Heartside Apartments Went Up

    Grand Rapids Business Journal is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a little history of its own. Throughout the year, the Journal will revisit significant events that occurred each week 20, 15 and 10 years ago. For longtime Grand Rapidians, this is a chance to test historical trivia. For newcomers, it’s a chance to “catch up” with everyone else.

    Twenty Years Ago

    • The Corl-Knott and Ralph Morse buildings on Weston Street SW were being restored to their original exteriors as part of a plan to open Heartside’s Weston Apartments, with 190 units of rent-assisted housing, in the summer. But the plan was not without its detractors.

    “I’ve been an opponent of the Weston apartment project since it’s been on the drawing board,” said Bruce Poppen, a real estate appraiser whose firm was on Ionia Avenue SW. “My primary objection is that it will load the area with more of the — I hesitate to use ‘indigent’ because that’s not the proper word. But Heartside is my immediate concern and as you know, Heartside has its share of the needy.”

    • The 1913 Room was named Restaurant of the Year by sister publication Grand Rapids magazine. The restaurant would win the same honor from the same publication 20 years later.
    • Blodgett Memorial Medical Center unveiled a new birthing room that hospital officials said would create an alternative environment for delivering babies. Use of the room was $300, or $100 less than a standard delivery room.
    • It was lonely at the top for the old Masonic Temple. For more than a century it sat empty atop the Bishop Building at Louis and Ionia streets downtown. But the old auditorium came back as a law office for Buys, MacGregor, MacNaughton, Greenwalt & Co. When the $2.5 million renovation was completed in the spring, the building was christened the Trade Center. 

    Fifteen Years Ago

    • So much for the newly “simplified” federal tax code. Dick Rathburn, partner in charge of the tax department in Ernst & Whinney’s Grand Rapids office, told the Business Journal, “Congress has been slapping us with new regulations for the past 10 years. But the most recent changes are the most complex and the most unfair.

    “The new law is bad for our clients, and what’s bad for them is bad for us.”

    Kentwood CPA Paul Hense agreed, saying his office had been swamped with calls from clients bewildered by new regulations, forms and instructions. “This is not tax simplification. I’m not sure what in the hell it is.”

    • Stanley J. Wisinski, the new chairman of the board of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber would be focusing on foreign investment in Grand Rapids and the Research and Technology Center.

    Wisinski, president of S.J. Wisinski & Co., a commercial and industrial real estate firm, began his one-year term of office in January. “The community as a whole is doing very well,” Wisinski said, “but we don’t want to lose the momentum.” He said he would work closely with Milt Rohwer, the chamber’s president.

    • Three creditors of R&H-Grand Rapids Inc. were trying to force the automotive stamping company into Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The creditors — Hascall Steel Co., Mansco Fastener World and Preferred Tool & Die Co of Comstock Park — filed a joint petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court Jan. 4, asking the court to liquidate R&H.

    The petitioners claimed the company owed them more than $80,000. R&H, formerly known as North American Industries, was purchased in 1986 by a Jackson-based auto parts maker.

    • In its recently released office building occupancy report, the Building Owners and Managers Association warned of a potential space shortage. It advised that buildings constructed after 1960 were 96 percent full, and buildings constructed before 1960 were 77 percent full.

    Also included was a new report about 13 buildings not previously listed — among them The Towers at 21 Michigan St. NE and the Boulevard Professional Building, at 26 Sheldon Blvd. SE. That report cited occupancy rates of 95 percent for newer buildings and 82 percent for older listings.

    • With flat growth in the grocery business but 13 percent annual growth in convenience store sales, the president and CEO of Spartan Stores said it just made sense to become a supplier to that component of the food industry.

    Patrick Quinn told the Business Journal that Spartan began doing just that six months ago by acquiring L&L/Jiroch and the Johnson Sandwich Co. “Spartan will supply stores of 10,000 square feet and higher,” Quinn said, “and L&L will supply the convenience and secondary markets.”

    Ten Years Ago

    • With the first pitch scheduled to be thrown in the spring of 1994, West Michigan Baseball Development Inc.’s plan to house a minor league baseball franchise in a privately financed $5.5 million stadium appeared to be a classic win-win situation.

    The group, led by Dennis Baxter and Lew Chamberlin, was winning its long drive to bring baseball to West Michigan. Mick McGraw and his partners in the Grand River Development Co. won a prime use for 47 acres of their land. M.C. Smith and Associates and Architectural Group won with its vision for the new stadium’s design. Plainfield Township expected a new taxpayer — and the public won because it won’t have to foot the bill.

    • Saint Mary’s Health Services seemed to be finding few allies in its bid to begin providing open-heart surgery.

    Opponents of the service said it would increase the area’s overall health cost and were asking the state Certificate of Need Commission, which regulates new hospital services, to retroactively apply new regulations that would effectively prevent Saint Mary’s from applying.

    • David Frey, Dick DeVos and John Canepa were poised to lead the most ambitious fund-raising drive this area had seen — securing between $16 million and $25 million from private sources toward construction of a downtown arena and enhanced convention space.

    The kickoff came when DeVos, Amway president and chairman of the Grand Vision Committee, addressed the Economic Club of Grand Rapids to announce final recommendations for the projects, expected to cost as much as $77.9 million. Frey was senior vice president of NBD Bank and Canepa was president of Old Kent Bank & Trust.

    • The West Michigan Tourist Association (WMTA) was en route to a new home closer to its clients.

    The organization expected to leave its long-time headquarters at the corner of Fulton Street and LaGrave Avenue and move to property it owned near the Comstock Park exit from U.S. 131.           

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