Street Talk

Street Talk: Silver screen sirens

Home run.

April 15, 2016
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Craig Smith is ready for golf season to start.

But first, the COO of Watermark Properties and RedWater Restaurant Group was happy to preside over last week’s media preview for the opening of its newest eatery, Reds at Thousand Oaks.

In March, RedWater announced Reds on the River would move from Rockford to the golf course in northeast Grand Rapids, and then invested nearly $2 million into the public dining spot.

The restaurant opened to the public April 14, but the media got its fill of appetizers, pizza, pasta and steak the night before, as WZZM TV 13 anchor Jennifer Pascua — who also hosts Beer Beat with Business Journal reporter Pat Evans every other Wednesday, WBBL program director Dave Jaconette, 100.5 The River’s Andy Rent, MLive’s Shandra Martinez and Experience Grand Rapids’ Janet Korn all chowed down.

While golf was on the minds of everyone in attendance — with the first hole of Thousand Oaks right outside the window — a prevalent topic of discussion among guests and staff was the proposed Studio C! movie theater in downtown Grand Rapids.

If all goes according to plan and the theater passes all the hurdles still left in front of it — which are numerous, actually — the proposed $100 million first phase would be among the top six largest developments of all time in downtown Grand Rapids. Plus, it would provide a catalyst for development farther south of one of the most dynamic developments the city ever has seen: Van Andel Arena.

Korn and Jaconette held an especially interesting conversation about the future of movie theaters and how technology is changing who, where and why movies are watched.

With movies easier to watch at home than ever, it’s a question of how viable movies are for drawing people to a location. But Korn was quick to point out the theater will be very useful in terms of convention and meeting spaces.

The nine screens also will be popular with those who will live in the attached apartments — and others around downtown — who don’t have living spaces large enough to accommodate entertainment rooms or possibly even big-screen TVs.

There also was plenty of support for live-streaming big sporting events and TV programming on the movie theater’s screens.

Money markets

If Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are seen as financial polar opposites in the race for U.S. president, who should Michiganders back in a potential runoff?

Well, that would depend on where residents of the Wolverine State see themselves when it comes to personal finance.

In terms of which state has the most financially savvy residents, Michigan came across the finish line in the middle of the pack.

WalletHub ranked Michigan as 26th among states and the District of Columbia in a recent financial analysis based on nearly 20 metrics in four key areas: spending and debt, financial literacy score, credit and savings. Michigan was ranked 33rd for spending and debt, 14th for financial literacy, 27th for credit and 31st for savings, resulting in a combined weighted score of 54.43 out of 100 points.

The state’s lowest ranked category, spending and debt, included a number of metrics relevant to residents’ overall budgeting capability. Some of the specific measures were total debt as a percentage of median income, personal bankruptcy rate, mortgage debt as a percentage of income, credit card debt as a percentage of income, and student loan debt as a percentage of income.

WalletHub’s ranking was prompted by the recent 2015 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey prepared by The National Foundation for Credit Counseling, which found a “staggering lack of money smarts” among U.S. adults. The 2015 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey showed only 40 percent of U.S. adults reported having a budget and actively monitoring their spending; nearly 33 percent indicated their households have monthly credit card debt; and only 59 percent gave themselves an “A” or “B” grade on their personal finance knowledge.

The nationwide survey also showed student loans are a significant financial burden for those currently re-paying their debt. Of the 9 percent who had student loan debt, more than 75 percent indicated it had impacted their personal financial situation, and 50 percent said they had been unable to put money away for an emergency fund.

In response to what advice consumers should follow to create and maintain a budget, Doug Iles, director of the personal financial planning program at Central Michigan University, indicated the key is to save first, then spend.

“Living paycheck to paycheck will end badly. As soon as one debt gets paid off, the average consumer finds a new debt to replace it,” said Iles. “They don’t leave any room for the unexpected things which always come up in life.”

WalletHub also showed the importance of being financially savvy and practicing sound financial habits can offer “prospective businesses incentives to establish operations there, supply jobs and boost the tax revenues,” according to the 2016 Most & Least Financially Savvy States.

Let’s see Trump or Sanders do that!

Housing First

Here’s a little more big-city validation for Grand Rapids.

Business Journal reporter Mike Nichols recently filed a story on Well House and its executive director, Tami VandenBerg, having achieved a milestone in the organization’s efforts to end homelessness in Grand Rapids.

Since VandenBerg joined the nonprofit in January 2013, 103 people have been moved off the streets into safe, low-cost and permanent housing, with 91 percent of those individuals not returning to homelessness.

VandenBerg ascribes to the Housing First model developed by Dr. Sam Tsemberis in New York in the 1990s.

For years, the traditional model many nonprofits have used is to provide shelter to homeless people, many of whom have mental health or substance use issues, but not supply permanent housing until they’ve “checked off the boxes” of getting their issues under control.

VandenBerg supports the exact opposite direction: putting homeless people into stable housing situations first, and from there they can work on the other issues holding them back in life, such as employment and counseling and treatment for mental health and substance abuse problems.

“It turns the paradigm on its head, but there’s resistance to this model — not just in Grand Rapids, but all over,” she said. “I think there’s a myth that everybody who wants help can get it, and that is absolutely not true.”

After his interview with VandenBerg, Nichols sought information about the varying concepts from other sources. One of those sources turned out to be two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof, a reporter and columnist for The New York Times.

Kristof hosted a live-video Facebook chat April 7 to take questions following his recent column about homelessness. The video had at least 11,000 views and 55 shares.

Nichols was able to jump in with a question about the validity of the Housing First model, and it wound up being the most popular comment of the day with 20 “likes.”

Kristof even chose to respond.

“Housing First has been rigorously tested and works very well,” Kristof commented. “I’m a fan.”

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