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Courtyard Marriott opens in Battle Creek

With 102 rooms with an updated room design a new Courtyard by Marriott has opened its doors in Battle Creek.

The hotel, owned by Battle Creek Hotels LLC and managed by Amerilodge Group LLC is located at 12891 Harper Village Drive. 

Combining innovative technology with style and comfort aimed at pleasing the business traveler, Courtyard by Marriott ’s modern and open lobby provides guests with flexibility to work or relax.

The new room design balances work, relaxation, comfort and sleep.  Comfortably productive rooms and multi-purpose public areas invite and enable enjoyment. 

Standard rooms come with one king or two double beds and pull-out sofa. A separate seating area enables guests to relax and unwind. And a large work desk with bright lighting enhances productivity. It even has an ergonomic chair for comfort.  

The  hotel's free business center with printing service is another feature. The hotel also boasts free wi-fi.

There is a well-equipped fitness center with indoor pool. 

"From day one, Courtyard has prided itself as a brand that listens to business travelers," Janis Milham, senior vice president, Modern Essentials and Extended Stay Brands tells Travel Daily News. "Today’s technology has changed how people travel. Our guests want a room that has purpose and flexibility that enables a seamless transition between relaxing and working. Courtyard is designed to offer them a relaxing and functional space to work the way they want to, when they want to."

Source: Courtyard by Marriott

Jobs for Michigan's Graduates receives $20,000 from AT&T

Six years ago Kinexus' Jobs for Michigan Graduates program started at Benton Harbor High School. To date, 184 participants in the class have finished high school and nearly 65 percent have gone on to post-secondary education or employment.  

The class is offered as an elective during the regular school day. Students experience mentoring, work and college visits. They also receive instruction in 37 employability skills identified by the national Jobs for America’s Graduates curriculum.

Now, AT&T is showing its support for the program. AT&T is investing $20,000 in Kinexus’ Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates program at Benton Harbor High School.  

The funds from AT&T will be used in the 2014-2015 school year to serve more students, provide staff training, and pay for a Benton Harbor High School student to attend the Jobs for America’s Graduates Leadership Conference in Washington D.C.

"AT&T has made it both a national and a Michigan priority to help more students reach the important goal of high school graduation," says Jim Murray, president of AT&T Michigan. "Through mentoring by our employees and support of successful programs like Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates, we hope to give all Michigan students a chance at a good education and a solid foundation for future success."

Kinexus Executive Director Todd Gustafson says the grant demonstrates how connections between the public, private, and nonprofit sectors can support "innovative solutions to address economic challenges and set students up for success in the 21st century workplace."

Benton Harbor Superintendent Dr. Leonard Seawood says the school district appreciates AT&T's generosity and its willingness to help more students realized the importance of high school graduation.

Source: Kinexus

Teachers (and others) with ideas for inspired learning can apply for Learning Network funds

Four people who have a passion for inspiring young people will have a chance to receive a $2,500 grant from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation as part of a program of The Learning Network.

The Inspired Learning Grants are available to any educator, volunteer, support staff or paraprofessional working in a professional setting, including a school, a nonprofit or a private organization in Kalamazoo County who works with kids from birth to age 18.

There's no grant application to fill out, either. Instead, applicants are asked to upload a video that is 30 to 240 seconds (that's no more than 4 minutes) to The Learning Network Facebook contest page

Each video should include the Inspired Learning program idea and how a grant would help bring it about.

Tell why the program is exciting to you personally; what impact it would have on young people in the community and why it inspires learning.

The video should also include what success for this program will look like: what are the educational outcomes.

See an example of what The Learning Network is looking for here.

The deadline for submissions is Nov. 25. Public voting on Facebook will determine the top 12 videos for final judging. Between Dec. 1 and Dec. 12 registered Facebook users will be able to vote for their favorite videos. The 12 videos that receive the most "likes" will advance to the panel judging phase. A panel of qualified judges from The Kalamazoo Community Foundation and the community will determine the four winners.

The contest organizers say there is no need to be a video star or to create anything with high production values. A winning application could be shot with a cell phone if the idea is inspiring enough.

"This is not about fancy video quality or editing," organizers say. "It's about your passion as an educator and the creativity of the presentation."

“Our local educators make a tremendous impact on the lives of youth in our community, and often they have innovative ideas for new programs that simply don’t fit existing budgets,” says Amy Slancik, community investment officer for TheLearning Network at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. “This program is about helping bring those ideas to life so they can be tested on a small scale and we can all learn from them.”

