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Community Endowment connects present with historic figures

July 2, 2009 // 0 Comments

This spring, The Rockford Squire reported that five historic people in the Rockford area were honored at Recognition Plaza at Peppler Park. The event is a newer tradition in its second year and organized by the Rockford Area Community Endowment (RACE). Each year, RACE will honor people from the City of Rockford and the townships of Algoma, Cannon, Courtland and Plainfield. The Endowment was initially formed in the 1960s to finance a school pool and the Towers downtown. It fell dormant after those goals were accomplished and was revived just a few years ago. Among activities of the Endowment is honoring community heroes and leaders. Its purpose is to provide funding for projects in the greater Rockford area. This year the Endowment gave a $1,000 grant for National Night Out, $1,000 to the City of Rockford Police Department for a purchase, and each community in the Endowment received $1,000 for landscaping projects. The Endowment is funded by brick sales at Peppler Park, where the public is invited to purchase a brick either in their own name or business or in honor of a person. The Rockford Squire has a brick there and editor Beth Altena purchased one for Publisher Roger Allen for his 80th birthday last year. It is a wonderful, lasting gift and is appropriate for the person who “has everything.” As of this spring, 269 bricks had been sold. Bricks are just $125 each. To purchase bricks, call the City of Rockford at (616) 866-4465. Also contributing to the Endowment’s assets of $87,5000 (up from $65,000 a year ago) was a December 2008 gift from the Don Berg estate in the amount of $10,000. In addition to the gift of grants, recognizing the people who have contributed significantly to the history of the area is among the Endowment’s goals. When visiting the beautiful Peppler Park Recognition Plaza (on the west side of the dam), take the time to read the names on the bricks under your feet and in plaques on the columns in the park. The following are some of the stories of this year’s honorees, with others to follow in future issues of the Squire.   Gerald Leon Kitson   Gerald Leon Kitson was the son of Leon and Jenny Kitson, […]

Kaleidoscoops helps celebrate Scouting birthdays

July 2, 2009 // 0 Comments

Nothing is better than ice cream to help celebrate a birthday, and Kaleidoscoops on West River Drive offered just that to local Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts. To honor their organizations’ birthdays this year, Scouts received a special birthday certificate for a free kid’s ice cream cone. “This is just one way we can show our appreciation to the kids involved in Scouting, for all their hard work in our community,” said Mark Wiersum, owner. A special program was also offered this year to local schools to reward kids for meeting their academic goals. “Whole families-parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings-came in to help celebrate their students’ achievements. It is fun to hear from the kids what they are doing in school and to know that we are making their learning a little more special, too, with our treats,” said Wiersum. Kaleidoscoops has also been chosen as the official ice cream caterer to the West Michigan Whitecaps, and provides the ice cream cakes for the stadium’s parties. In addition to ice cream products, the store also offers treats for all times of day, from specialty coffees and fresh-baked goods to homemade sandwiches.

Cub Scouts say ‘thanks’ to Crestwood School

July 2, 2009 // 0 Comments

The tiger crouched down in the jungle in front of Crestwood Elementary School and watched as the bear and wolf went by. As soon as they passed, he was ready to spring into action. No, wild animals have not escaped the zoo and invaded Rockford. But the Tiger, Wolf, Bear and Webelo Scouts from Pack 3285 recently sprung into action as they worked to clear the overgrown weed jungle in the front flower beds of their school. This was their way of saying “thank you” to their principal, Doug Hoogerland, and Crestwood Elementary School for sponsoring their group and providing a meeting place for their activities. Led by Cubmaster Stacy Durfee, the Scouts and their families spent three work days clearing weeds, adding new bushes, and trimming and replanting the existing perennials in over 200 feet of flower beds. As a finishing touch, over six yards of landscape stone were added to the beds. Cost of the project was paid for by the Scouts’ fundraising earnings with a portion of the stone donated by Grand Rapids Gravel Co.   “This is so awesome,” exclaimed teacher Lisa Schroeder. “It is so hard to find volunteers to help keep this area neat. The change really makes the area brighter and inviting. The boys have done a wonderful job.”

