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Rizzo

Grand Rapids Made Initiative. (GR-M)

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Grand Rapids Made Initiative. (GR-M)

The Plan for a Downtown Design-Build-Collaboration Center

Dad posted an article from The Press in late May in the Kendall thread about a Harvard grad envisioning Downtown as a collaborative design hub. After reading The Press article I got into contact with the visionary, Rick Broene, to learn more about his proposal.

In the past two weeks I have been reading through his thesis document. After finishing I was really impressed with the entire concept. Mr. Broene goes into great detail and proposes an ambitious initiative appropriately titled: Grand Rapids Made. A Medical Mile-esque concentration of brain power and research for the office furniture industry. Included in the initiative is a call for a downtown center for design. The center isn't so much a central building, but a network of clustered buildings and partnerships. A large focus point of the proposal is for economic and urban building developments.

The beginning of this document consists of detailed recognisance on the local market and office furniture industry. Followed by graphics and information illustrating the initiative. The GR-M initiative calls for a grand collaboration between profit entities, educational institutions, and various stakeholders. It really conveys the potential opportunity for Downtown that the collaboration of industries and individuals could generate. Obviously, the office furniture market has an extensive infrastructure here and is more convincing that this initiative can be successful. A hub of activity will truly create a synergy downtown that is liken to what is starting to happen in Medical Mile.

The entire document is about 70 pages. You are encouraged to enter any critiques and ideas after reviewing the plan. I've asked Mr. Broene to follow up this thread with his input as he can add much more to the conversation.

Grand Rapids Made Doc (69 pages, 55MBs)

Urban Development

The GR-M Initiative proposes a collection of collaborative activities and competitions to link downtown with the furniture industry. One goal of The Initiative is to encourage competition and activity to generate ideas in the scope of architecture and design visions. Downtown is the center of attention of this initiative, because it provides synergy and intense interaction. Downtown is home to medical, office, research, residential, commercial, higher learning, etc. All this within a convenient distance -- a distinct advantage in collaboration. The projects envisioned could have a considerable impact on the future of downtown. All the facilities in the industries listed above demand furniture -- instant "test market" all within walking distance. Here is a run down with description and conceptual illustrations of some projects:

Research Institute -- The institute will cooperate with the furniture industry and partner with local collegial institutions to offer research opportunities and studies which to capitalize on. This mutual agreement between companies could give an industry "team up" which could provide advantages. A research facility will be a considerable building project that will most likely be phased. The amount of space needed could increase with the growth of the institution. A facility could take the shape of a large center or a cluster of smaller facilities on the outer edge of downtown. A possible center could be located west of The Grand River, but north of GVSU. Funding of a facility could come from diversified sources: city, state, colleges, and the office furniture industry.

Design-Build Lab -- The Design-Build Lab is a facility with a cooperative partnership with downtown institutions, design firms, local colleges, etc. This lab will be phased and located in Heartside District along S. Division Ave. Eventually, this facility could contain: studio space, prototyping equipment, CAD workstations, live-work space, wood shop, metal shop, etc.

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The Link -- The Link is a smaller facility that acts as the central hub of the entire project. It could be placed in a small office space near Kendall or prominent central location downtown.

Furniture and Design Hall -- The Design Hall will be a center to exhibit the quality products "Grand Rapids Made" companies create. This Hall may be located on the River bank just south of Downtown (S-Curve).

A view looking southeast

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A Furniture Festival -- A festival of lectures to furniture design competitions taking place at the end of the month of August. This festival aims to demonstrate the potential of a GR-M initiative while spurring economic and urban development in West Michigan.

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Wow Rizzo! Nice work following up with the guy. I haven't had a chance to read his thesis. Has he begun to build support for this initiative? Talked to any of the Big 3 in the area?

I think this would be an incredible addition to GR, and quite a catalyst for both downtown and for the furniture industry.

(Rizzo, the link says "file damaged", can't open)

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Wow Rizzo! Nice work following up with the guy. I haven't had a chance to read his thesis. Has he begun to build support for this initiative? Talked to any of the Big 3 in the area?

I think this would be an incredible addition to GR, and quite a catalyst for both downtown and for the furniture industry.

(Rizzo, the link says "file damaged", can't open)

From what I gather he has been building support. If I remember, there is a page in the document dedicated to that topic. For the most part I believe the big three know of this. Walldrug (author) might be able to elaborate more on this later.

I fixed the link.

Download Document

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From what I gather he has been building support. If I remember, there is a page in the document dedicated to that topic. For the most part I believe the big three know of this. Walldrug (author) might be able to elaborate more on this later.

I fixed the link.

Download Document

Wow. Finally got a chance to look at it. If he can get financial and legislative support, get the Big 3 on board financially, then I think it would work and be huge.

You forgot one aspect Rizzo, which is the showroom Marketplace at Ionia and Cherry:

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The preliminary design work is great. Nice work Rick!

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Thanks GRDad. And a special thanks to Rizzo for all the work setting up the discussion. I'm been having trouble finding ways to summarize the ideas, so I am happy you were able to for me.