Source: The Learning Network

Elizabeth Coaching Cycling Studio gets ready, set to open

Loretta Holmes and business partner Thom Figueroa know how to win competitions like the Iron Man and through cycling training they help others get to the winner's podium.

Together, they will open Elizabeth Coaching and Cycling Studio Nov. 1 at 3664 Niles Road in St. Joseph. The business is a natural progression for Holmes who has been coaching people on cycles for about a year. 

The former spin instructor says she found cycling to be key in taking training to the next level.

Her business partner, Thom Figueroa, will work primarily with the "hardcore" athletes, while Holmes says she will work with those starting out and others who want to improve.

To help athletes get where they want to be, the Cycling Studio has 13 Wahoo KICKRs, which holds a bicycle without the rear wheel. Those in training bring their bike to the studio, take off the rear wheel, put the bike in the Wahoo KICKR and hang their wheel on the wall.

The KICKR's resistance is controlled by the App on an iPhone or iPad. The software used has the ability to bring up race courses from around the world, allowing athletes to train for a specific course as if they were there. The course also can be seen on a 100-inch-television screen in front of the bike. The KICKR measures heart rate, calories burned, power used and other information that can be used by the trainer to develop the regimen needed to propel the athlete forward.  

During an initial visit the trainers will give athletes a threshold test to determine what level they are at and help decide what training is needed.Training sessions run for a full hour. The first visit is free and the second visit is $20. Subsequent training is sold in packages.

The studio is in about 1,000 square feet and next spring the business also will feature gear such as helmets and offer a shoe fitting room. Information about proper nutrition for the athlete in training will be another service found there.

Holmes has been a competitive cyclist since 2008. She also competes in Aquabike races, a triathlon without running for those who may have suffered knee or hip injuries but still want to compete. In 2013, Holmes placed 1st in Michigan, 2nd in the Midwest and 14th nationally in her age group in Aquabike.

Her coaching business grew out of her frustrations as an athlete in training. As she says on her blog: "I have personally experienced is lack of training programs specifically for women cyclists and novice swimmers. I understand what it is like to swim in open water for the first time. I understand what is is like to recover from a cycling crash. I understand the fear of coming in last. I understand the act of balancing motherhood, being a wife to my husband, responsibilities at work, and finding time to train."

Her success in the 2013 AquaBike season, also inspired her to open her own coaching business.

Holmes' motto is "Life is a beautiful ride," but few would describe her ride in life as an easy one. Abandoned as an infant at an orphanage, she spent the first year of her life there without the loving touches babies need. She went on to become the second adopted child of a previously childless couple. Shortly after Holmes was adopted her mother found out she was terminally ill and she died when Holmes was 4. The father who adopted her shortly remarried to a woman with four children of her own. Holmes describes her family life as toxic, one she has overcome through working with young people, especially her two children.

In fact, the coaching business is named after Holmes' daughter Jamie Elizabeth. "When we were trying to name the business Thom said we could keep the name of my coaching business since it obviously meant a lot to me. He was very kind to do that."

Source: Loretta Holmes, Elizabeth Coaching and Cycling Studio

Construction to begin at 32 W. Michigan in Battle Creek

Construction will begin this week on a historic building in downtown Battle Creek recently acquired by Hampton LLC.

The building that went up in 1920 is slated to undergo $1.3 million in renovations. Battle Creek Unlimited acquired the building in 2009 as part of the Downtown Transformation Initiative and listed the property for sale in November 2011 through the Building Momentum program. The program offered several downtown buildings for the cost of title transfer in exchange for development projects that demonstrate "substantial economic impact." 

The anchor tenant for the 12,254-square-foot building will be the Battle Creek Community Foundation. The Foundation will occupy 8,900 square feet, a portion of the first floor and the entire second floor. The building also will feature four small retail units, three of which could be used for pop-up businesses or entrepreneurs just getting started in business. The spaces range from 1,360 square feet to 330 square feet. Construction is expected to be completed by late 2015.

What has people excited about the renovation of 32 W. Michigan Ave., which is commonly known as 28 W. Michigan, is that it is a homegrown project.

"This is exciting because Tara is a Battle Creek entrepreneur and when you have homegrown projects people tend to put more loving care into them," says  Rob Peterson, Downtown Development Director for Battle Creek Unlimited, the economic development organization for the City of Battle Creek.

