Grand Rapids

Culture
3:10 pm
Fri April 8, 2011

The restoration of an old jazz club in Detroit (video)

Jerry Balenger talks to a group from Grand Rapids about the restoration of Cliff Bell's jazz club in Detroit.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Cliff Bell’s is one of the oldest Jazz clubs in the city - a little history from Cliff Bell's website:

Through the 30's 40's and 50's Cliff Bell's and the Town Pump Tavern anchored two ends of what was Detroit's busiest night crawl with clubs, pubs and Burlesques dotting Park Avenue. During the 70's and 80's the Club operated under a series of other names. Many remember The Winery, La Cave, or AJ's on the Park.

In 1985 the famous club closed and remained empty until in late 2005.

Like a lot of places in Detroit, it was left empty for a long time. The plaster cracked, the ceiling leaked, but that all changed in 2005 when Paul Howard and Scott Lowell began the renovation of the shuttered club.

In this video, the owner of the building that houses Cliff Bell's talks about the restoration of the club.

This video was shot by Lindsey Smith, and produced by Juan Freitez.

Government Shutdown
2:34 pm
Fri April 8, 2011

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum could be among the first victims of possible govt. shutdown

Exterior view of the Gerald R. Ford presidential museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan
(courtesy of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and Library)

The Gerald R. Ford presidential museum and library would be among the first places people in Michigan would see affected by a possible federal government shutdown.  

On a normal Saturday in April, a few hundred people visit the Ford presidential museum in Grand Rapids.   But, if Congress can’t reach a budget deal by midnight tonight, the Ford museum’s doors will stay locked over the weekend.

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Culture
1:13 pm
Fri April 8, 2011

Bringing Grand Rapids and Detroit together (video)

On the bus. Community leaders from Grand Rapids take a trip to Detroit.
From the Rapid Growth Media video

Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith hopped on a bus with community leaders from the Grand Rapids area this past Wednesday.

Their destination was Detroit. And their goal for the trip was "to build stronger bonds between Michigan’s two major population centers."

They left in the wee hours of the morning and arrived back in Grand Rapids around 2:30 a.m.

The trip organizers put this video together:

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Arts/Culture
8:14 pm
Thu April 7, 2011

What’s to learn from Detroit? Spirit, determination, and action

More than 50 community leaders from Grand Rapids got on a bus this week to find out what they can learn from Detroit. The trip’s organizers hope to build stronger bonds between Michigan’s two major population centers.

Check out Terry Johnston's awesome photos of the trip here.

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Government Shutdown
8:46 am
Thu April 7, 2011

Federal workers protest possible government shutdown

At Social Security Offices across the nation Wednesday workers stood outside and rallied against the looming government shutdown. Workers say House Republicans’ proposal to cut nearly $2 billion in SSA funding would lead to incredible delays for people in need.

Kathy Jackson works directly with individuals making Social Security claims. She says a shutdown could harm some of the nation’s most vulnerable people who aren’t able to manage delay’s as well as others.   

“If you’re shut down for even two days, people have deadlines that they have to meet. The problem is a lot of our clients are disabled so a wait for them is not the same for you or I.”

Jackson says if people aren’t able to meet certain filing deadlines they can lose their eligibility for healthcare and housing programs that elderly, veterans, and disabled people need to survive. She says if people miss their chance because of a shutdown, they could be forced to start the process over.

Kenn Keillor  is president of the Grand Rapids local AFGE union. He says the House Republican’s proposal would mean a loss of 200-thousand jobs that both workers and people receiving services rely on.

 "I’m a lot more effective inside doing my job than I am sitting at home drawing unemployment. If you don’t want welfare, then you’ve got to pay workers enough to raise their families. It’s not going to help anybody if we’re sent home on Monday.”

Keillor says federal employees across the country plan to head to work Monday morning whether there is a shutdown or not. The AFGE union covers workers with the Social Security Administration, Veteran’s Administration, Department of Defense and more than 30 other employee groups.

Arts/Culture
2:05 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Exploring Detroit “beautiful and shocking at the same time”

Jerry Belanger shares the history of renovating Cliffbells with a group touring from Grand Rapids.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Just before 7 o’clock this morning, I got on a bus to Detroit. More than 50 people from West Michigan are also on board. And these are normal, non-politician-type people who are trying to learn more about Detroit.

If you find yourself asking something like, “Why would they do that?” or “What’s to learn from Detroit?” – then join me, you’re on the right track.

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Offbeat
2:03 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Aborted takeoff attributed to wind-shear fears

User dsleeter_2000 Flickr

And you thought flying with a hole punched in the roof of your plane was scary.

Earlier today, a plane had to abort its takeoff due to fears of wind-shear.

Wind-shear refers to a drastic change in wind direction over a relatively short distance, and can cause serious problems for airplanes taking of or landing.

