Small Business Saturday catching on in downtown Holland

When Sheryll Hoekstra opened the doors of Readers’ World, 194 S. River Ave., a half hour early Saturday morning, Nov. 29, people were waiting to get inside.

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“There’s the local people who really support (the store) yet,” she said.

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The sunshine and warmer temps meant she could leave the door open for Small Business Saturday, a more inviting storefront that always seems to draw people in, she said.

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Created in 2010 by American Express, Small Business Saturday encourages holiday shoppers to visit locally owned stores to check off their shopping lists.

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“Your holiday party dress or your gift you’re giving your significant other or that bottle of wine you’re bringing to a party — when that comes from a local store, more of that stays and creates jobs in West Michigan,” said Elissa Hillary executive director of Local First.

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Seventy-three percent of the money spent at locally owned businesses stays local, compared to 43 percent of the dollars spent at non-locally owned stores, according to Local First.

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The day set aside for smaller, locally owned businesses, she said, “calls attention to local retailers you might not see in the advertisements on (Black) Friday.”

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Wendy Winn and her daughter shopped Small Business Saturday last year and were out again this Saturday.

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“It just seems like a really worthwhile thing to do, to support the small businesses in the area,” Winn said. “At the Christmas season, everyone focuses on the Black Friday sales and the big ticket stuff, so I think it’s really important to support the small, local businesses.”

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A chalkboard in front of Fris Downtown art supply store, 30 W. Eighth Street, proclaimed “Small Business Saturday” and sales on every item inside. It was a busy day, and customers were excited about the sales, clerk Peggy Holesinger said.

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“We always try to shop local,” Elaine Bruins said with a freshly purchased box of Christmas cards in her hand. “We are quite determined that we try to shop local.”

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Holesinger estimated the steady stream of people filing in had about half to do with Small Business Saturday and half to do with people in town for the Thanksgiving holiday.

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“It just seems everybody is in a really good mood,” she said, crediting the sunny skies.

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Fris Downtown was one of many area stores to have Small Business Saturday sales.

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“Yesterday was great; today started out busy,” JB and Me, 38 W. Eighth Street, owner Maribeth VanZalen said in between mid-morning customers. “People are very aware. I think this year more than ever.”

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She planned to order pizza for her employees’ lunch — from Crust 54, 54 E. Eighth Street, just down the street.

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For original article, click here.

Small Business Saturday offers variety of options in Grand Rapids

Beth Dornan is taking a different approach to her holiday shopping this year.

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The Rockford resident is committing to Small Business Saturday and staying away from sprawling shopping centers and ubiquitous big box retailers.

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“I'm not stepping foot in the mall, or any other store, and saving my spending for local merchants,” said Dornan, whose pledge doesn't include her two teen daughters who went shopping at Woodland Mall on Black Friday.

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“I like the idea of sitting out Black Friday shopping because it makes a bigger statement than simply focusing on local small business spending for one day.”

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That thinking is growing Small Business Saturday into a major economic boom for independent businesses across West Michigan and the country. The campaign was launched in 2010 by American Express to encourage people to buy from independent retailers and other small businesses the Saturday after Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

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Dornan sees her decision as a tangible way to support locally-owned businesses that create jobs, drive growth and keep dollars in the community.

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Some of the places she plans to visit on Saturday, Nov. 29, include the Grand Rapids Downtown Market and independently owned retailers Martha's Vineyard, BlackLamb, Rebel Reclaimed and Paperdoll.

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The Downtown Market, at 435 Ionia Ave. SW, is rewarding shoppers on Small Business Saturday with $10 in Market Money for every $50 spent Downtown Market gift cards or class gift certificates. The market’s currency is valid at any Downtown Market business from Jan. 1 through Feb. 1.

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Several Downtown Market businesses are doing their own promotions:

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• Malamiah Juice Bar is offering buy one, get one free juice.

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• Relish Green Grocer is giving 25 percent discount on some of its Michigan made products.

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• Fish Lads, a seafood vendor, is selling $60 gift cards for $50 through Dec. 5.

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“We had a great weekend last year after Thanksgiving. A lot of people were out doing their holiday shopping,” said Claire Duthler, special events manager for the Downtown Market. “A lot of our customers prefer to shop locally and support the local community.”

