ArtPrize 2012: The Sponsor Party


ArtPrize opening day is right around the corner, and there is already a noticeable buzz throughout the city. Banners are up, art is being installed, and official ArtPrize events are on the calendar.

Last evening, the ArtPrize team hosted a celebration for the sponsors who help make the 19-day event possible. There are 178 sponsors and six media partners who make up the list this year, and the Sponsor Party gave each a tour of the 2012 space. Guests were treated to delicious hors d’oeuvres, wine tasting, live music, and the first peek at The HUB, located at 41 Sheldon.

The HUB is essentially the “nerve center” for ArtPrize. It’s the headquarters for the ArtPrize team and volunteers, and it is the only place where you can find the full collection of ArtPrize merchandise. You can register to vote, pick up an event guide, and get your wristbands for the ArtBus. On Friday night all who were passing through gave it great reviews. There was also an opportunity for the sponsors to get registered for ArtPrize voting, and beat the crowds that will be coming out in the next week to get signed up.

The ArtPrize store in the HUB is bigger and better than ever. From buttons to posters, from onesies to jackets and everything in between…you can find it there. While guests shopped tonight they were treated to live music by Hannah Niah & The Boys.

Another new area in the HUB is the park just outside the entrance. The road in front of the building has been closed off and with the help of Landscape Design Services and Herman Miller, there is an adorable landscaped area with quite a bit of seating. It will be a great place for ArtPrize guests to meet up throughout the next few weeks.

Stellafly would like to thank the ArtPrize team, especially Event Producer Noddea Skidmore, for the invitation to be involved again this year. We are proud to be part of the Official ArtPrize Media Coverage Team. This privilege allows us to bring you all of the behind the scenes coverage of this year’s event! Stay tuned!

Be sure to visit ArtPrize online:

Downtown Grand Rapids’ Stella’s Lounge Brings Retro Back


I received an email around 3PM Thursday.

“Can you cover a new nightclub opening up tonight?”

Strange, I hadn’t heard about a new nightclub opening up. I responded curiously, “maybe” and waited to hear back.

It said, the new Stella’s Lounge. Tonight is opening night.

I was surprised to hear that Barfly Ventures had decided to close the Viceroy. I’ve been a fan since their opening in June of 2010. The bar was perfect — dark red and black floor, a beautiful wood bar, low red lights. The cocktail menu was extensive, offering liquors I’d never heard of, mixed with syrups and tonics made from scratch. Two of my most distinct memories of having cocktails there involved drinking away the blues after I had lost my dog Oscar to cancer and an evening trying to keep up with my attorney. I’m sad to see it go.

For more than 2 years, owners Mark and Michelle Sellers, Barfly Ventures, tried hard to make The Viceroy work, but despite their efforts, it was never as well-received by the customers at Stella’s. On their busy nights, Viceroy turned into its cuter brother’s “overflow” area for people who couldn’t find a seat. This was never an uncommon site.

Solution? Tear the walls down, remodel the space, put in a dance floor.

They kicked off the new space last night with Stella’s-a-G0!G0! which had been packing the place since last spring. Honestly, there hasn’t been a great place to dance since the original Reptile House and Millie’s Bar existed back in the late 80s and early 90s. Once again, the Sellers show that they understand the Grand Rapids bar scene. They see that the city is in dire need of a fun place to have some drinks and dance.

You have three nights to choose from: Into the 80’s? Thursdays will feature DJ Colin Clive and the Stella’s A-Go-Go aka old Reptile House set list. Fridays is all about 70’s disco featuring DJ Kermit, complete with light show and disco ball. Saturday night features our boy DJ Todd Ernst spinning a retro 90’s set. There’s never a cover charge.

On that note, I’m sending my personal plea to Barfly Ventures. I personally loved the Viceroy. I enjoyed the unique custom hand-crafted $9 cocktails and sexy ambiance that you can find nowhere else in GR. My hope is that you will revive it in a different location. Perhaps next to the Chop House? After a couple of those delicious cocktails, I’ll head over to Stella’s and get my groove on.





Lights, Camera, Recovery

Lights, Camera, Recovery

Pine Rest Foundation

Celebration Cinema North

September 13, 2012



Not a word that is used lightly. In fact, often time we will find ourselves avoiding the topic. But it is very real. A 2009 study showed that there were 23 million people in the United States (ages 12 and up) who are dealing with an addiction to alcohol or drugs. Only 2 million were getting the help they need. They may not want the help. Their families might be ignoring it and not encouraging them to get help. Or, they might want help and their families want to get it for them, but it is too expensive. Those are just a few reasons 40,000 people write and share their stories with producers of the A&E reality show Intervention every year. It is their last hope. They are desperate.