In January, I arranged meetings with as many civic and industry leaders as I could. This included people at Right Place, the City Economic Development agency, the Downtown Development Authority, Grand Action, and Kendall. I also talked with people at Steelcase, Herman Miller, Haworth, Izzy, StelterPartners, 2B Studio, Design Allegro, Workstage, and Cameron Van Dyke Studio. Everyone seemed interested. This was before I completed the document that was linked. I am hoping to go back and talk with them some more now that the ideas have been fleshed out.

In order to have a public forum for the ideas, I am also hoping to arrange an exhibition of the work in the City Hall lobby. I have large size boards that were already composed for my final review that would work. In addition, it would be nice to show all the competition entries that were received and maybe put a call out for more. I also built a big model of the downtown area which includes the proposal and would be nice in an exhibition.

Anyways, I am very eager to hear everyone's thoughts. I am very excited to see this move forward and believe that it could be great for the city and the regional economy.

best,

Rick Broene

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Thanks GRDad. And a special thanks to Rizzo for all the work setting up the discussion. I'm been having trouble finding ways to summarize the ideas, so I am happy you were able to for me.

First, welcome to the forums (and welcome from a fellow SCHS grad.. there's a few of us around here :ph34r: ). I browsed through the PDF and it seems interesting, and I just wanted to wish you luck (disclaimer: I work for one of the "big 3", so anything to help the industry I'm all for).

Anyways, do you forsee anything like what Haworth has in Shanghai in the "Creativity Center"? Maybe as part of the (or an extension of) the Design-Build lab?

http://edition.cnn.com/2004/BUSINESS/12/08...vity/index.html

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I personally think this is a great piece and was very happy to see the organization I am a part of (The Right Place) listed as one of the groups that you spoke with.

I have also sent the report to my colleagues who all think very highly of it. A great deal of the visual information that is provided translates well to other economic development issues we address.

It's always good to see someone who believes in this area.

Thanks.

George Bosnjak

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624702506_5b5f7c1ddd_o.jpg

That design reminds me a lot of Times Square. It would be really cool to see this downtown.

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This is an excellent idea that deserves a lot of attention. One organization that I would love to see involved is the Grand Rapids Art Museum. I think that they would add some unique exposure to this vision.

Let me just say that this idea needs to happen; I would venture as far as to say that it will be one of the major catalysts of growth in downtown GR on a par with the medical growth we are currently seeing. We need to diversify our industries, but we still need to embrace and grow what already exists. This vision is exactly what is needed to ensure that happens.

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I personally think this is a great piece and was very happy to see the organization I am a part of (The Right Place) listed as one of the groups that you spoke with.

I have also sent the report to my colleagues who all think very highly of it. A great deal of the visual information that is provided translates well to other economic development issues we address.

It's always good to see someone who believes in this area.

Thanks.

George Bosnjak

Thanks for joining us George!

Has anyone mentioned how something like this might work? A non-profit consortium spear-headed by Grand Action? Or by Kendall College? It seems like it would be very tricky involving all of these heated competitors (both the OEM's and their suppliers). Would it be similar to GRMERC, which has now grown into the new MSU Med School campus and VAI expansion? It seems like it would have to be led by a dedicated third-party developer, with a board made up of furniture company stakeholders (?)

It would be cool to someday have a Grand Rapids version of NeoCon here. It seems like it would be less expensive here than Chicago for exhibiting companies and the thousands of visitors (if there are enough hotel rooms in GR at the time).

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It would be cool to someday have a Grand Rapids version of NeoCon here. It seems like it would be less expensive here than Chicago for exhibiting companies and the thousands of visitors (if there are enough hotel rooms in GR at the time).

While I'd agree it would be cool.. You're right, we'd need a LOT more rooms to stay in, fancy places to wine and dine customers, and things to do outside of the convention itself. NeoCon 2007 had 52,632 visitors.. :shok:

http://www.furninfo.com/absolutenm/templat...?articleid=7716

I went to the one a few years ago, and it was hard to get reservations anywhere near the convention in the evening.. and that's in Chicago..

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Chicago seems to have a hotel shortage downtown from what I can tell. (And good lord, there's hotels EVERYWHERE, too.)

But anyways... I don't want to resurrect old nightmares, but I mean this in a positive light. It seems to me that something like this can do for downtown what we originally thought RiverGrand would've.. except this time, it isn't far-fetched and could actually happen.

And I love those conceptual renderings!

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This Grand Rapids Made initiative is too worthy to be 'measure sticked' by the River Grand fiasco....

What about the potential of having the research center concluding that one posture is better for a certain job skill or environment? What if a research center could test market a certain chair that more benefits the researcher at VIA? Or a chair that can enhance the learning environment for a student at GVSU or GRCC. Think of creating niche markets based on research. All these test markets are downtown and then some. I'm reaching for possibilities. :thumbsup:

To think that research learned by the local furniture industry and having each company producing its own take on what they learned is awesome.

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To think that research learned by the local furniture industry and having each company producing its own take on what they learned is awesome.

