MUSKEGON, MI -- When Jonathan Seyferth talks about how far downtown Muskegon has come in the past decade, he pulls out the "sandbox photo."
The photo, taken almost exactly 10 years ago, is shocking and inspiring at the same time. Taken from what had been the Sears entrance to the Muskegon Mall, it shows a desert-like landscape and two boarded-up raggedy buildings.
That's it. That was the core of downtown Muskegon on Aug. 3, 2004.
MUSKEGON, MI -- Muskegon Community College is set to break ground on its new science center, and the public is invited to help celebrate.
The groundbreaking will begin at noon on Wednesday, Sept. 3, in the Stevenson Center courtyard.
The $9.6 million project is part of several building and improvement plans approved by voters last November. The state is paying for $4.65 million of the project while the college is funding the rest.
K.L. Industries is planning a $5 million expansion and adding dozens of new jobs to keep up with the booming demand for its kayaks.
Most of the expansion will come in the form of four new machines that can produce the popular kayaks that can be found in such stores as Dunham's, Dick's Sporting Goods and Wal-Mart.
"We've just been getting really, really busy. We've been getting busier and busier," said Tom Harris, president of Ameriform Acquisition, 1790 Sun Dolphin Drive, which is K.L. Industries' parent company.
August 21, 2014 --- The last of four European cargo ships due to arrive in the Port of Muskegon this summer is expected to do so on Aug. 28, according to Ed Hogan, vice president of operations for Port City Marine Services.
The 468-foot HR Maria is carrying wind turbine towers bound for the Beebe Community Wind Farm in Gratiot County, south of Mount Pleasant and north of Lansing.
The arrival date is subject to change, Hogan said.
The heavy lift dry cargo vessel was built in 2008 and is owned by the German company Hammonia Reederei. As of Wednesday, Aug. 20, the ship was located in the North Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Portugal, according to marinetraffic.com.
The HR Maria is the last of four ships due to arrive at Muskegon's Mart Dock this summer. All four have been carrying wind turbine parts. The HHL Congo was the most recent to arrive when it was docked on Aug. 18.
August 19, 2014 --- The Lakeshore Art Festival, in existence for two years, has already established itself as one of the premier art events in West Michigan.
The 2014 festival, held on July 4-5, drew an estimated 50,000 people to downtown Muskegon, according to event organizers. The estimated attendance is an increase from 2013.
The 2014 event featured two new additions including an Art Carve, in which students and professors from Baker College's Culinary Institute of Michigan created sculptures made entirely of food. Several other interactive art activities were also part of the festival.
"We received a lot of positive feedback about the interactive art opportunities this year and we hope to build upon this for next year's event," said Festival Director Carla Flanders.
There were 240 art vendors, 47 children's events and 18 street performers at the 2014 event. A juried art and craft fair and craft market exhibition were also held. Winners included:
Fine Art/Fine Craft Juried Winners (Juried by artist, professor and curator Brett Colley):
The MLive People's Choice Awards
Midsize cities in West Michigan could soon see more live-work options coming online.
The reason: Developers are eyeing myriad opportunities for mixed-use projects beyond cities such as Grand Rapids, albeit on a reduced scale.
For proof, one need only tour the downtowns of cities such as Kalamazoo and Muskegon, where developers are navigating complex incentive programs to redevelop aging facilities and bring new amenities online throughout the region.
“I think you are seeing good growth in every midsize downtown in the state, even though they may not all get headlines,” said Andrew Haan, an associate director in the state’s Office of Urban and Metropolitan Initiatives.
August 17, 2014 --- Cinema Carousel's extensive makeover is getting closer to completion.
Loeks Theaters Inc., which owns the Muskegon-area's largest movie theater facility at 4289 Grand Haven Road, has begun an extensive modernization of its auditoriums.
Remodeled auditoriums, additional seating, sound and movie screen upgrades and beer and wine sales are all part of the $2.5 million rejuvenation project, which began in March. The remodeling follows last summer's digital cinema upgrade at the Getty Drive-In, 920 E. Summit Ave.
"We believe one of the best ways to serve Muskegon is to reinvest in it," said J.D. Loeks, president and CEO of Loeks Theaters Inc. "Our family has been part of the West Michigan movie-going scene for 70 years. We know our guests will love the innovation in seating, presentation and our food and beverage options."
Initial upgrades in March included the remodeling of a single auditorium, No. 13, and the acquiring of a liquor license to allow for beer and wine sales, which began about two weeks ago, according to Steve VanWagoner, vice president of marketing and public Relations for Celebration! Cinema.