On Thursday night, the Pine Rest Foundation hosted an event at Celebration! Cinema North called “Lights, Camera, Recovery.” Kurt Schemper, a West Michigan native and producer of Intervention, was there to talk about the reality of addiction and about the show, which puts the topic of addiction in the spotlight. And since September is National Recovery Month, it was perfect timing.

In talking to Schemper prior to the evening’s event, he told me that of the 40,000 families that write to the show, only a handful of them are able to be a part of it. “Intervention” films 26 episodes each year. To date, the show has taken 238 individuals to treatment centers, with 77 percent still sober today. Intervention works with 150 treatment centers across the United States.

Over 400 people came out for this event, and before the main event started, they were treated to a cocktail hour with delicious hors d’oeuvres, a carving station, and a variety of cake pops. The reception took place in the lobby of the theater which had been transformed into a spectacular lounge by Jenn Ederer and the team at Modern Day Floral & Events. The centerpieces of orchid and hydrangea were the perfect complement to beautiful linens, and there were plenty of large sofas and chairs. As you were sitting there it was easy to forget that you were in the middle of a movie theater lobby.

From the reception, guests were directed into Theater 1 where the evening’s program took place. Pine Rest President and CEO Mark Eastburg, Ph.D. welcomed the group and introduced Dr. Eric Achtyes, a Pine Rest Psychiatrist and friend of Schemper’s from high school. Achtyes then welcomed Schemper to the stage, who talked a little bit about what Intervention is all about and how he became involved with the show. He quoted Frederick Buechner, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Schemper said that the place he is now is the place where God called him to.

As Schemper began to show clips from the show that represented the raw emotion that comes out in each episode, it was clear that it was having a powerful impact on the audience. These are real families dealing with very real problems. The clips featured were of Katie, a 25-year-old alcoholic with the binge eating disorder bulimia; and Elena, a 63-year-old addicted to meth. Each of these women had families who were at their last resort and while they love them dearly, they had the difficult task of giving their loved one an ultimatum—get help or lose their family.

The program continued with a testimony by a recovering addict, Melvin Michalski. He became addicted to pain killers, opiates. When Melvin got to the point where he wanted to die because he saw what his addiction was doing to his family and friends, he chose treatment at Pine Rest. After detox and the Intensive Outpatient Program, he has been clean for 11 months, and is now part of their Relapse Prevention Group. His family also received treatment for what they went through and that was a big part of his recovery. Melvin is now in training to be a recovery coach so that he can “give back to the Pine Rest community” that blessed him.

One of the key takeaways from Thursday night’s program was this: “You’re worth it.” Those who are fighting addiction need to know that they are worth it. They are worth the effort of their family to get them help. Their lives are worth living. If you are concerned about someone in your life that may be facing an addiction, you can contact Pine Rest. They have many resources that will help you and your loved one.

Thank you to the Pine Rest Foundation, especially Donna Bova, for the invitation to this event. Congratulations to the Chairwoman of the event, Peg Breon, and to all of those who worked hard to put this evening together. I think the impact of these stories will be felt for a long time by all those who were there.

Pine Rest Foundation on Facebook:

Intervention on A & E:




3rd Annual Bridge for Kids Event

3 years ago a group of women, looking to help children, gathered their friends for a friendly game of cards. What began as a group of friends looking to make a difference in children’s lives, has grown to an annual event nearly quadrupling the money it initially raised for the children of D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s (DABSJ).

On September 14th, 120 women and two very brave men, enjoyed some friendly competition for a good cause. The women participated in several bridge games, enjoyed lively conversation, and most importantly, supported some of the most vulnerable children in the community.

The 3rd Annual Bridge for Kids Event raised over $6,000 to help sustain the positive programming of D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s. The group provides gifts for the children as well. Every year, the women bring items for foster care children. The agency is the largest provider of foster care in Kent County and relies on the generosity of the community to provide care bags for the nearly 500 children they serve annually. Items range from pajamas to shampoo and help the children arrive feeling loved and clean to their new foster home.

The Bridge for Kids Event proves that all you need to make a difference is a fun idea and some friends! Iva Tol, Sharron Reynolds, Laurie Webster, and Marty Campbell were compelled to help some of the most vulnerable children in our community. They looked at their friends and acquaintances and saw 2 common threads: the desire to help children, and a love of the card game bridge. Organizer Laurie Webster said, “Of course we wanted everyone to have fun and contribute on the day of our ‘card party’, but more importantly, we wanted to excite them about our cause and raise awareness so they would think about helping D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s throughout the year. I love hearing the stories about those who come in with awesome ideas about helping the kids in one way or another! I feel like we’re planting seeds.”