The project builds on the effort of the last few years that includes the new downtown infrastructure, says Peterson. “The next phase of Battle Creek’s transformation will involve the work of entrepreneurs like Tara Hampton and the tenants who will locate in the building. It’s exciting to see it come to life.”

Hampton owns and operates The Fitness Loft, a state-of-the-art fitness training facility with two locations in downtown Battle Creek. She says that after two years working on plans for the building it is exciting to see it get to the point where construction is set to begin, especially considering the dynamic nature of the transformation of the building.

“This is a great reuse of an historic building. I’m thrilled that this project will include smaller retail options along West Michigan Avenue,” says Battle Creek Mayor Dave Walters. “This has been a void for some time.”

Source: Battle Creek Unlimited

Michigan Municipal League gives recognition to IMG

Each year the Michigan Municipal League recognizes a small number of individuals for the outstanding contributions they have made to Michigan communities.

This year, Issue Media Group, the network of online news magazines including Southwest Michigan's Second Wave, received a Special Award of Merit.

“IMG covers what’s next in cities, creating new narratives that document transformation and growth,” League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin says in a release on the 2014 award ceremony in Marquette. “If you ever hear someone say there’s nothing positive happening in Michigan, then be sure to direct them to any of the IMG media websites because reporting on the good things taking place in our state is what they do.”

The Detroit-base IMG covers stories about economic growth, innovation, and the people who are making a difference in their communities. IMG publications are in 21 regions across the U.S. and Canada. In Michigan, IMG publications are: Model D in Detroit; Concentrate in Ann Arbor; Metromode in metro-Detroit; Capital Gains in Lansing; Rapid Growth in Grand Rapids; and Second Wave in Southwest Michigan, Northwest Michigan, Mid-Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

"Receiving this award is a special honor for us," says Issue Media Group Co-Founder Brian Boyle. "Our primary goal has always been uncovering and sharing stories of transformational, small-scale change in our readers' communities. Recognition from an organization like the Michigan Municipal League bolsters our mission and inspires us to work even harder to celebrate community growth and place-making efforts across the state."

Another award of merit went to Paw Paw Village Manager Larry Nielsen. He has been the Paw Paw Village manager since 2007 and was previously the manager in Bangor. In 2013, he agreed to help the city of Bangor by serving as its temporary manager while the community searched for a permanent manager. During this time, he simultaneously served both Paw Paw and Bangor.

Nielsen is a past member of the Michigan Municipal League Board of Trustees and a long-time member of the Michigan Local Government Management Association, which gave him the Excellence in Local Government Award earlier this year. He’s volunteered on numerous League boards and committees, including the Workers’ Compensation Fund Board, the League Finance and Taxation Committee, and the Workers’ Compensation Fund Audit Committee.

Nielsen has spoken at League training programs whenever asked, is a strong donor and supporter of the MML Foundation, and is always there to assist MML with its legislative efforts.

"Plus, Larry is a character--literally and figuratively," says Gilmartin. "He’s very involved in his local community theatre and can be frequently seen acting, writing, producing and directing plays."

Source: Michigan Municipal League

Brite Eyes will open each day with coffee, close with beer

The next addition to the Southwest Michigan craft beer scene hopes  not only to serve high quality cold ones, but some of the best hot beverages in town, too.

In a way, Brite Eyes Brewing Co. owes its forthcoming existence as much to non-drinkers as it does to those who enjoy tipping back a craft brew or two.

"My wife does not drink," says Brian Pierce, Brite Eyes founder and brewer. "I love craft beer, but when I drag her to a craft beer bar they don't always have something for her."

Which is why besides offering a rotating list of beers, Brite Eyes will also function as a coffee house, art studio, and local craft and food market.

"It's going to be a unique atmosphere. We're going to have a merch area that will be like a little general store and Kalamazoo gift shop. Very similar to Made in Kalamazoo. We'll have our stuff, some craft folks who have merchandise, a newsstand, so you can grab a paper, coffee you can take home, bread from Victorian Bakery," Pierce says.

Named in part for the Brite Tank, a large, stainless steel vessel used to carbonate and store beer, Brite Eyes will be located at 1156 S. Burdick Street and will give Pierce, a musician, former deli worker and home brewer, a chance to blend three of his passions: art, food, and libations.

Pierce has spent the past year in full on fundraising mode, and is now about ready to start retrofitting the former indoor farmers market building to house his brewing equipment, a kitchen and the coffee house and pub.

