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The Devil is in the Details 3/08/2021: more Recreational Cannabis retailers, continued lack of transparency and millions more in public subsidies to private developers and contractors

March 8, 2021

This is our sixth installment of this posting, which takes a critical look at Grand Rapids politics and policies, based primarily on the public record, such as committee agendas and minutes.

There are 4 issues we want to focus on in this installment of The Devil is in the Details, with the first issue being the continued lack of transparency on the 1601 Madison SE project, despite their likely use of public subsidies. 

This is the sixth time in the past three months that we have reported on the AmplifyGR/Rockford Construction – affiliated project at 1601 Madison SE. From the beginning AmplifyGR has been secretive about what business will occupy the 1601 Madison SE property, even though the following exchange took place between 3rd Ward City Commissioner Moody and AmplifyGR’s Executive Director, as was reported by MLive on December 1st:

He (Comm. Moody) said his only concern was that Amplify has not yet revealed the name of the prospective tenant. 

“I have an idea who the tenant is, but I think it’s important that sooner or later you let us know who the tenant is,” Moody said. “Because as a Third Ward commissioner we don’t want anything to slip up on us that we’re not aware of.”

Amplify’s executive director, Jon Ippel, told Moody that he understands “the uneasiness” created by not identifying the tenant.

“We’re hoping that by the end of the year we can be a little bit more public with that,” he said. “So hopefully it’s a matter of weeks and not months.”

Well, it has been month, not weeks, yet despite the complete lack of transparency the City will be awarding a subsidy to this AmplifyGR/Rockford Construction project through the Brownfield Development Authority to the tune of $1,943,810. (See pages 12 – 13 in the Brownfield Development Authority packet for 2/24)

The second issue we want to address is the proposed housing project by the group legally known as 900 W. Leonard LLC. The project shows up in both the Westside Corridor Improvement Authority (beginning on page 9) and the Economic Development Team Project packet for 3/9/2021 (beginning on page 12).

The 900 W. Leonard LLC housing project registered agent is Jack Hoedeman. The address listed for 900 W. Leonard LLC is 280 Ann St NW, Grand Rapids, which is the office of Compass Insurance. Jack Hoedeman is the CEO of Compass Insurance. Hoederman is also co-founder of Victory Development group, which formed in 2020 and lists the 900 W. Leonard Project as their current project.

The 900 W. Leonard LLC project is seeking both a Brownfield Development Authority subsidy of $914,207 and a Neighborhood Enterprise Zone tax exemption for year 1 at $139,751. This will put the total public subsidy over $1 million. 

The third issue we want to draw your attention to is the ongoing development projects that are in the works for Market Ave SW in Grand Rapids. On pages 40 – 45 of the Community Development Committee packet for 3/9/2021, the City of Grand Rapids is proposing to award Kamminga & Roodvoets, Inc.a contract for $8,003,502.80 to, “relocate of a portion of the Eastside Trunk Sewer from parcels on the west side of Market Avenue to Market Avenue right-of-way to allow for the redevelopment to occur on the parcels. The relocated trunk sewer construction will now include Wealthy Street from the Grand River to Market Avenue, Market Avenue from Wealthy Street to Fulton Street and Fulton Street from the Grand River to Market Avenue.” 

Kamminga & Roodvoets, Inc. Was founded by two white business partners and has expanded over the years from just an office in Grand Rapids, to offices in Tennessee and Florida. It’s unfortunate that the City of Grand Rapids continues to award these kinds of contracts to white businesses, instead of Black or Brown business contractors.

The fourth, and last issue, we wanted to draw your attention to today comes from the 3/11/2021 City Planning Commission packet. There are three new Recreational Cannabis retailers set to be approved. The three new Recreational Cannabis retailers are QPS Michigan Holdings, LLC, which will be located at 1148 Leonard St NW; Fish Ladder Holdings, LLC, which is located at 2301 44th St SE; and Nature’s ReLeaf, LLC, which will be at 666 Leonard St NW. It should be noted that QPS Michigan Holdings LLC and Fish Ladder Holdings LLC are both represented by Ankur Rungta, who is the CEO of C3 Industries. The 3rd company listed is Nature’s ReLeaf, LLC, which means that all three of these new Recreational Cannabis Retailers are all businesses that are not based in Grand Rapids. This is not surprising, since it has been the trend so far with both medical and recreational cannabis retailers that have sought approval to do business in Grand Rapids.

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