Planting seeds is just what happened. Last year, one attendee decided instead of a family “Secret Santa” game they would all buy a gift for the children living at St. John’s Home. Because of her family’s generosity, and the initial inspiration the Bridge Event provided, over 40 children attended a production at the Civic Theater and a fabulous dinner downtown.

The 3rd Annual Bridge for Kids Event shows that all you need to make a difference are friends!

ATHENA Nominee Reception

ATHENA Nominee Reception
Lambert, Edwards & Associates
September 6, 2012


Authentic Self. Celebration & Joy. Collaboration. Courageous Acts. Fierce Advocacy. Giving Back. Learning. Relationships.

These are the eight tenets of the ATHENA Award, presented by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce (GRACC). This is the 23rd year this award has been given out, and each of the nominees in both the ATHENA and ATHENA Young Professional categories exemplify each of those eight principles.

On Thursday night the nominees were honored at a reception held on the rooftop of Lambert, Edwards & Associates in downtown Grand Rapids. Each individual was introduced to the group following remarks from Rick Baker, President and CEO of the GRACC, and Heather Gluszewski of Huntington Bank. It was an opportunity for each of them to come together and congratulate one another before the annual ATHENA Award Luncheon that will be held on Tuesday, September 18, 2012 at the JW Marriott.

The ATHENA Award recipient this year is Carol Valade of Gemini Publications. She is joined by eight other nominees, including:

Nancy Boese, Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center

Laura Caprara, Stellafly Social Media

Gayle Davis, Grand Valley State University

Meg Goebel, Paul Goebel Group

Laura Knapp, Grand Rapids Fire Department

Deidra McClelland, Degage Ministries

Denise Sherwood, Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids

Ten young professionals were selected as finalists for the ATHENA Young Professional Award. The winner will be announced at the September 18 luncheon, and these ten women are:

Ellie Andrus, Make-a-Wish Michigan

Sara Binkley-Tow, MomsBloom Inc.

Bridget Clark Whitney, Kids’ Food Basket

Amy Marshall, Management Business Solutions

Jennifer Pascua, WZZM 13

Kristen Revere, Revere Consulting LLC

Kasie Smith, Serendipity Media LLC

Adrienne Wallace, 834 Design & Marketing

Lynee Wells, Williams and Works

Milinda Ysasi Castanon, Herman Miller

Congratulations to each of these women who are making a difference in their professions and throughout the community.

Learn more about the Athena Awards:
Learn more about the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce: 


Year Two of Rock the Rapids confirmed that the festival is here to stay.


GRAND RAPIDS — The first Rock the Rapids Music Festival proved it was possible to host a week-long concert series in the parking lots behind Van Andel Arena and the S-Curve serving as one of the hippest backdrops around.

The second Rock the Rapids confirmed the festival is here to stay.

The six-day lineup of acts, stretching from country superstars Toby Keith and Miranda Lambert to modern rock lineups involving the Uproar Festival and Carnival of Madness to hip-hop favorites Boyz II Men and Big Boi, brought almost 40,000 concert goers of all ages into Grand Rapids for a memorable week.

In all, 39,499 people packed into the makeshift venue, which featured a Ferris wheel and midway where food and drink mixed with live music to fill the void left by the demise of Rothbury, which flamed out after a short run, and other outdoor music festivals of the not-so-distant past.

“All in all, a good crowd, but certainly there is room for growth,” said Dan McCrath, a co-founder of Blue Cap Promotions and one of the managing partners of the Rock the Rapids Music Festival. “We like that more fans came out this year. We’re still reaching higher and pushing for more growth.

“We know it can be even better.”

McCrath said it’ll take three to five years to firmly establish the festival concept.

Rock the Rapids has the potential to surpass other music festivals around the U.S. Our community has resources like no other,” he said. “The goal of providing affordable concerts and building a festival that Grand Rapids can call its own has not changed. We look forward to the next step in continuing the party. First, we just need some more time to evaluate and recap the party we just threw.”

A pivotal part of the growth of the event has been sponsorship support.

McCrath and Denny Baxter, partner in Blue Cap Promotions and the Rock the Rapids Music Festival, are confident the increase in corporate support for the festival from its inaugural season to this summer has convinced them there is a lot of potential to to get bigger and better in the summers ahead.

“We want the most affordable ticket prices to be made available to fans,” McCrath said. “That happens a lot easier with great corporate sponsorship. We were happy that 2012 was a significant increase in sponsorship over 2011. And, if it happens again in 2013, you’ll see some amazing ticket prices.

Here’s a recap, day-by-day, of Rock the Rapids 2012, with final official attendance numbers and some of McCrath’s reflections:


Main stage: Miranda Lambert

Supporting: Pistol Annies

Attendance: 8,425

Snapshot: The opening night of Rock the Rapids 2012 featured a cameo appearance from NASCAR driver Danica Patrick, who joined her friend, Lambert, onstage for the encore “King of the Road,” which Lambert turned into “Queen of the Road” just for the occasion.