"We've been in fundraising mode for a while and now were looking to get into the build out," Pierce says. "In November we want to get to work on the building. We're thinking about two months build out and then a soft opening period where we have the coffee house and deli going while we're being licensed for the brewhouse. Once we can serve beer we'll have the grand opening in the spring."

During the day, Brite Eyes will function as a full-on coffee house and lunch spot serving coffee locally roasted by Johnny Java and offering a menu of gourmet sandwiches, salads, and soups then transition into brewery mode during the late afternoon and evening.

"We want to be more of a place where people come with their laptops and get some work done, or have a business lunch, maybe come after work for a couple drinks. We won't be open late, maybe 9 p.m. during the week 11 p.m. on the weekend," Pierce says.

Pierce hopes the business will draw people down South Burdick and function as a place where people either begin their evenings out or stop by on their way home from work.

Though Brite Eyes will start small, Pierce says if the reception is strong enough there is room in the building to expand.

"The little strip of property out front on the corner of Burdick and Crosstown is city owned, but the owners of our building are working on acquiring that so we can put a beer garden in," Pierce says.

Other potential expansions could be expedited as Pierce has first right of refusal of the back space which is currently an artists studio, and also first right or refusal in purchasing the building outright if the owners choose to sell.

"If that comes to pass we could put a much bigger brewery out back," Pierce says.

First though, Pierce is just wants to get Brite Eyes open and give area beer and coffee fans somewhere mutually agreeable to gather.

"Somewhere to bring the coffeehouse world and the brewery world together--somewhere where you can sit and hang out with friends no matter what you choose to drink," Pierce says.

For more information on Brite Eyes Brewing Co. visit: briteeyesbrewingco.com

From Earth Fare to Hilton Homewood Suites, development brisk on Westnedge corridor

As the retail economy in Portage continues to expand retailers are looking for ways to enter the market. "Currently, there are more retailers looking to enter our market than there are  good options available," says Cole Rathbun, Marketing and Leasing Associate for Hinman Co.

One of the places they are finding options is on the Westnedge Avenue retail corridor from Kilgore Road to I-94. The Hinman Co. reports that In the past few months, there has been an increase in new development activity in that half-mile stretch of Westnedge and three developments are occurring on Hinman-owned properties.

Increased retail demand also reflects the completion of the I-94/Westnedge interchange. That work took more than a year to finish and during that time it was difficult for retail customers to navigate that stretch of the Westnedge corridor. Retailers waited to enter the market till the project was done.

"The completion of the interchange project greatly improved the navigability of the main retail corridor and created a strong link between the retail trade areas to the north and south of I-94," says Rathbun.

Willow Creek Shopping Center, at 5132-5228 S. Westnedge Avenue, is one of the developments that has been changing in recent months. The development has two buildings--one that is about 19,440 square feet and another about 25,000 square feet--that went up in the mid- to late-1950s and have been revamped a number of times over the years.

The retail center now has 13 tenants including Biggby Coffee, Jersey Giant Subs and H&R Block. Dollar Tree became the most recent retailer in the Willow Creek Shopping Center. Next will be Dental Dreams, a family dentist office. Suite construction for the dentist's office is underway in anticipation of a November opening. A new Hometown Urgent Care, the Midwest’s largest fully equipped urgent care and occupational health center, is also under construction.

"The combination of a more accessible trade area, and new investment in the site, building, and signage at Willow Creek helped attract some of those retailers who had put Portage on hold, or were seeking a second location within the market," says Rathbun. Construction at Willow Creek has been handled primarily by the Hinman Co.

Next door to Willow Creek, people are keeping a close eye on progress of Hinman’s newest retail development, Westnedge @ Kilgore, where the supermarket of natural and organic food Earth Fare is the anchor tenant. Earth Fare will occupy 23,800 square feet of the new center and a 3,200-square-foot suite is being built for lease there.

"A specialty/organic grocery store has always been identified as one of the highest and best uses for this site," Rathbun says. "We have been presented with other opportunities over the years that we felt didn’t quite fit within the overall vision. We are very committed to delivering a high quality and successful development at this at this location, and we are excited to  bring Earth Fare to the Portage community."

The shopping center's proximity to surrounding neighborhoods with strong income and education demographics and to Westnedge Avenue made it attractive to Earth Fare when it was looking for a location for its first store in Michigan.

Activity also has been brisk at The Trade Centre at I-94 and Westnedge Avenue where the Hilton Homewood Suites is under construction. This all-suites hotel is expected to open in the summer of 2015 and will be located directly next to the Courtyard by Marriott hotel that opened last year. The Trade Centre is owned by local real estate developers Roger Hinman of Hinman Co. and Joe Gesmundo of AVB Construction.  

