Street Talk

Street Talk: The downtown dilemma

Haiku for you.

April 1, 2016
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Is Grand Rapids frothing its way toward a downtown development bubble?

There’s so much going on in terms of development and real estate activity downtown, it’s hard to tell, according to Third Coast Development Principal David Levitt. He’s certainly not giving up on the city — far from it. Third Coast will embark on several developments as it finishes up its current projects.

Levitt did say, however, that property prices are on the rise while the incentives to develop are beginning to dry up, and he wonders what that could mean for the future.

Established developers like Third Coast, John Wheeler and his Orion Construction team, and Sam Cummings and the CWD Real Estate Investment crew also are watching more developers come into the market.

Right now, those are checks on the positive side of the ledger, but who can tell what it might lead to ?

Interestingly enough, Levitt’s fellow Third Coast principal, Max Benedict, takes a different view.

Benedict said Grand Rapids hasn’t really seen this much activity in a long time so it is a relative shock to the system. He conceded he might just be young enough to not have gone through many downturns — except the grandest of them all, the Great Recession.

While the downtown real estate scene appears to be healthy, it’s interesting to note that at least some of the more prominent developers are looking a little more closely at the tea leaves.

Fired up

The Grand Rapids Fire Department is heating up.

Last month the GRFD reached a major milestone when it achieved international accreditation with unanimous approval by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. The GRFD is the only municipal fire department in the state and among the just 216 departments in the world to have earned the recognition.

Margaret Felix, acting GRFD fire chief, credited retired Chief Laura Knapp for launching the process and helping to align operations with recommendations from the Center for Public Safety Excellence Accreditation.

“Chief Knapp and all GRFD personnel were an integral part of our accreditation,” said Felix. “This process was a lot of work, but well worth it. It resulted in us becoming a better fire department and providing even better service to our residents.”

Ron Holt, commissioner of the CFAI, said the accreditation is similar to an agency soul-search, and one of the immediate benefits of seeking accreditation is it requires an examination of an organization’s conscience.

“It prompts answers as to how, when, where and to whom a fire service organization provides services to carry out its mission,” said Holt. “Fire service accreditation is the wave of the future, which will distinguish the departments deemed outstanding in the 21st century and beyond. Our public constituency will demand no less.”

The commission’s Public Safety Excellence Accreditation is a comprehensive self-assessment and evaluation model supporting continuous quality improvement. The process lasts for more than a year and examines service levels and internal performance, and compares procedures with industry best practices.

Rosalynn Bliss, mayor of Grand Rapids, said the GRFD’s international accreditation is a tribute to all department personnel who recognized a need to assess professional performance and efficiency.

“The accreditation process provides a well-defined, internationally recognized benchmark system,” said Bliss. “I congratulate all on this high honor.”

Dumb and dumber

Guys, stop. Jim Carrey isn’t moving to Grand Rapids.

The Golden Globe-winning star of such films as “Dumb and Dumber,” “Man on the Moon,” “The Truman Show” and “Bruce Almighty” is not actually planting roots here, although it’s a gag that had a lot of fans excited for a brief moment.

When the fantasy/satire news website KNP 7 News published an article with the headline, “Jim Carrey Moves to Grand Rapids, Michigan,” a gaggle of excited Michiganders took to social media on Facebook and Twitter to share their joy.

And with “Dumb and Dumber” co-star Jeff Daniels already a resident of the Wolverine State, there was a certain path to believability.

Sadly, however, KNP 7 is a “liar, liar.” Or at least a bit of a prankster.

“I’ve been to Grand Rapids a few times over the years and the people there are real … they’re genuine people and, yeah, every community has its problems, but the people there are good, decent people and they care about their community. Those are the things I find most important in deciding where to live. I might be hanging out somewhere further south during the winter though!” Carrey is quoted as saying in the KNP 7 article.

“I’m not retiring, I’m just looking for a change in life and I think I’ve found that in Grand Rapids.”

This just proves that although some fake news is dumb, some people are dumber.

Whale of a tale

The volunteers at the Traverse City Visitor Center can almost always come up with advice for baffled tourists who need directions. But one question consistently leaves them speechless.

It’s the one about whale-watching tours.

Several times a year, people wander in asking about the best places to view migrating whales, or what companies offer the best whale-watching cruises — even though Traverse City is on Lake Michigan, nearly 800 miles from the nearest salt water.

But those confused tourists may also have been looking at the Facebook page of the “Lake Michigan Whale Migration Station” with its evocative photographs of humpbacks, orcas, blue whales, belugas and other cetaceans cavorting in West Grand Traverse Bay, swimming past the Sleeping Bear Dunes and surprising kayakers and cruise boats.

The station, which purports to be based on Beaver Island, is followed by more than 7,000 viewers. Of course, since the West Michigan Tourist Association sent this tidbit over on April 1, it might be best to take this story with a grain of salt(water).

Poetry in motion

Grand Rapids Poet Laureate L.S. Klatt and The Rapid have partnered to showcase poetry written by area elementary and middle school students.

A celebration of the Grand Poems in Rapid Transit project will take place 4:30-5:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 12, at The Rapid Central Station, 250 Grandville Ave. SW.

Students from five after-school programs worked with Klatt to write haiku poems based on the history of transportation in Grand Rapids. The students’ poetry was inspired by archival photographs provided by the Grand Rapids Public Library and the Grand Rapids Historical Society.

Haiku is a short form of Japanese poetry that consists of 17 syllables spread over three lines in a 5-7-5 syllable pattern.

Klatt conducted the poetry workshops at the Creative Youth Center, Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities Cook Center, Living Stones Academy, The Potter's House and Camp Blodgett Club at Alpine Elementary.

The haiku stylings from six students were chosen to represent the project, and the poems were then paired with the historical photos. They will be displayed on the inside of 150 Rapid buses starting this month, with two in each bus.

“We are excited to be a part of this program. It’s a great way for The Rapid to support arts education for the young people in our community and to provide our riders with something to brighten their day during the ride,” said Jennifer Kalczuk, external relations manager for The Rapid.

Klatt, a Calvin College professor, began his three-year term in April 2014. The poet laureate program has been run by the Grand Rapids Public Library since 2012 and is funded by an endowment from the Dyer-Ives Foundation.

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