McCrath’s comments: “The Miranda Lambert show got a lot of buzz when we announced it, and when she performed you could understand why. She has some fun energy onstage. The Danica Patrick appearance was a surprise to even me.”



Main stage: Uproar Festival

Lineup: Shinedown, Godsmack, Staind, P.O.D., Adelitas Way

Attendance: 7,240

Snapshot: P.O.D. was an 11th-hour replacement for Papa Roach, whose lead singer, Jacoby Shaddix, needs throat surgery, according to the band’s Web site.

McCrath’s comments: “I felt the Uproar Tour lineup was a great lineup even with the last-minute change from Papa Roach to P.O.D. Starting a show before the dinner hour is tough. The Uproar Tour should have been a Saturday show starting in the afternoon because of how many bands are on their lineup. Although we had hoped to see more ticket sales, it was still a good crowd and they got their money’s worth in entertainment.”



Main stage: Toby Keith

Supporting: Kip Moore

Attendance: 8,862

Snapshot: It was Ford F-150 Super Duty infomercial and patriotic concert from the consummate country music showman. Keith closed his set with a supercharged version of Ted Nugent‘s “Stranglehold.” He and Nugent first met on USO tours of Iraq and Afghanistan to entertain U.S. troops.

McCrath’s comments:Toby Keith was our biggest seller. And, in fact, ticket requests from sponsors and other supporters, including media, far surpassed the requests for all of the other shows on the lineup. The production and the list of popular songs made it a great show.”



Main stage: Carnival of Madness

Lineup: Evanescence, Chevelle, Halestorm, Cavo

Attendance: 5,618

Snapshot: Evanescence vocalist Amy Lee joined Halestorm’s Lizzy Hale onstage for “Break In” as the two female singers showed it’s not just guys who make beautiful music in the post-alt-rock genre.

McCrath’s comments: “It seemed to be a show where fans were totally into the vocal side of the performance. I kept hearing things like ‘I love her voice’ and ‘I love the two bands with the girls leading them.’ I also noticed a lot of parents with teens or young adults with a parent enjoying this one together. That to me is very cool to see.”



Main stage: Boyz II Men and Bel Biv Devoe

Attendance: 4,891

Snapshot: The old-school tunes from Boyz II Men resonated with fans. They did a set of Motown covers that included the Four Tops‘ “Same Old Song” and “I’ll Be There” and had everyone buzzing about a surprising rendition of Journey‘s “Open Arms” long after the show had ended.

McCrath’s comments: “My favorite show all week was Boyz II Men, maybe because it resonated best with people my age. To see couples swaying and singing every word was amazing. When you looked up, most of the time you’d see thousands of people’s hands in the air slowly going from one side to the other in a full-crowd synchronization. It was very cool. And the band hit it on every song. Amazing how they can still move like they used to years ago.”


Main stage: Big Boi and B.o.B

Attendance: 4,463

Snapshot: Extreme heat and fading interest for Big Boi and B.o.B combined to send Rock the Rapids out with its smallest audience on the final night of the second-annual festival.

McCrath’s comments:The B.o.B/Big Boi show was no less exciting than it was two years ago when we had B.O.B at Fifth Third Ballpark, but, for some reason, we couldn’t quite motivate as many fans to come see him again.”

Rock the Rapids, Grand Rapids’ Original Music Festival, is designed to serve our community with affordable concert ticket prices for quality, nationally known artists and to help build awareness and potential funding opportunities. This year Rock the Rapids gave back to the Grand Rapids Public Schools and YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids.

A.K. Rikk’s Grand Opening


A.K. Rikk’s finally opened the highly anticipated, new location at 6303 28th Street in CascadeMichigan. The retail clothing store wanted to find use an existing building that  could be transformed into a dream store for their clients. The building has total of 28,000 square feet with many special touches. The new space gives homage to where A.K. Rikk’s started by having a haberdashery-styled suit room, private personal shopping areas, a gift/lifestyle area and both men’s and women’s shoe salons.

The need for more space came out of the store’s movement into women’s wear, which at first started small with only a couple categories. “The response blew our expectations away!” said A.K. Rikk’s Director of Women’s/Buyer Emily Lewakowski, “The constant demand from our customers for more contemporary, luxury brands and categories allowed us to continue to bring in more of what this area was lacking. I think one of the keys to our success has been our ability to work closely and develop good relationships with our vendors, and to apply what we learn in the showrooms and from designers, to what our customer is asking for.” In addition to their longstanding reputation in luxury menswear, it is safe to say thatA.K. Rikk’s is now a major player in women’s and it only took them a short four years to do so.

