Street Talk: A parking exodus
About 300 monthly parking spots are set to clear up by the end of the year.
According to X Ventures President Bill Bowling, one of his tenants, a marketing firm based downtown, is planning to vacate its 36,000-square-foot premises for greener pastures — or at least charcoal asphalt.
The difficulty in finding available parking is the primary reason for the firm’s flight to the suburbs, Bowling said, and the 300 employees are following in the footsteps of 350 workers who already were moved from the downtown offices. The firm has plans to increase its workforce by an additional 75 employees, Bowling said, but the lack of downtown spaces made it difficult to accommodate the expansion.
“They tell me they love downtown, they love the hotels to put up clients and the restaurants downtown,” Bowling said. “But with the parking issue being what it is, it just made more sense to move out of the downtown.”
Bowling’s concern is this exodus might be just the first in several companies based downtown that already were considering moving their offices as a solution to the parking crunch. He said he’s aware of at least “a half-dozen” companies considering that option.
But while the city works to find a solution to difficulties in obtaining monthly permits for downtown parking, development continues to bind the number of available spots.
At a parking commission meeting March 9, Mobile GR and Parking Manager Josh Naramore said about 125 spots at the city-owned Monroe North Lot will be closed beginning June 1. The lot is set to transition to green space as part of the River Restoration Project laid out in the GR Forward plan.
Naramore said the city is working with employers using the lot — mostly Spectrum Health employees in the Brass Works Building — to find other options to accommodate them.
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park said it saw an attendance surge in February thanks to the “Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens: Natural State” exhibition, which opened at the end of January.
The popular West Michigan attraction said more than 26,550 guests visited Meijer Gardens in February, an increase of 33 percent over the same time period in 2016, making it the best attended February in the organization’s history.
The increase in traffic is directly attributable to Ai Weiwei’s exhibit, said Joseph Becherer, Meijer Gardens vice president and chief curator.
It’s not the first time Weiwei’s work has led to record breaking months for cultural attractions; his exhibitions are said to have shattered attendance records in London, Paris, Helsinki and San Francisco.
Weiwei is an internationally renowned artist and activist, considered one of the “definitive cultural voices of the 21st century.”
He champions free speech and global human rights through his sculpture, installations, film and photography.
He also has a widely followed social media presence.
His work has been featured on the cover of every major art publication and most magazines and newspapers across the globe.
In the last year, he has mounted critically acclaimed exhibitions in London, Helsinki, Paris, Melbourne, Florence and New York.
The exhibit at Meijer Gardens is his first show in the upper Midwest, as well as the first of its kind for the artist at a botanical garden or sculpture park.
Meijer Gardens is the permanent home of one of Weiwei’s recent works, “Iron Tree,” which was acquired by the gardens and installed in 2015 in honor of Meijer Gardens' 20th anniversary.
The sculpture measures 22 feet tall and 22 feet across and is Weiwei’s “largest and most complex” outdoor sculpture to date.
The newest exhibit will run through Aug. 20.
Visitors also can check out the annual “Butterflies Are Blooming” exhibition, which runs through April 30.
It’s time to talk about nursing.
Southwest Michigan College President David Mathews said March 2 that SMC plans to use $4 million from the state to double the size of its nursing and health education facility.
Cornerstone University President Joe Stowell recently announced the school is adding an associate degree program for nursing and partnering with the University of Detroit-Mercy to allow students to complete a Bachelor of Science in nursing degree at UDM.
And now, Muskegon Community College has announced its nursing students are again beating the national average pass rates.
Christina Donley, MCC nursing program director, said this month its graduates exceeded national averages on first-time pass rates on the National Council Licensing Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN) and LPNs (NCLEX-PN).
On the NCLEX-RN exam, MCC graduates had a 97 percent first-time pass rate versus 81.68 percent in the nation. Meanwhile, on the NCLEX-PN, MCC graduates had a 100 percent first-time pass rate, compared to 83.7 percent nationally.
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing revises the licensing examinations every three years based on feedback from nurses in their first year of practice. While scores nationwide decreased with the new licensing exam in 2013, MCC’s scores increased.
The first-time pass rates within the rest of the state of Michigan will be available in May.
“Our students consistently exceed the state and national averages for passing the RN and LPN NCLEX exams on their first attempt,” Donley said. “The MCC nursing faculty is proud of the achievements of our 2016 graduates and congratulates them on their success in reaching this milestone.”
In 2016, the MCC nursing program awarded 68 associate degrees in nursing and 79 practical nurse diplomas.
Benton Harbor native Sinbad was back in West Michigan this past weekend performing at LaughFest.
Despite graduating from Benton Harbor High School, Sinbad said he doesn’t get back to the area much and when he’s in Michigan, he’s normally on the east side unless he’s performing in Grand Rapids.
A bona fide comedy star in the 1990s with movies such as “First Kid,” “Houseguest” and “Jingle All the Way,” Sinbad did ease away from the Hollywood scene for a bit, but said he’s making his way back into movies and TV shows. He admitted he never expected to get back into the movies.
“You just have to work that beast,” he said.
Sinbad brushed aside any fear of bombing a comedy show and gave some sound public speaking advice while he was at it. He said a standup comedian needs to have confidence in knowing what he or she is talking about.
“That’s like asking Miles Davis if he worries about hitting bad notes,” Sinbad said. “It’s the least of your worries. If no one laughs at a joke, that becomes the joke. You read the room and move on. Comedy is weird; you can’t really explain it. The doing is the practice.”
He certainly didn’t study comedy and got a jump on his career fairly late, hitting the standup circuits for the first time in his mid-20s. His career aspirations had long included playing basketball, scuba diving, driving racecars and being a pilot.
“I look at when I started as right on time,” Sinbad said. “At 26, I had lived life. That prepared me.”