So far, reaction to the new auditorium has been largely positive, according to a press release.
The process to remodel the remaining auditoriums recently began and will continue until mid-November. Beer and wine sales were recently added as well and reserved seating for all seats will be added by Dec. 1 in time for the busy holiday release season.
VanWagoner said there are currently no plans to offer food from the Oscar Bistro,located at its Studio C! Meridian Mall location in the Lansing area, in Muskegon.
"We believe in the power of story-telling," Loeks said. "It brings people together in meaningful ways. For a long, long time, the Muskegon market has been a good one for telling stories to movie-goers. They've built great memories here. It's been our pleasure to serve the Lakeshore community."
Celebration! Cinema movie theatres are located in Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Gaines Township, Grandville, Lansing, Muskegon/Norton Shores, Okemos, Kalamazoo/Portage, Benton Harbor/St. Joseph and Mt. Pleasant.
August 8, 2014 --- Three more large cargo ships are set to arrive in the Port of Muskegon this month, according to Ed Hogan, vice president of operations for Port City Marine Services.
All three "salties" will be carrying wind turbine parts bound for the Beebe Community Wind Farm in Gratiot County, south of Mount Pleasant and north of Lansing. The first ship of the year, the Hansa Heavy Lift (HHL) Elbe, a 454-foot cargo ship, arrived at Muskegon's Mart Dock on July 8.
The next ship, the HR Constitution, is due to arrive on Aug. 13, Hogan said. The vessel is carrying wind turbine towers from Korea. As of 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 7, it was located in St. Lawrence River. Hogan said he wasn't sure what time of day the ship would arrive.
Two more ships will follow the Constitution. The HHL Congo, carrying wind turbine blades from Germany, is scheduled to arrive on Aug. 17. It will be followed by the HR Maria, which is carrying wind turbine towers, on Aug. 24.
All the arrival dates are subject to change, Hogan said.
As of the 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 7, the Congo was located in the Celtic Sea while the Maria was located in the Mediterranean.
"The Constitution was originally supposed to arrive on Sunday," he said. "Dates can always fluctuate. There's a hurricane in the Atlantic right now and that seems to be slowing things down."
Those interested in seeing the ships come into the Port of Muskegon can do so at the Muskegon Channel although it's impossible to tell what time of day they will come in as of now.
Still, the presence of the ships in the area is exciting, Hogan said.
"I think it's really a positive for the whole area," he said. "People are really excited; it's so nice to see all the activity from the public."
August 7, 2014 --- It started 150 years ago with an abandoned factory.
It was 1864 when entrepreneur John Watt Johnston, a direct descendent of steam engine pioneer James Watt, purchased the defunct Turnbull Boiler Works building on the banks of the Grand River.
Little did he know he was founding a company whose business destiny would parallel the industrial growth of the nation for more than a century.
Johnston Boiler Company, located at 300 Pine St., celebrated its 150th anniversary late last week, and for those who have been part of the company the longest, the day held special meaning.
"I'm just thoroughly excited about this day," said Director of Sales Pat Baker, who has been with the company for 37 years. "I was thinking of retiring a year or two ago but I wanted to be around when we celebrate 150 years because it's very important to me. This is a huge deal."
Johnston Boiler began its long history of operations supplying boilers to the many lumber mills operating throughout West Michigan. In 1870, the company pioneered the design for water-backed boilers which could be used for both stationary and marine applications.
Johnston Boilers have been used in the construction of monumental feats of engineering such as the rebuilding of Chicago after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
The company also contributed 60 boilers used in the building of the Panama Canal from 1907 to 1910 and 16 in the construction of the Mackinac Bridge in 1954.
Four generations of the Johnston family maintained ownership of the company until 1974 when it was sold to a private investor. Eventually, the company was purchased by the Muskegon-based Hines Corporation and Larry Hines in 1987. He continues to own the business today.
According to Baker, it is the company's ability to change with the times that has allowed it to survive this long.
"We have great people, great workers and great product designs that last a long time," he said. "Most importantly is the fact that we learned to adapt to new applications. Many of the customers that we've built for and the process have gone away, but we're still here."
Today, Johnston Boiler Company producers boilers used by a wide range of facilities, including manufacturing, schools, institutions and commercial buildings.
Downtown Muskegon, once known as an industrial town, has shed its former image to become a vibrant destination.
Investments in renovations in the downtown area and the growth of the leisure and hospitality sector are influencing the momentum behind the economic development in Muskegon and the surrounding county area.
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