Season Opener

September 11, 2006
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At one time, the highly touted River Grand mystery development may have been looking at the other side of the Grand River. At least a year before Duane Faust entered the picture with his billion-dollar dream, a disparate group of urban professionals led by Michigan Black Expo President Rudolph Treece was trying to be build an urban music center in Grand Rapids

As it was explained to Corky Paul, the West Michigan Group LLC broker marketing a two-acre parcel on Front Avenue directly across the river from the city's Public Works Island, the recording industry was taking a close look at the Midwest during the period from 2001 to 2003, when California's infrastructure was in chaos from electrical "brownouts" and other turmoil.

"The Midwest was all of a sudden an exciting place," he said. "People were looking for fresh water and power. And there was huge talent emerging in the Midwest."

How a vision for a boutique campus for emerging musical talent evolved into the Trump-esqueRiver Grand is unclear. Perhaps the relationship is only in context; there certainly appears to be little semblance of that original plan in the current one.

Either way, Paul said he believes the three-building parcel he has listed at 240, 280 and 300 Front Ave. SW was at one time a potential site for the urban music campus. A former industrial complex, the site appears to be custom made for a youth-oriented development to tie into the GrandValleyStateUniversity downtown campus two blocks away.

While the recording industry has long since left the picture, current interest in the $2.95 million property has a similar character. Interest in the property has focused on a mix of college or professional housing and retail, with eyes toward the 700 feet of river frontage as a marina or kayak park.

"The activity across the river is now a ways away," Paul said. "I think it'll be very exciting to see what happens on this side of the river."

At roughly $1.5 million per acre, Paul noted that the property had a much better price than the city's 16-acre property at

201 Market Ave. SW
, priced at over $2 million per acre.

  • Yep, it's the silly season.

This week's lesson: No matter how well done a pricey campaign commercial, some goofball with an iBook is going to blow it away on YouTube.

There are 18 Dick DeVos For Governor spots currently posted on the popular online video portal, in addition to the two "I Am Amway" commercials not directly related to the campaign. There are three campaign spots for Gov. Jennifer Granholm

The most popular spot is Dick DeVos on the road, an online-only video featuring Michigan rocker Ted Nugent in July, with 237 views. That is roughly one tenth of the views generated by the oldest of the DeVos parody videos, "Dick DeVos for Governor: What Is This Thing Called Amway?"

Amway's Rob Zeiger wasn't kidding when he said the company was taking a beating because of the campaign. And the worst of it is coming from a steady stream of amateur videos attacking Amway, its one-time leader, and his wife, Betsy DeVos

In an e-mail last week, DeVos campaign lieutenant Greg McNeilly was positively incensed by the barely three-minute cartoon "See Dick Run," which attacks the candidate on practically all fronts, but particularly his investment in China

Arguably the best of the eight or so lampoons currently in distribution, including one on Granholm called "Granzilla," the cartoon further reinforces what has become the Granholm camp's rallying cry: That DeVos is a villain for not having a xenophobic approach to the global marketplace (in West Michigan, we call that tack "The Bankruptcy Express").

What McNeilly should be worried about are spots such as "I Don't Believe Dick." Set to the Magnetic Fields tune "I Don't Believe You," the video is a collection of hundreds of DeVos photos connecting him to the likes of Tom DeLay, Karl Rove and Judge Robert Bork. It barely mentions Amway, but goes right after his wealth and political affiliations.

  • The Ohio Business Development Coalition is running a series of ads trumpeting its low tax burden, compared to Michigan, in the Wall Street Journal. If you already know this and haven't actually seen the ad, then congratulations; you've been (in the words of local communications guru Jeff Lambert) PR'd.

The ad has only run twice, on Aug. 10 and 23, and will run just four more times between now and the Wolverines' big game at OhioState in November. The barebones Ohio campaign — in response to a $20 million Michigan campaign announced in June — is a neat little PR trick in which the media coverage of the ad reaches 10 times more people than the ad itself.

On the concept in general, couldn't Ohio find a better message than "We're better than Michigan"? According to Forbes, so are 45 other states.

  • Calvin College Professor Randal Jelks has been honored by the Historical Society of Michigan for his book "African Americans in the FurnitureCity: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Grand Rapids."

"I was interested in the question of what the history of African Americans in Grand Rapids says about Michigan and the conditions of struggling people worldwide," Jelks said. "The past shapes our present."

Jelks will receive a State History Award in the University and Commercial Press category next Friday during a ceremony in Bay City

Unrelated to the honor, Jelks penned a commentary for the Detroit Free Press last Tuesday, recounting his youthful surprise when his then-girlfriend, now wife, explained to him that there are black people in West Michigan

In his essay, he called for African Americans across the state to collaborate efforts against poverty, violence and despair.    

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