Not only does this new building allow them to house more merchandise, it also gives them the ability to work better on projects for their community. For example,Fashion’s Night Out Grand Rapids, which is a one night shopping event that promotes local retailer. The group at A.K. Rikk’s and its owner are not the type that stands still, they see the possibility in Grand Rapids to become a fashion city and are ready to do their part in making that idea come true. One step will be announced this Fall according to President Jim MurrayMurray remarks, “The A.K. Rikk’s team is passionate about educating their customers and we will be taking it one step further soon.”

A.K.Rikk’s is a contemporary fashion boutique that specializes in every aspect of a man’s wardrobe and lifestyle. From a board meeting to a night out with friends to a week in the tropics; our goal is to have you looking your best in every situation.

Here are some of the brands that they represent:

Arnold Zimberg

Art of Shaving



Bill Lavin

Billy Reid


Brunello Cucinelli



Cole Haan


Diane Von Furstenberg

Diesel Black Gold

Donald J Pliner

Ermenegildo Zegna






Hugo Boss

Hugo by Hugo Boss


John Varvatos

John Varvatos U.S.A.

LBM 1911

Leather Island


Martin Dingman







Paul & Shark

Rag & Bone

Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren Black Label

Robert Graham

Salvatore Ferragamo

Spring Court

Steven Alan


Ted Baker


To Boot New York






We wish them best of luck and thank them for their continuous efforts in attracting and retaining retail and fashion talent in Grand Rapids.

Be sure to check them out on Facebook:

Ted Lott and Greg Metz: Designing, Reusing and Making the Best of What We’ve Got.


GRAND RAPIDS — The re-imagination of Fulton Street Farmers Market, the oldest and largest open-air market for local farmers to sell their fresh fruits, vegetables, breads and craft items in the area, is a cultural magnet that attracts more than 10,000 people on a sun-splashed Saturday morning.

The patrons, shopping for the freshest farm-to-table ingredients, come from surrounding neighborhoods on foot while suburban dwellers form an endless procession of cars stretching around the corner at the intersection of Fulton Street and Fuller Avenue on the near southeast side of Grand Rapids.

The Farmers Market, which reopened in May, is in the midst of a $2.6 million renovation. The modern amenities include a permanent roof covering the market stalls, improved accessibility and traffic flow and a LEED-certified, year-round indoor building that is scheduled to begin construction this fall.

“It started off with a bang,” said Jeff Dykstra, 45, of J. Dykstra Produce in Byron Center, a family farm that has been selling fresh melons, shucked sweet corn and other items at Fulton Street Farmers Market for more than 30 years. “It’s new and it’s exciting. We’re seeing a lot more first-timers this year, although we’ve been here a long time. I’ve been coming here to the market since I was a kid.

“I think this place has been special for years.”

The special touches seen throughout the Farmers Market feature the unmistakable fingerprints of architects Ted Lott and Greg Metz, whose meticulous planning has transformed this important public space into the perfect blend of functionality and style that fits right into the modern urban landscape.

It is a Lott3Metz Architecture signature design and a passion project for both partners.

Understanding the landscape

“It is in a lot of ways,” Lott said of the Farmers Market being one of the firm’s proudest achievements. “We’ve been working on it one way or another since 2005. It started out with a planning study from the City of Grand Rapids for the neighborhood. We still have to build the front building (for year-round use) and construction will start on that in September and be done before the coldest of the cold season. It is a critical piece of the plan. For us to have a protect this size coming out of this plan in five years, it’s rare. It really speaks to the commitment of the neighborhood.

“They believe in making things happen and being a high-functioning neighborhood.”

Lott and Metz share a passion for re-purposing existing structures and spaces so that old neighborhoods are brought back to life through careful planning, design and implementation of new strategies.

The Fulton Street Farmers Markets is a strong statement from both of them.

It is a project that had to be merge urban and rural themes — from the brick pillars at the entrance to the plaza to the farmers filling up the stalls on both sides of the structure — for everything to make sense.

It then had to blend into the landscape without appearing like a tourist attraction.

“There were a lot of pieces to that plan that were aspirational, but everybody kept coming back to the Farmers Market,” Lott said of the project’s relationship to the neighborhood. “It’s a successful place where vendors want to come. There’s a seven-year waiting list for vendors to get in there. It has expanded hours. There’s a structure there and a Rapid bus stop there. We’re integrating this project into the city fabric. Everything we did, every decision that we made on that project, had to have an urban justification.

“It had to be connected to the street. It had to be about how people are going to buy things, how they’re going to get to their cars and how they’re going to get in and out of a public space in a city that doesn’t always do public spaces real well.”

Lott3Metz has earned a proud reputation as an urban problem solver.

