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Everything posted by Explorer55

  1. This where I first read about this proposal yesterday: http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2013/msu-grand-rapids-community-team-up-on-proposed-biomedical-research-facility/. As a planner, I keyed on this portion: "Scott Witter, who leads MSU’s Land Policy Institute and its School of Planning, Design and Construction, said the multi-disciplinary research team has a complex task ahead of it as they begin their work this week by visiting the Secchia Center, the College of Human Medicine’s headquarters. The team is charged with creating a vision for MSU and Grand Rapids as a center for biomedical research, clinical study and education in an attractive, sustainable and economically diverse community. “Our team’s role is to look at the community and MSU properties and figure out how we can design a high-class, model facility that satisfies researchers, administrators and community partners,” Witter said. “That includes looking at everything from sustainability to planning and zoning to technology.” " From this, I hope and expect this effort will take a broader view than just adding new and/or renovating existing buildings. This seems to me to be a much more comprehensive examination of downtown and the GR community at large. To attract and keep researchers, medical/grad students, and other professionals and all that come with them, a community must offer a lot more than just a job and even more than the "right" type of housing options. I think all of you know that, but it seems MSU knows that, too. At least I hope that's why they are bringing in the Land Use Institute. I think this is very exciting and could lead to GR really growing up!
  2. Back in the day, when I was growing up in Cascade and going to Forest Hills HS (it didn't become Central until my senior year), we didn't have much of a high opinion of Wyoming then. And that was in the early 1970s. It wasn't that we were hoity-toity upper income class (my dad was a mid-level federal employee), but Wyoming just seemed so "schlocky" and just not that appealing to visit for whatever reason. Even Rogers Plaza seemed past its prime back then. Not that Cascade had a lot to brag about, but this was before the worst of the strip development came creeping down 28th Street to Cascade Road. I'm not surprised to hear the comments about Wyoming, but many of us felt that way 40 years ago!
  3. I live in Denver and have always flown to/from GRR on United. I try to fly Frontier when I can, but the time options for the flights to GRR were awful. If I recall correctly, I couldn't get to GRR until 11:30 pm. That's a bit late for me or for whomever would pick me up. I was also concerned whether I could rent a car that late at night when I would arrive. The price differential wasn't that great, either. I doubt I'll fly SW. I've often found that the flights I want to take aren't that cheap when checking out SW vs. other airlines. And I don't like the standing in line or paying extra to get a decent seat (via the early check in option), either. I know United often gets dissed, but all in all, I know what I'm getting with UA, and usually that means flights at times I want to fly and a seat I want to sit in without a lot of hassle. Plus, because I have the Explorer card, I don't have to pay for a checked bag. I know, I sound like an ad for UA!
  4. Hey, don't lump everyone from "Ada" into that group. My sister lives off of Thornapple Dr. between Cascade and Ada and has no hesitation going to East Hills. Of course, she and I grew up there (many years ago). Maybe that has something to do with it! The area certainly has come a long, long way. It was just a pleasant residential/commercial neighborhood when I was little, but we moved away before things realy began to go "down hill". It's now surpassed anything I recall from my childhood.
  5. I tell people where I live now who "can't find parking" downtown, to venture down there more often. The more they go down there and park, the more familiar they'll be with where the parking is and where to find cheaper parking. I have my favorite spots and go directly to them when I go downtown. I also suggest they go online to websites specifically dedicated to showing available on and off street parking in the downtown area. We also have the option of a pretty good transit system in this community, so taking light rail or even an express bus is a convenient option. And on nice days, they can even bike. In GR and many places, I think it's the fear of not knowing where parking is, of unfamiliar territory and one way streets that freaks out a lot of people. That and maybe actually paying directly for parking (instead of them paying for it indirectly in other ways) and, OMG!, having to walk a couple of blocks....
  6. I grew up in "East Hills" (a term we never used when I lived there) back in the late 1950s and 60s. As a small child until I was 10, I wandered all around there, including of course, walking to Congress School. To me, the neighborhood from Paddock to the school down Lake Drive and Cherry, Diamond over to Fulton, was big and the walks long. Now of course, I go there, and it seems everything shrunk, but obviously I'm the one who got big. I have to laugh if anyone who even has to park on Paddock Street thinks walking over to the Green Well or the other business around there is a long haul. I don't feel vulnerable walking in that area along Lake Drive or Cherry, at least not during "business hours". And I'm a woman. Why is it, people will walk for miles back and forth through a mall the size of Woodland, but outside, even one or two blocks is "far"?
  7. FYI - I live in Denver and I know Frontier flies non-stop between DEN and DCA since I fly that route frequently. It's a favorite of all the federal employees out here (and sometimes Members of Congress, too). Before Frontier offered that option, I had my choice of changing planes at DFW (awful!), ORD, and sometimes St. Louis.
