Street Talk: Parking plan drop


In the first draft of the defeated parking resolution he presented to the Grand Rapids City Commission on Dec. 12, First Ward Commissioner Dave Shaffer originally suggested a deal with Kent County to expand the downtown parking supply.

The idea was to redevelop the county-owned property at 82 Ionia Ave. NW, which has twice been up for sale and currently is off the market.

Shaffer took the item off the resolution before introducing it to the commission. He said the county has made it clear it is not ready to make any decisions about selling off that asset or entering a partnership with the city.

“Kent County is doing a whole assessment of all the properties they own. They’ve had 82 Ionia up for sale twice now. They want to go through that process before they explore other options,” he said.

“They have their process they need to work through with what is in their best interests.”

Lisa LaPlante, Kent County community liaison and communications director, said the county terminated the listing for 82 Ionia in July after determining there was not a sufficient plan in place to relocate the services and employees in the building post-sale.

The original idea was to relocate some of the staff and departments to its building at 320 Ottawa Ave. NW and the rest to a new building to be built at its Fuller Avenue NE complex. That plan is now undergoing further scrutiny.

“Eighty-two Ionia is in a holding pattern,” LaPlante said. “We’re doing a study on the Fuller complex. It’s tied to our Space Needs Study from 2015. … It would be for moving some of the services in 82 Ionia.

“We’re trying to determine cost and feasibility of those space needs recommendations.”

Meanwhile, downtown parking garages have few vacancies.

Santa bucks

How do you stack up to the Jolly Old Elf?

When it comes to salary, Santa Claus makes less than many, but more than most, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Each year, calculates the “value of Santa” based on analysis of recent wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This year shows Santa would earn a salary of $149,434 for the myriad jobs he performs, which is only a 2 percent increase from last year — the second consecutive year of wage growth that performed lower than the projected 3 percent.

And even though all 15 jobs that make up Santa’s wage experienced some wage growth, St. Nick doesn’t spend enough time in those with significant increases to raise the overall salary higher.

His jobs with wage increases at or higher than the projected 3 percent salary bump include: sleigh driver (airline pilot), 11 percent; Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night (public address announcer), 10 percent; elfin labor negotiator (labor relations specialist), 5 percent; letter reader (correspondence clerk), 4 percent; and list checker (bookkeeping/accounting), 3 percent.

Some of Santa’s tasks that didn’t meet the 3 percent threshold were mall appearances (customer service rep), going down chimneys (chimney sweep) and cookie and milk taster (agricultural inspector).

Santa’s salary, however, is well above the national median household salary of $59,039, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s estimates for 2016, which is up 3.2 percent from 2015.

“Based on his salary and his assets at the North Pole, one would hope he has an inclusive life insurance policy in place,” said Penny Gusner, consumer analyst for “And since it’s believed Santa is either immortal or a very long-living elf, it should be a permanent policy instead of term, so the coverage doesn’t expire.” produces its lighthearted Santa Index each year to remind consumers about the importance of insurance, but even it doesn’t take the index too seriously.

“If anything were to happen to Santa without a policy in place, it’s reasonable to assume that Mrs. Claus would be so busy trying to deal with finances, logistics and paperwork that she could completely miss the Christmas Eve delivery schedule,” Gusner said. “And without income replacement, she might not even be able to keep the workshop open.”

Tax breaks

The tax reform package recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives could have a positive impact on commercial real estate, according to global real estate firm Cushman and Wakefield.

The firm stated in its special report for December that commercial real estate will come out as the top winner with the recently passed tax bill.

The report emphasized tax breaks historically have acted as a stimulant to commercial real estate rather than a driving force in investment transactions or investment performance. The industry is likely to benefit most from a prolonged positive economic cycle, according to the report.

Other highlights included moderate positive impact on multifamily/renting, retail and industrial real estate, with very little effect on the office sector.

Other positive impacts include real estate investment trusts and the overall real estate investment market.

Areas with high state and local tax deductions, high property taxes, high medium incomes and medium-to-high home values are likely to see negative impacts on home values and the number of home sales. States like California, New York and New Jersey may be hit the hardest.

The report added negative effects could be remedied by “robust, underlying real estate fundamentals,” as well as job growth in those markets.

The tax plan also could alter rent vs. buy economics in favor of renting.

Those that could also experience a negative impact are single-family homes, the homeownership market, the medical office and health care sectors and the student housing market, the report stated.

Rural route

Susan G. Komen Michigan is extending its breast health education and screening programs for rural communities in all 24 counties the organization serves.

The project is supported by a three-year, $75,000 commitment from Crystal Flash, a Grand Rapids-based fuel distribution company.

A mobile mammography bus will bring health care screening services to rural residents who might otherwise forego them due to barriers such as location, culture, language or finances. 

Rural women in Michigan are more likely to undergo a partial or total mastectomy in lieu of breast-sparing procedures, such as radiation therapy, due to transportation barriers, according to the Komen MI Community Profile Report. Transportation barriers include long travel to treatment centers and lack of public transportation options, particularly during the snowy winter months.

“All families in Michigan should be able to access the quality health care they deserve. We are attacking the source of these issues by targeting the barriers they face and bringing breast health services to their backyards,” said Erica Bills, Komen MI’s executive director. 

The partnership with Crystal Flash builds on their “Fueling the Cures” program announced last year, which brought breast health education to rural residents in Crystal Flash’s service areas. 

“We are proud to expand our support and commitment to Komen MI in general and to underserved rural populations in particular,” said Marc H. Foerster, vice president of sales and marketing for Crystal Flash. “Connecting these residents with necessary screenings and care will improve the health of our communities and help save lives.”

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