Pioneer Wins The Helmholdt Prize

GRAND RAPIDS — Pioneer Inc. captured the top honor in the Neighborhood Business Awards on Thursday, walking away with the Gerald R. Helmholdt Grand Prize at the 13th annual awards ceremony held by the Neighborhood Business Alliance.

“This is appropriately named after Mayor Helmholdt, who owned a business in Burton Heights and who developed programs including the Neighborhood Business Specialists Program to support and promote neighborhood business,” said Dave Jacobs, president of the NBA and executive director of Home Repair Services.

Pioneer, one of the area’s most active general contractors, won the Helmholdt award for its $30 million transformation of the former Berkey & Gay factory into the Boardwalk, a mixed-use development that features loft apartments. The honor was the second in just three weeks for Pioneer, as the Western Michigan Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors named the project at 940 Monroe Ave. NW one of its top renovations for the year.

“The Neighborhood Business Alliance recognizes that the renovation of one building benefits the entire business district,” said Sharon Evoy, NBSP executive director.

The Boardwalk is located in the Monroe North Business District.

Another Monroe North winner was Ed DeVries Properties Inc. DeVries took the top honor in the best façade competition for its Landmark Lofts building at 801 Monroe Ave. NW, where it renovated one of the district’s oldest structures into upscale condos.

And the entire North Monroe Business Association was honored for the year’s best promotional event, the very first Monroe North Arts Festival held in September.

“This has been an incredible year for investment in neighborhood business districts,” said Jacobs. “Business owners take a lot of pride in what they do and this event gives them the recognition that they deserve.”

Businesses in the Wealthy Street district were big winners, too, picking up four awards.

Barb McClurg and Melissa LaGrand won the best interior renovation prize for their redesign of the Wealthy Street Bakery at 608 Wealthy St. SE.

Guy Bazzani of Bazzani Associates Inc. was cited for the best reuse of a building, as he brought back to life a structure at 959 Wealthy St. SE.

Dave and Barb Huyser took the best exterior maintenance award for the L. Ebling Building at 337 Diamond Ave. SE.

And the Wege Foundation was given the award for the best program in response to a need or issue. Headed by noted philanthropist Peter M. Wege, the foundation purchased the former Speedy Mart on Wealthy Street to rid the district of an eyesore and a trouble spot.

Bob and Betti Allen won the best exterior renovation award for LightHouse Furnishings at 1141 East Fulton St., and the honor for the best use of a sign or awning went to Jeremiah White Jr. for the Reflections Full Service Salon at 1200 Hall St. SE in Boston Square.

Jeff Boersma and Grand Rapids Community College shared the award for best new construction. Boersma was tabbed for the Adobe In & Out Drive Thru at 605 West Fulton St., while GRCC won for the Tassell M-TEC Center at 622 Godfrey Ave. SW.

“As I have said before, our neighborhood business districts are an essential cog in the economic wheel of the city. These awards recognize individual achievement and I hope stimulate others to follow,” said Mayor John Logie.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan was the lead sponsor of the awards program. Verizon Wireless sponsored the Helmholdt Grand Prize, while Bank One of West Michigan was the corporate patron.

Evoy said the annual event got its start in 1990 as a way to thank business owners who made investments in their neighborhoods and to show that investments, expansions and renovations were occurring throughout the city at high levels.

“There are 20 neighborhood business districts in Grand Rapids,” said Evoy. “We represent over 2,000 businesses, from large to small. We provide jobs, products and services to the community.”           

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