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The Rapid gives annual update to Kent Co. commissioners


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- Just days after the start of the new Silver Line service, the Rapid is celebrating 14 years of continuous growth.

Thursday, the Kent County Board of Commissioners heard an update on the Rapid's latest status.

According to the latest numbers, the service gave 500,000 more rides in 2013 than in 2012.

"When people talk about what we're doing with the money that's invested, we're putting people to work, we are creating jobs, we are bringing people to work," said CEO Peter Varga. "We are creating economic development, and that means that we are supporting the community on a larger level."

The American Public Transportation Association named the Rapid the county's outstanding mid-size system in 2013.


Accused apologetic robber charged


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- The man accused of robbing a credit union in Grand Rapids last week is now facing formal charges.

David Thomas Saunders, 23, is accused of holding up the Lake Michigan Credit Union at the Mercy Health Saint Mary's campus last Monday.

Police say Saunders passed a note to the bank teller, saying that he was armed and demanding cash.

He then reportedly told the teller he was sorry.

Saunders escaped through the hospital but was finally arrested the next day at a home on Grand Avenue in northeast Grand Rapids.


G.R. approves Airbnb rentals with restrictions


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- Grand Rapids city leaders have approved one-room rentals through websites like Airbnb.

Renting rooms without a licence is illegal in Grand Rapids, but the city was trying to find away to accommodate these sites.

One proposal included charging a large fee to advertise open rooms on websites.

The approval of the one-room rentals doesn't come without some restrictions. Only one room can be rented. Only 200 permits will be given out by the city. A maximum of two adults can stay in the room. The owners must live in the home. Neighbors within 300 feet will be informed when a permit is issued.


Bitcoin ATM installed in Grand Rapids


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- It's being called the ATM of the future.

A machine recently installed at the Skywalk Deli in downtown Grand Rapids accepts money and turns it into the digital currency called Bitcoin.

Bitcoin uses a central network for its transactions, instead of a bank, since it's a peer-to-peer technology.

Once a person sets up a Bitcoin account, he or she can exchange money with other users anywhere around the world.


Developers break ground on downtown G.R. redevelopment


GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM)—A major reconstruction project in Grand Rapids' Arena District is officially underway.

The $3.5 million effort started Wednesday with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the site, located at 25 Ottawa. The current 105,000 square foot building will be transformed into high-end office and retail space.

This is the second project in the heart of downtown for local developer Franklin Partners.

"There are a lot of challenges, but one of the benefits we have renovating it is that we don't have a lot of tenants in it right now so it is not much of a disruption to them," says Don Shoemaker with Franklin Partners. "It really has more attributes, like the great wood columns, it's got the great exposed wood ceilings, a lot of natural brick and a lot of the natural structure is really attractive."

The renovations should be complete by June 2015.


Developers unveil plans for downtown G.R. entertainment complex


GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM)— Plans for a new entertainment complex in downtown Grand Rapids are moving forward.

The Venue would be a 20,000 square foot entertainment complex at Fulton Street and Ottawa Avenue, adjacent to The BOB. The Gilmore Collection is teaming up with Orion Real Estate Solutions for the development, which they say would accommodate 2,400 visitors and create 120 jobs.

The complex would also feature a beer garden and food kiosks. A second, 20-story building called The Venue Towers would be integrated into The Venue and would feature 104 market-rate apartments that would include a skywalk to the Ottawa Avenue parking ramp. John Wheeler of Orion said "It's believable it's finance-able and people like living in a neighborhood - not huge and not too small - and the location is perfect."

Spectrum gets K9 for security team


GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - Spectrum Health welcomed a furry, new member to its security team Monday morning.

"Fix" is a German shepherd and came to Michigan all the way from the Czech Republic.

He has been training for five weeks with a Spectrum Health Security police officer to prepare for his new role, which includes sniffing out possible explosives and suspects, patrolling the hospital, and building relationships with staff, visitors and patients of all ages.

Fix's handler says he's a "goofball" who will work hard for a chance to play.