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Economy
9:19 am
Mon April 4, 2011

Community leaders from Grand Rapids to visit Detroit this week

Detroit's skyline
Bernt Rostad Creative Commons

More than 50 community leaders from Grand Rapids will take a bus to visit Detroit this week. Organizers hope the trip will connect people, break down stereotypes, determine common problems and figure out how each side of the state can benefit the other.

Tommy Allen is an editor for Rapid Growth Media. The weekly, Grand Rapids-based economic magazine is hosting the trip.

Lately, Allen says he’s been able to work in Detroit. And he’s loved his experiences there.

 “I love how it’s changed me. My friends in Detroit have pushed me as much as I’ve pushed them. So that creative capital exchange that we do on a regular basis is going to make both of our cities better. So why not? Why not partner with people more and more in Detroit?”

Allen knows too many people who reinforce the stereotypes about and the divide between Detroit and Grand Rapids. Allen hopes to start to bridge that gap by bussing innovative, talented people from West Michigan to network with their counterparts in Detroit; see what they’re working on during a day-long tour.

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Economy of ideas
6:30 am
Tue March 29, 2011

$5,000 for good ideas in Grand Rapids

Steve Zaagman (middle) discusses his "upside-down-movie-night" with other contestants on February 22nd, 2011.
Paul Jendrasiak GRNow.com

Tonight two Michigan entrepreneurs will give away $5,000 in a competition devoted to creating buzz around good ideas. Rick DeVos and Bill Holsinger-Robinson are trying to help make the best ideas a reality.

On the last Tuesday of each month, Pomegranate Studios (a business incubator DeVos and Holsinger-Robinson founded in Grand Rapids two years ago) offers 5 people 5 minutes to pitch their idea for a business, an organization, art project, anything really.

A panel of 5 judges then awards up to five thousand dollars to those with the best ideas.

Bill Holsinger-Robinson says they want to give people a platform for their ideas to grow.

“The event is really less about the grant making and is more about people sharing ideas and then getting people to act on those ideas within a community.”

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Offbeat
2:08 pm
Thu March 24, 2011

Take part in city-wide Grand Rapids ‘lip-dub’ video

This is part of the storyboard for Bliss' lip-dub video promoting Grand Rapids.
Rob Bliss Rob Bliss Events

A community organizer is asking tens of thousands of people to help him create a video promoting Grand Rapids. Rob Bliss is known around Grand Rapids for putting on one-of-a-kind, free events and he's announced his latest idea. He’s planning to make the video crazy enough that it’ll go viral.

Lip-dubs are like a music video featuring regular people lip-singing and dancing to a song they all know. They’re usually not edited – meaning they have to shoot the whole video in one take.

Bliss says lots of high schools and colleges have been putting together lip-dubs to promote their schools lately.

“But no one’s really made a truly city-wide professional level production like this kind of thing. And I think that’s really what’s exciting about this, is that it’s really attempting something that – at least to me – feels nearly impossible."

Which, to me, is sort of strange. Bliss has pulled off all kinds of crazy events. For ArtPrize once he made thousands of colored paper airplanes and flew them off skyscrapers downtown. He’s attracted thousands of people downtown for a massive pillow fight, a world-record-setting zombie walk, sidewalk chalk floods, and the ‘world’s largest inflatable waterslide’ which stretched two city-blocks down a steep street.

The nine minute long video (set to the tune of a live version of Don McClean’s “American Pie”) will be a continuous, single camera shot with no edits. Bliss says it’ll take a whole day and thousands of residents to set up and shoot. 

 “We stuff it full of all of this crazy, crazy, crazy stuff. Weddings, marching bands, motorcades with police officers hanging out the windows singing the songs, pillow fights, kayakers in the grand river, lighting parts of Pearl Street Bridge on fire, helicopter take-off out of downtown; ridiculousness really.”

Bliss has hired a professional production company for the video shoot. He expects to spend between $25,000 and $35,000 on it. He’s now hiring some part-time staff and looking for volunteers to help with and be in the video.

The big day for the video shoot is Sunday May 15th with a rain date the following weekend.

Politics
6:59 am
Fri March 18, 2011

Michigan Republican casts only "present" vote to defund NPR

Rep. Justin Amash from Michigan's 3rd Congressional District.
US Congress

The bill to "defund NPR" passed the House mostly along party lines. Most republicans voted "aye" and all Democrats voted "nay" (seven Democrats are listed as "not voting" on the bill).

Seven Republicans voted "nay" and one voted "present."

Michigan Republican Justin Amash was the lone member who voted "present" on the bill.

He explains why on his Facebook page:

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Economy
3:23 pm
Mon March 14, 2011

Study: Grand Rapids, Detroit among Top 20 hardest hit by recession

The Grand Rapids metro region, like many places in the U.S., was hit hard by the recession.
Steven Depolo Flickr

A new study by the Brookings Institution shows the Grand Rapids and Detroit metro regions are in the top 20 hardest hit by the recession.

The study measures how deep the recession hit the top 100 metro regions in the United States.

