A HillTopping Plan

June 11, 2007
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When RDV talks, people listen. If RDV says it’s a “go,” it’s a go.

Almost.

Sister publication Grand Rapids Magazine staff writer Curt Wozniak interviewed Grand Rapids business leader Rich DeVos last week for an upcoming feature in the magazine, specifically inquiring about future projects. Wozniak asked whether DeVos would stay involved in city projects, to which he replied, No. I’m not involved in anything. Like I said to Jay, ‘I think we ought to just get this thing (the JW) done.’ We still have that old

Monroe Avenue
hotel site over there yet. We haven’t decided what to do with that. But, you know, that whole block down Michigan Street is changing so dramatically, so fast, that money we put into that old Rowe Hotel is going to be well taken care of. Who knows what’s going to end up on that corner. It could become part of the Medical Mile.

“‘The Medical Mile’ is my name, by the way. It seems to be getting used. That just came up one day … Pill Hill and all that stuff is cute, but it doesn’t ring like ‘The Medical Mile’ does. And as it’s stretched out, it’s become a medical center. And we’re going to have another hotel over there, too, you know — up on the top of one of those buildings will be a 90-room hotel, which we will operate, as well.”

Another hotel atop one of the medical buildings on

Michigan Street

“Yes. There’s going to be a 90-room hotel. You weren’t aware of that? Maybe I wasn’t supposed to say that.”

Amway Hotel Corp. President Joe Tomaselli told the Business Journal the addition to the Michigan Street Development project is close to final approval between RDV Corp. and project partner Christman Co. He noted that close-proximity lodging is expected in all major metro area markets with medical centers. Amway Hotel Corp. would manage the hotel. Tomaselli emphasized there is no pending announcement, even suggesting it is, for now, “Street Talk.”

Both Tomaselli and DeVos noted there is a demonstrated need for such housing, especially considering that the Renucci House, next to the hospital, is consistently fully occupied. “It’s just packed out. So we think there’s a real demand,” DeVos said.

That a hospitality component would occupy a portion of the Michigan Street Development has been rumored for nearly as long as its possibility of hosting the MSU medical school expansion, especially with MetroHealthVillage and Mid Towne Village both aggressively developing retail components.

“Health care is becoming designed in some ways to be more of a retail-type situation,” said Greg Wieland, director of design for URS Great Lakes and the firm’s national health care practice, in an interview with the Business Journal last year. URS is the designer of the Michigan Street Development and has led or participated in the design of several of the adjacent facilities.

“They have the ability, almost like airport design, to provide services that are beyond just the health services. There are needs that these visitors have, and so, consequently, retail-type businesses have found their way into hospitals.”

To explain how this could work, Wieland cited a project he worked on before coming to West Michigan last year: the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at WestchesterMedicalCenter in New York. Otherwise an average health care system, the children’s hospital became an industry benchmark with its family-centered design and unusual amenities — including an Au Bon Pain restaurant and adjacent golf course.

  • Another DeVos venture was in national news last week, as the Orlando Magic hired University of Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan in a deal worth $27.5 million the prior weekend, only to have the deal unravel early in the week.

“It was a little bit of a shocker,” DeVos told Grand Rapids Magazine. “If we were trying to get a little publicity, we certainly did.”

According to the Orlando Sentinel, DeVos himself could not convince Donovan to stay with the Magic, and a separation agreement was finalized Wednesday. Former Miami Heat coach Stan Van Gundy was hired later that day.

“We settled everything with Donovan pretty well,” DeVos told the Magazine. “There are probably some loose ends, but basically that agreement’s wrapped up. We’ll send him on his way. He’s a nice guy.”

  • Three years after cutting ties with the credit union community, Lake Michigan Credit Union has renewed its affiliation with the Michigan Credit Union League and its local Grand River chapter.

“They’re the third largest credit union in Michigan, and having them working with other credit unions on common objectives is really a big deal,” said Dave Adams, league president and CEO.

The league was a fierce opponent of Lake Michigan Credit Union’s failed attempt to convert to a federal mutual savings bank in 2004. Adams said the league understood LMCU’s motivation for doing so, even if it didn’t agree. Nor did it hold any ill will toward DFCU Financial in Dearborn, the other billion-dollar credit union that tried and failed to convert into a bank.

“This was never a personal issue; our problem was with the process,” Adams said. “Since that time, our efforts have increased the disclosure requirements of the conversion process. Members will see what insiders stand to benefit financially, if voting rights will be impacted, how the fees and rates will be affected. We think that when members see the difference between being a credit union and a bank, they will always vote against it.”

Tim Hemenway, manager of Michigan One Community Credit Union in Ionia and chairperson of the Grand River chapter, was delighted to see LMCU back in the fold.

“They’re a strong credit union with a long history in Grand Rapids. We were happy to see how they’ve jumped back in,” he said. “I would not say that there is any animosity. We disagreed with their decision at the time, and so did most credit unions. There may have been some stress between them and association; it kind of flew in the face of the credit union philosophy.”

Other chapter members have been a little less forgiving, but not as much for the conversion attempt as its isolation from shared branch and ATM network programs. As one credit union representative put it, “They call themselves a credit union, but they’re more known as a bank.”

Representatives of LMCU did not return repeated calls for comment.     

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