"The Courtyard by Marriott far exceeded its occupancy  projections at Trade Centre--a key factor in the decision to construct the Hilton Homewood Suites," says Rathbun. "The Trade Centre location at Westnedge and I-94 offers both brands great recognition along I-94, and is easily accessible from all parts or the market, including downtown, the airport, and campus."

Source: Cole Rathbun, Hinman Co.

The Polish Ambassador tour to help plant edible forest in Kalamazoo

David Sugalski, better known as The Polish Ambassador (TPA), says he believes the music scene is evolving to a point where projects to improve the community and dance party celebrations co-exist, where music and mobilization for social change go hand-in-hand.

TPA is testing his ideas in a 30-city tour, crowd-funded through IndiGoGo, in which concert-goers are invited to take action in their communities. By turning out and pitching in, his fans are proving him right.

The Pushing Through the Pavement tour has been packing in TPA's fans and they in turn -- 300 of them in San Francisco -- are helping with projects that promote permaculture: "living in a balanced way on the earth and designing relationships of mutual support between people and the ecosystems they inhabit."

"Perhaps we can consider this a seed that is being planted to inspire other artists to do something similar," TPA says.

When TPA comes to Kalamazoo he will be in concert at 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25 and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 26, the action day project is planting an edible urban forest at the Riverview Launch property, 1523 Riverview Dr.

A public food forest has been described as a community garden steroids and the concept comes out of the community garden movement. The public is invited to gather the fruit from the trees and bushes in the edible forest. Plants and trees that restore the nutrients in the ground also are planted. Only a handful of public food forests have been created in the United States.

The forest on the Riverview Launch property will be in a spot that will be close to the bee condo on the property and is expected to be about 200 square feet. It will complement the plantings of native species already growing on the property. 

Evan Granito, of MSU Extension says it is the first project of its kind that his office has been involved in. Soul Springs Permaculture, the Kalamazoo County Land Bank are also working on the project.

Riverview Launch, located along the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail and on the bank of the Kalamazoo River, is a formerly blighted and foreclosed property undergoing a transformation as a project of the Kalamazoo County Land Bank. The site will host community education and youth programming space, promote access to the Kalamazoo River and trail-ways, and be the home of offices for the Land Bank and the bicycle training and maintenance program, Open Roads.

In Kalamazoo, trees that have been donated for the forest include: pecan trees, two varieties of plums, hackberry trees, and others. Gooseberry, raspberry and cherry bushes will be planted. Trees that will help retain nutrients in the area are goumi and gray alders.

Another unique feature is that an ancient redwood will be donated to be the start of a redwood grove. The trees come from David Milarch. He owns a tree cloning nursery in Copemish, Mich., and has worked on a cloning and reforestation project since he first became concerned about the disappearing forests in the 1990s. Since then he has grown thousands of genetic duplicates of redwoods and sequoias. Such trees are known for their ability to absorb carbon dioxide to help fight climate change.

Milarch of Archangel Tree Archive will be the keynote speaker for the action day event.

Karma Hassell, project coordinator for the Kalamazoo County Land Bank, calls the edible forest project "brilliant" and she is excited about the many educational aspects that come along with it.

She says a number of different ideas and locations for the project proposed as part of the tour were examined, but maintenance of the growing plants provided a challenge that was solved by putting it on the Riverview Launch property.

The tour is traveling with a team of permaculture teachers, urban farmers, community organizers, and network weavers alongside a team of musicians, lyricists, and visual artists that make up Jumpsuit Records and The Polish Ambassador concert experience.

"Every show I've ever played, every song I've ever produced, every fan I've ever connected with, it's really all led up to this," says The Polish Ambassador. "This project has become something greater than the music that's come through it, not because of me or you, but because of an open invitation to co-create together."

For more information on the concert, click here
For more information on the action day project, click here

Sources: Evan Granito, MSUE, and Karma Hassell, Kalamazoo County Land Bank

WMU teaches financial markets in new Trading Room

In the main corridor of Schneider Hall on the Western Michigan University campus students can now experience something of Wall Street.

Stock prices scroll across an electronic ticker. Bloomberg and Morningstar terminals provide real-time information as the market moves. And world news updates can be seen on large screens at the front of the Greenleaf Trust Trading Room.

"This space transforms what we are able to do with our students in terms of teaching about the financial markets," says Dr. Devrim Yaman, chair of the Department of Finance and Commercial Law.

