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THE GRAND RAPIDS PRESS / SUNDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2013 / A9

Local GRAND RAPIDS

New branding and amenities unveiled for downtown building By Jim Harger

Construction crews also are installating fitted glass Sixteen months after buyand metal canopies over the ing the Campau Square Plaza main entrances. Building, Franklin Partners The building, which added LLC unveiled new branding a Panera Bread franchise as and common areas as the a ground floor tenant earlier result of a $4 million remodthis year, has about 31,000 square feet of vacant space to eling project for the 12-story office building. fill, including the entire sixth Rebranded as “99 and seventh floors of the Monroe,” the downtown building, Maue said. building will offer its tenants The refurbished elevaamenities such as an exercise tor lobbies were paneled room with showers, a confer- with reclaimed walnut and ence room and new elevator Steelcase Inc.’s Coalesse lobbies, said Julie Maue, the building’s marketing and tenant relations manager. Still to be completed is a two-month reconstruction of a skywalk that connected the 28-year-old office building to other downtown office Virtual Middle & High School You now have an option for a buildings, hotels and parking quality, home-based education ramps. with flexible scheduling, using Project Manager Adam the latest technology. Tweedy of Owen Ames and Kimball said they waited MyVirtualAcademy.com until the end of ArtPrize to start the skywalk project and Tuition-Free Online School ENROLLING NOW plan to complete the project by late November.

In this 2010 photo, two West Michigan siblings are being cared for by relatives after being placed in foster care. Kent County is developing a plan to privatize foster care. (MLive.com file)

Kent County is developing plan that would privatize foster care By Rick Wilson grnews@mlive.com

Kent County is on its way to being the first entity in the state to completely privatize child welfare services — possibly creating a model for the rest of Michigan — with the hope of improving the lives of children in the foster care system. The plan, outlined during a Thursday presentation to the county commission, is based on streamlining services for abused and neglected children by relying on the five private, nonprofit agencies already providing foster care in the county. Matthew VanZetten, a county management analyst who is shepherding the project, told the county board decisions on where to place abused and neglected children often are based on who gets stuck with the bill. He outlined a complicated child welfare system under which the tab for some kids is paid by state, federal or county government, depending on their family’s incomes, whether they’ve received preventative care and other factors. Kent County was chosen to develop the pilot program because 85 percent to

90 percent of children in foster care here already are cared for by one of the five private agencies. VanZetten said he’s reported to state House and Senate subcommittees during the past two weeks and received positive feedback from legislators. “There’s some money implications, of course, but we’re not doing it for the money,” said Commissioner Dick VanderMolen, R-Kentwood. “We’re trying to do what’s best for kids.” One of the keys is convincing the state to pay the entire administrative daily rate paid to foster care providers. County officials believe the state might go for it, because Lansing recognizes huge cuts in recent years for abuse and neglect prevention. The money Kent County spends, about $5.1 million yearly, would be redirected to prevention services, picking up the slack left by the state. The proposal also recognizes some kids receive services from other areas such as the courts and mental health agencies. It would create care managers with the authority to work between various systems.

“What we’re saying is let’s put in place a continual flow where an agency has the authority to deal with a case from start to finish,” Kent County Assistant Administrator Wayman Britt said. The proposal also calls for more timely assessments of a child’s needs, which saves money and causes less stress for already troubled kids. Sharon Loughridge, executive director for D.A. Blodgett-St. Johns, said she’s encouraged by the efforts. D.A. Blodgett, Bethany Christian Services, Catholic Charities of West Michigan, Wellspring Lutheran Services and Lutheran Social Services of Michigan are the five non-profit agencies providing foster care services in Kent County. “This is about quality of care, continuing to make our system better,” Loughridge said. “Private agencies have the ability to change quickly. We’re nimble, and that’s harder for government to do.” Plans are to roll out the new program during the next year with hopes of having it fully operational by Oct. 1, 2014, Loughridge said.

(800) 297-2119 x257

furniture. Maue said they also replaced the building’s landscaping and added outdoor cafe furniture for the Panera’s restaurant. Franklin Partners bought the building from Westminster Campau LLC, in June 2012 for $11.8 million, according to city tax records. The former owners bought the building in 2004 for $23.3 million from the Michigan State Employees Pension Fund, the building’s original owners.

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