Green Builds Career Here

August 29, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — After earning his economics degree from IndianaUniversity, John Green left Bloomington and headed to Chicago on a whim. Without a job and with little cash in his pocket, he bunked with a buddy, and for the first month he was there he enjoyed all the neat things the WindyCity has to offer.

"Then I ran out of money and realized I needed to get a job," said Green, executive vice president and principal at Second Story Properties, one of Grand Rapids' most successful and active real estate development firms.

So Green did what any enterprising young American male just out of college who was broke, away from home, unemployed and a bit desperate would do — he offered to work for nothing.

"I went knocking on doors and came across another Indiana alum who shared the same degree and offered to work for him for free, because at that point it was difficult to get work and I needed to differentiate myself from everybody else. I said, 'Look, I'll work for free for you for 30 days, and if you like what I do, you can hire me,'" he said.

The pitch worked. Green got the job at the downtown money management firm. By the way, he got paid from Day One. Green started as an assistant portfolio manager and left the company five years later as the firm's chief financial officer.

"It was a family-owned, smaller company, so I was exposed to a lot. But (wife) Deanna and I didn't want to raise children in Chicago. We wanted to be able to walk down the street and make eye contact with people and be part of a growing community," he said.

It was then time for Green, a Grand Rapids native, to come home. His brother, DP Fox Executive Vice President David Green, was helping Dan DeVos and David Van Andel bring the Griffins to the new arena back then, and John Green felt the timing was right for he and Deanna to move here.

His hunch was correct. But little did he know at that time that decision would turn out to be the best life-changing one he would ever make — outside of marrying Deanna, of course. Why? Because the father of his friend in Chicago introduced Green to Sam Cummings, who owned Macroe Properties then and already had built an award-winning reputation for his work in renovating downtown buildings.

"We immediately hit it off. We shared a lot of the same passions, goals and objectives in life and in business. From there, it evolved into a partnership," said Green of his very first meeting with his future business partner.

Macroe Properties became Second Story Properties shortly afterward. The new firm has maintained the renovation tradition of the old one and has even expanded its services since Green joined Cummings. And Green has found his career calling.

"What I really and truly enjoy about real estate is that it allows me to be creative, but still work with tangible assets that we can get our arms around. But the creativity is something that has always excited me, whether it's looking at a building and seeing what can be done to improve it and create a new life for it, to how to structure a transaction to meet the objective of both parties," said Green.

The Fitzgerald isn't the only project on Green's current agenda, but it certainly is the firm's biggest one right now. The plan is to convert the former downtown YMCA at

33 Library St. NW
into 50 condominiums with lots of amenities — not exactly an easy task but one that offers plenty of opportunities for creative thinking.

"When Sam and I first looked at it, we looked at the swimming pool in the gymnasium, which is the newer structure to the building. We kept asking ourselves, 'How are we going to be able to make that work in a 50-unit residential development?' Then the light bulb went on and we somehow came to the conclusion that we would knock that part of the building down and make that our parking ramp," said Green.

"To this day, that is one of the huge benefits to this development. The people who come to live there will have attached and secured parking. It's problem solving and I do it on a regular basis. I love the challenges. If it was easy, it wouldn't be fun."

When Green isn't working, he spends time with his family, does some boating and plays tennis and golf. Deanna is a counselor at Forest HillsCentralHigh School and lead singer for the Half Ton Band. They have two young daughters, 4-year-old Ainsley and 2-year-old Alyssa, so Green finds himself surrounded by females at home.

"I do," he said smiling. "Fortunately, I have a male dog." Molson is a yellow Labrador retriever and Green's constant companion.

"He's a great dog. For a 6-year-old, he has a lot of energy. He thinks he is still a puppy."

Green also has a decent amount of energy, as he serves on a number of nonprofit boards. He sits on the executive panel for the John Ball Zoo Society and chairs the committee in charge of the zoo's expansion plan. He belongs to the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts and the Heartside Business District boards, and is a trustee at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

So in addition to continuing to develop properties throughout downtown and in the city of Grand Rapids, Green said his immediate future has him carrying on with those nonprofit groups and being heavily involved with the new vision for John Ball Zoo.

"I am extremely passionate about that," he said.

The expansion plan was recently submitted to KentCounty, which owns the park and the zoo at

Fulton Street
and
Valley Avenue
on the city's near West Side. Green put a lot of effort into co-chairing the millage campaign for the proposed northeast-side zoo and wildlife park that went down to defeat last year. He said the loss at the ballot box took a toll on him that lasted until he finally found his second wind.

"I had to do some inner-soul searching to determine whether I had enough energy to get back out there and really fight for what I believe in," he said.

"But I'm very happy that I chose to continue working on what I see to be a dramatic improvement for the zoo. I'm very excited that I'm going to be working very closely with the planners, with the county and with the executive director on what we view to be an incredible asset to this community when it's completed."    

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