Our network

Can Grand Rapids get more retail downtown?

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM)- Most people would agree that the restaurant scene in downtown Grand Rapids is thriving, but what about retail? Some say, we don't have enough.

It's been nearly 20 years since the last time the city had a major department store. It was Lazarus, the anchor store at the failed city center. It closed in the late 1990's and now only a few stores in that area remain.

VanHoeck's in downtown Grand Rapids could be considered an anomaly. The specialty shoe store has been in business for over 70 years. Store Manager Brian Mueller says, "They come here because of what we do. Sizes and widths. If we had to survive on what walked by, we wouldn't be here."

Mueller would love to see more retail in downtown Grand Rapids. But, how do you make that happen? The city recently hired a consulting firm, to figure it out.

Food For Families- Farmers help out

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM)- Fruits and vegetables are often out of reach for those struggling to afford food. But not for some families thanks to Project Fresh. It is a pilot program with the State of Michigan for WIC participants that gives them $30 a year towards purchases at farmers markets.

Jill Myer with the Kent County Health Department's Obesity Initiative says, "By having the access, people have the opportunity to have all the nutrients that they need and actually eat better."

Myer says this fills the need for inner-city families who often only have close access to gas stations for food.

"What farmers markets can do is to provide that sort of gap that food deserts create in certain areas of the city," says Myer.

Half of the 21,000 WIC clients are expected to swipe their benefits cards at local farmers markets for Michigan grown produce. That activity is expected to put an extra $2 million into the pockets of farmers.

Habitat for Humanity receives $1.8 million dollar loan to build 10 Kent County homes

Habitat for Humanity receives $1.8 million dollar loan to build 10 Kent County homes

Habitat for Humanity of Kent County is one of 10 Habitat affiliates nationwide to share $20 million of New Markets Tax Credits.  Habitat of Kent County's share will be $1,880,000 in Qualified Low Income Community Investment (QLICI) loan from CEI Capital Management.

The money will be used to build 10 homes in a distressed area of Kent County.  According to a news release, the homes must be in an area where poverty rates are between 25.9% and 40.6% and unemployment is 1.45 to 3.71 times the national average.

The homes will range in size from 1230 to 1530 square feet and be completed between now and December of 2013.

You can find out more information at HabitatKent.org.

Writing as Spiritual Practice: A Weekend Retreat for Women (June 22-24)

Writing as Spiritual Practice: A Weekend Retreat for Women (June 22-24)

Join us at Dominican Center at Marywood for a weekend of sacred rest, writing and communion with other women who love the written word. We will explore various ways in which writing can serve as spiritual practice, connecting us with our spirit and the Divine. Enjoy the luxury of a weekend of writing, walking and being with yourself, Spirit and others. Experience the power of beauty to inspire you; the joy of community with those who understand how writing reveals the soul. This program is ideal for new writers or those who journal as well as the experienced writer. We will feature presentations, group discussions and practice sessions; five delicious meals, labyrinth walk and a movie night.

Belk: Fewer GRPD officers on the streets

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM)- Grand Rapids Police Chief Kevin Belk says he'll continue to work with city leaders to cut costs, but says, "in the end, what it means is fewer officers on the street."  

Belk was reacting to a report released Tuesday that surprised city commissioners.

That report says the city's obligations to pay pension benefits to police and firefighters was is almost $1 million higher than forecast.   That development adds urgency to the police department's efforts to transform itself to a lower-cost operation by the time a public safety millage expires in 2015.

Heartwell: Complain to lawmakers about fireworks

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - City commissioners today moved to curb the use of loud fireworks allowed under new state law.   Michigan this year legalized the high-powered consumer fireworks that were once only available for purchase in other states.   

Grand Rapids Police Chief Kevin Belk says his department gets up to 50 complaints a day about loud fireworks.  The city Tuesday exercised its right to restrict use of those fireworks to only 30 days a year - the ten national holidays and the two days before and after each of those holidays.

Those 30 days are likely to remain noisy however, waking up children and scaring pets, said Mayor George Heartwell.   Heartwell and other commissioners have received many constituent complaints about fireworks.   He urged citizens instead complain to state lawmakers like Roy Schmidt and Dave Hildenbrand.

Troy Evans: Not Your Typical Pastor

Troy Evans: Not Your Typical Pastor

Nick Manes

Troy Evans does not exactly look like a typical pastor. The church he helped to start, The Edge, does not exactly look like a typical church, either. However, Evan’s devotion to both his faith and helping foster a better community through religion and hip-hop music is unrelenting. But Evans hasn't always been the man he is today.

“I was a typical kid in the hood [of Grand Rapids],” Evans says. “I got involved in some pretty negative things.”

Evans explains that he was the victim of sexual molestation at a young age, which led to a “downward spiral" of violence and crime. While many sociologists have argued about drugs and how they permeate poor areas, Evans views it in fairly simplistic terms.

“In some neighborhoods, cats play baseball. In some neighborhoods, there was this new thing called crack. Everyone wanted to try selling it.”