Yaman says the U.S. Department of Labor predicts employment in investment and related fields will expand 25 percent by 2020, so it is critical that WMU fully educate students in the wide range of financial assets available for trade and the globalization of securities markets.

The Student Managed Investment Fund, which has served as a large cap manager of a portion of WMU Foundation Funds since 2009 is just one of the classes that will make use of the Trading Room. The fund is managed by a select group of business students and has more than doubled in the last five years, reaching a current value of $1 million.

The room is a gift of Greenleaf Trust and the university says it is very grateful to them for making the space a reality.

"The gift of this trading room allows us to improve the student experience in so many vital ways," says Dr. Kay Palan, dean of the Haworth College of Business. "The facility improves student readiness for careers in the financial sector through an enriched classroom experience, and it allows students to heighten their analytical skills."

The Haworth College of Business will host a grand opening celebration of the Greenleaf Trust Trading Room at 1 p.m. Monday, Oct. 27.  Campus and community members are invited to tour the facility and learn more about it. Those interested in attending should RSVP by calling (269) 387-6059 or by send email here.

Source: Stacey Markin, Western Michigan University

Colored ticker board on black, Copyright AshDesign

Indoor golf center swings into action in St. Joseph

The chill in the air doesn't have to mean it's time to put the golf clubs away now that SWM Indoor Golf has gone into business.

The recreation center which owners describe as the area's first indoor golf center officially opens Oct. 17. From 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. that day golfers of all levels will be able to compete for prizes in a series of challenges such as closest-to-pin, long drive, putting, and bunker shot.

SWM Indoor Golf  at 600 Langley Avenue in St. Joseph offers 2,700 square feet  state-of-the-art golf simulators where golfers of all ages can play a round of golf or work on their swing on the virtual driving range.

Richard Askren and Michael Alexander, both from Coloma, and avid golfers, developed the idea for their new business several years ago. They wanted to create a facility where golfers could play the game all year long, but Askren and Alexander were not sure how to go about making it happen.

They turned to Cornerstone Alliance for assistance. "We knew that our idea was a good one, but weren’t completely certain on how to implement the logistics to make it happen; they were such a great resource, and this experience would have been much more difficult without their expertise and guidance," says Askren.

Plans for leagues and lessons are in the works. So are plans offer a portable golf simulator for rent to be used off site.

Golfers will be able to reserve time on the simulators to play a round of virtual golf or practice their swing beginning Oct. 19.

"Golf is such a popular sport, and with so many great courses in our area, we wanted to develop a space where golfers of all skill levels could hone their game throughout the year, and not have to risk losing momentum due to our sometimes long and cold winters," says Askren.

Source: Susan Cox, Cornerstone Alliance

Hilton Garden Inn celebrates recent opening

In mid-August, the Hilton Garden Inn of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph opened its doors. Now the grand opening of the $10 million property is being celebrated with an official ribbon cutting.

The hotel is located just off  Interstate-94 and is in close proximity to LECO, Whirlpool Headquarters, DC Cook Plant, Bosch, University of Notre Dame, Lake Michigan College and Andrews University. Celebration! Cinema is also nearby.

The hotel features 106 rooms, including guest rooms and suites. The hotel also offers a large meeting space offering more than 4,200 square feet of meeting space, located in the Chateau Ballroom.

Each guest room has Hilton's bedding featuring fresh, white duvets and linens. A desk, with an ergonomic desk chair, a 42-inch LCD TV and an in-room "hospitality center" with a mini fridge, microwave and coffee also are found.

The hotel offers many features including:

• complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the hotel;

• a 24-hour business center with Print Spots remote printing;

• state-of-the-art fitness center;

• and an indoor pool.

The Garden Grille and Bar offers a full cooked-to-order breakfast, dinner, cocktails, and evening room service.

Sam Patel and AJ Jariam are co-owners of the hotel which is one of 564 other Hilton’s throughout the world.

The ribbon cutting will be at 4:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 27, at Hilton Garden Inn, 1300 Cinema Way, Benton Harbor.

Sources: Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce, Hilton Garden Hotel


Bell's Eccentric Cafe to grow its size and menu

Last week Bell's Brewery announced it was looking for a lot of good people to join its operations. This week it announced one of the places it will be needing those people is at Bell's Eccentric Cafe, 355 E. Kalamazoo Ave.

