Even outside of downtown Grand Rapids' "Medical Mile," construction of new medical office space was heating up. East Paris Avenue/Cascade Road, East Beltline Avenue and especially along M-6 are areas that continue to see growth in medical office space. Olga Hallstedt of commercial real estate firm CB Richard Ellis|Grand Rapids estimated that while about 17 percent of Kent County office space was vacant, the rate for medical office space was lower. Metro Health Hospital made plans to relocate from Boston Street to its new facility just north of M-6 in the fall. The hospital partnered with The Granger Group to create Metro Health Village, with medical office space, retail and a hotel planned. Spectrum Health and Saint Mary's Health Care located outpatient centers near M-6, and other types of medical spaces are following.
Convention and Visitors Bureau President Steve Wilson would become busier than usual for the next few months because a bill introduced by state Rep. Michael Sak, D-Grand Rapids, made it through both chambers. The legislation gave the CVB a chance to collect another $2 million annually in lodging taxes, but Wilson said he would settle for half that amount. That $1 million, with revenue from other new sources, such as the Convention and Arena Authority, would allow the bureau to raise its annual marketing budget from $3 million to $5 million. Wilson said the additional dollars were necessary now that his staff was competing against larger urban areas such as Columbus, Milwaukee and Indianapolis to bring convention business to DeVos Place. A bigger budget would also let the bureau extend its marketing reach to bring more tourists to Michigan's "West Coast."
National consultants and local firms were tapped to move furniture, computers and people from Metro Health Hospital's long-time home in Grand Rapids to the new $150 million facility in Wyoming, which opened Sept. 30. Grand Rapids' three major ambulance companies — American Medical Response, Life EMS and Rockford Ambulance — each played a role in shifting about 100 patients.
The new year dawned with one of the most historic and poignant moments in the history of West Michigan. The late President Gerald R. Ford made his final journey to his hometown, as the community paid last respects to its favorite son, who died Dec. 26, 2006, at age 93. As the family of the nation’s 38th president brought his body home for an unprecedented outpouring of affection from local citizens, the impact of the life of a single individual was measured around the world, and the global media focus was put squarely on Grand Rapids. City Manager Kurt Kimball said more than 1,000 local, state and federal personnel were involved in the tribute to President Ford, an event that included two motorcades, public viewing and his funeral and internment. The city’s cost for the tribute was listed as just under $289,000, with the Police Department accounting for $237,000 (the city would have spent $107,000 on police staffing over that period in normal circumstances).