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LA Dave

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Posts posted by LA Dave

  1. Great thread -- beer, good food, wine are tremendous attractions for younger folks. My kids (who are in/almost in their 20s) are much more knowledgeable about food and alcohol than our generation. For us it was burgers, pizza or lasagna, washed down with Stroh's. Now, it might be tapas or locovore delights, accompanied by the best of Founder's or Bell's.

    My frustration is that it is almost impossible to find Michigan beer in Southern California; we can buy East Coast microbrews, but not the best of the Great Lake State. I hope that the local brewers can expand their marketing efforts, as I find the beers to be fantastic.

  2. I noticed the other day how nice City Hall looks with its new windows and the removal of those gawd awful screens (as the architects intended it to look).



    Great seeing City Hall in its original glory. I remember when those screens went up, totally destroying the skin of this Skidmore building. I know that the International Style is not popular with the younger crowed, but I for one have always thought that the City/County complex was an elegant addition to downtown.

  3. so why not just fly into IAD to serve that market then

    What market at IAD? Dulles is a joke. I speak as one who, because of geography, cannot board a plane at LAX that will land at DCA. If you are connecting to a transatlantic flight, JFK or BOS are better options. For that matter, ORD or DTW are even better.

    I think Walker nailed it -- the loss of the daily Delta flight is big. On the other hand, I remember having to connect at DTW in the past, so I guess Frontier's 3 a week is still a better option.

  4. As someone who has flown Southwest extensively within California, they provide a very good service. Not necessarily the cheapest, but free bags and frequent service make SWA the airline of choice for Southern California-Bay Area flights.

    It would be nice to have a GRR-MDW connection, as the trip into the Loop from Midway is shorter than on the Blue Line from O'Hare. Oh, but that approach -- not for nervous fliers.

  5. Rendering. Using the same architect that did the Ford School at UofM.


    Sorta blurry isn't it? Still, a Bobby Stern building is preferable to one by a state architect (see MSU dorms or almost any building at Central built after 1945). Good that the school will continue to be named for Bill Seidman, one of the founding fathers of GVSU and good that it is located in downtown GR.

    It will interesting to see how Stern's team carries this off. While the Ford School at U-M is a little "academic" for my taste (yes, he ripped off Albert Kahn, but that's how Stern works), but I like the concept for North Quad.

  6. Some of their academic stuff is actually incredibly attractive for "modern" designs. It's hard to tell if they got the minor details right, but the University of Kentucky Law School and the Harvard business school building are great in photos, as is the charter school in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and many of the other designs. It's not just neo-traditional architecture, it's actually traditional architecture done right on the macro level. That is actually much more difficult to do than many architects would care to admit. Getting the details right is another matter (as the RDV HQ attests to), but all in all, this outfit certainly seems to have the capability to do nice work. But, then there's stuff like the Greenspun Hall, Park Center for Business, and the Smeal College of Business Adminstration, all of which are so heinously ugly that they are almost certain to have a very short shelf life. The "Green Grand Rapids" trend has me worried that we'll end with something that attempts to look "distinctive" and just winds up another GRAM disaster.

    You are right about some of those Stern projects: Smeal Hall is abysmal, and Greenspun Hall looks like a bad 1950s science fiction set. However, the buildings at Rice at U-M are quite nice, and intentionally weld modern structures into the campus "look." (I was especially impressed by the Jones Center at Rice, as those Ralph Adams Cram buildings are very distinctive.)

  7. That's the DeVries' plan. That rendering won't happen.

    GVSU hired Bobby Stern. Something is out there. I suspect it won't be very long...

    "RAM Stern," as he is known in the trade? Very impressive. Stern has become something of the house architect as the University of Michigan, designing both the Ford School and North Quad. Not exactly at the sharp end of modernism, but he has a way with historicism.

  8. Kind of surprised no one has been rooting around on here since March. GRR has had some very impressive passenger gains in 2010 so far, and a 26% increase in May.

    I remember AirTran stating that for them to stay here in GR long-term, they needed the 30% of passengers who currently drive from the GR metro to other airports to return. It appears that may very well be happening, which is amazing news. I would eventually like AirTran to add a couple daily Atlanta flights challenging Delta right up front with a fare war. I think you'd see fares plummet if that were to happen, across the board. I look at the Florida markets Allegiant serves from GRR, and then look at the Delta prices, and they are amazingly low.

    The increased competition is working, I flew out of GR last summer to LAX for about $450 RT, this summer that got done at just $300 RT, same airline, same time of year.

