Downtown Alliance praises 13 award winners for investments


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The Downtown Alliance named Derek Coppess as its Emerging Entrepreneur at its annual meeting Thursday.

Coppess was one of 13 winners in the organization’s Making Downtown Great Awards, a bi-annual event that recognizes exceptional accomplishments from the ongoing investments that are being made in the district.

“We want to focus attention on the growth and investment that continues to occur in the Central Business District. Individuals and businesses are making a choice to invest in downtown Grand Rapids, and we believe that their confidence and their accomplishments need to be recognized,” said Ray Kisor, chairman of the Downtown Awards Committee.

Coppess is a principal in 616 Development, an urban real estate developer and property manager. His firm is completing work on the renovation of two Ionia Avenue buildings just east of Van Andel Arena and is also beginning to transform the vacant and dilapidated Kendall Building at 16 Monroe Center into retail, office and residential spaces.

But Coppess, who selected Grand Rapids over Lansing as where he wanted to locate his firm, wasn’t the only major honoree. Van Andel Institute won the alliance’s Chairman’s Award, while the Grand Action Committee picked up the Unsung Hero Award. The Game Changer Award went to CityFlats Hotel on Monroe Center, and Gilda’s Club walked away with the Inspiration Award for LaughFest.

Founders Brewing Co. took first place in the Making Downtown Great category, and Fifth Third Bank’s annual River Bank Run was named downtown’s top event. The first-place honor in the Adaptive Reuse category went to Kendall College of Art and Design, which is conducting classes with Ferris State University in the former Federal Building on Ionia Avenue NW that The Christman Co. renovated.

The Fifth Third Bank Vault in the arena and Dog Story Theater on Jefferson Avenue tied for the top honor in the always interesting Best Kept Secret category. Rockford Construction Co. captured the Smaller Project, Big Impact honor for its widely popular retail incubator, MoDiv, at 40 Monroe Center NW.

Michigan State University won the New Construction Award for its College of Human Medicine building on Michigan Street, and DeVos Place, the city’s convention center operated by the Convention and Arena Authority and SMG, won the Sustainability honor.

“Through this process we are recognizing individual businesses for the work they are doing –– and doing well. We hope that these accomplishments will inspire future renovations, unique design and quality construction in and around the CBD,” said Bob Partridge, chairman of the alliance’s board.

In addition to the 13 winners, 33 others were acknowledged with Recognition Awards. Members of both groups were given a “Gretchen,” a coveted limited edition, signed and numbered print of a painting that was done by local artist and architect Gretchen Minnhaar. Minnhaar is a downtown resident. The public and members of the awards committee cast ballots to choose the winners.

“There was a great pool of nominations, and the public did an excellent job of voting for their favorite projects. We are pleased and grateful that downtown has so many businesses and projects to celebrate,” said Sharon Evoy, executive director of the Downtown Alliance.

The alliance was established in 2001 and was assigned the sole goal to make downtown better. The organization advocates on behalf of downtown businesses through a 27-member board and markets the district through the Let’s Get Out campaign.

The alliance’s website is

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