Readers of MiBiz.com continue to gobble up news about downtown Grand Rapids developments and all manner of craft beverage-related stories in 2016.
Readers were most captivated by news about Hinman Company’s plans to develop a 42-story on the site of a current surface parking lot in downtown Grand Rapids. MiBiz commercial real estate reporter Nick Manes was the first to break news about the 418-foot-tall hotel and apartment tower development, and has been continuing to follow the project through the planning process.
It was one of many development news stories reported first by MiBiz in a year dominated by new project unveilings in the city.
Additionally, craft beverage stories — ranging from new craft beer bars and brewery expansions to proposed tax hikes and distillery acquisitions — also garnered a strong share of readers’ interest.
Here’s a look back at the most popular stories on MiBiz.com in 2016.
GRAND RAPIDS — A wedge-shaped parking lot in the middle of downtown Grand Rapids could be transformed into the site of the tallest building in Grand Rapids and one of the tallest in the state. According to documents filed with the city, Portage-based The Hinman Co. plans a 42-story, 418-foot-tall hotel and apartment tower at 10 Ionia Ave. NW. Currently, a small, wedge-shaped surface parking lot occupies the location that borders of Fulton Street, Louis Street and Ionia Avenue. Plans call for a lobby, approximately 10 floors of hotel space, an amenity floor, and apartments on the above remaining floors. An entity registered to Hinman Co. President and CEO Roger Hinman owns the property.
With increasing demand for fresh, specialty groceries, Walker-based Meijer Inc. has started to look outside the big box retail format it’s known for, even if the retailer doesn’t like to admit it. The West Michigan retailer speaks publicly about being a passive investor with a financial interest in Downers Grove, Ill.-based Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, a growing regional specialty grocery chain positioned to tap into the niche of consumers focused on healthy, fresh foods. However, the notoriously buttoned-up Meijer corporate office has long denied that the relationship was deeper than a financial investment. But through a review of public documents from multiple states where Fresh Thyme operates stores, MiBiz has learned that Meijer — along with a veteran specialty grocery executive — created the 48-store chain, which it owns through a subsidiary. Moreover, the specialty chain appears to serve as a skunkworks division apart from the larger Meijer organization, according to multiple sources familiar with corporate law, liquor license regulations and Meijer’s own operations.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Since an initial story about Shark Market LLC seeking to open a grocery store at 38 Commerce was first reported, the partners ended up shelving their plans because they struggled to find financing, as MiBiz reported in a follow-up story.
CALEDONIA — Despite losing one-third of its student body since 2012, Davenport University has embarked on a wave of spending, including expanded facilities, new dormitories and the addition of a football team this fall. A review of federal filings and public statements by Davenport officials over the past four years shows that enrollment at the Caledonia-based nonprofit university system dipped to 8,715 students in 2015 from a self-disclosed 13,000 in the 2011-2012 academic year.
GRAND RAPIDS — Traverse City-based craft beer bar and restaurant 7 Monks Taproom has unveiled plans for a Grand Rapids location along the growing Michigan Street corridor. The bar and restaurant company will open its third 7 Monks location at 740 Michigan St. NE, executives confirmed to MiBiz during the Craft Brewers Conference last week in Philadelphia. The site is part of a recently-completed mixed-use development from 616 Lofts LLC that offers 54 apartments, ground-floor retail and underground parking.
COMSTOCK PARK — Less than two years after launching in Grand Rapids, ELK Brewing LLC now plans to open a second microbrewery and restaurant in Plainfield Charter Township’s Comstock Park district, MiBiz has learned. The existing brewery and taphouse on Wealthy Street is “bottlenecked,” necessitating the expansion to a location on Dodge Street just west of West River Drive in Comstock Park, near the entrance to Fifth Third Ballpark, said co-owner Eric Karns.
GRAND RAPIDS — Documents released this morning by the city’s Planning Commission outline further details of a proposed redevelopment project along the burgeoning Bridge Street corridor. Grand Rapids-based Rockford Construction Company Inc., along with a variety of partners, plan a mixed-use development on sites situated around Bridge Street, Seward Avenue and Stocking Avenue that would include housing, a Meijer Inc. grocery store, additional retail, parking and office space. According to the documents, the first of two phases would consist of an affordable housing development, which would be developed by nonprofit housing developer Inner City Christian Federation, as MiBiz reported yesterday.
GRAND RAPIDS — With more than 530 new apartments and at least $115 million in new investment, the pipeline for mixed-use development remains strong along the Michigan Street corridor east of the Medical Mile. The newest proposal for the area comes from Grand Rapids-based Third Coast Development LLC, whose principals plan a mixed-income and mixed-use $42 million project called Diamond Place on the north side of Michigan Street, just east of Diamond Avenue. Included in those plans: Attracting an urban grocery user to the ground floor of the development.
