A Night Of Recognition

November 21, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — It was a very big night for small businesses when the Neighborhood Business Alliance honored a baker’s dozen at the organization’s 17th annual awards ceremony held last Thursday in the Loosemore Auditorium on the downtown campus of Grand Valley State University.

The Neighborhood Business Alliance, a nonprofit group comprised of local business owners who are dedicated to promoting the city’s 20 business districts, handed out 11 individual awards and one honor that was shared by two businesses.

“It has been another incredible year for investment in our neighborhood business districts throughout the city,” said Phillip Chaffee, president of Harmony Homes Realty and the NBA.

Chaffee was part of the awards selection committee, which included six others, and the honors the group bestowed clearly reflected the investments that were made over the past year.

Bob Israels, owner of Israels Designs for Living, won the John H. Logie Neighborhood Business Champion Award. Dwelling Place Inc., a nonprofit development and property management firm, was named the recipient of the Gerald R. Helmholdt Grand Award.

“During an economic time when it seems like all we read and hear about are businesses closing their doors, it is good to recognize the hard work and diligence of the neighborhood businesses,” said Kelly Wolthuis of Gable Ventures and NBA vice president.

“These businesses are the lifeblood of our local communities.”

Wolthuis told the Business Journal that Israels was chosen for the prestigious award not just for his personal accomplishments, but also for the encouragement and assistance he has given other business owners over the decades. Israels has historically renovated a couple of vacant furniture factories on the city’s near West Side, bringing life to those abandoned sites in the Stockbridge Business District and creating a new campus for his fine furniture business.

Israels plans to begin renovating another former furniture factory in January, a 102-year-old structure at the corner of Seventh Street and Seward Avenue that will house his Israels, The Other Store showroom and 26 residences. About half of those homes will also contain work areas.

Israels is only the fourth recipient of the Logie Champion Award. Ed De Vries of Ed De Vries Properties, Downtown Alliance Executive Director Sharon Evoy, and the city’s former three-term mayor, John Logie, were the others.

De Vries Properties also won the NBA award last Thursday for best reuse of a building for its renovation of the old Monroe Avenue Water Filtration Plant into Clearwater Place.

Wolthuis said Dwelling Place was chosen for the Helmholdt Award for turning four buildings in the 100-block of South Division Avenue into workspace and affordable loft-style rental apartments. Known as the Martineau Arts project, the development has 23 two-bedroom apartments and 15,000 square feet of commercial space in the Heartside Business District.

“What you get from this effort is a major renovation on the east side of the street,” said Dennis Sturtevant, Dwelling Place CEO.

In winning the Helmholdt Award, Dwelling Place continues a recent trend that has seen building projects being recognized for the honor. Mercantile Bank won last year’s award for locating its new headquarters on a brownfield site in the West Leonard Business District.

The Grand Award was named in honor of the late businessman and former mayor Gerald Helmholdt.

Additional winners were:

  • Café Aromas for best exterior renovation

  • Imagination Creations for best window display

  • YMCA for best new construction of the David D. Hunting branch

  • Belden Brick for best exterior maintenance

  • Blue Door Antiques for best sign or awning

  • Urban Beanery for best promotional event

  • City Knitting for best new business

  • DeVries Jewelers for best longstanding business

  • Kitchen Design Studios Inc. and Grand Woods Lounge for best interior renovations.

“The NBA feels honored to give many of these businesses that have contributed to this investment the recognition they deserve, but seldom receive,” said Chaffee.

Brian Justema of Waddell & Reed, Katie Tanner of Independent Bank, Jen Vander Ploeg of Fifth Third Bank, Sonali Allen of Mercantile Bank, and Guillermo Diaz and Kimberly Van Dyk of Neighborhood Ventures joined Chaffee on the award selection committee.

“The Neighborhood Business Alliance created this event 17 years ago to celebrate the contributions of neighborhood businesses,” said Wolthuis. “We recognize their significant role in the redevelopment of our community and our region.”    

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