The Game Is On

December 20, 2004
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The Calder hotel project continues to capture affirming interest from the business community. Community luncheons and dinners last week provided backdrop for business leaders’ comments on the Oct. 20 Business Journal story, and expression to see it move forward.

Financial leaders are not confused by the numbers.

The new defense of position from the bowels of city hall, however, explains that the convention center, which is still under final construction, will one day have to be enlarged, and that would entail a move across Monroe Avenue onto Calder Plaza. Such a plan then would have city taxpayers finance the necessary aging building’s improvements and handicap accessibility expenses, and after, the expense of a move at the point the convention center expands.

  • The addition to the downtown skyline represented by JosephMoch has created its own stream of speculative Street Talk, in some ways harkening back to the pattern initially greeting the Blue Bridge Ventures plan for Calder Plaza — way back, prior to Blue Bridge President Jack Buchanan’spartnership with Hines Interests LP.

Initial comment is more of a question, “Is this a real deal?” That, of course, is followed by supposition: It will end up being a hotel.

  • TomTillman is West Michigan’s first entry into the fray over Michigan’s allowance of Keno games in restaurants. The second-generation owner of Tillman’s on North Monroe this month completed installation and staff training. Tillman plans to operate the game in selected seating around the bar area, keeping the rest of the establishment open to dining patrons. Requests for Keno seats will be taken by the maitre d’ at the door. Tillman said bets will be allowed up to $20 per hand. He also indicated the Minnesota Keno game machine operators have complimented his restaurant as “the nicest” establishment in which they have installed the game.

Monday, Oct. 27, 6 p.m.: game on.

  • Tuesday morning’s City Commission meeting had the flavor of an unscheduled public hearing combined with courtroom TV, as a business owner, with his attorney in tow, argued his case before city commissioners — live on the city’s cable television Channel 26.

It wasn’t exactly The People’s Court, but it wasn’t exactly business as usual, either.

Local businessman MichaelBlackmer, along with his legal counsel, BrianAndrew of Warner Norcross & Judd, appealed to city commissioners directly Tuesday regarding Blackmer’s request for a transfer of ownership on the Club North bar and restaurant’s liquor license.

The city police department disapproved the liquor license transfer because of a 5-year-old misdemeanor charge against Blackmer involving an incident in which he confiscated and then sold back a fake ID to a customer of his party store in Ottawa County.

Blackmer acknowledged he made a bad decision at the time. He told commissioners there have been no such incidences since and that he was working on getting the charge expunged from his record.

Mayor JohnLogie chaired the meeting but did not participate in the discussion because Blackmer’s lawyer is an associate in his law firm.

Commissioners agreed to hear Blackmer out that morning instead of waiting for their afternoon meeting.

Though the “courtroom” style process was somewhat unusual, it was not unprecedented and it did not bypass any of the normal processes, said City Attorney PhilipBalkema.

There have been a handful of those kinds of requests that have come before the commission in the past, he said.

“The applicant apparently thought it would be appropriate for him to come and plead his case since the grounds for recommendation for denial were based on a misdemeanor conviction of five years ago.”

Three or four years ago, for instance, the police department recommended for similar kinds of reasons that a license application be denied, Balkema recalled. After giving the applicant a chance to discuss the circumstances involved, the commission decided to go ahead and approve it.

The same courtesy and the same forum would not necessarily be extended to any business owner, whether seeking a liquor license or approval for a development, Balkema said.

“What the commission is trying to do is make its preliminary call at the Committee of the Whole (meeting) based on the evidence that they need,” Balkema explained. “In this (Blackmer’s) case they had a complete packet of information from staff, along with a letter from the applicant’s lawyer in which he specifically requested the opportunity to address the commission at such time the commission would see appropriate.

“It’s a rare thing, but it’s up to the city commission to decide. It doesn’t set any precedent.”

City Commissioners subsequently agreed to table the issue for up to 90 days to allow Blackmer time to get the charge expunged from his record.

  • Frustrated commuters reportedly are dreaming up new names for the one-lane construction zone that stretches along both sides of I-96 from east of Coopersville nearly to Marne.

Having completed pacing maintenance, contractors in the zone now are sandblasting the steel of one overpass while busily grading, filling and paving over numerous sections of the median. Go figure.

Anyway, the eight-mile construction zone variously now is called the Grand Rapids-Shoreline Meander, the Kent-Ottawa-Muskegon Crawl Zone, and the Coopersville-Marne Bumper to Bumper Boulevard. Many commuters report rediscovering many scenic and uncongested, if slow, country roads between Grand Rapids and the shoreline.                    

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