March Madness

March 27, 2006
Print
Text Size:
A A

Perhaps the Hollywood-motif of last week’s Business Journal was the incentive the city needed to become a situational comedy of its own. Local NBC affiliate WOOD TV8 gave a working title: “The Mayor and the Mystery Man.” Other possibilities include “Sex, Lies, and Confidentiality Agreements,” “How Mark London Got His Groove Back,” and “David Minkin: International Man of Mystery.”

The week started slow with brewing speculation over whether the “mystery developer” would indeed buy the property on which London is building a massive adult entertainment complex. Would the coming week bring an assurance that the 10,000-job project proffered by Grubb & Ellis/ Paramount’s Deborah Shurlow and Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell was a go? Or would London instead start decking out the exterior of the former factory in hot pink and purple.

  • Monday brought news that the Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament — tanked a year ago for fear the violence plaguing the city’s youth could emerge at the event — is back on. Only this time, it’s not the Downtown Macker Jam, but The Grand Macker at Fifth Third Ballpark.

The city schools’ principal fundraiser won’t occur within the city boundaries. Instead, it’s in the suburb of ComstockPark. Hard not to wonder how the Panthers feel about the infringement on their turf.

By the way, for anyone disappointed at what could be a complete absence of fireworks in Grand Rapids skies this summer, they have those at Fifth Third Ballpark, too.

  • On Tuesday, Amway Grand Plaza General Manager Joe Tomaselli discounted rumors that Alticor’s property on the corner of

    Monroe Avenue
    and
    Fulton Street
    would be converted into a multiuse headquarters centered upon a new Quixtar data center.

“At this point, we have not nor are we contemplating using it as anything other than a parking lot,” he said.

Once or twice a year, Alticor gets a pitch from a developer with ideas on how the company could use the site, usually proposing something involving one of the Alticor family of companies.

“Somewhere down the road; I’m sure we’ll do something, there is no doubt it’s a valuable property,” he said. “But right now, we’re concentrating on the JW Marriott.”

That night, the city commission held a public hearing concerning its proposed ordinance to regulate adult entertainment. With nary an exotic dancer in sight, the visceral and contentious arguments from city residents and activist-hired help was a surprise to the mayor.

“I’ll admit, I was surprised that anyone showed up to speak against it,” said Heartwell, the ordinance’s primary supporter. “But it doesn’t change any of my plans.”

What must have been the entirety of the Black Hills Neighborhood Association, the group promoting the regulations and raising a defense fund for it, along with representatives form the Prostitution Roundtable and the Adopt A Block mission, kicked off the comment session with roughly 30 minutes of speeches blaming strip clubs for everything from prostitution to human trafficking.

The first speaker not attached to an activist group was an elderly East Hills resident, who said, “It seems like some people have too much time on their hands when they worry so much about other people’s business,” and then chided the city and Black Hills’ Judy Rose for spending money on strip club regulations when pools will go empty this summer.

The next was Rick Chapla, cousin of The Right Place Inc. vice president of the same name, who called the ordinance supporters Puritans who “have a mortal fear that somewhere, someplace, someone is having a good time.”

A dozen other residents with similar comments followed — enough to make City Manager Kurt Kimball lose the broad smile he carried when supporters railed Commissioner Rick Tormala, an ordinance opponent — before a 20-something Kendall College student took the podium and introduced likely the first ever use of the word “ejaculate” before the commission.

After two minutes of her talking about people doing so “on the floor,” how “strip clubs spread AIDS,” and “it’s a state vs. state issue,” Tormala stopped the woman.

“What the hell are you talking about?” he said. “I can’t even tell if you’re for or against this.”

“I don’t really know,” she replied. “I haven’t really thought about it.”

Only one speaker from either side came packing numbers, a part-time Parkway Tropics DJ and full-ime postal worker, who produced crime statistics for a number of Grand Rapids nightclubs: Konkles Bar, 640 Bridge St. NE, 62 calls to police for crimes up to attempted murder; Montes, 436 Bridge St., 46 calls; Brickhouse Sports Bar, 245 N. Division Ave., 21; Parkway Tropics, 18, mostly for parking lot vandalism; and London’s Sensations club near Centerpointe Mall, 14.

After the meeting, Heartwell affirmed his commitment to not spending city dollars on the ordinance. Perhaps he should have a chat with City Attorney Phil Balkema. Tennessee attorney Scott Bergthold, the nation’s only attorney devoted to forging regulations against adult entertainment, peddled his magical tonic for strip club secondary effects to the commission twice during the hearing. He was there on the city’s dime.

  • On Wednesday night, every media outlet except the local daily publicly stated that London would close on Thursday.

  • On Thursday, to the surprise of a crowd of paparazzi at the title office, Mr. X didn’t show. (See the story, page 3.) On Friday morning, London told WOOD Radio that the developer is Interscope Records.    

Editor's Picks

Comments powered by Disqus