A Capitol Idea

March 10, 2008
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As Robert Grooters Development continues to chart the progress of the construction of River House, the tallest all-residential building in downtown Grand Rapids, the company is heavily involved in the development of Capitol Club Tower, a proposed $22.4 million, 18-story, 175-unit condo project in downtown Lansing.

Grooters has joined local Lansing developers Allan Drouare and Shawn Elliott in pursuing completion of a structure that would eclipse the 16-story Grand Tower office building immediately south of the Capitol Club site. The Boji Tower at the corner of Capitol and Allegan streets would remain as Lansing’s tallest structure.

Bob Grooters told the Business Journal the evolution of the “ballpark” district in Lansing’s downtown does not yet match the ongoing development efforts in GR’s central core, but “it holds great potential.” With 200,000 square feet of residential space and 50,000 square feet devoted to retail, the estimated completion date of Capitol Club Tower is December 2011. Wolverine Construction is the general contractor for the project.

Dan Wert, project manager with Grooters Development, said the company will be plenty busy this fall as the first wave of residents move into the 207-unit River House, which is said to be more than 60 percent sold.

**Grand Rapids artist Mic Carlson, who last year was selected to design the Festival of the Arts poster, is widely known for his study of and affinity for St. Francis of Assisi. He created a sculpture of the saint in 2004, which was displayed at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy. The sculpture was then installed for exhibit at the national shrine, Cross in the Woods, in Indian River, Mich.

Carlson has now been invited by the Bishop of Assisi to present the original bronze to Pope Benedict in Rome on June 11.

“The general audience with the Pope draws 20,000 to 40,000 people. It’s my understanding that I will be part of a group of delegates on stage and will walk up to the Pope to present the bronze,” he said.

Carlson recently also has been involved with a local nonprofit group Instruments of Hope, which is creating a St. Francis Sculpture Garden for Prayer and Meditation at St. Ann’s Home on Leonard Street. He expects to deliver a letter explaining the project to the Pope at the time of the bronze presentation. Instruments of Hope describes itself as a “nonprofit dedicated to education through reflection on the spiritual lives of men and women whose philosophies have a significant impact on society.” The group is raising funds for the project the time-honored Grand Rapids way: Donations are noted with family names on the walkways, bricks, retaining walls and art in the garden.

**Grand Rapids’ beneficence gives it continued rank as No. 2 in the country for charitable contributions, but the executives of the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction, held each year in November, were nonetheless surprised to learn the event ranked No. 9 in the country for fundraising. “And that’s against all cities — major metropolitan areas,” said event co-chair Mike Mraz, who by day is director of properties for Jade Pig. “Those areas include Chicago; Austin, Texas, was No. 1.”

How would any hopeful community volunteer react as a result of such news? “We’re going for the top 5 this year. I hope we can interest an overall event sponsor,” Mraz said.

And he quite possibly could. The event draws more 700 individuals and (mostly younger) couples paying individual ticket prices of $100 each. The event is bolstered by the who physicians work in neonatal intensive care … and especially by the onsite work of 20 chefs from local award-winning restaurants.

**As part of the AD Fair, a newly expanded, week-long celebration surrounding the annual ADDY Awards (see story, page 3), the Ad Club of West Michigan introduced a Web site where the public could vote for favorite entries. The winners were lauded on Friday at Hopcat.

And the favorites are: TV: Fairly Painless Advertising for Herman Miller’s “Office Hockey”; Radio: Obstructed View Studios for Hackley Hospital’s “Voicemail”; Billboard: Palazzolo Design for Meijer Gardens’ “Wonder Full”; Print: Hanon McKendry for Healing Our Waters’ “Destroyed”; Web site: Grey Matter Group for “Lookadoo”; and Logo: Palazzolo Design, for Meijer Gardens’ squiggly tree “Gardens Logo.”

**Clark Harder, executive director of the Michigan Public Transit Association, was scheduled to speak at a press conference Thursday that outlined the findings of a study just released by Public Interest Research Group in Michigan. The study enumerated the many benefits of public transit projects across the country, including those of existing rail and bus projects in Michigan, and called for greater support for mass transit projects.

But Harder never made it to the press conference. His car broke down en route to Grand Rapids.

“There might be a point there to be made for public transportation in the state of Michigan,” joked Peter Varga, executive director of The Rapid.

Harder briefed Rapid spokeswoman Jennifer Kalczuk on the points he wanted to make at the conference. On Harder’s behalf, Kalczuk noted that public transit is a statewide issue, not just one for the state’s urban cities. She said various studies reveal that every dollar spent on public transit generates anywhere from a $3 to $9 return on investment. She said all the studies agree that “you get more out than you put in.”

Local communities are increasingly supportive of public transit in terms of passing millages, Kalczuk noted. There are 60 millage-supported transit systems in Michigan, and their success rate is about 80 percent — higher than the national average. When local residents see it working in their community, they’re very likely to support it and use tax money to support it, she said.

The issue, Kalczuk explained, becomes the state and whether it is willing to be a partner in funding it. Funding for public transit operation has remained relatively flat, but because it’s an expensed-based percentage reimbursement, transit systems rely less and less on state funds.

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