  8. It's a shame, too, because I know of at least one PF Chang's that built in a "village" that was constructed on the site of a dead mall in an older suburb. The building is very much in line with the village concept, built with the main doors opening to the sidewalk that parallels the village main street, and the side of the building is parallel to the major arterial that passes by the "village" (actually, the "village" is the downtown for the suburan city which never had one up until the "village" was developed and now has a whole mix of uses). Parking is to the rear or available on-street less than half a block away from the restaurant. There are probably other examples around the country where PF Chang's fit into the "village" design. Why was the company let off the hook here? If an older suburban community trying to revive the site of a dead mall/greyfield and facing other economic challenges can hold tight, why can't the jurisdiction involved here (GR? GR Township? Other?) hold tight in this case??? Anyone know?
  9. I doubt the event will be mentioned, or only mentioned briefly by a reporter or two. Despite the fact that GR has garnered a lot of attention the past month or so it seems, and many of my friend/coworkers know I'm from Grand Rapids, not one has said anything to me about the lipdub, the murders, or now, the death/burial of Mrs. Ford in GR. I've told many people to check out the lipdub, and some did (and liked it), but if I hadn't bothered to urge them to check out the lipdub, I don't think many, if any, would have ever noticed it. For that matter, a friend of mine told me she had no idea where GR is. I've showed her many times where it is on my "hand", but I had to walk her through it one more time. Granted, she's not very a good at understanding driving directions, let alone knowing US geography. Sorry guys, but that's the perspective from Denver, good or bad.
  10. Why would anyone even bother to "hate" or "strongly dislike" such an effort?. It's just something to watch, for some of us, something fun to watch. You may think someone else could have done better, but it's just a video with happy people lipsynching and dancing around downtown GR. It's not a political piece or something filled with bad feelings or idiotic talk and it's a catchy tune. Maybe I like it because the song was popular way back in the day when I was in high school and I remember singing along with it in the company of my friends and discussing whether it was about the death of Buddy Holly or President Kennedy. In other words, "lighten up"!
  11. Well, don't get carried away! It may happen, but probably will take some time. Btw, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse closed here in Denver some time ago (at least the one in Lower Downtown - the hip, happening neighborhood. Don't know if there are others in the metro area). Strange name for a restaurant, anyway.
  12. PF Chang's should just fine in GR. Where I live, there are several PF Changs and they are always busy (and I live in a middle America city/suburbs). The restaurant is considered exotic enough to be a special night out, but not so expensive or formal to chase away the more casual diners. No one around here considers it to be all that expensive (not compared to other more upscale options) and you can always stop by for drinks and appetizers. Those who want more authentic Chinese food know where to go, but when Aunt Esther and Uncle Charlie from small town Kansas are in town for a visit, PF Chang's is a good place to take them.
  13. Then you could forget just about any public infrastructure systems. How do you think most roads, and sometimes fixed rail transit systems, get built? For one example, the Interstate system, if there was one at all, would be in bits and pieces if public agencies couldn't use eminent domain to obtain needed land. And many of the National Parks wouldn't exist or would be much smaller or cut up into chunks without eminent domain. Public projects with huge benefits to the public (and to the environment and the economy, not to mention the general well-being of a community or the entire country) would be at the mercy of a few property owners who for personal reasons, many of them very self-centered and short-sighted, wouldn't sell willingly. Also, under the federal Uniform Relocation Assistance, no one is going to get "ripped off". There are many protections and guarantees for property owners and once they become familiar with the provisions of the law, they are more than willing to sell/move - and that's the preference of the public agencies, I can assure you!
  14. Well, Mr. Hoekstra himself probably didn't vote for the original law that requires TE funds to be spent on things like 'turtle" fences or other eligible activities. He probably wasn't even in Congress when the program was first created, I believe back in 1991. And he didn't vote for the regs since that's not something Congress votes on. Those are developed by the responsibile federal agencies through the federal administrative process (based on the laws passed by Congress and signed by the President), but I"m being nit-picky. Anyway, you are right, a certain amount of federal highway funds must be spent on transportation enhancement activities, and beyond that, the environmental review process often results in required environmental mitigation that can use a wide variety of highway project funds, including mitigation to protect wildlife. If Mr. Hoekstra doesn't support environmental protection and attempts to alleviate the adverse impacts of highway building, I guess he can vote against it all he wants and rant against Governor Granholm if it makes him feel better. But compared to the total cost of most major highway projects, the amounts spent on most TE elements and/or environmental mitigation would be sucked up in half a day or less of construction work! Same goes for adding bike facilities or sidewalks. And besides, transportation should never be just about those who drive in single occupant vehicles.
  15. Planetizen has an article today that talks about 3 midwestern cities doing great things for their respective downtowns. GR is one of them (although, they don't seem to describe the new opera offices/rehearsal space quite right, from what I've read on this forum).
  16. I know this is supposed to be "done", but just as a follow up, the cost of nonstop flights between Denver and GR on United has dropped by $200 or more roundtrip since Frontier started flying nonstop between the two cities and offering much lower fares. That makes me very happy.