GRAND RAPIDS — From an undisclosed $100 million foreign-backed fund to local real estate agents, investors of all kinds are staking their bets on the Grand Rapids housing market. The city’s growing population and new job opportunities in industries like technology and health care have proven attractive to developers and investors, who are seeking to deploy capital in a growing number of Grand Rapids neighborhoods. Lately, much of their attention has turned to the predominately African-American Baxter neighborhood, south of Wealthy Street. The region has become attractive as the adjacent East Hills area to the north has been built out and as deals have dried up in other parts of the city. It’s a striking about-face for investors after decades of disinvestment in some of the city’s struggling neighborhoods, a move that brings challenges for existing homeowners.
LANSING — A new bill proposed in the Michigan Legislature could more than triple the state’s excise tax on beer. House Bill 5873, introduced today by State Rep. Tom Hooker, R-Byron Center, would raise taxes on beer from $6.30 to $21.70 per barrel, a 244-percent increase. The new tax would be the equivalent of 6.5 cents per 12-ounce can. The bill, which had no cosponsors, immediately drew harsh criticism from Michigan’s craft brewers and from business groups, who see it as an attack on the state’s $1.8 billion craft beer industry.
GRAND HAVEN — North Ottawa Community Health System and Mercy Health plan to work together under a new strategic alliance that executives say holds benefits for both health systems. Under the alliance approved by the boards at both health systems, Mercy Health would get a larger presence in the attractive northern Ottawa County market. North Ottawa would get greater access to more medical specialists from Mercy Health physicians. The strategic alliance would pave the way as well for the better coordination of care and smoother patient referrals and transfers between North Ottawa in Grand Haven and Mercy Health facilities in Muskegon and Grand Rapids.
GRAND RAPIDS — Spurred on by the likes of developers such as Rockford Construction Co. Inc., Ryan Ogle now hopes to make his own mark along the Bridge Street corridor on Grand Rapids’ west side. Previously, the broker and owner of Grand Rapids-based Blu House Properties LLC had focused primarily on sales, leasing and property management of residential homes. But with the growth of the west side, the real estate veteran sees opportunity in commercial investment. “When I saw Rockford Construction put their headquarters here, I knew they were here to stay,” Ogle said of the Grand Rapids-based general contracting and development firm that has led the charge in new development along Bridge Street. “And I knew I could dance around in their shadows a little bit.”
GRAND HAVEN — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has identified an unlikely threat lurking in West Michigan. At issue is Grand Armory Brewing Co.’s attempt to trademark the phrase “Coast Guard City,” which it used in the name of a signature beer brewed for the annual Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival. The label for Coast Guard City Pale Ale — which was canned last week, according to a tweet from the Grand Haven-based brewery’s account — features the likeness of a Coast Guard vessel set amid waves, barley spikes and a sunset. The federal agency last week filed an opposition to Grand Armory’s trademark application for the beer, stating that it infringes on the department’s existing marks and that the use of the Coast Guard name is restricted under federal law.
GRAND RAPIDS — 616 Development plans a mixed-use project along the booming Wealthy Street corridor in the East Hills neighborhood east of downtown Grand Rapids. According to documents filed with the city, the Grand Rapids-based development and property management firm will acquire the three parcels at 751 and 759 Wealthy Street, in addition to the six-story building at 733 Wealthy St., frequently called the Kregel Building. The firm plans between 76 and 84 market-rate apartments at the building, which will be accompanied by 68 parking spaces.
GRAND RAPIDS — A microbrewery could soon makes its way to Grand Rapids’ southeast side. Christopher Gibbons, a local attorney with Dunn/Gibbons PLC, has filed paperwork with the city of Grand Rapids to open Brass Ring Brewing Company LLC at 2404 Eastern Ave. SE in the Alger Heights neighborhood. Gibbons, who told MiBiz that he has been a home brewer for 10 years, sees opening a craft brewery as a “retirement career.”
HOLLAND CHARTER TOWNSHIP — Grand Rapids-based Windquest Group Inc., the family office for Amway scion Dick DeVos and his wife, Betsy DeVos, is getting into the booze-making business, MiBiz has learned. Windquest is listed as the registered agent for CC Acquisitions, LLC, which formed on Oct. 29, 2015 and a day later changed its name to Coppercraft Distillery, LLC. The company appears to have acquired certain assets of the Holland Charter Township-based craft distillery of the same name.
GRAND RAPIDS — The Eastown Business District is poised to get its second brewery. East West Brewing Co., a 2,000-square-foot pub focusing on traditional American-style beers, plans to open by Dec. 1 at 1400 Lake Dr. SE, next to the popular Bombay Cuisine. The two concepts share a building and common ownership, but will be operated separately. “I’ve wanted to do this for nine years but have always said, ‘No, that’s too much,’” said owner Balwinder Bal.
GRAND RAPIDS — An investment firm that serves RDV Corp., the family office for Amway co-founder Richard DeVos, has formed a $130 million private equity fund. A regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission indicated that four investors collectively invested $130 million into the newly formed Ottawa Avenue Fund 2016 LP, created by Grand Rapids-based Ottawa Private Capital LLC.