Street Talk: The market awaits


Developments worth more than $1 billion are popping up along the Muskegon Lakeshore in the health care, manufacturing, beverage, science, technology, waterfront, environmental revitalization, higher education, tourism and craft business sectors. And, including all the developments underway or in planning, millions of dollars are being invested in housing projects.

A few of these projects include:

  • Downtown single-family housing, $3 million investment
  • Heritage Square Townhomes, $4 million investment
  • Berkshire Senior Housing, $16 million investment
  • Terrace Point Landing, $14 million investment
  • Terrace Plaza, $1.78 million investment
  • Highpoint Flats, $7.8 million investment
  • Tannery Bay, $50 million investment
  • Windward Pointe, mixed-use and housing development, $200 million investment
  • Midtown Square, $1.57 million investment
  • Odeno, investment not disclosed
  • Amazon Apartments, investment not disclosed

“With housing supply at a historical low, it is exciting to see all the new developments on the horizon,” said Tom Sanocki, CORE Realty. “It will be great to offer prospective buyers even more opportunities for living along the lakeshore.”

Downtown Muskegon Now spokesperson Dave Alexander said he thinks 2017 will be a banner year for housing construction projects, especially downtown.

“Muskegon has been slow to snag West Michigan developments, but now we have Muskegon developers that are blazing the trail for us in downtown,” he said. “I think there’s probably more demand than there are projects right now. People say, ‘We want to live downtown in market-rate apartments,’ and there are waiting lists. Soon, the wait will be over.”

GROWth spurt

True to its name, GROW just keeps growing.

Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women recently rolled out some updated training and business counseling programs, as well as adding a year-long training program — EmpowerHER, pairing women business owners with specialists who can assist with stabilizing or scaling up their companies.

Barbara Welch of Inheritance Development LLC, Zena Patillo of Training Paradigm, Debra Bates of Choice Business Services Inc. and Jeanne Englehart of ETC Consulting comprise the group of four specialists assigned to help the first class of EmpowerHER. The women will be available for monthly one-on-one sessions throughout the year and quarterly Think Big seminars.

“These four women have exceptional experience and skills in navigating the challenges as a business owner and leader across multiple industries," GROW CEO Bonnie Nawara said. "They will help our participants focus on their business, help them scale and provide insights needed to take their leadership to the next level."

Participants in the inaugural program, which was proposed by Costa Rica-native Selenia Rodríguez Vargas during her four-month fellowship with GROW last fall, must have been in business for at least two years, have $50,000 in sales and a current business program to qualify.

GROW program manager Mary C. Hartfield said the EmpowerHER program was instituted because, "We wanted to develop innovative programs to connect with second stage business owners and give them resources to continue to scale successfully."

EmpowerHER's enrollment period began in September, with accepted applicants agreeing to a 12-month commitment to remain in the program and payment of a $150 enrollment fee.

See? shore!

West Side-based IT firm Open Systems Technology partnered with Grand Rapids Public Schools last week to take fifth-graders on a field trip to the shoreline.

The idea came about in a brainstorming session three years ago between the two groups, when John Helmholdt, GRPS executive director of communications and external affairs, said about 85 percent of elementary-age children at GRPS have not seen the lakeshore because of poor transportation access and financial constraints.

Retired OST founder Dan Behm jumped at the chance to coordinate and chaperone a series of field trips, along with his wife, Barb Behm, and OST employees.

“Maybe this will inspire students in ways that they never imagined,” said Michael Lomonaco, OST director of marketing and communications. “How can kids possibly understand the importance of green spaces if they can’t get outside the city and actually experience them in person?”

Organizers said the field trips serve to educate children about environmental science, embed engagement with parks into the GRPS curriculum and foster a partnership between GRPS and local business.

“I want to thank OST for making this opportunity available for our students,” said Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal.

This year’s field trip hit the goal of providing the opportunity to every one of the approximately 1,200 GRPS fifth-graders.

Fired up

D.A. Blodgett would be proud, as Grand Rapids is using a lot of wood … to heat homes.

Grand Rapids was listed on yet another list, this one as the No. 5 metro area on’s “Top 12 Metro Areas for Keeping Warm with Good Ol’ Wood.”

According to the lawn care website’s report, gas and electricity make up 90 percent of heat in the United States, with wood providing 2 percent. In 1940, more than a quarter of the nation’s population used wood for warmth.

“Heating with wood may not be hip like solar, but it’s proving to be the workhorse of residential renewable energy production,” Alliance for Green Heat President John Ackerly said in the report.

Among the top 100 largest metro areas, Spokane, Washington, was the top dog when it comes to heating with timber, with 6.9 percent of homes relying on the resource.

Grand Rapids tied with Boise, Idaho, at No. 5, both with 3.4 percent of occupied homes using wood as their primary heat source.

On the list with Grand Rapids, Boise and Spokane: Worcester, Massachusetts.; Syracuse, New York; Albany, New York; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Portland, Oregon; Springfield, Massachusetts; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Rochester, New York; and Sacramento, California.

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