2006 A Year For The Mystery Lover
Everybody likes a mystery, and whether it was Duane Faust's spectacular RiverGrand proposal, the downtown location of the new MSU medical school, Cabela's, or the donors behind George Heartwell's legal defense fund, this was a year of whodunits for all.
The curtains opened on 2006 with a call for cultural organizations and performing arts groups to play a major role in the new economy. At center stage was the Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries with a strategy to leverage the state's creative talent and cultural assets — already worth a collective $2.5 billion annually — into economic growth.
But the spotlight belonged to Mayor George Heartwell's New Economy Task Force. The diverse group of residents and stakeholders evaluated the city's policies toward economic development over the course of two years, forming a broad list of recommendations ranging from tax abatements to regionalism and neighborhood investment.
Exiting the stage were Grand Valley State University President Mark Murray and Taubman Centers Inc. Murray was named president of Meijer Inc., kicking off a six-month search for a successor that ended with the July selection of Thomas Haas, then president of the State University of New York's
Saint Mary's Health Care purchased 12 commercial lots from Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. adjacent to its
The Grand Angels investment network made Jason Pliml and Mock Draft Central LLC a first-round draft pick. Pliml's firm is a provider of fantasy sports drafting technology and operates a multi-player, real-time, live-draft Web site.
From left field, Independent Bank's Standale location became the first stand-alone bank branch open for business on Sundays.
A furor erupted between the Grand Rapids City Commission and its Parking Commission as city officials bypassed the auxiliary commission during months-long negotiations with Jack Buchanan's Split Rock Development LLC for an underground parking structure in the Monroe North Business District.
"That we weren't approached absolutely blows my mind," said Parking Commissioner Daniel Barcheski, who would later leave the panel.
The criticism did little to diminish the mayor's enthusiasm. A week later, Heartwell laid out some ambitious goals in his third State of the City address, including a plan to create sustainable business hubs within the city, a campaign for state tax incentives to benefit knowledge-based industries, and an initiative to forward this agenda called the Horizon Committee.
The green business park concept nearly came to life with
Heartwell was in the news more than any local leader this year, but not for his early-year priorities, as he largely abandoned those for social issues such as strip clubs, smoking and affirmative action.
Just after the New Year, city officials began discussing the possibility of selling roughly 19 acres of city land at
As it turns out, this piece of riverfront land — believed by many to be the largest downtown development opportunity of the modern age — was the key parcel in a massive redevelopment plan with the potential to represent one of the largest investments ever in downtown
The project, which was the handiwork of Deborah Shurlow, a broker with then Grubb & Ellis|Paramount, captured the imagination of a community in desperate need of some good news. Within a week, rumors of casinos, NFL stadiums and major record labels were rampant. Shurlow went on TV and fanned the flames, calling it a multi-billion dollar development worth thousands of jobs.
"They indicated it was something huge. I didn't question it, but they were talking 10,000 jobs," said strip-club owner Mark London, whose Showgirls Galleria adult-entertainment complex sits within the mystery development footprint. In the coming weeks,
In all the excitement, the
Elsewhere, the Van Andel Institute and
Grandville color expert X-Rite Inc. struck a partnership of sorts as well, announcing a merger with Swiss firm Amazys Holding AG for $280 million.
Rumors of a local presence from Cabela's, the nation's largest specialty retailer of hunting, fishing and outdoor merchandise leaked on the heels of the mystery development. Walker Orchard Land Partners, a consortium of out-of-state and local interests, had hopes to carve out a 70-acre portion of its huge 240-acre development on
Now known as
A "blood feud" developed between the American Red Cross Great Lakes Region and
The Black Hills Citizens for a Better Community announced it had raised $100,000 in partnership with the Michigan Decency Action Council to pay any legal fees the city incurs in enacting a ban on erotic entertainment. Likely the most controversial ordinance in a year pockmarked with questionable city legislation, the ban was upheld by a federal judge in October. The donors to the legal defense fund were never identified.
Revenue sharing was a hot issue among local municipalities, who railed against the state's continued cuts. State legislators did not expect the cutbacks to be restored.
Film industry professionals across the state were hopeful that a bill for a series of substantial tax credits for producing feature films, TV programs and commercials in