The Eccentric Cafe, which currently is at 2,048 square feet (excluding the atrium, patio, garden and entertainment space) will triple in size. It will occupy more than 6,600 square feet as space now used for storage and warehouse space is converted, opening room for an additional 130 seats.

The space was part of Bell's original brewery and once a full service gas station.

The company's high quality beer is the inspiration for the expanded gastro pub. "Our goal is to match and even enhance the high quality beer that is already being served with high quality food and service," says Jason Reicherts, Bell's director of retail.

Both the dining and kitchens areas of the Eccentric Cafe will be revamped.

The new dining space will feature a gas fireplace and a mosaic tiled floor. The bar inside the original cafe will be expanded into space where the current 150-square-foot kitchen now stands, adding room for more seating.

The number of employees for the cafe is expected to rise to about 120 and an employee area for them is part of the plans.  

Reicherts says there will be ongoing training for staff as they learn the latest news in the craft beer industry and about food and beer pairings.

The new menu, which Bell’s President and Founder Larry Bell and kitchen management are creating together, is still being developed. Early indications are it will feature fish and chips, fresh ground burgers (made of more than beef), unique salads, smoked meats, steamed mussels and eggs prepared in a variety of ways. Food will be locally sourced whenever possible. Organic and non-GMO foods also will be sought out. 

Construction has begun on the new kitchen and dining room. Local architect Nelson Nave, structural engineer Nehil-Sivak and construction company Maxwell & Associates are all working on the project.

As work proceeds there may be some inconveniences for customers "but the end result will be more than worth it," says Reicherts. "We hope our customers will be patient with us as we work to bring them an even better experience here at the Eccentric Cafe."

Source: Josh Smith, Bell's Brewery Inc.

Changes ahead for Michigan Avenue and Stadium Drive corridor

On the screen is a tangle of red arrows. These are the various lanes of traffic on Stadium Drive from Lovell to Michigan Avenue. And the way they overlap and curve around one another is one of the reasons pedestrians and bicyclists find those intersections so treacherous.

At a recent public meeting at the Raddison, the culmination of nearly a week's worth of analysis and community input on the Stadium Drive and Michigan Avenue corridors in Kalamazoo, a plan emerged that untangled the traffic lanes, created intersections with right angles and added green spaces. (See slides 26 and 27 here.) 

It was just one of the ideas in the early steps of creating what are known as Complete Streets: Streets that are designed to be safe for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders. The Complete Street concept has been promoted in Kalamazoo since 2013.

Between Sept. 30 and Oct. 3 city leaders and transportation professionals from Michigan Department of Transportation and consultants took a look at Stadium Drive and Michigan Avenue from Western Michigan University to the Kalamazoo River.

A bike ride with Mayor Bobby Hopewell drew 40 participants, a pub crawl attracted 25, times when people could drop in to let planners know their thoughts on the transportation needs of the traffic corridor drew 110, there were 230 face-to-face interactions took place with planners, and another 840 people left comments on a map. Altogether the input of more than 1,275 people was collected as part of the process.

When it was all evaluated, residents told the transportation officials what they wanted was balance, rather than a traffic corridor that accommodated primarily motorized vehicles. They asked for solutions that would reduce the crossing distance pedestrians must travel, create more connections along the route for bicycles, and improve safety for people with disabilities or those who are otherwise vulnerable. Residents were looking for improved transit operations and friendlier service. For cars and trucks they requested improved safety options.

To see comment that people made regarding proposed changes to the Stadium Drive and Michigan Avenue study area please click here.

At the public meeting to show the community the direction plans are taking based on this input, Jeff Chamberlain, deputy city manager of Strategic Planning and Administration for the City of Kalamazoo, told the crowd of about 100 gathered to see the plans that he knows that many plans to improve Stadium Drive and Michigan Avenue have been made in the past and "this one feels different."

Chamberlain said the plan felt more solid than those previously discussed.

Jason Latham, Southwest Region Planner for MDOT, told the group that during the planning process ideas were shared back and forth without the territoriality that often takes place in such settings. "No one was saying, 'That's my road.' It was a network of streets that they all took ownership of together. It was fun to be a part of."

Latham cautioned that  presenting the draft plans Oct. 3 did not mean change would be coming quickly. The next step would be for plan to go to MDOT designers, and that process can take two years. There also is currently no funding in place to make the proposed changes, though officials said during the session that Kalamazoo is the kind of community that finds a way to pull behind a good idea.