    I'm curious to see what the Frontier loads are on the Denver flight if anyone has that info.

    Could be. I just checked prices from LAX to GRR in September, and they were about $60 cheaper than LAX to DTW. That is a real turnaround. On the other hand, getting a seat on that connection out of Minneapolis can be a real problem.

  9. Although I worked for the Free Press on the business side, I too had been a college journalist. In college we considered the Free Press during the reign of Kurt Luedtke (another Grand Rapidian) to be one of the greatest of American newspapers. A writer's paper it was called. So to work there a few years later, even if it wasn't on the news side, was like dying and going to heaven.

    The kind of shabby Art Deco building made the whole experience something like what used to be pictured in grainy nineteen-thirties newspaper movies. By the time I worked there though the stereotypical rough reporters that you'd see in those movies, who had started as fifteen year-old copyboys and had worked there way up, were almost all gone and instead the newsroom was populated by mostly middle-class people with journalism degrees from good schools. Instead the crusty Runyonesque characters were all over on the business side with me.

    Kurt Luedtke left for Hollywood. Eventually the Art Deco interior on my floor was gutted and replaced with fake wood-grain cubicles from Hayworth, and the old rotary presses were stilled when a new highly automated offset printing plant was put into operation down by the river. The riverside plant which never operated as well as expected has since been torn down.

    Eventually I moved on too. But for awhile it was a good ride.

    Wonderful writing, Walker. Sure you weren't on the other side of the building?

    Yes, the Freep in those days was a great paper, with some of the best young writers in the US (IMHO) on its staff. I still remember reading one wonderful piece in the Sunday Freep about a few of the younger staff members driving to Cass County to find some "Cass County Red." (Readers of a certain age will know what I am talking about.) I still remember one of the lines in the piece, about having to move the dial from CKLW to WLS to find Top 40 tunes on the radio. In the 1970s, that was how you knew you had moved from East to West Michigan.

    It was an absolute dream to even get an Ann Arbor stringer position with the Freep. I was fortunate enough to get one with the News, which while not as "cool" as the Free Press, had a much larger circulation. Great people worked at the "grey lady" as well. I miss those days terribly.

  10. I don't know if anyone reads the Detroit forum anymore, I'm still waiting for ZachariahDaMan to post the pictures from his UP trip last year. But if someone is out there I thought I'd mention this new plan to rehab the long empty old Free Press building:

    321 Lafayette

    This is one of my favorite Albert Kahn buildings. It's not a favorite because it is his most important building but rather because I used to work in it. If you count up to the tenth floor and look at the middle window on the left, you'd be looking in the window that I would look out.

    Even if Detroit had any kind of robust downtown real estate market, this property would be problematic. The Fisher and old GM buildings not withstanding, Kahn was most known for building factories and the old Free Press building despite its appearance as an office building, is mostly designed to be a factory for printing newspapers. Once you get past the small lobby and elevators, the first floor and the basement and sub-basement were the home to the large rotary presses and Linotype machinery where the paper was printed. Other than as indoor parking, as they propose, this space isn't very practical unless you are going to publish a nineteen-thirties technology newspaper.

    Here's a story; when I worked there decades ago there were a few people who used to feed the pigeons by throwing scraps of food out the back windows. These weren't bird lovers, nobody much cared for the pigeons. The reason they fed them was because a handful of the most important executives had parking spaces behind the building and by feeding the pigeons, the pigeons would congregate and leave their calling cards on the cars below. Sort of the classic Detroit management/labor guerrilla war.

    Boy, your post sure brought back memories. When I was a cub reporter at the Michigan Daily, sometimes we would go to Detroit to see an alumnus at the Freep. It was going to the big leagues -- the smell of ink in the pressroom, the clatter of a hundred typewriters going full-speed, the feel of a major metropolitan daily.

    Alas, all gone.

  11. Hopefully the Census Bureau will read this and impulsively put Holland back in our MSA. whistling.gif

    There were some other, minor errors in the story (it's not "Meijer's" even though that's what we call it) but I think that the thrust of the piece was right on target, especially with the focus on the local philanthropists.

  12. What a great photo, thanks for the link.

    It looks to me like the former Sears building would now be Tre Cugini, and the parking lot was then occupied by the smaller, two-story plain white facade. Four Friends/Olive Express/Dog Pit are all in the triple-wide building adjacent to the vanished building.

    (yes I know that FF and OE are goners. Easier than trying to remember the names of the current places.)

    ETA: streetview


    I am unfamiliar with a business called "All Felonies and Misdemeanors" in that space. Shows up on Streetview at the newsboxes.