Exactly! My initial training was as an architect. So I was completely surprised and excited when I realized how much knowledge and expertise there exists with the West Michigan furniture companies in understanding how one's physical environment affects one's working, learning, and healing. Virtually the entire evolution of office environments can be traced through the West Michigan furniture companies. For example the cubicle (systems furniture) was pioneered by Herman Miller, wired with Haworth, and modified in countless ways by all of the big three (Steelcase, Herman Miller, and Haworth). Furthermore, these companies are among the world leaders in green products and green manufacturing processes.

The other great news is that this industry is also sustainable in an economic sense. In the last 5-10 years, a number of innovative companies and designers have emerged around Greater Grand Rapids, which have been very successful. Some of the best examples are Izzy Design, StelterPartners, Workstage (affiliated with Steelcase) and Grand Rapids Chair Company. My hope is to find ways to encourage even more companies to emerge. There are many niche markets that are presently untapped and there is plenty of room for more furniture companies around WM. As more companies emerge ...oops, sorry...when I get going, I start going overboard.

Anyways, I think there is enourmous potential within this industry and its many related industries, which could be tapped for further economic development.

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Thinking about the properties around Ronda Tire, Commercial Printing, etc. got me thinking about this project, and the portion that spans over 131 (actually I believe it just spans the Market Ave exit ramp from 131 Southbound):

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I wonder how things are going with this? Getting any traction?

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While I'd agree it would be cool.. You're right, we'd need a LOT more rooms to stay in, fancy places to wine and dine customers, and things to do outside of the convention itself. NeoCon 2007 had 52,632 visitors.. :shok:

http://www.furninfo.com/absolutenm/templat...?articleid=7716

I went to the one a few years ago, and it was hard to get reservations anywhere near the convention in the evening.. and that's in Chicago..

But if something like this was implemented and built - and if hotel reservations did become overcrowded - then we have another construction boom on our hands :thumbsup:

I love this project and I think it would be so awesome to have. Think we could polish up our Furniture City title up a bit? ;)

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Thinking about the properties around Ronda Tire, Commercial Printing, etc. got me thinking about this project, and the portion that spans over 131 (actually I believe it just spans the Market Ave exit ramp from 131 Southbound):

I wonder how things are going with this? Getting any traction?

A little progress report. It's a mixed bag, though.

Rick talked with a lot of industry folks last August. Then after that interest waned. He was in talks with John Berry of the Design West Michigan Initiative. They discovered a lot of overlap in Rick's project and the design initiative. The two worked together briefly, so they have his documents for future reference.

Later he was in contact with a group of community leaders looking to promote GR (not sure who) that were interested in his proposal. They met, but Rick felt they were less interested in his ideas and more interested in downtown transit systems.

He met with a company that works closely with the furniture industry. They thought his thesis had great benefits for the industry.

Talks seem to fire up, then fade away. What is good, is the right people that should be seeing his document have and its awaiting a renewal of interest. Right now, he's hoping that someone will pick it up and run with it. I notified him of Israel's current projects. Now, might be a good time to get that spark going especially with the Klingman developments. I understand there are two different industries, but a lot of this is transferable.

Click here to view the proposal.

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A little progress report. It's a mixed bag, though.

Rick talked with a lot of industry folks last August. Then after that interest waned. He was in talks with John Berry of the Design West Michigan Initiative. They discovered a lot of overlap in Rick's project and the design initiative. The two worked together briefly, so they have his documents for future reference.

Later he was in contact with a group of community leaders looking to promote GR (not sure who) that were interested in his proposal. They met, but Rick felt they were less interested in his ideas and more interested in downtown transit systems.

He met with a company that works closely with the furniture industry. They thought his thesis had great benefits for the industry.

Talks seem to fire up, then fade away. What is good, is the right people that should be seeing his document have and its awaiting a renewal of interest. Right now, he's hoping that someone will pick it up and run with it. I notified him of Israel's current projects. Now, might be a good time to get that spark going especially with the Klingman developments. I understand there are two different industries, but a lot of this is transferable.

I was just going to say that if Rick can sell this idea to Bob Israels, he might have the capital, connections and wherewithal to make it happen.

That's interesting that he ran into a group more interested in downtown transit systems. It seems like a project like this, that would need links to the different campuses and bring more people to downtown, would drive demand for a good transit system.

Hey, and I also just noticed that Rick placed one of the buildings on the RHD Tire parking lot on S. Division.

618222787_74ab3b3f16_o.png

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It's really interesting that certain aspects of this are coming to fruition. First GRid70 opened, and is now expanding North and East. And now Haworth and Interphase Interiors are opening a showroom in the MoDiv development (where Cafe Solace was located). I'm sure Steelcase and Herman Miller will not be outdone and allow Haworth to be the only presence downtown. :thumbsup:

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Agreed GRDad. GRid70 has a lot of the same concepts he envisioned. And I hope Herman Miller follows suit with a retail store. They have one in Tokyo, I'd love to see them use downtown GR as a concept store to refine their retail operations. :)

Joe

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