Josh Sikich of Alta Planning and Design presented the proposed changes for the route that started at around the intersection of Oliver Street and Stadium and continued on to Michigan Avenue and Kings Highway. At several points during the presentation the audience was asked its reaction to the plans.

Sikich indicated that the No. 1 comment received was that people wanted to see safer crossings, especially for pedestrians. Currently, there are not ways for people to cross safely and it creates a barrier that residents want to see removed.

In response a side path along Stadium Drive for pedestrians and bicycles, that also provides roadway beautification, streetscape enhancements, a better roadway configuration and a plan that treated bicyclists fairly has been suggested.

Though some people wanted an under- or overpass along Stadium, Sikich indicated that was not being considered because they are not used. "People want to be accommodated at street level. If you put them above or below traffic they are at a disadvantage."

A roundabout at Stadium and Michigan also is not being recommended, Sikich said. If one were put in place it would have to be very wide and it would not address the need to help pedestrians through the intersection.

Converting Michigan Avenue from a one-way to a two-way street also was not part of the proposal. "We can provide the benefits of what people want with a one-way street," Sikich said.

What is proposed includes the elimination of the "hodge-podge" of lanes between Oliver and Michigan Avenue. "We would straighten it out and use right angles that work for everyone." A lot of green space also would be added along the corridor. "There is so much space used for pavement. It's not needed and it's only being used so people can weave in and out."

A new gateway for Kalamazoo College, which the school's Greg Diment endorsed wholeheartedly after the meeting, also is proposed.

As the corridor continues onto Michigan Avenue, five 12-foot lanes for traffic would be reduced to one 12-foot lane, three 11 foot lanes a 3-foot green space, a 10-foot cycle track and a 10-foot sidewalk. Parking spaces are proposed on both sides of the roadway.

As the roadway narrows between Church and Rose, four lanes of traffic would be reduced to three. The track for bicycles would turn north on Rose and east on Water Street where it would connect with the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail.

The wider sidewalks from Rose to the Kalamazoo mall would provide what people are looking for in urban areas: places to eat outdoors, and cafes with outdoor seating, places that can accommodate art work. "Fun things that need sidewalk width," Sikich said.

He described Michigan Avenue east of Portage Street as a "great street" that would benefit from some aesthetic treatments. "We want to build off what is already there."

Those in attendance were asked to rate the plan as proposed and using electronic devices, 85 percent indicated they believed a balanced plan had been created.

MDOT's Latham said that though there currently is no funding for the Stadium Drive and Michigan Avenue project: "We want to keep the momentum going." The MDOT planners will not go away, he added. "The process is a long process to make sure we get a good project." 

Kathy Jennings is the managing editor of Southwest Michigan's Second Wave. She is a freelance writer and editor.

Bell's Brewery schedules career day, seeks 100 new employees

Multiple expansion projects for Bell's Brewery, Inc. mean the company is looking for lots of new employees.

Now Bell's has partnered with EmploymentGroup to host the company's first career fair. The event will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 25 at the Comstock Brewery, 8938 Krum Ave. in Galesburg.

Representatives from Bell’s production and leadership teams will be at the event to answer questions about what it is like to work at Bell’s and meet with prospective employees.

Onsite interviews will be conducted for more than 100 full- and part-time positions open at all of Bell's locations. The company says 20 positions will be filled immediately in such areas as maintenance, packaging, shipping and receiving, facilities, housekeeping and internet technology. Hiring for Bell's Eccentric Cafe Kitchen also is scheduled.

The other 80 employees will join Bell's as expansion projects are completed. Bell’s currently employs nearly 300 people across the 20 states to which it distributes.

“This isn’t just a career fair,” says Carrie Overton, Bell’s Director of Human Resources. “It’s about adding to our family. Because of the tremendous support we have received from our community and our fans, we are growing and we need more people."

EmploymentGroup representatives also will be reviewing applications for other jobs in the community. Those interested must bring a resume, be at least 18 years old and have reliable transportation.

Tours of the brewery and light refreshments will be available during the career fair. Regularly scheduled brewery tours for the public have been rescheduled and will be offered at 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. rather than at noon and 4 p.m.

The benefits package at Bell’s includes health insurance plus dental and vision coverage, a 401-k program, paid vacation and personal time, wellness programs, life insurance, and a few other perks that come with working at a brewery.

“The Bell family takes great pride in the fact that we provide world class benefits that provide peace of mind for our employees and their families,” Overton says. “And yes, that does include beer."

For more information, please send email here.

Source: Josh Smith, Bell's Brewery, Inc.
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