Dream Big


    There have not been so many underground meetings about a single project since VandenbergPlaza was first conceptualized. And some of the same individuals (and a few new fellows) see it as a topic worth exploring as they did the brainteaser of what to make of downtown in the 1960s. The brainstorming begins with “What is Grand Rapids growing up to be?” And how does the availability of a 107-acre site within the city become a part of the solution? The underground rulers are, of course, speaking of the announcement by Steelcase President and CEO James Hackett, indicating the two-story manufacturing plant in the city limits will be vacated over the next two years.

    While the first reaction by some city commissioners was chair-shoving anger, those who have invested in the city (several times over) seize upon the possibility of creating an industrial park for the city (which is fresh out). The ire of some manufacturing leaders on North Monroe, for instance, is not necessarily that the city allowed the evolution of commercial businesses out the alleys, but that there is no place by which to expand, or to move. Such plans take them outside the city limits. (Though one wonders whether any would trust the city to “help,” anyway. Just ask GR Spring & Wire President James Zawacki.)

    Others recall the ’60s planning for the airport and a sister ‘port in the same vicinity of the Steelcase plant. Some note the existing rail tracks and say it is the perfect pod for a new light rail terminal. In all cases it is suggested the cities of Kentwood and Grand Rapids work on making lemonade together (presumably because few trust GR to do it without guidance).

    Drum roll. The top 10 suggestions for the older-than-(pay)dirt Steelcase site including the ideas of a city industrial park, air pod and rail terminal:

    — Another golf course (emphasize “indoor”).

    — A family water park.

    — GR Tech, or SoutheastGrand RapidsTechSchool

    — The site of the new Michigan State University/Grand Rapids Owns It Medical School.

    — A fiscally responsible site for the new MetropolitanHospital (Saint Mary’s MedicalCenter already has the south-end center in its sight-line, anyway).

    — The GrandValleyStateUniversity East Campus.


    — A manufacturing site: Call Toyota.

    Keep in mind the thinkers intend to continue the confab, and include previous players.

    • A follow-up on James Jendrasiak and his likely competitors for his city commish seat, Mary Milanowski and Dave Shaffer: A leadership vote of “no confidence,” but it may bring new residents into the city ward from the ‘burbs.
    • The Bout, brainchild of those who play pool at the offices of Jones & Gavan, has a way of bringing everyone out for a good fight (as opposed to the recurring backroom fights involving those on governmental border patrols). Yep, the now annual Roast & Rumble Celebrity Boxing Tournament is 6 or 7 p.m. Friday, April 29 (depending on when the boxers stop talking and actually duke it out).

    There have been (several) changes to the original lineup (people just won’t cooperate). The Business Journal’s own Anne Bond Emrich, after one meeting with her would-be opponent, scared that opponent off, to a job in another state. Emrich’s long reach to the knees is said to have given her unfair advantage. She will now judge the competition, if she can get a word in between commentators, former U.S. Ambassador Peter Secchia and the equally huge Bill Simonson (yes, HUGE). Emrich’s judging team includes City Commish Jim White, the Hoss Peary and Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn (don’t challenge her, guys. Just ask David Czurak).

    They had to draw high to get anyone to referee the fight between State Reps. Michael Sak, D-Grand Rapids, and David Hildenbrand, R-Lowell: Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox has that one handled. (Sak is said to have been underhanded in his bout last year, according to the ’04 opponent, Glenn Steil Jr.)

    The really good news comes from the city of Walker, where Mayor Robert VerHeulen is making bets with GR Mayor George Heartwell. VerHeulen has the gall to suggest that a fight between Walker P.D. Sgt. Greg Antor and GRPD’s Sgt. Bert Webster is somehow rigged with GRPD Chief Harry Dolan refereeing (and further suggests that cash contributions for beneficiary Grand Rapids Youth Boxing Foundation can be used to pay off the judges).

    Indicating, however, he believes strength will prevail, VerHeulen writes in a letter to Heartwell: “I have prevailed upon a small Walker-based company, Meijer, to contribute $250 to the (GR) Youth Boxing Foundation in the unlikely event that Antor does not prevail.” In addition, he offers dinner at a Walker restaurant of Heartwell’s choice if Webster wins.

    No word on where Heartwell prefers to dine.

    • Few knew: The dedication of a statue is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday, April 28, honoring the deceased former Sen. Arthur Vandenberg. The statue is to be placed at the corner of Pearl and Monroe, and will be followed by refreshments at the GeraldR.FordMuseum. Meijer co-Chairman and CEO Hank Meijer will make keynote remarks at a private dinner for contributors that evening. Meijer wrote the Vandenberg biography.   

    Facebook Comments