Kicking A Gift Vorce

May 14, 2007
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Generally when the Business Journal reports on the “ripple effect” or “economic multiplier,” it defines the generation of new business, employment and tax revenue as the result of a project or development tool. The ripple effect no one wants to talk about right now is that of the alleged fraud of boat broker Michael Vorce and the toll it’s taking on the area banking industry.

Independent Bank, just one of the institutions caught in the Vorce net, is said to have eliminated 75 employees … to date. There may be more in the next quarter as the reorganizing continues.

Independent Bank’s Robert Shuster, executive vice president and CFO, did not indicate if the cuts were due to a sagging market or the fraudulent loans: “I’m not going to get into personnel matters at all, so we have no comment on a question of that nature.”

Jon Swets, CFO of Macatawa Bank, said “The process there involves a significant process, not just one person that makes a decision. What we’re going to do about our process — we’re not commenting about it.”

National City Bank said it suffered minimal losses in the fraud scheme involving the boat broker. “There were no resulting job losses, and no customers lost money in the situation,” said corporate spokesman William Eiler, who declined further comment.

LaSalle Bank did not return a call from the Business Journal.

**Second Story Properties’ Sam Cummings has again changed the residential portion of his project at

Fulton Street
Division Avenue
. The Gallery on Fulton, as the development is called, will now feature an “extended-stay hotel” and not the condos or rental apartments seen in previous plans.

Whereas the housing market is in a rut, hotel operators have shown a “high level of interest in Grand Rapids in general, and in the site and its location in particular.” The sales agreement for the former city parking lot would need to be amended for a hotel before its July 31 closing date. The Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts remains the project’s target tenant.

Now for some connect the dots.

Less than a year after former Cummings partner Jack Buchanan tried to move Founders Brewing Co. out of Second Story’s BrassWorksBuilding to a nearby site in the Monroe North Business District, another former partner, Elevation Group’s John Greene, recently of Second Story, is leading an attempt to move Founders to

235 Grandville Ave. SW.

The former truck dock was previously the site for an aborted apartment complex proposed by Moch International, which, in turn, was the subject of a proposal from 1st Ward City Commissioner James Jendrasiak last week.

Jendrasiak suggests the city swap its parking lot at Monroe and Trowbridge for the Joes Moch proposed hotel site, a block east at Trowbridge and Bond. The swap would put the hotel on the east bank of the Grand River, a better use for riverfront property than parking and one that would add property-tax revenue to the city’s pot. The city would put up a parking ramp on the Moch property.

Sounds like a good deal for both. But the Mochs aren’t sure they can come up with the cash difference for the higher-priced riverfront property. Parking commissioners refused to give the Mochs a long-term parking lease in the Monroe lot last month, and the Mochs said they can’t build the hotel without a place for guests to park.

Both sites are next door to the BrassWorksBuilding

**Metro Health President Michael Faas told an audience of about 250 physicians last week that he would announce within 30 days the hotel chain that will open in the under-construction MetroHealthVillage in Wyoming

“There’s not another hotel like it,” he promised at an event that included tours of the new MetroHealthHospital that anchors the village.

The development became at least the fourth proposed project to boast Whole Foods Market and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro as potential clients. Serious speculation in the real estate community has focused on the latter, as the restaurant has all but assured local brokers that it will locate in the region’s first lifestyle center. The MetroHealthVillage, located just north of the M-6 interchange at

Byron Center Avenue
, could be the surprise winner.

**In other news, Saint Mary’s Health Care dedicated

359 S. Division Ave.
as the new locale for its HeartsideHealthCenter, a facility that primarily serves the homeless in downtown Grand Rapids

Bishop Walter Hurley of the Catholic Diocese of Greater Grand Rapids and Mayor George Heartwell spoke at last week’s dedication ceremony. A minister, Heartwell helped to establish the clinic 18 years ago. Saint Mary’s spokeswoman Micki Benz said the diocese is leasing the former Catholic Secondary Schools building “at a very reduced rate.”

The center sees about 6,400 patients per year for primary medical care.

**Kathy and David Zuber’s PostalAnnex+ franchise hosted a promotion this morning offering a sheet of 20 2-cent stamps to the first 100 customers to walk through their doors at 2751 Alpine Ave. NW.

The U.S. Postal Service increased its First-Class one-ounce letter rate from 39 cents to 41 cents today, spawning the 40-cent-per-person PR stunt.

“It’s always a bit of a hassle whenever the post office raises the price of stamps,” said Kathy Zuber. “We want our customers to know we will have the 2-cent stamps in stock and that they can get them for free on that day only.”

With a total value of $40, it likely cost more to have the press release written than to give away the stamps.

**For those wondering where Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine was going to cover the several million dollar discrepancy in the Secchia Center namesake’s reported and actual gift to the school, apparently the local philanthropic community was not tapped out by that initial $20 million gift to get construction started (half of that from Peter Secchia¸original reports pegged him as the sole donor). The Steelcase and Frey foundations stepped in with a $2 million gift last week, bringing the fund to $24 million, a smidge shy of the estimated $40 million needed to complete the project.    

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