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22nd Annual University of Michigan Urban Land Institute Real Estate Forum


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This one is MAJOR significant for Metro GR and all of West Michigan. This event, normally held in Metro D (and without Metro GR involvement), follows closely on the heels of the recent West Michigan Regional Policy Conference that was held at the JW Marriott Grand Rapids.

What makes this year's ULIREF so significant is that due to downtown GR's ongoing and sustained explosion of development (especially recently), it caused a great curiosity and interest from Southeast Michigan developers (including those of Real Estate Investors Association-Detroit) interested in finding out HOW WE DID IT and HOW THEY MIGHT INVEST THEMSELVES. RESULT: It's here this year!


Some of the key components of the October 15 & 16 event will include:

Grand Rapids-An Historical Perspective

John H. Logie, Former Mayor, City of Grand Rapids

Grand Action-Bold Revitalization of Grand Rapids

John Canepa, Dick DeVos and David Frey; Grand Action

Van Andel Institute

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As I promised, I have returned with "the goodies" from the UM/ULI Forum this past Wednesday and Thursday. The event went smoothly and definitely made a good impression on the visiting Eastsiders (as well as caused many Westsiders to look at ourselves in a more cosmopolitan light - I guess it takes being around visitors who are impressed with your back yard to make you see things in it in a way you never have noticed before).

The highlights were as follows:

-Panel Discussion with Grand Action's Dick DeVos, John Canepa and David Frey (during the Q & A period I asked Dick DeVos, ". . . . with all of the fixed-guideway transit projects in the works for both Metro Grand Rapids and Metro Detroit and with the huge opportunities they portend for sustainable transit-oriented development - as evidenced by Portland Oregon - will Grand Action be participating in the development of any of these projects?" / DeVos replied that 1] he was "not that familiar with the Detroit projects" but has and will continue to "keep an eye on the development of the two Grand Rapids projects")

-The Walking Tour (even occurring in the rain as it was <the complimentary umbrellas helped GREATLY>, it was largely attended and went from the Grand Plaza motor lobby to 1] the JW, 2] Plaza Towers, 3] VanAndel Arena, 4] the SOFU/Cherry Street Landing District, 5] the Avenue of the Arts District, 6] the Gallery at Two Fulton site, 7] The Fitzgerald, 8] Monroe Center and 9] Rosa Parks Circle / the tour had the added benefit of having Sam Cummings join us at The Gallery site to give us some inside info on the development and then accompany us all into The Fitzgerald for a walk-through <VERY sweet renovation>)

-The Pub Crawl (started immediately after the Walking Tour and kicked off at Eve at The BOB <nice complimentary drinks and food / KUDOS to Gilmore and True North> / basically set 300 people loose after that on the unexpecting VanAndel Arena area pubs and clubs <the Dirty B@st@rd at Founders seemed to be the beer of choice for many of my Detroit cohorts / yes, Showgirls Galleria became the Wednesday nightcap spot for more than a few of the attendees :whistling: )

-The Bus Tour (took us to 1] North Monroe/North Downtown area, 2] The Israels/Widdicomb complex <WOW, absolutely GORGEOUS>, 3] Union Square, 4] VanAndel Institute, the Spectrum Health Lemmon-Holton Cancer Pavilion and 5] the combined Saint Mary's/Catholic Square campus / we were taken on walk-throughs of the Israel's complex, VanAndel Institute <with nice film presentation on Medical Mile> and the Lemmon-Holton Pavilion <another WOW>)

-The Development-Oriented Transit: Using Streetcars to Intensify and

Sustain Urban Development discussion (featured highly knowledgeable and funny Charles Hales from Portland Oregon who floored everyone with what GR can expect from the reintroduction of street rail into downtown GR / after his presentation, I asked him, ". . . . with GR realizing that its first streetrail alignment is a demonstrator that will make or break any future extensions, is our choice of a corridor with a highly developed middle and two brownfield ends the right one?". / Hales responded " . . . . that kind of corridor is a perfect storm to succeed - the middle will sustain it with ridership to the existing destinations while the ends grow their transit-oriented developments and their added riderships".)

-Updates on Grand Rapids Transit Initiatives (featured our own Peter Varga of ITP as he showed us animated simulations of both the MLK/Division Corridor BRT and the downtown Streetrail projects as well as discussed how the funding was coming together for the BRT and how funding would be shaped for the Streetrail <he hopes to have them both launched in Summer 2012>)

There it is in a nutshell. By the way, after talking with many of the UM/ULI folks, they liked the turnout so much (and GR) that they were entertaining keeping it bouncing back and forth every other year. :thumbsup:

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