Makin Their Way Downtown


    That catchy little tune by pop star VanessaCarlton, “A Thousand Miles,” has her “makin’ my way downtown, walking fast …”

    The same can be said for Grand Rapids’ downtown. The walking fast part, at least. Now, officials hope the “makin’ their way” part follows.

    A story today on page 3 by Anne Bond Emrich explains the Downtown Alliance’s new Website,, and what it has to offer in terms of information and links.

    The hope among downtowners is that it draws more visitors to the central city.

    Dennis Sturtevant, executive director of Dwelling Place Inc. and chair of the Downtown Alliance Board, said the Web site adds value for members of the downtown improvement district and the community at large because it offers businesses and organizations here direct access worldwide via the Internet.

    “Finding new ways to promote the downtown and our members has been an important goal for the Alliance,” Sturtevant stated.

    “This new Web site is one more way the Alliance can offer improved information access and communication between our members, residents, visitors and others interested in what a great place downtown is becoming.”

    The Internet is a pretty hip way to promote downtown, but the Alliance isn’t stopping there.

    Sharon Evoy, executive director of the Alliance, said downtown is reaching out to a younger crowd.

    In an effort to further promote the downtown area, this summer the Alliance is serving as a nonprofit co-sponsor of three concert series staged by three different organizations at Rosa Parks Circle.

    On Wednesday evenings it’s the long-standing WLAV Blues on the Mall series. On Thursday evenings it’s contemporary gospel music, courtesy of local churches. On Friday nights it’s the WGRD Friday Night Live featuring alternative pop and rock.

    Evoy said the hope is that an eclectic mix of musical offerings and the marketing of those events by the three organizations involved will draw in some people who haven’t been downtown in a while and haven’t checked out some of its bars, restaurants and coffee houses as yet.

    Maintenance and beautification of the downtown area, however, remain the Alliance’s focus and the primary goal of property owners footing the bill through special assessments, she said.

    “We’re real focused and real clear on what we want to do in terms of maintenance and beautification. We know we want downtown to look better than it ever has,” Evoy said.

    “We’re trying to feel our way around what we want to do in the future in regards to promotion of the downtown area. With events, the board is going through a process to decide what our role will be.”

    • When people do make their way downtown, many of them are stopping at DeVos Hall or Van Andel Arena.

    There are 154,248 reasons why Polestar magazine placed Van Andel Arena 11th on the worldwide list of the top 50 arena venues for the first six months of the year.

    That’s the number of tickets that were sold to arena events from January through June.

    The ranking put the Van right behind Wembley Arena in London and well ahead of the Pepsi Center in Denver, the Molson Centre in Montreal and Toronto’s Air Canada Centre.

    DeVos Hall also showed well on the Polestar list of the top 50 theater venues.

    The hall, located within the Grand Center, placed 23rd despite the renovation work for the new DeVos Place. From January to June, 59,827 tickets were sold for events at DeVos Hall — which is home to the symphony, opera, ballet and Broadway Theater Guild.

    • A downtown entity is getting a boost this weekend from Rockford Construction, which is heavily involved in the fundraiser Rally For Hunger.

    The motorcycle rally will take place on Saturday when hundreds of riders will leave the DeltaPlex Expo and Entertainment Center at 8 a.m. and ride to Bertha Brock Park in Ionia, where food and beverages will be served at 12:30 and the Jimmy Stagger Band will perform.

    Registration to ride in the rally is $20. Rockford Construction also is selling tickets to win a 2002 Harley Davidson Fatboy. Raffle tickets are $20 and only 2002 will be sold. All the proceeds from the rally and the raffle will be given to God’s Kitchen, a downtown food pantry that feeds the homeless and working poor.

    Raffle tickets are available at God’s Kitchen, 303 S. Division, and at Rockford’s office at 8165 Graphic Drive in Belmont.

    • We hear the Bush Administration’s proposed Operation TIPS — (for the “Terrorism Information and Prevention System”) — will enlist the observations of thousands of American truckers, letter carriers, train conductors, ship captains, utility employees, and others by giving them “a formal way to report suspicious terrorist activity.”

    Sounds like somebody just switched on the cliché sausage machine.

    Now national security is a serious, serious matter. But allow us word merchants to beg for clarity in this giant Neighborhood Watch Program.

    First of all, if Mr. Train Conductor observes an explosion, he may or may not suspect it to be of terrorist origin, but there’s nothing suspicious about the blast. It’s an explosion that, not having brains or even rudimentary thought processes, is incapable of being suspicious.

    The term “suspicious activity” is just as dumb.

    “This is 911 Police Emergency.”

    “Yes, I want to report a suspicious white male subject lurking in the shrubbery of my back yard.”

    “Okay, ma’am, what is this white male subject suspicious about?”

    “Gee, I don’t know. You know, like, I’m suspicious of him!

    “Oh, I understand. Well, then, we’ll send over a cruiser to check on him.”

    Miss Medlin, God rest her soul, would have said from the head of high school English 201 that the caller was suspicious about the white male because he was lurking or — one could say — engaging in suspect activity.

    Okay, Dubya? Got it?

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