Thirty-eight snags tenant for new downtown project

November 3, 2008
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The yet-to-be-built Thirty-Eight has snagged its first office tenant. Locus Development LLC announced last week that Adtegrity.com will move from its Tahoe Drive location in Cascade Township to the $26 million, mixed-use, two building development planned for the downtown intersection of Commerce Avenue and Weston Street in 2010.

Adtegrity.com President and CEO Scott Brew said, “Nothing compares to what Thirty-Eight offers.” It’s pretty safe to write that Locus Development partners John Green and Andy Winkel would approve that message. Construction on the residential, retail and office project should get started in December and take about a year to build.

A world event for GR

The city’s first (and hoped to be annual) International Wine and Food Festival begins Nov. 21, and already has every sign of success. More than 75 wineries from across the nation expect to offer samples of more than 700 labels. And that includes Italy’s finest wines, a guarantee from Grand Rapids’ sister city Perugia. The city’s mayor, Renato Locchi (sounds like L-o-g-i-e) is personally bringing a delegation of many to the festival, which also features several of this city’s top restaurants offering food and wine pairings, as well as a cooking demonstration stage by Meijer, hosting the top chefs at the Secciha Institute for Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College.

Perugia may sound familiar for another reason. It is the city in which world attention is focused on an American college student who has been charged with her room mate’s gruesome murder, a case that has seen its share of controversy, international outcry and a reportedly hostile community “whipped up” by European media reports. At press time an Italian judge had ruled that Meredith Kercher, 21, must remain in jail while awaiting trial Dec.  4 (she has been jailed for more than a year). Her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito also has been charged and jailed. The judge said he feared releasing her would offer her “opportunity to commit a homicide or flee the country.”

State impact draws a look

By the way, there is an election this week — Tuesday, we think. At least that’s the day Becky Bechler of Public Affairs Associates, Kent County’s Lansing lobbyist, said the voting takes place.

Bechler also told the county’s Legislative Committee last week that the polls indicate Republicans could lose four seats in the State House, and possibly as many as 10, because the party’s candidate for president stopped campaigning in the state.

“John McCain leaving the state was devastating for House Republicans,” she said. Democrats have a 58-52 edge over Republicans in the House.

Bechler also said polling indicates that Sen. Carl Levin would win another six years in the U.S. Senate, as he was leading Republican State Rep. Jack Hoogendyk, Jr. last week by a 68-30 margin. She said Proposal 1, which allows the use of marijuana for medical reasons, was ahead in the polls by a 58-31 margin, and Proposal 2, which lets medical researchers use embryonic stem cells, was also out in front at 49-41.

But Bechler said the backing for Proposal 2 slipped recently, as it had topped 50 percent. “Once it goes below 50 percent, it’s very difficult to get it back to over 50 percent,” she said.

After the election, Bechler said lawmakers will return to Lansing for a lame duck session that has nine days on its schedule. She didn’t think legislators would bring the nearly year-long reform of Blue Cross Blue Shield to a close this year. But she did say they might finish work on a workplace smoking ban that would exempt the Detroit casinos and tobacco shops everywhere, and also talk about changes to the Michigan Business Tax without making any.

Another three-fourths turnout?

Kent County Clerk Mary Hollinrake wouldn’t make a prediction as to how many will actually cast a ballot on Tuesday. Hollinrake said turnout in the county was 74 percent in the 2004 election, which returned George Bush to the White House. Although that figure was higher than what most counties in the nation had, she said it wasn’t a record here.

Hollinrake said turnout was consistently higher when the minimum voting age was 21. When the bar was lowered to 18, though, she said the percentage dropped because those young folks don’t vote. And that can’t be exciting news for Obama, who reportedly has captured the youth vote.

Cargo clutch at GR airport

The Business Journal can’t let this election week pass without a shout out to the city’s most admired political figure, Gerald R. Ford. So we won’t.

Although the airport named after the former congressman and president had a decline in passenger traffic, its cargo business is holding up very well, thank you. Airport Executive Director Jim Koslosky expects the Gerald R. to have 45 million pounds of air freight leave its runways this year and 47 million pounds arrive here for a grand total of 92 million pounds, the same amount as last year even though the economy wasn’t as shattered a year ago as it is now.

And when airport Deputy Executive Director Phil Johnson was asked last week what the airport could do to discourage growth at smaller airports in the region, he said he didn’t think much in the way of growth would be landing in Muskegon or Kalamazoo with airlines pulling out or cutting back flights.

“Clearly, we’re not going to get Muskegon and Kalamazoo to abandon their airport,” said County Commissioner Dean Agee, also a member of the county aeronautics board. Agee then suggested that officials from those airports be invited here to talk with local officials about a regional-airport concept. Hmm, sounds like something Jerry might have said.

Medical fellowship in works

Fundraising is under way for a new hospice and palliative care fellowship through the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, Grand Rapids Medical Education and Research and Hospice of Michigan. Pediatric oncologist Dr. James Fahner, who has a long association with Hospice of Michigan, said he is working with Carol Van Andel to collect $2 million to fund the fellowship. There are “only a handful” of such fellowships in the country, Fahner said. Hospice and palliative care gained official recognition as a subspecialty in 2006; the nation’s first certification exam for physicians was given just last week. “There is a real groundswell of support,” Fahner said, adding that he hopes the local fellowship will accept its first applications in spring or summer 2009.

Crunching the numbers

Accounting students and alumni at GVSU had a chance recently to toss their pocket protectors in the air when the Siedman College of Business elevated the Department of Accounting to school status with an inaugural event. Celebrating along with 21 full-time faculty and nearly 600 students was Eastern Michigan University President Susan Work Martin, who once led the GVSU department. The event was held in the Hager-Lubbers Exhibition Hall in the DeVos Center at GVSU’s Pew Campus in Grand Rapids. School of Accounting Director Steve Goldberg and Interim Director of Career Services Troy Farley said a record number of companies recruited GVSU accounting students this month for internships and full-time jobs, coming from as far as away as Texas and Tennessee.

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