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American Express also has a promotion that gives up to three $10 credits on its customers' next statement for those who shop at qualifying small business locations. The catch is that card holders have to register at ShopSmall.com by Nov. 29, or before the limit is reached.

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The seasonal promotion builds on West Michigan “buy local” campaigns. Small businesses in communities with organizations like Local First, that promote shop local, averaged a 8.6 percent increase in sales in 2012 from the previous year, according to the American Independent Business Alliance, a network of community business organizations.

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That’s more than double the growth in communities without campaigns.

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In Grand Rapids, the Uptown Holiday Shop Hop on Dec. 4 is another event that spotlights locally-owned businesses.

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This year, Tarona Guy moved her annual West Michigan Small Business Expo to Celebration! Cinema North and IMAX, at 2121 Celebration Dr NE.

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The bigger space allows her to provide a free lunch to shoppers and offer a presentation by local attorney Angela T. Ross, Guy said.

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She added the event, which runs 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 29, will include free samples and giveaways from the participating businesses.

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For original article, click here.

Featured Localist: Melissa English

Meet Melissa.

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She loves her children, and she loves shopping locally. And — despite the often not-stroller-friendly streets of downtown — she is adamant that those two things can go hand-in-hand.

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“Every time I go into a small local independent, I am building a relationship,” she affirms. For young moms, building relationships can be a life-giving treat in an often busy and chaotic schedule.

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She values shopping locally with her kids, even though it may appear to be more difficult than a one-stop-shop at a big box (or online), because it prompts her to plan ahead. “There aren’t downsides to planning ahead since normally you end up spending less time and money,” she comments, laughing.

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Melissa believes that when she buys gifts for her children from local independent shops they mean more. “If I bought a gift in a big box store or online,” she says, “it wouldn’t feel like it as as personally selected.” She finds joy and love for her children by hand-picking each toy from an invested, knowledgeable business owner. “It’s more personal and more purposeful.”

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Thankfully, there are an abundant amount of childrens stores in West Michigan. Melissa shared some of her favorite places to pick out holiday presents for her kids (and a few for adults as well).

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Aunt Candy’s Toy Company: Hands-down the favorite. The store is well organized and easy to shop in, with lots of different options for all kinds of interests.

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Hopscotch: The best place to find locally-sourced toys, this store makes an effort to carry local products that other stores bypass. This includes books written by local authors, local toy company products, and much more.

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Baby Mine: A new boutique in Gaslight Village, this store is the perfect place to find a wide range of price points.

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Gift Shops at Museums and Art Galleries: The Grand Rapids Art Museum, Frederik Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids Children's Museum Thingamajigs Gift Shop, and so many more are great places to find an outside-the-box gift. As a bonus, they’re often educational (and you can also get gifts for adults while you’re there).

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Honorable Mentions: Legends Sports & Games, Schuler Books, Amore, GroveBlandford Nature Center

Small Business Saturday

The aftermath of Thanksgiving brings some great once-a-year experiences. Leftover turkey sandwiches, family game nights, and, of course, Small Business Saturday.

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This year, on November 29, Small Business Saturday will hit the streets. It’s a special day that reflects a greater movement to shop locally for the holidays. Although our community has many people that shop at small independent businesses throughout the holiday season, setting aside a day to recognize this practice empowers the local-shopping veterans and inspires the newbies.

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When you’re planning your Small Business Saturday, take a look at Local First’s directory to get some ideas of local businesses to visit. Read some shopping ideas on our holiday blog posts. Or ask a friend for some recommendations and make an adventure out of the day.

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Join the community movement of people who eat well on Thursday, rest well on Friday, and shop well on Saturday.

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For more information, visit the Small Business Saturday: Shop Small website.

Hometown Black Friday: Go Local, Not Loco

Here's a fun way to gear up for Black Friday: food and favorite store pairings! Set aside the cheese and wine (or turkey and stuffing) pairings, and match up a great local restaurant with a nearby specialty store in the neighborhood—so you can shop until you are about to drop but then fuel up again. Picking a spot to browse and an equally inspiring place to nosh is a match made in local heaven.

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GALLERY 154/TERRA GR: Eastown is filled with quirky storefronts. If you're looking for unpredictable gifts, head to Gallery 154—this area's resource for the offbeat and interesting. Know someone who loves to decorate for the holidays? The store's creative cache of fine holiday ornaments won't disappoint. Hop across the street and warm up and unwind at Terra GR with some spiked chai, or the seasonal infused cranberry orange vodka to put a skip in your step. “We seasonalize the menu with winter style dishes and added a charcuterie board,” said Chris McDonald, general manager and operating partner.

