A Riverfront Property Squabble

February 28, 2003
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Grand Rapids Business Journal is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a little history of its own. Throughout the year, the Journal will revisit significant events that occurred each week 20, 15 and 10 years ago. For longtime Grand Rapidians, this is a chance to test historical trivia. For newcomers, it’s a chance to “catch up” with everyone else.

Twenty Years Ago

  • For years no one would go near the riverfront downtown, then it became the hottest property in the city. Developers were complaining about a plan to place two public institutions on that choice real estate and take the properties off the tax rolls. But the question remained: Where were those private developers years ago and, if the property was so hot, how come Grand Valley State College was able to gather up seven of the 14 acres available to extend its downtown campus?

  • The Grand Center became a window shopper’s paradise in mid-month as the Sport RV and Vacation Show and the WCUZ West Michigan Home and Garden Show filled up the exhibition hall. On two successive weekends these two separate shows displayed thousands of products.

Admission was $3.50 and $2 for kids.

  • Festival planned to establish a beachhead on the west bank of the Grand River with an experimental sculpture exhibit. Ande Roeser, Festival ’82 co-chair and devoted sculpture fan, planned to direct the exhibit, which would set another precedent for Festival by opening two weeks before the full arts event.

Roeser cautioned that the exhibit does not constitute the much-talked-about expansion of the crowd-pleasing, Calder Plaza-based Festival to other areas of the downtown. Instead, this was only an experiment.

  • There was a buzz surrounding the planned performance of a one-man stage show at Hope College’s DeWitt Cultural Center by John Houseman, star of The Paper Chase and the producer of Orson Wells’ acclaimed Mercury Theater. The actor’s agent would say only that the performance would consist of recitations and readings.

  • Grand Rapids was home of William F. Drueke and Sons, Inc., one of the world’s foremost manufacturers of chess products.

The firm, located at 601 Third St. NW, began making chessboards and chess sets during World War I when war production stopped the flow of French chess sets to the United States. The French re-entered the market after the war, but by then Drueke had won a strong market share, fabricating everything from $300 boards with two-inch tongue-in-groove squares to inexpensive magnetic sets.

Fifteen Years Ago

  • Bruce Brown, president of United Development Real Estate Inc., announced a few changes in the Eastbank housing project since the last update to the city commission three months earlier. The 32-story tower had been moved from the north end to the center of the structure.

The Eastbank Waterfront Towers, as the project would be called, featured a 200-room hotel, 162 apartments and 124 to 130 condominiums.

Brown expected funding for the $40 million project to be complete by May, with constructed scheduled to start in June and completion within 24 months.

  • The publishing company that overhauled Advance Newspapers planned to make its mark in another hotly competitive field by publishing the first comprehensive telephone directory for Allegan County.

Flashes Directory Information Systems, a new division of Flashes Publishers Inc., planned to distribute the phone book in October. Flashes said its yellow pages advertising rates would be as much as 50 percent cheaper than those charged by the utility companies currently serving the county.

  • A local supermarket mogul gave Grand Valley State University $1.25 million, the single largest individual contribution in its history.

The downtown campus has been renamed the L.V. Eberhard Center in recognition of the gift from the owner of the Eberhard chain of supermarkets and Bud’s Discount Pharmacy stores.

“One million dollars is designated toward the completion of our new facility in downtown Grand Rapids,” said GVSU President Arend Lubbers, “and $250,000 is designated to establish a permanent scholarship program.”

  • Alliance Airlines, a commuter airline based in Kenosha, Wis., expanded its route to include daily service from Grand Rapids to Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

Fares ranged from $138 round trip for a two-day advance purchase to $89 for a one-way capacity controlled ticket or $109 one way for an unrestricted coach class ticket.

  • According to James G. Buick, president and CEO, Zondervan’s downsizing and refocusing of its music business and consolidation of its Bible and book operations were positive steps to improving the company’s profitability.

“Despite the initial cost of taking these and other steps, we’re reporting improved earnings for 1987 and expect further gains this year,” he said.

  • William Hoyt, planning director for Grand Rapids, said the exodus of industrial development to the suburbs left the city holding about 300 acres of vacant land that would need some work and creative marketing to fill.

  • GUS bus service ended at 7 p.m., instead of the traditional 10 p.m., after City Transportation Director Jere Meredith said the South Fulton Avenue route averaged 10 passengers between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. On the West Bank route, less than two passengers usually were served.

  • Meadows Products of Michigan Inc. acquired the Stamping and Fabricating Division of Sealed Power Corp. The division, located in Detroit, produced heavy duty specialty assemblies for original equipment manufacturers.

  • Amway Corp’s big media kick had a local flavor. The March 7 edition of Newsweek carried a two-page spread from the direct sales giant. One page featured an official from the Easter Seal Society, one of Amway’s pet projects. The facing page showed, among other elements, Ada-based corporate spokesperson Karyn Vaughn.

Ads from the Amway campaign were scheduled to appear in Reader’s Digest, USA Today, the New York subway and various airports around the country.

  • Grand Rapids announced it would pick up the tab for “mid-priced” cars used by the mayor and city manager. Mayor Gerald Helmholdt drove a Chrysler Fifth Avenue. City Manager Kurt Kimball was behind the wheel of a Pontiac 6000 LE.

Ten Years Ago

  • Personnel Journal conferred a national honor upon Steelcase Inc. in recognition of its workers’ compensation program. The Grand Rapids manufacturer was one of 10 that the human resources publication recognized for “innovative human resources strategies to achieve business goals.”

  • The city’s oldest and only locally owned thrift institution, West Side Federal Savings & Loan, announced it would officially change its name that summer to Bank West FSB. The purpose of the change from S&L to bank was to better reflect the firm’s expanding market and product line.

Paul Sydloski, the firm’s president, said the change allows Bank West to reach out to new customers while still “offering the same old-fashioned service” that West Side had provided previously.

  • At a Feb. 23 service in Lansing, Congressman Paul Henry, R-Grand Rapids, was named Michigan Citizen of the Year by Michigan Association of Broadcasters. Henry, who had been batting cancer, began his public service with the Peace Corps. He later was a professor at Calvin College and served on the state board of education and in the Michigan House and Senate before being elected to his first term in Congress in 1984.

Previous recipients of the honor were President Gerald Ford, Gov. William Milliken and G. Mennen Williams, chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.

  • The Michigan Senate added a mandatory 20 percent rollback in medical malpractice insurance rates.

Sen. William Van Regenmorter, R-Jenison, who chaired the senate judiciary committee, said the amendment was a response to insurance company testimony that indicated the step was financially feasible.

  • Two major brokerage houses cut the stock rating for NBD Bank NA, but both the brokerage officials and bank officers said the change actually reflected the firm’s increasing strength.

Salomon Brothers and Chicagocorp both announced they had cut NBD from a “buy” rating — the analysts’ highest — to “hold,” which was one step above the rarely assigned bottom ranking of “sell.”

Analysts from both firms said they acted as a result of the bank stock’s performance, which has exceeded that of the market.           

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