Proposed sports fields would bring millions to area

June 25, 2009 // 0 Comments

Millions of dollars would come to the area if a proposed sports complex is built on Ten Mile Road. According to Mike Guswiler, Executive Director of the West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC), this area was identified in a study as being ideal for a sports complex. “We really took a look at this and had a consultant come in and tell us what the best sports fields were… They said travel amateur and youth baseball and softball leagues would use the fields Thursday through Sunday,” he stated. The WMSC is a three-year-old organization designed to promote economic opportunities for the area. They identified the site, in part, because it is county-owned. On Thursday, June 11, the WMSC approached the Kent County Board of Commissioners asking if a long-term lease of the property could be arranged for one dollar a year. Roger Morgan, Chairman of the Kent County Board of Commissioners, said their finance committee formed a sub-committee to look into the legalities of such a transaction. “Because that land was purchased by ratepayer dollars, there may be some stipulations as to its use,” he said. He added that he is entirely in support of the project. City Manager Michael Young, who is on the Ten Mile Corridor Committee dedicated to controlling retail growth in the corridor, said this use would be accepted. “We wouldn’t want any of the fast food or retail that can come with this kind of development, but we don’t oppose this use at all,” he said. Guswiler said the study the WMSC is following shows that 12 fields and a championship field would be ideal. It would cost 5.6 million to build, not including any land cost. A donor was identified who would offer a fund-matching gift of part of the amount. That offer is tentatively on hold, however, given the state of the state economy. “We are not a development organization, we are in a position to lead the discussion on this project,” said Guswiler. He said economic growth through increased hotel/motel revenue is a part of the goal in creating a project like this, but not the whole purpose. “Our studies show that people will travel within 40 miles of this complex for shopping, dining and other reasons,” said […]

Cannon Town Square in foreclosure

June 25, 2009 // 0 Comments

The proposed Cannon Town Square development on which Ric’s Food Center sits-and not much else-is in the process of foreclosure. Independent Bank will likely become the owner of the property, and is asking Cannon Township to reduce the amount of the bank line of credit against infrastructure requirements. According to Supervisor Pete MacGregor, the development will “plug and play” for anyone in a position to start building on the site. The infrastructure-roads, sewer, curbs, etc.,-are complete, with the exception of rain gardens. “Everyone loves Ric’s,” MacGregor said. “This board very much wants Ric’s to be successful. When they went in, they expected a whole community to be built around them and those would be their customers. That didn’t happen. They are an island.” MacGregor said the Planned Unit Development at the northwest intersection of Myers Lake Road and Belding Road is slated for 85 single homes, town homes, retail and office. A bank, cafe and restaurant were already approved and one of those businesses could build tomorrow. The proposed development was also slated to boast a clubhouse and park. As it stands, anyone who purchases the development would have to adhere to the conditions of the original PUD. “They can come back and ask for changes,” MacGregor said. The Town Square was designed to be a walkable, neighbor-friendly community. Original developers, Tol Companies Incorporated, planned to have a mix of residential and commercial-a mini-town where residents could virtually do all their shopping without driving their cars. Robert Tol said in December of 2007 that he believed the public was ready for the project, based on the principals of New Urbanism. That concept features walkability, connectivity mixed-use diversity and the theory that people enjoy a pedestrian-friendly design. The project was pushed back by years with changes and negotiation with the township. By the time they were able to build and sell residential and commercial spaces, the economy had tanked. Now the 40-acre center is undeveloped except for  the Ric’s Food Center. MacGregor hopes that won’t be the case in the long-term. “I’d love a developer to drive by and say, ‘Wow! This is an opportunity,’ ”  he said. “I want this to be a beautiful, vivacious, thriving corner. I want it done and done right.”

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