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Close at Hand: If your sweet tooth kicks in Connie's Cakes has some treats in their bakery case that will satisfy or pop into Rebel, aka the home décor mecca.

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APOTHECARY OFF MAIN/FRESHII: Monroe Center is well-trafficked and features wonderful boutiques. If you have a product purist on your list, you'll find a ton of options at Apothecary Off Main, which carries natural products from J.R. Watkins (personal care, home care, gourmet spices and extracts). Freshii is nearby, so eat and energize with burritos, wraps, and soups. Prepare for the shopping battle by ordering a Warrior bowl of brown rice, corn, red onions, tomatoes, carrots, Cajun spice, and ranch dressing.

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Close at Hand: Gina's Boutique is here for a quick and convenient fashion fix, along with neighboring Wolverine Company Store for comfortable and quality shoes.

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DENYM/O'TOOLE'S: Off the beaten path, Bridge Street has some surprises. Look to DENYM for a premium denim shopping experience. It features the latest in men's and women's clothing and accessories, and owner Katie Harney notes it will be stocked with holiday dresses from French Connection and local, Michigan-themed apparel. Burger up at O'Toole's, across the street—better yet, order the buffalo chicken gyro. This true Irish-style neighborhood pub has multiple Michigan beers on tap for you to try.

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Close at Hand: For your repurposing pals, The Conscious Collective's upscale consignment is a great way to recycle, reuse, and regift—in a good way!

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Did you know that seventy-three more money stays in the community when you support a locally owned business, versus a national chain? Localista Elissa Hillary, executive director with Local First, is happy to school you in the ways of supporting local businesses. “Locally owned businesses give 350 percent more money and time back to their community than their national counterparts.” Hillary has some local pairing suggestions, too:

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“Another pairing I think is fun is a girl's outing. You can have lunch at The Green Well and Brewery Vivant and hit shops along Cherry Street such as Peninsula Trading, Clothing Matters, and YT Galleria.”

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For original article, click here.

Bazzani’s New B Corp Commitment

When Guy Bazzani started Bazzani Associates, he had multiple goals in mind. Obviously, one was to construct excellent buildings, but another goal was to construct a new kind of building company that respected the earth it built upon. Contrary to common building methods, Bazzani wanted his company to work with the land instead of razing and destroying it.

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This vision was started at the beginning of Bazzani in 1983, but it has continued – and grown – in subsequent years. Each building Bazzani oversees is monitored in categories such as efficiency, recycling, and LEED Certification. The past 30 years has seen a rich crop of buildings from Bazzani that honor the environment through more than just their retail or services.

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The story continues from 1983 to 2003, when Guy Bazzani founded our very own Local First of West Michigan. He headed up a group of seven ingenuitive business owners, partnered with the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, and began what has now become a network of over 700 locally-owned businesses. Alongside environmental ethics, Bazzani was now supporting community ethics.

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But the story doesn’t end there. In fact, a new chapter has just been written. In October 2014, Bazzani Building Company proudly announced its new B Corporation certification. This designation is given to businesses that are committed to the Triple Bottom Line: financial, social and environmental. Joining a small but growing group of businesses in West Michigan that have B Corp status, Bazzani continues to move boldly into the future, valuing economy, environment, and community.

Featured Localist: Jamiel Robinson

Jamiel Robinson recognizes the challenges of redirecting shopping habits from non-local to local, but he celebrates the benefits.

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“To find local treasures, you have to dig,” he says, “but when you do find a treasure, it’s the most rewarding.” For him, the knowledge it takes to shop locally opens up possibilities for unique gifts. “There’s more exclusivity.”

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Jamiel hopes that the Grand Rapids Area Black Business event, The Second Annual Black Market Event and Pop-Up Shop, will enable community members to easily jump-start their ability to shop locally — and discover hidden treasures along the way. For him, the event is a way to ensure that entrepreneurial ventures from people of color are visible in the community. “The business owners value the exposure to the community, and the community values the exposure to the businesses,” he says. It’s a win-win event.

