|Rethinking Eastown's Landscape as a Center for Street Food|
by Chelsea Slocum
The Urban Renaissance Group of Grand Rapids is a real estate development firm that plans to change the landscape of Eastown by rethinking the use of space and what it means to be an entrepreneur through the launch of Intermodal.
Nicolas Mika is leading The Intermodal Project that plans to transform vacant urban spaces into a semi-permanent market through the use of large Intermodal shipping containers from Chicago. “We want to develop a vibrant street food culture in Grand Rapids. Cities such as Austin and Portland are great examples of the culture we are trying to create,” says Nick.
The vendors at Intermodal will be different than your typical restaurants in many ways. “Our street vendors think about food differently, instead of making a variety of cuisines, they focus on one thing, and do it really, really well,” explains Nick. “We are looking to secure between 8-10 vendors initially to sign long-term leases. Most of the vendors have already been secured. Some are start-up operations, others have always been mobile vendors and are now looking to have a store front, some are established restaurants that want to try a new concept and set up shop with us; it’s very exciting.” Not only will you get your fill of food, but there will be a retail presence as well. “We are also trying to develop a craftsman culture and plan to house some artisan retails shops within the market along with specialty food vendors,” says Nick.
While each storefront at Intermodal will be run as a separate entity, The Urban Renaissance Group plans to structure Intermodal with the community in mind. “We plan to develop a common courtyard in the middle of the market that is somewhat covered. All the storefronts will face the courtyard forming a circle around it. That space is for everyone. There we hope people will mingle and connect to each other, building a more vibrant community in the area,” Nick says. “Eastown has tons of potential,” says Nick, “I like to think of it as the Brooklyn of Grand Rapids. It has an excellent demographic and a great neighborhood feel. These characteristics drew us to the area.”
Building plans are well on their way to completion. The group ran their first working prototype of Intermodal as a pop-up coffee shop during TEDx Grand Rapids this past spring. The Intermodal market will be open 7 days a week year round and is slated to open in spring of 2013. Follow the group’s progress on their blog.
Chelsea Slocum is a resident of Grand Rapids. She works as an educator and enjoys learning about new and different things happening in the city. Follow her on twitter @cslocum.
Published: July 19, 2012
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