It aspires to find solutions within the current landscape where corporate architecture firms might be more interested in self-serving artistic statements or squeezing the last drops of profit out a project.

Lott and Metz insist there is a responsibility to serve these neighborhoods.

Both share the guiding principle that it is important to work where they live and live where they work.

“It’s about understanding the culture,” Metz explained. “We try to understand what it is the client really wants and helping them to see what they really want. Most of our projects are done in an urban area. That’s what we understand. There’s a lot of entities that are directly involved in that.

“If you ignore that , the project is not going to be as successful as if you paid attention to all those factors,” he said, offering the Farmers Market as an example where Lott3Metz got input from a lot of sources. “It’s showing them what works and how it works. We won’t just arbitrarily design stuff. We’re solving problems for our clients. The design reflects that solution. Our job is to make the client realize that.”

It requires a complete understanding of the landscape.

Lott, 45, a graduate of East Grand Rapids High School and the University of Michigan, always wanted to live within the framework of the city. He designed a modern interpretation of an urban townhouse on Diamond Avenue near Wealthy Street, proving that his designs aren’t just lip service.

He and his family reside in that townhouse.

“I want to live and work in an urban environment,” Lott said.

Metz, 44, a graduate of City High School and the University of Detroit, has long had an appreciation for the urban landscape of Grand Rapids. Some of Lott3Metz‘s most aspirational and successful projects are smaller spaces — offices, independent businesses, small restaurants, pubs and nightclubs — that are becoming thriving “hot spots” again without ever having to tear down their structures.

“We’re doing a lot of remodels, renovations and historic preservation projects,” he said.

Adaptive re-use and preservation

You have walked or passed by several Lott3Metz projects in Grand Rapids.

The Lake Michigan Credit Union branch location at 342 Michigan St. NE is an eye-catching modern design.

So is 65 Monroe Center NW, where a combination of housing and urban design is reflected in the exterior of the building, which features a hip outer shell and functional spaces for residential and office use inside.

The firm has designed a Lake Michigan cottage, which is chronicled on its Web site at, projects for Aquinas College and Spectrum Health, re-purposed some local school buildings and spearheaded the Belknap Area Specific Plan to revitalize a north-side neighborhood.

“So much about this, for us, especially over the last six to eight years, has been the relationship between us and our client and how it relates to the urban environment and how our client relates to the urban environment,” Lott said. “But, then, what does that project look like? How does that project function? How does that project get finished? That’s the great part about Grand Rapids.

“There’s still a great stock of buildings, even from 100 years old that are itching to be used.”

The re-use of existing structures, which might not appeal as much to other architects accustomed to creating from a blank sheet of paper, is unquestionably Lott3Metz’s comfort zone.

“It’s something we’ve always done as a firm — adaptive re-use and preservation as a tool for urban redevelopment. It’s critical,” Lott said, “so I don’t see us ever not working on things like that, no matter bow big or small, because they’re critical. They’re also some of the best return on dollars when it comes to city building. It’s also the most sustainable way to build — making the best of what you’ve got.

“We’re always going to be doing some of that.”

It’s all part of a plan that reinforces U.S. Census data that shows more and more people are repopulating urban areas following the mass exodus from inner cities to the suburbs in post-World War II economic boom times.

Metz prefers to live in a world where inner cities are sustainable.

“You can walk anywhere,” he said of his interpretation of designing the cities of the future. “You can walk out your door, walk anywhere for a half mile and you can eat and you don’t have to drive. If you’re driving your car, you’re in this box, totally cut off from society. So, for us, it’s creating a place where you walk and meet people and you meet your neighbors and you reinforce that sense of community.

“I still think a lot of people want to live in the city.”

Making a difference

Lott and Metz spent time as corporate architects earlier in their careers.

It just didn’t nurture either of their souls, as both designers or planners who felt like their interpretations of the urban landscape of the future couldn’t be fully realizes unless they made those decisions.

Yet, their partnership wasn’t part of some grand plan.

Their paths crossed shortly after Lott opened Lott3 Architecture in the summer of 2001. His emphasis on innovative urban design in downtown Grand Rapids and building relationships with neighbors and neighborhoods appealed to Metz, whose wife, Jennifer, knew Lott from high school.

Metz joined the re-branded firm in the spring of 2003.

“We were both at similar stages of our career and both had a dissatisfaction with our employers,” Lott recalled. “Coincidentally, I had a lot of work walk in the door at the time and needed some help. And we were off. We both knew we wanted to live where we work and we wanted to work on a city.”

Metz, prior to joining Lott3Metz, was responsible for the design and management of numerous Fifth Third Bank and Steelcase projects. He had experience in environmentally friendly design principles.