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His goal is for the benefits of shopping locally to extend beyond the Black Market Event and influence the entire community’s holiday shopping habits. He encourages local gifting because of “Triple Impact”: The community member gets a better gift, supports the business owner, and supports the business’s employees.

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Thanks to smart, driven individuals, Grand Rapids enjoys a wealth of diverse businesses. Jamiel hopes that community members will step outside their usual habits and treat themselves to new discoveries for the holidays.

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ACK: A great place for clothing and accessories for anyone on your list. Jamiel plans of stopping by to stock up on gifts for friends and family.

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G W Greetings: Sending out holiday cards this year? Jamiel reccommends this shop above all else for holiday cards. It’s a wonderful store to find a range of products related to African-American culture.

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Smell Good Cafe: When it comes to smelling great, this store has you (and anything else you can think of) covered. Cologne, perfume, incense, oils, health products, and all kinds of scented products are available for gifting.

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Honorable Mentions: Serenity BoutiqueMalamiah Juice BarDaddy Pete’s BBQ

Grove, Green Well, Bistro Bella Vita invite guests to get “In the Spirit”

The Essence Restaurant Group, which includes local downtown and Uptown hot spots GroveThe Green Well and Bistro Bella Vita, has recently produced “In the Spirit,” a 12 cocktail recipe booklet with seasonally inspired beverages from behind each restaurant bar. Each cocktail correlates with a specific month and season. For example the drink recipe for March created by The Green Well is titled the ‘Stumbling Leprechaun’ featuring Irish Whiskey. September’s cocktail was crafted by Bistro Bella Vita and is titled “The Orchard” for its focus around Michigan apples.

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The creation of this recipe book was a community effort, garnering support from local patrons in regards to photo shoot locations, styling services, design and creative direction. All proceeds from the sales of these books are going to nonprofits that Essence has frequently partnered with: Friends of Grand Rapids Parks and Local First

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“These organizations are changing our city for the better,” says James Berg, Managing Partner at Essence Restaurant Group. “So far the response to the recipe book has been fantastic.” 

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In the Spirit is available for purchase for $5 at each of the restaurants or on their websites.

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For original article, click here.

Civic agency produces downtown Speaker Series

After a successful first year, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. will host a second year of its popular Speaker Series, which focuses on downtown development topics.

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This year the speaker series and its topics will support DGRI and the city of Grand Rapids’ GR Forward Downtown and River Action plans. GR Forward is actively gathering suggestions from residents all over Grand Rapids about what would make the community an even better place to live and work.

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“After last year’s success, we know citizens are intensely interested in shaping the future of Grand Rapids and thinking about urbanism in new ways,” said Christopher Reader, chair of the Grand River Restoration Committee. “This year, we are very excited about the caliber of speakers and incorporating their insights into the GR Forward planning process.”

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Experts in city planning and community engagement from across the country will visit Grand Rapids between now and the end of March as part of the series.

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Discussion sessions will follow each speaker’s presentation.

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“After our speaker series events we will break into roundtables and we will have facilitated roundtable discussions,” said Kris Larson, president and CEO of DGRI. “You are going to be ideally sitting at a table with eight or nine people you don’t know, and we are going to be facilitating a conversation. Part of the value in that is hearing what others think about issues.”

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DGRI and the city of Grand Rapids have partnered with a dozen organizations on the GR Forward Thinking Speaker Series, including the American Institute of Architects, BL2END, the city of Grand Rapids, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition, Grand Rapids Urban League, KCAD, Local First, The Rapid, The Rapidian, The Salon and WMEAC, to ensure a wide variety of voices are involved.

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The entire series will occur at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University’s Woodbridge N. Ferris Building, 17 Pearl St. NW.

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Speaker Lineup:

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Nov. 20, 6:30 p.m. – “Planning with Bold Vision” with Jen Keesmaat, chief of planning for Toronto

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Dec. 4, 6 p.m. – “Economic Development and Equity” with Don Edwards, principal of Justice and Sustainability Associates

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Jan. 15, 6 p.m. – “Performance Based Governance” with Theresa Reno-Weber, director of performance and innovation for Louisville

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Feb. 12, 6 p.m. – “Welcoming Civic Love through Open Engagement” with Peter Kageyama, author of “For the Love of Cities”

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March 12, 6 p.m. – “Driving Vibrancy in the Public Realm” with Dan Biederman, founder of Bryant Park Partnership in New York City

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For original article, click here.