To Be Or Not To Be

May 17, 2002
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Metro area residents are not likely to learn of the new community performing arts center until former Michigan National Bank City President Thomas Hilliker has extrapolated funding pledges, but Grand Rapids Art Museum (also now a performance place) is certain to make its “go/no go” decision on where its growing collections and exhibits will hang.

The decade-old debate as to whether the old U.S. Post Office, a historic building, can continue to house the GRAM’s growth is so delicate a sensible discussion none want to whisper what may happen. Former GRAM Director Judith Sobol’s demands to move were met with a lynch mob of patrons who found her unappreciative of the building’s architectural and historic significance.

Mild-mannered Celeste Adams, who replaced Sobol, has been adept at walking the tightrope between the historics and those who believe logic should rule — a new site plan. Amiable Adams has a newer and perhaps younger board in this new century and is proving to be a capable leader of the camps. Even GRAM board member and downtown building renaissance king Sam Cummings refused to speculate on which decision will be cast, though Greiner is in the midst of a building assessment to which the Grand Rapids Foundation contributed, hoping to settle the matter once for all (of them). Study already has included a field trip to Milwaukee where that city’s museum was saved with an expansion plan. But, drawings of new possibilities etched on (accounting) spreadsheets are said to exist somewhere along the twisting hallways of the institution.

Cummings advised the GRAM decision would be made before year’s end, but is much more excited about the current “Manoogian Collection” of rarely seen paintings by American masters (through May 20), which is considered to be among the best of private collections in the country. One might add that the exhibit’s appearance in GR also is indicative of further east-west (Michigan) relationships and partnerships.

The topper this year, however, is the October Frank Lloyd Wright show, “Light Screens.” (Two major symposia are scheduled, the first in association with American Craft Museum and Christie’s, both in New York; the second in Chicago, in conjunction with the Department of Architecture and Design of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Architecture Foundation.) Expect the best for this: GRBJ has learned that acknowledged FLW expert Richard Wilson will open the show in GR. And Wilson has said the Steelcase renovation of the FLW “Meyer May House” is so exactly complete it stands as the most authentic FLW Museum in the world.

  • Recent history: If banks are going to play to win the “free checking” game against Fifth Third, Bank West will “See ya, raise ya,” and give new customers something more than a soccer mom chair. No butts here, Bank West staff members searched for the proper memorial of its 114 years in West Michigan, making it the oldest locally owned financial institution. They found a collection of 1887 uncirculated Morgan silver dollars, which will be given to the first 114 customers who open a new checking account (minimum $500 balance). The series is the most popular of all U.S. rare coins, first minted in 1878 and discontinued in 1921. The current value of the coin is $27. Bank West also is offering to buy a new customer’s unused old bank checks.

Moreover, Bank West professionals may have sounded the alarm of distinction as banking becomes more competitive in River City. The press release about the coins begins, “Seems like every bank in town (especially those from out of town)…”

  • More candid conversations just off Vandenberg Center indicate even those aware of the pending Old Kent Bank/ Fifth Third merger were surprised by the heft in OKB Chairman David Wagner’s severance package, and that other senior managers were not so lucky.

As new signs are manufactured, the Business Journal also has been advised by stockholders that none are unhappy, and there is great glee for employees with 401(k) plans which are now of great benefit, especially in the wake of layoffs — and those to come.

Others are comparing the deal to “what happened” in Kalamazoo when FMB succumbed to National Bank’s takeover. It is assumed, at least, there will be much less devastation in Grand Rapids even as property parcels are vacated.

And e-mailed jokes suggest Pyrex parties and soccer mom sit-ins.

And we might suggest there would be new “chair holders” after the deal is done.

  • From reporting the news to making it — or at least helping to shape (or spin) it.

That will be the new job description for WOOD TV8 political reporter and weekend anchor RickAlbin, who will join Congressman PeterHoekstra’s Washington staff on March 19 as the Holland Republican’s senior policy adviser and coalitions director.

Albin, 42, has been with the West Michigan TV station for nearly six years, during which time he has covered a host of local, state and national conventions.

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