He and Lott have authored on a book of “green design” guidelines for affordable housing.

“We’ve taken buildings that most people have written off, including this office,” Metz said of their firm’s 645 Cherry St. location. “Ted and I have this knack for finding things. We have an ability to see beyond face value. What we do is a reflection of what the client wants and the neighborhood dictates.”

They found a common purpose for revitalizing neighborhoods.

They do it efficiently — a staff of five employees, including three architects and an interior designer — while working in collaboration with local officials and neighborhood leaders to achieve the desired results.

“We don’t have image consultants. We don’t have a public relations firm,” Lott said. “The question is: Do they come back? Most of the time when people start working with us, they don’t stop working with us.”

Added Metz: “We are who we are. You either like us or you don’t.”

The future of the firm seems brighter than ever.

The list of projects Lott3Metz is planning is impressive proves there are lots of local businesses who like everything about them: Grand Rapids Brewing Co. is slated to open prior to Thanksgiving at the site of the historic Hawkins and Gunn Company buildings at 1 and 7 Ionia Ave. SW; Spectrum Health has hired them to build a clinic in the city, although public details haven’t been announced; a prominent local company has hired them to redo an office building in downtown; and there are a couple of other projects, Lott and Metz insist, that’ll definitely raise some eyebrows when details are made public later this fall.

It has 10-20 current projects in varying stages of development.

“The next year is going to be exciting for us,” Metz said.

Lott sees opportunities to make a difference in neighborhoods all around Grand Rapids.

“There’s still a ton of opportunities in this city and there will continue to be,” Lott said. “I feel like when the last piece of the Farmers Market is done, that’s going to be a special project, for a lot of reasons.

“The idea that we’re working on a place where 10,000 people are coming on a Saturday in a public space that really didn’t exist and in a manner that hasn’t really existed in Grand Rapids for a long time … to be able to make a space like that is a special opportunity,” he added. “I feel like, for me, it’s a project that’s deceptively simple in the way that it’s rendered. I think it’ll be a special urban space when it’s all built out. It’s something you’re going to be perceive a lot differently when standing in the finished plaza with the (Phase III) building in place that you can’t perceive from the rendering right now.”

Metz just smiles at the mention of the Fulton Street Farmers Market.

“There’s something I like in every project we’ve done,” he said. “As a whole project, I think the Farmers Market is the best.”

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The Van Dykes remain committed to creating spaces that are positive for everyone involved, from business owners to the residents.


While an undergraduate at Calvin College, Jackson Van Dyke’s route to class took him past an unoccupied storefront in Eastown, an eyesore in an otherwise thriving area. Little did he know, years later he and his two siblings would transform the former liquor store into a hip addition to Grand Rapids’ blossoming brewing culture.

Though it wasn’t easy.

“It was miserable,” Jackson admitted of the process of turning the long-empty Little Jack’s Corner into Harmony Brewing Company. Heather, Jackson’s sister and one-third of Bear Manor Properties, the property management company the pair along with brother Barry, nodded in agreement while the duo sat in a booth inside the brew-pub.

“It feels awesome sitting in the finished space. It’s so gratifying. I remember the first time when we opened hearing people laughing and talking instead of me cursing,” Jackson joked reflecting on the February opening.

As the eatery and brewery – now known for its wood-fired pizzas and unique craft beers—opened for lunch, the brother and sister described the process of renovating the space and bringing a dream to life.

Jackson explained initially they were going to develop the property in the same vein they had with other properties Electric Cheetah and The Meanwhile Bar in the Wealthy Street Business District, but decided if they could secure financing they would make it their first solo venture.

“We were always a little sad to step back from projects,” Heather added describing how they felt after tenants took occupancy of the spaces they’d spent time redeveloping. “And Jackson and Barry had been home-brewing for ten years, we decided to give it a shot.”

The siblings were used to doing their own renovation work, in fact it was how Bear Manor got its start. Barry, the siblings’ father, approached the two sons about residential renovations while the two were working as painters. “We began with a house in Heritage Hill, a fixer upper,” Jackson explained.

After restoring the home, the men refinanced it, rented it out, and rolled the profits into the next project. The men formed Bear Manor Properties LLC, and while both of the brothers had no previous business experience – Barry had a philosophy degree and Jackson a degree in biblical studies – they moved forward with a vision for transformation.

Jackson said he was working on a three-unit property near Wealthy Street when the opportunity presented itself to become part of the area’s revitalization. He explained he had heard rumors of a few residential units being for sale, and when he approached the owners he was offered the option of a commercial property instead.

The property was 1017-1019 Wealthy Street, owned by Community Rebuilders, a non-profit agency dedicated to ending homelessness and creating safe affordable housing opportunities in Kent County. “It worked out really well because we bought it and immediately leased it back to the owners,” Jackson said.

