Charley's staying put as speculation runs rampant

January 18, 2009
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Rumors have been floated that Charley’s Crab is going to close in the next couple of weeks. Its owner, Houston-based Landry’s Restaurants Inc., says it isn’t so. Landry’s spokeswoman Toni Niece, corporate vice president for marketing, said last week Charlie’s Crab would not be closing its doors at that location, nor would it be moving to another location in Grand Rapids.

The 9,000-square-foot restaurant sits on a prime 1.7-acre site overlooking the Grand River downtown. The building and site were purchased last March by 63 Market Avenue Holdings LLC, a company owned by Amway co-founder Rich DeVos’  RDV Corp. Landry’s has been leasing the property since then.

Van Harn exits amid kudos

Van Andel Education Institute Director Gordon Van Harn, Ph.D., retired Jan. 1, and Steve Triezenberg, Ph.D., VAI Graduate School Dean and Van Andel Research Institute Scientific Investigator, has assumed leadership of VAEI. Van Harn is credited with defining the scope of the VAI Graduate School, securing its charter from the state of Michigan to confer degrees, and enlisting a board of directors to guide its development.

“As much as we are excited about the future of VAEI under Steve’s leadership, we are also grateful to Gord Van Harn for his seven years of exceptional leadership,” said VAI Chairman & CEO David Van Andel. “Under his leadership, Van Andel Education Institute has seen the founding of the Science Academy and the VAI Graduate School, has hosted important national and regional educational forums, and has changed its focus from technology to science education.”

Van Harn will continue to serve on the VAEI board of trustees and the Van Andel Institute Graduate School board of directors.

Do you know the way?

When the Religious Conference Management Association meets at DeVos Place next week, delegates shouldn’t get lost in the city’s enclosed and heated Skywalk — thanks to the Downtown Development Authority. The DDA agreed last week to spend $1,200 on stickers for the walkway’s walls to show convention-goers how to get from their hotels to DeVos Place and the Van Andel Arena and back.

“For roughly $1,000, we can purchase these stickers in nine different configurations,” said DDA Executive Director Jay Fowler, who added that he wanted the stickers to take their rightful place by Jan. 27, the first day of the RCMA meeting.

By the way, Swift Printing Co. offered the least sticker shock for the work. In fact, the longtime Bridge Street print shop, which was honored by state retailers as their choice for firm of the year a few years back, submitted a bid that was one quarter of a competitor’s. First Ward City Commissioner Walt Gutowski owns Swift and proves to be a fiscal conservative for clients at his day job, too.

DDA veterans bow out

The DDA also recognized the dedicated service of three outgoing members last week by giving David Cassard, Michelle VanDyke and Paul Mayhue certificates of appreciation and attractive goodie baskets. Cassard, a Waters Corp. executive, served on the board for 20 years, starting in January 1989. “It was quite a remarkable tour,” said DDA Chairwoman Kayem Dunn.

Fifth Third Bank’s Van Dyke, who is now a regional president with the bank, said, “I have no speech prepared. As I retire from this board, it was an honor to serve.” It was also an honor to have her insight into all things financial. Her replacement as local president, John Bultema, is expected to take her seat on the DDA.

But it was Mayhue who drew the most attention during the impromptu ceremony. After Kent County appointed him in August 2002 to the board that deals in downtown fiscal matters, the former county commissioner said he was told that an African-American like himself couldn’t really serve on the board because he wouldn’t know the “language.”

So he said he went to fellow board member John Canepa, a skilled banker in his own right, to teach him how to speak DDA. “I learned enough here that I should be getting a Ph.D. instead of a certificate,” said Mayhue.

Another African-American who also can speak the language will join the DDA. H&H Metal Source President Brian Harris was appointed by the city to fill Cassard’s seat. Harris not only speaks DDA, but also CITY. Harris is on the city’s Economic Development Project Team.

GVMC makes its mark

Is the Grand Valley Metro Council gaining more political clout? Or just serving up one heck of a good breakfast? Metro Council Chairman Jim Buck said last month’s Legislative breakfast “turned out exceptionally well.” Nine state representatives and senators showed up for the chow and inquisition, er, questioning from 40 local government officials, including then soon-to-be retired Grand Rapids City Manager Kurt Kimball who has since retired.

“All the tables were filled on a very bad weather day,” said Metro Council Executive Director Don Stypula.

“I think what was most important was the robust turnout of this organization,” added Kentwood Mayor Richard Root.

One member of that robust turnout, Wyoming Mayor Carol Sheets, said once is just not enough and called for the council to cook every six months.

“It’s not enough time to get them to hear what we want,” said Sheets, who suggested that eggs, pancakes, coffee and juice be on the menu again in June.

Taking the title along

Speaking of Kimball, the menu at his final farewell tribute last Thursday wasn’t catered by the Metro Council breakfast crew but it was still tasty. It was also gratifying because after 22 years, three mayors and 16 commissioners, the city bestowed upon Kimball a “resolution of appreciation” that made him the very first City Manager Emeritus of Grand Rapids. Nice honor for a deserving guy. But no word as to whether he gets to keep his old parking space.

Just zeroing in

“We made a commitment of $150 million per year,” Spectrum Health Hospital Group President Matt VanVranken announced at last week’s Grand Rapids Public Schools press conference regarding the health system’s commitment to underwrite the Health, Science and Technology program expansion at Central High School.

Oops. While the eyes of GRPS Superintendent Bernard Taylor widened for just a moment, VanVranken quickly corrected himself: “One hundred fifty thousand dollars,” he said, amid laughter from a crowd of GRPS and Spectrum representatives who vastly outnumbered the journalists on hand.

“We usually deal with a lot more zeroes,” VanVranken quipped.

The health system has a $2 billion budget.

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