Off To The Races

March 26, 2007
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Likely to be happy news for some East Grand Rapids residents, The Derby has apparently gone back to the drawing board. While representatives of developer Jade Pig Ventures would only confirm that massive design changes are underway, word on the street is that the 26-unit condominium tower hit a hitch in converting its reservations (it sold out in 90 minutes in December 2005) into residents. A group of EGR residents opposed the project because of its 79-foot height, but were eventually defeated.

The retail portion of the project, however, appears to be humming, with launches from Olga’s Kitchen, Smooch and Jude’s Barbershop, among others. This does not mean the project is kaput, but it’s likely to join

Park Place
, Two West Fulton, Tall House and a host of others in development limbo.

  • Grand Haven event planning firm Inside Track LLC is marketing packages for another type of derby, the 133rd Kentucky Derby. Patricia Armstead’s firm is currently taking reservations for infield hospitality suites at Churchill Downs for the May 5 event.

Access to the exclusive VIP hospitality area can be purchased as individual suite tickets or in full-service packages including air fare, hotel and dinner.

“The tradition, the horses, the hats and all the events surrounding the Derby made me realize that the Derby experience would make for a tremendous new business or employee recognition event,” said Armstead, who attended the 2006 Kentucky Derby. “Only a limited number of people ever get to view the Kentucky Derby this way.”

  • Making it a complete sweep at the district level, Judge Robert Holmes Bell last week ordered Red Barn proprietor Herb Newhouse to pay the $11,000 attorney bill of “smut busters” Judy Rose and Dar Vander Ark, the pair believed to have raised a $100,000 legal defense fund to convince the city of Grand Rapids to ban most forms of erotic entertainment. That was certainly a kick in the face for the strip club operator, but as the case is currently under appeal, it’s somewhat of a moot point.
  • The new owners of Westshore Mall are giving the building a facelift and updating it to be more pedestrian-friendly in hopes of attracting new tenants that will meet the needs of the Holland community.

The first phase of renovations, to start in May, will focus on the exterior and will cost $1.75 million.

“This is going to be a whole new look,” said Geoff Mills, CEO of Howard & Mills Inc., the mall’s new owners who are based in California and purchased the struggling mall in November. “We’re bringing it from the ’80s look to a 2007 look.”

With the renovations there will also be a new marketing campaign, Mills said, aimed at bringing in new customers and tenants. The new slogan is “Within Your Reach. Westshore Mall. New Stores, New Look.” The mall is now about 20 percent vacant, something that Mills said he hopes a new look will change.

Rob DenBesten, project architect with Holland firm GMB Architects & Engineers, said the design of the renovations is inspired by the Holland area, focusing on a craftsman style with a lakeshore influence.

DenBesten said this is only the beginning of the investment that will take place at the mall, built in 1988.

“They’ve really stepped it up,” he said of Howard & Mills Inc. “It’s good to have a nice set of owners here.”

The mall’s anchors include JC Penney and Steve & Barry’s University Sportswear, as well as national tenants Victoria’s Secret, Younkers and Bath & Body Works.

  • As reported in the Business Journal’s online edition, advertising revenue for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, commonly known as March Madness, will top $500 million this year if the three-week CBS broadcast event shows even a percentile of growth over last year.

A year ago, March Madness hauled in an estimated $497 million for CBS, making it the largest grossing postseason tournament of all time. According to TNS Media Intelligence, the 2006 gross represented a 60 percent increase over tournament advertising revenues in 2000 of $310 million, and a total ad spend of $2.7 billion in this decade.

Only the Super Bowl commands a higher advertising rate than the NCAA Men’s Basketball championship game ($2.5 million vs. $1.2 million for a 30-second spot) among televised U.S. sporting championships. As a whole, March Madness outperformed the National Football League ($423 million), National Basketball Association ($424 million) and Major League Baseball ($382 million).

March Madness is the only major televised postseason that outperforms the regular season in advertising revenue. A full 75 percent of NCAA men’s basketball ad expenditures occur in March, with only $165 million in revenue during the regular season. NCAA football grosses nearly twice that in its regular season: $396 million, 78 percent of total ad revenue. NFL football earns 79 percent of its ad revenue, $1.6 billion, during the regular season.

  • A piece of free advice for restaurateurs, courtesy of Business Journal sister publication Grand Rapids Magazine: Treat your Web site as you would your menu.

The magazine — arguably the foremost guide to local cuisine — was recently contacted by an irritated restaurant owner stating that the restaurant’s address was wrong in the publication’s dining list. The magazine fixed the listing, and backtracked to see how the error occurred. As it turned out, the restaurant had listed the wrong address on its Web site. A similar situation arose when editors were spellchecking a chef’s name at another restaurant and found the name was spelled two ways on the restaurant’s Web site.

  • Quote of the week: During a presentation at last week’s 4th Annual Midwest Supply Chain Management Conference at SteelcaseUniversity, MSU professor Steven Melnyk said of Chinese piracy: “Ever hear of third-shifting? That’s where your supplier makes your product on the first and second shifts, and then on the third shift, he rotates your logo 90 degrees and sells it under a different name for half the price.”    

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