of designer womans clothes.

So what do you  all think would these type of stores be better off in downtown Grand Rapids and would they be supported and thrive with consumer spending?  Or is the Grand Rapids downtown just not have enough residents and visitors to support a well known retail store yet?

For my other post on Grand Rapids “arriving” click here.

Update:  So did WOOD TV 8 read my blog and get a story idea – click here for text and video .  Very cool of A.K. Rikk’s to use ArtPrize as an opportunity to explore (and exploit the crowds) the feasibility of opening up one of their stores downtown.  The short term leases sound like a great idea, and a good way for a retailer and the city to find a perfect match.  Why wouldn’t the city and property owners be more open to this concept.

Grand Rapids on a Pedestal

Finally.

In reading Grand Rapids development news over the years, you always come across Grand Rapids emulating other cities or having Grand Rapids proponents arguing that Grand Rapids needs exactly what XYZ city has.  Or if Grand Rapids gets X then we would be just ABC-ville.

For example:

Exhibit A: Urban Market – Emulating: Columbus-OH, Milwaukee,-WI, San Francisco-CA, Seattle-WA

Exhibit B: Streetcars – Emulating:  Portland-OR

Exhibit CTrader Joes & Whole Foods – Emulating:  Every other community that has one

Exhibit D: Whitewater course for the Grand River – Emulating:  South Bend-IN, Wasua-WI, Petoskey and Chesaning-MI

Exhibit EMonorail – Emulating:  North Haverbrook, Odgenville, and Brockway

Anyway Grand Rapids sheep can now become the shepherd, or the tables have finally been turned.  There is a city in the United States that is benchmarking Grand Rapids, and is actually aspiring to emulate our city.

The city is Cedar Rapids, the second largest city in Iowa, built on the Cedar River.  With a population of 128,000 Cedar Rapids is an economic hub in Iowa.  The cities have a lot of similarities besides the whole “Rapids” thing, and based on this story in the Gazette Online, Cedar Rapids aspire to have a medical district like the Medical Mile on Michigan Street that Grand Rapids developed.  I found it fascinating to see Grand Rapids actually being bench marked for a change and not the opposite.  So slow down Grand Rapids take a breath, and enjoy the view from the pedestal.  Oh and thanks for the compliment Cedar Rapids you’re making us blush.

Be sure to read the whole story here.

Any of you readers have more examples of Grand Rapids being bench marked by other communities (maybe with ArtPrize)?