Done Deal

October 3, 2003
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A secret little soiree that brought everybody to Bistro Bella Vita last week provided farewell to Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce President John Brown. City, county and state elected officials mixed with business representatives, offering opportunity to talk issues with the political action king. (And we cannot let Brown go without one last mention in Street Talk.)

Of course there was talk of the pending appointment to fill the city commission seat vacated by (now) District Judge Scott Bowen. And it probably surprises no one that his preference of successors is currently scored at the top, though "interviews" have only just begun.

Who would are not support the former Kent County Democratic Party Chair Stephen Deem, especially given the success of fellow Dems JamesJendrasiak and RickTormala? It is said to be of such formidable lockstep that it has silenced the Rev. Robert Dean, who has previously championed diversity of the commission. And there is not one woman considered to be in the top tier.

While Deem is said to be the back-room choice, Joe Jones, Pat Miles Sr., and Bing Goei are said to be runners-up. Grand Rapids minorities are certain to get the message.

And just think, the second round of official interviews doesn't take place until next week Tuesday.

  • The families of ThomasKroon and TheodoreKnape must be proud. Not only did they fight City Hall for several years and win the right to keep their home, but now that home will be turned into a museum.

The home, best known for "guarding" the Gus West Lot near GVSU for many years, will be moved and made into a museum honoring immigrants to Grand Rapids.

The Grand Rapids City Commission approved the donation of the home to the Grand Rapids Historical Organization. The home was built in 1880 and in 1905 was purchased by immigrant JohnKnape, a Prussian-born bicycle repairman who later founded Knape and Vogt.

During the past years, Kroon, son-in-law to Knape's last child Theodore, who had inherited the home, refused to sell it and watched as all of the other homes around his were purchased and razed to create the parking lot that is currently Gus West. The home has sat there by itself for years as a symbol of the rights of an individual that fought development to save his home from destruction and won. In the end, the city acquired the home as part of a land swap and has donated it for the memorial. The home was moved off of the Gus lot on Friday.

Robert and SharonGrooters donated the property at 424 Broadway NW, next to St. Mary's Church on the West Side, where the home was relocated. The Grooterses helped spur the growth in that area with the opening of Bridgewater Place in 1993 and continue the development as they finalize plans to construct the second tower.

AlexMyrhorodsky, founder of the Grand Rapids Historical Organization, also singled out Mayor JohnLogie for spearheading the donation, and longtime West Sider CasimirSak and City Commissioner Jendrasiak for their diligence in protecting the home from destruction.

The job of arranging the challenging inner-city move fell to Consumers Power's DavePohanka, who charted the route from Summer Street to Broadway.

The Memorial to Immigrant's House, as the structure is now called, will include rooms that feature immigrants from the countries of Poland, Russia, Latvia and many others. A wall of names will include every immigrant family's name, Myrhorodsky said. Memorabilia from immigrating families can be sent to Grand Rapids Historical Organization, 1100 Dayton SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504. Donations to the cause can be sent to the same address.

  • While the Immigrant's House is historic, the fate of housing in the downtown area today still seems to be a hot topic.

The Journal's Web publication, www.grbj.com, last week touched on that subject with its weekly survey question: "Considering that, since 1995, 3,500 people have established or soon will establish homes downtown, would you say inner city Grand Rapids 1) Could be considered revitalized 2) Has barely begun undergoing revitalization or 3) Has made headway in revitalization.

The responses will make JonRooks, JoeMoch and the rest of the downtown housing crowd happy.

Seventy percent of those responding selected option 2 and the other 30 percent went with option 3. Not one of the 70 respondents thought the downtown housing job was completed.

  • Need another sign of economic recovery? The National Association of Credit Management (NACM) released its figures for September and, according to the NACM Credit Manager's Index, the total shows a strong gain of 2.2 percent (120 basis points) for the month and is at its highest level since April of this year.

Even better news for West Michigan is that the improvement is driven by the manufacturing sector, which jumped 5.2 percent (290 basis points) over its August level. The manufacturing reading of 58.4 is the highest it has been since May 2002.

  • But not all is rosy on the economic front.

Interstate Bakeries Corp. (NYSE-IBC) Thursday announced plans to close its bread and roll bakery in Grand Rapids. The closing, scheduled for Dec. 3, will affect 160 employees.

Production from the Grand Rapids bakery, which primarily bakes bread and rolls under the Wonder, Butternut and Home Pride brand names, will be transferred to IBC's bakeries in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Distribution of IBC products to food stores in Grand Rapids and other markets will not be affected.

The company, which is based in Kansas City, blamed the closure on "not as efficient" operations at the GR plant, which was acquired in 1972.

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