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Old G.R. museum being transformed for Christmas movie


GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) — It may be summer, but part of downtown Grand Rapids felt like Christmas Thursday night.

The old Grand Rapids Public Museum on Jefferson was transformed to look like a department store from the 1960s, all decorated for Christmas -- like Herpolshimer's used to be.

The store setting, and the old Herpolshimer's train, will be used for the filming of a holiday movie called "The Santa Hat," starring Ed Asner.

After filming for the movie is over, three cars from the refurbished train will be part of a nostalgic Christmas display.

"We're getting the community involved to take part in refurbishing this, so people can come down during the holidays and sit in this and have their picture taken, have their kids' picture taken, their grandkids'," explains Patrick Ziegler, co-founder of Fobal Entertainment.

Grand Rapids gets GoSite, a digital visitor center


GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- The city has never had a physical visitor center, a one-stop place where locals and tourists alike can stop and find what to do where. Now, that's changed.

GoSite is situated in what used to be the cafe of the Grand Rapids Art Museum. It's been under study and development for a year. For the foreseeable future, it will only be open Thursday, Friday, and Saturdays.

Kerri VanderHoff, director of the GoSite project, said, "It's an information sharing space; you might say it's a welcome center and then some. It's a place to find and share information for tourists, for locals."

Grand Rapids Children's Museum holds birthday bash


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GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - The Grand Rapids Children's Museum will mark its 17th anniversary Thursday with a big birthday bash.

"We have to celebrate. This is something we started last year- we want to have party with our friends," said Adrienne Brown, marketing and events manager for the museum. "We will celebrate our 17th anniversary of being here, playing here and having fun."

The beach theme party will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. outside the museum, located at 11 Sheldon Avenue NE. Museum visitors will be greeted with a carnival-like atmosphere.

Skunk smell strong in Grand Rapids


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- A West Michigan biologist says the city of Grand Rapids stinks!

He's not being critical. Biologist Christopher Kemp says the expanding metropolitan area is pushing into skunk habitat.

"Skunks are infiltrating areas they have not been seen in before in really large numbers," Kemp says, and when the animals feel threatened, they spray and the odor lasts a long time.

WZZM 13 director Victoria Russman experienced this first hand. Her dog Bailey had an encounter with a skunk.

"She loves other animals, so she went right up to it -- and next thing I know, I hear a 'phewwwww' sound," said Russman. "I knew right away what it was."

Kemp says skunks have few predators and like living near humans. "It's much easier for them to eat left-over pizza than to try to catch a frog."

Arena Place breaks ground in Grand Rapids


GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- Developers Wednesday broke ground on a $45 million project in the Arena District downtown.

Arena Place will be a 200,000 square foot mixed-use property on Ottawa Avenue, southwest of Van Andel Arena. It will include 100 apartments, retail stores, office space, and a four-story parking garage.

Three tenants include a Miller Johnson, law firm which will relocate its headquarters to the space; Meritage Hospitality, which owns the Twisted Rooster restaurant; and Do More Good, the largest ad agency in West Michigan.

"We have been in refurbished buildings for 25 years, we really wanted to get involved in something. In the past we have been a renter and now we are an investor in this project," said Bill McKendry of Do More Good.

In the past, the city couldn't give away the empty lots, but now there is a high demand for apartments and commercial space.

My Town: School agreement expected to grow West Michigan's health industry

My Town: School agreement expected to grow West Michigan's health industry

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.-- Two West Michigan schools are teaming up to help grow West Michigan’s health industry.

Grand Rapids Community College and Davenport University have signed a deal to allow students who finish the medical assistant program at GRCC to transfer to Davenport for a health degree.  As part of the seamless transfer process, students must also pass a certification exam of American Medical Technologists or the American Association of Medical Assistants.

Davenport University President Dr. Richard Pappas says the transfer agreement will help grow the area’s skilled health workforce, in addition to benefiting students.

Davenport offers associates degrees in medical assisting and bachelor’s degrees in a variety of health areas, including medical case management, health services administration and nursing. 

Balyo to plead guilty to child porn charges


GRAND RAPIDS (AP) -- A former host at a popular Christian radio station in western Michigan is expected to plead guilty in a child pornography investigation.

Prosecutors say John Balyo is due in Grand Rapids federal court Tuesday, just weeks after his arrest on state charges at a Christian music festival in Gaylord.

Balyo, 35, is charged with sexual exploitation and possessing child pornography. His signed plea deal was filed in court Thursday.