  17. Yes, it would be nice if every major (and maybe minor) transportation project could incorporate creative aesthetics and lots of other "bells and whistles". But these days, it often comes down to money, or actually the lack of money. That's true across the country for highway and transit projects, but I have to believe in Michigan, lack of public transportation funds is probably even more of an issue. Some asethetic and other design embellishments can be inexpensive and/or easy to include in many projects, but that really requires an entire shift of perspective and priority on the part of the DOT and the engineers/designers. Public involvement at the earliest stages of planning and project development may help that, but it will take a concertend effort to keep pushing for a culture change or paradigm shift at a State DOT or even a local government public works department. But there are opportunities to do that if you look (e.g., attend public meetings, open houses, check the websites for information and updates, get on email lists, etc.). Remember, these are mostly engineers you are dealing with....
  18. As a transportation planner who works for a major highway agency, but has pushed alternative transportation modes since before some of you were born, I can't think of a better stretch of highway to rebuild and even improve than an aging Interstate freeway passing through the heart of a built-up downtown area that serves 1000s of vehicles daily. Those rebuilt overpasses don't look so bad, either. And yes, billions of dollars have been spent on building and rebuilding highways long before the current President came into office. You should hear the howls that he's directing too much money and attention to non-highway transportation, and, oh my gosh, sidewalks and bike paths!!!! You mean his administration actually wants people to walk??!!!
  19. My dad, a native of GR born in 1921, attended the University of Grand Rapids after graduating from Union. I think he attended a few reunions over the years with others who attended UGR. I was under the impression it was "only" a two year college, but can't really tell you why. At any rate, my dad ended up becoming a civilian Air Traffic Controller (worked for years at the old and "new" Kent Co. Airports) instead of getting a 4-yr degree (at UGR or wherever else) just prior to the start of WWII, and therefore he was not drafted. That turn of events could be why I'm here (okay, in Denver) today!
  20. Sorry I missed the Dutch humor! I guess I've been away from GR too long or I could have responded that pasties were really invented by immigrants from Poland. Anyway, you may be right about Cornish miners vs. Welsh. I met someone from the U.P. years ago who had ancestors from Cornwall and Wales (and Finland - how much more "U.P" could you be?) who said his grandmothers tried to best each other with their pasties. I'm not sure if either claimed if pasties originally came from Wales or Cornwall, but I do know my friend preferred the pasties made by his Welch grandmother. And that's it from me on this topic!
  21. The story STILL isn't right. "Pasties" were brought over to (primarily) the U.P. by Welsh miners. And definitely the Dutch had nothing to do with wet burritos. As a native of GR who started eating wet burritos back in the 1970s, my understanding is that wet burritors were created by Mexicans who settled on the west side of town and opened a restaurant - Little Mexico? the Adobe? I'm afraid my memory about the original one escapes me. I also understood back when I lived in GR during my childhood/teenage years that GR became a "hotbed" of Mexican food and restaurants because many migrant workers from Mexico got tired of picking fruits and veggies and decided to stay and cook, eventually leading to opening up restaurants of their own. GR has nothing to apologize about if some Mexican food is very different from that found in the SW or other parts of the US. I've come to appreciate that New Mexican Mexican food is different than Colorado Mexican food (especially the green chili!) which differs from Arizona MX food, etc. And that's not bad! Sorry if this is a bit off topic....
  22. MDOT could be using ARRA money. Did you see any signs indicating that? Or ARRA money freed up "regular" federal funds for the projects. Most likely the majority of the funds being spent on the Interstates are from federal sources. Or it's just the last chance to repave before winter.
  23. I visited Michigan this summer (early August). Maybe I picked the right week, but I thoroughly enjoyed my visits to the beaches in Grand Haven and Ludington. And the water temp was reasonably warm (once I jumped in and moved around a bit). Anyway, the folks in South Florida need to be told about the beaches in Michigan and how the waters along them don't have any jellyfish, sharks, or "skates" (small stingrays, essentially) that hide just under the sand in the shallow water. I lived on Sanibel Island (near Ft. Meyers) for a year and learned more than I wanted about some of those critters.
  24. As a graduate of both MSU and UM, I can say this for sure. U of M fans are very touchy and can't often take much ribbing about the football team. I guess it's difficult to laugh when the team is not ranked in the top ten year in and year out. Speaking of which, I think the Wolverines have had at least two really bad years.... When I've watched games (in Colorado) with the UM alumni group, no one is having a good time unless Michigan is beating the other team by 20 points, at least. With the MSU alumni, they seem to be having a good time no matter what (unless, of course, the team is losing big to OSU or UM). Observations from someone with a foot in both camps. Anyway, I'm going to love seeing the big, green block letter S prominently displayed in downtown GR next time I visit. It's time either MSU or UM really noticed West Michigan and GR in particular.
  25. As a MSU alumnus (and also U of M grad, so don't call me biased, at least if I am, I have reasons), I like the look of that sign on a high hill in GR, period.
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