It also looks at how strong the recovery is for those cities.

Jennifer Bradley co-directed the study in the Great Lakes region:

"It's not just about a particular city or a particular suburb. These places are economic units. They're rising and falling together and they will come out of the recession, or not, together."

Bradley says Grand Rapids and Detroit lead the nation in keeping their unemployment rates from spiking even higher, but it's unclear why:

"It could be more people are getting jobs. It could be more people are leaving the workforce altogether. It could be more people are leaving the region all together."

There is a lot in the study that’s not surprising.

It shows most metro regions near the Great Lakes had a weak economy before the recession, mainly because of job losses as the auto industry declined.

Bradley says business and government leaders in metro regions need to work together to strengthen their chances of recovery.

Offbeat
8:36 am
Fri March 11, 2011

Grand Rapids tosses world record 925 rubber chickens at once

Organizers stack rubber chickens in front of the Grand Rapids Arts Museum.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids smashed the former world record for rubber chicken chucking set last April in a town near Boston. They got 265 people to toss rubber chickens at once. Last night Grand Rapids tossed an impressive 925.

The world record title marked the beginning of LaughFest. An event that'll take over much of Grand Rapids over the next 9 days. Those little yellow smiley faces representing the festival dot billboards, bar windows, churches; people even wear them as lapel pins.

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crime
8:48 am
Wed March 9, 2011

Growing Grand Rapids neighborhood standing guard against ‘urban terrorist’

Neighbors and business owners in a growing Grand Rapids neighborhood are standing up against a so-called urban terrorist. Since Christmas Day a number of businesses and a new condo development have been vandalized and struck by arson in East Hills. Dozens of residents have received letters threatening violence if they don’t move out. The letters say old neighbors have been priced out as new developments came in.

Kathryn Caliendo has been volunteering for the East Hill Council of Neighbors for 20 years.

“I don’t like the buzzwords anarchy, or gentrification and I don’t like the word terrorist. This is not political discourse. This is criminal activity. And that’s what I want it to be treated as.”

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consolidating government
2:27 pm
Sun February 27, 2011

Private sector leaders proposing Kent County, Grand Rapids merger

Grand Rapids City Hall and Kent County's Administration Building are located right next to one another.
Steven Depolo Creative Commons

More than a dozen private business leaders are taking steps that would make it possible to merge Kent County and Grand Rapids to a single government. The One Kent Coalition includes more than a dozen lawyers, businessmen, and former elected officials.

Attorney Nyal Deems (former mayor of East Grand Rapids) presented the One Kent proposal to the Kent County Board of Commissioners Thursday. He says the coalition would like to see broader approach to governing the metro Grand Rapids region, rather than a number of smaller municipal governments.

 “All of our flow and economic interaction and cultural and social interaction ignores all those boundaries but governmentally we live by them. It would be good to mirror our communities more to match the way we live and work and function."

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budgets
4:02 pm
Wed February 23, 2011

Grand Rapids city, schools, search for new ways to save money

Eric DeLong says teaming up to purchase office supplies could save both entities money, "We both use a whole lot of paper."
pawpaw67 Creative Commons

Grand Rapids city and school district officials have met regularly for more than a decade to come up with ways to share services and facilities to benefit one another. Now, state budget concerns are pressuring them to look even harder for those cost-saving solutions.

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Entrepreneurship
11:09 pm
Tue February 22, 2011

Unemployed chef awarded $2,000 to start “underground supper club”

Kurtis Garbutt Flickr

Grand Rapids chef  Brian Gerrity with an idea for an underground supper club called “Fire & Knife” got $2,000 towards that goal.

“I’m a mercenary chef right now, chef for hire. It’s a fancy way of saying I’m unemployed."

He wants to offer a temporary venue where chefs don’t have to worry about normal constraints like food costs holding back their creativity.

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Education
11:39 am
Fri February 18, 2011

Grand Rapids Public Schools starting new pre-K prep program

(sha3teely.com)

The Grand Rapids Public Schools is teaming up with First Steps and Great Start Collaborative to launch what they are calling  "Early Learning Communities". 

  Early Learning Communities are focused on enriching the early learning experiences of young children by strengthening the skills of early childhood caregivers and educators.  The program is intended to improve readiness for school success by:

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Culture
12:17 pm
Tue February 15, 2011

Motorcycle event gets a thumbs up in West Michigan

Motorcycles coming to West Michigan this summer
Ped Saunders Creative Commons

Grand Rapids City Commission gave their support to a big motorcycle event scheduled to take place this summer. Organizers of a new big motorcycle rally were able to coax commissioners into supporting a shortened version of the original event.

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Economy
8:12 pm
Mon February 14, 2011

Grand Rapids to decide on fate of huge motorcycle event Tuesday

Sean Ellis Creative Commons

Organizers want to see a huge event for motorcycle enthusiasts in downtown Grand Rapids this summer. They've made a number of concessions to try and convince the city commission to allow the now 4-day event.

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