Then the dominoes began to fall. “We’d seen how Wealthy Street Bakery and Art of the Table had found homes on the Wealthy, and Wealthy Theatre was also making moves further east. We wanted to try and help fill the gap in between,” Jackson said.

During the same period, the Van Dykes bought and renovated two other commercial spaces on the block, creating homes for The Meanwhile and Electric Cheetah. The 1017-1019 property is now home to Brick Road Pizza and the block is popular hang-out for college students and young professionals.

“It was a borderline ghost town when we started. It’s the broken window theory, if you keep up on an area and make it beautiful it has a positive impact on the way people view their surroundings and their lives,” Jackson said.

Heather agreed. “It was awesome to be able to be at the beginning of the new wave of reinvestment. You can see the impact of the things that we were able to do and that other people were able to do, and the impact for business owners that had been there for 30 years and stuck it out.”

Through it all, the Van Dykes remained committed to creating spaces that were positive for everyone involved, from business owners to the residents. “We knew we wanted to find tentants that would be right for the spaces and right for the neighborhood, and we worked really hard in figuring that out,” Heather explained.

Heather’s background included a stint in New York working for an organization that worked with migrant farm workers. Her job was working with the children of the farm workers living in rural areas and helping them get access to resources that may not be readily available.

As property manager and community liaison, Heather’s role includes serving on neighborhood boards and ensuring the company’s connection with the community remains strong. “You can make a positive and a negative impact on a neighborhood based on real estate choices,” she said. “We, of course, want to be positive.”

The team said they’re proud of the work that’s been done in the area. “There are people out at 10 at night. There are women jogging by themselves. That never happened before,” Jackson said.

He also stressed that the changes in the area haven’t happened solely because of good development work. “You can put a really nice building in, but if the residential is falling apart or vacant, it’s not going to have the same impact,” he said.

Currently, the team has a number of residential units occupied by students living in intentional communities. “They’re more than roommates. They want to be intentional about making a community amongst themselves – eating together, really forming relationships, doing things together within the wider community,” Heather explained.

The siblings have also carried this emphasis on community into the work they’ve done with Harmony. Though Harmony is a brewing company, the Van Dykes strive to create a family-friendly atmosphere. “We want people to bring their kids here,” Jackson said.

Additionally, although the own unique fleet of beers are created in the basement taproom, Harmony is also open to featuring guest brews by other home brewers. “We want to have a place where home brewers feel at home,” Heather said.

Having the guest taps also adds to the feeling of surprise that comes with the pub’s ever-changing beer offerings. “We try and have a range of styles on tap. Every time someone comes, it’s going to be different,” Jackson explained.

Part of this is also due to the tempermental nature and artisanal approach of home brewing, Jackson explained. “Beer is a living organism, and if it’s not done and takes an extra two weeks, you can’t do anything about it.”

Jackson and Barry’s passion for beer combined with the trio’s emphasis on community in unique way under the guise of a new lecture series Black Squirrel University, hosted at Harmony every Tuesday night.

In a moment of frustration, Jackson and Barry left their office, cracked open a few of their home brews and began reflecting on times past. Jackson said, “We were saying ‘I kind of miss college. I miss sitting in a room with an expert, and wouldn’t it be more fun to drink a beer at the same time?”

Heather added, “You don’t realize what a great opportunity it is to sit in a room and listen to an expert in a field.” With Black Squirrel University, she said they aim to feature topics ranging from scholarly to practical. “We want to be a part of the fabric of what’s happening in the city.”

A city that the three siblings from Chicago agree has been the perfect place to flourish, especially for young people. “This is a really entrepreneurial town,” said Heather.

“People are proud to be a part of Grand Rapids. Although the economy is tough, especially in Michigan, everybody feels hopeful and is really excited because they see the things that can happen. People have a vision about what they want this state to be and they’re going out and doing it.”

As the first customers begin filing into the eatery, Jackson and Heather take turns greeting guests and directing them to sit wherever they like. “It took us a little bit to get used to,” Heather said of overseeing daily operations. “But our staff is fantastic.”

And as for sibling squabbles? The two exchange grins and say with a humbled confidence, “Of course. We’ve been doing this for a while.”

This Saturday, August 25, Harmony will have an IPA take over. They exclusively house IPAs on tap all day, including Fiddle Stix IPACross Roads Rye PAAle-ian Abduction Black IPABattle Cat White IPAGrote Pier Double IPAFalconer Belgian IPA, and Grapefruit Moon IPA Shandy. They will also have hop food, hop desserts, hop treats, hop scotch, and a sock hop atmosphere. Beer drinking starts early, 10 a.m., to accommodate all of their everlasting awesomeness!

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