GRPS Destination: Blandford

October 28, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — A project that has been in the making since 1999 holds its grand opening next week, and it promises not to be a run-of-the-mill opener.

There will be the usual party favors for all and the normal cheers for everyone at the event. But the get-together that Ed De Vries Properties has put together for Clear Water Place, the commercial building the company owns at 1430 Monroe Ave. NW, is also a fundraiser for students in the Grand Rapids Public Schools system.

Ed De Vries Properties has gotten together with Pinnacle Insurance Partners, the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and the Student Advancement Foundation to raise money so 3rd and 6th grade public school students in the city district can take field trips to Blandford Nature Center and other destinations. Budget cuts have eliminated the trips.

So a grand opening for Clear Water Place will be held from 4:30-7:30 p.m. Nov. 9  — but it will also be a charity event for the Student Advancement Fund.

For $50, a donor can send six students to Blandford. For $2,000, all 3rd and 6th graders from one elementary and middle school can go to the nature center at 1715 Hillburn Ave. NW, just off Leonard Street.

Donor packages go as high as $26,000, a contribution that would send every 3rd and 6th grade student in the city’s system to the nature center. All donations are tax deductible. Larger gifts result in donor recognition and tickets to Blandford.

“Field trips have been eliminated for the students and we’re trying to restore those in the district,” said Mike De Vries, who is working with his father, Ed, on the project.

Pinnacle Insurance Partners, a cosponsor of the charity event, was the first tenant to sign a lease in the Clear Water Place building, which was built around 1910 and is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places and in the state’s Register of Historic Sites.

Moving to Clear Water Place allows Pinnacle Insurance to consolidate its two offices, at 45 Coldbrook St. NW and 7884 Whitneyville Road in Caledonia, and have enough room left over to add up to 24 new employees in the future. Pinnacle is leasing 17,000 square feet.

“We’ve expanded our employee base 500 percent in four years, from 11 employees to 56. This move will enable us to accommodate the significant growth we anticipate over the next few years,” said Pinnacle Insurance Principal Mike Poggi.

NTH Consultants Ltd. also is headed to Clear Water Place. The firm will relocate its West Michigan office, featuring 25 engineers and environmental services professionals, to the former city-owned water filtration plant early next year.

“We chose Clear Water Place to demonstrate our commitment to and support for the communities we work and live in by leading the way to help with their urban redevelopment efforts,” said Brian Smits, vice president of environmental and redevelopment engineering for NTH.

NTH Consultants will lease 10,500 square feet in the building; the company’s space will include a laboratory.

The city has joined the state and federal governments in making Clear Water Place a historic site. The 40,000-square-foot structure sits on about six acres and features a pair of towers that flank the building on the north and south sides.

Ed De Vries tried to buy the building from the city six years ago. But the city sold it to Dykema Excavators in 1999. De Vries purchased it from Dykema in 2003 and is investing about $5 million into the historic renovation of the building, which was enlarged in the 1920s and 1930s. The building is in the city’s Renaissance Zone.

“It’s an architectural masterpiece,” said Ed De Vries of the ornate Mediterranean-style structure. “Our goal is to retain it and amplify it.”    

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