    No, Veloise, the Sears store was leveled. It is now a parking lot, as seen on the streetview.

  13. South Division was the "happening" street because it was US 131. It was the way one in a car or truck got to GR from points south. If you wanted to bypass downtown you took 28th Street (the South Beltline) east to the East Beltline or west to Wilson (the West Beltline). (3 Mile Road was going to be the North Beltline but a bridge over the Grand got in the way of that plan.) I rode the bus home from high school on Division from Franklin to Monroe in the 60's and it was "gritty". The hookers would be standing on the corners north of Wealthy at 3:30 in the afternoon.

    Thanks for the history, Dad. I also remember when S. Division was very rough, with the ladies of the evening staking their territory.

    Thanks for the "South Beltline" reference. Only Grand Rapidians of a certain age would remember that!

  14. Note the Sears store on right:


    There was a second downtown Sears store on Pearl across from the Amway. The Pearl Street store was for automotive parts and service.

    Both stores were closed about the time they opened the Sears in Woodland Mall, give or take a year about 1968.

    There was a winding alley built for another age back behind the store on Monroe that serviced that store and others. If someone else pulled in behind you, you were stuck until they finished their business too.

    Yeah, I remember both stores. I was right about the main Sears store on the north side of Monroe, which shows clearly in the picture. The auto store (which I recall as well) was on Pearl, but not at the site of that ugly brick thing in the postcard.

  15. I read the bio of Roger Allen's more talented brother (his work in San Diego is still celebrated) and looked at the stuff that Allen's firm did at CMU. Uggghhh. It looks like the sort of generic state architecture that mars the postwar campuses of our public universities. Grace Episcopal Church in Holland is nice, but of a very conventional stripped down Gothic style that can be seen on many Episcopal, Presbyterian and Methodist churches built during the postwar years (as well as for other denominations).

  16. Interesting stuff Walker. Thanks for the history lesson. I love this kind of stuff.


    Yes, great stuff Walker. I have never heard of Mr. Allen, but certainly loved the old Public Museum building. It is nice the way the building opens onto the street, and not to a series of monumental steps.

  17. I think it was a Sears at one time. Anyone know what happened to the building (I think this would be a great spot for a small infill project).


    The old Sears store was across the street on the north side of Monroe. It was demo'd years ago. I don't know what is in there now, if anything.

  18. Check out one the buildings that became 50 Monroe in the background to the right. Looks like it's in pretty rough shape. Also, it is just me, or does that area feel less dense in that picture? It's rare to look at an old picture and have the city feel less dense...I guess that says good things about the development of GR in the last 30 years.

    With the urban renewal of the 1960s, the downtown area was far less "dense" than it is today. That process ripped out the heart of much of downtown. The park in the postcard was the site of some dime stores, for example, that formed the bottom of the Monroe Avenue slant before it went north and south. (The classical facade in the background, the old Mutual Home Federal Savings and Loan building, can be seen in Gaslight village today).

    The recovery of urban density in the downtown core is essential to a vibrant area. Downtown GR in the 1970s was in many ways a hollow shell.

  19. Although Michigan's Frank Lloyd Wright works are mostly obscure and essentially all residential, the truth is only Illinois and Wisconsin have more surviving structures designed by FLW.

    To be fair to our Eastern Michigan brethren, there were some excellent architects practicing there, most notably Albert Kahn (progenitor of the modern factory), Eero Saarinen (TWA Terminal, CBS Building, Dulles Airport, U-M Music School, Gateway Arch), and Minoru Yamasaki (World Trade Center Towers, McGregor Center at Wayne State).

    Grand Rapids boasts the only Wright "Prairie" house in Michigan -- the homes in the Detroit area, Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo are all from his "Usonian" period. Also, in addition to the Meyer May house, the David Amberg House on College was designed by Marian Mahoney Griffin, who was a prominent member of Wright's studio in Oak Park and later an important architect on her own and one of the first licensed women architects in the world.

  20. My kid is a Koeze addict -- unfortunately, we have to spend mucho dineros getting it shipped from Zingerman's.

    Regarding the wet burrito -- I have lived in a hotbed of Mexican cuisine for many years, and the concept of a "wet burrito" is unknown out here. I think that it may be TexMex in nature, since the folks who started Mexican food in GR came from that area.

    My favorite wet burritos came from a bar that is (used to be?) on Michigan Street, just east of College, I think. The bar featured Harp Lager on tap. Anybody know if that place is still around, or what it might have been called?

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