Presenting Studio Park

The $160 million project includes multiple restaurants, yoga studio
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Studio Park piazza downtown Grand Rapids
Photo by Teri Genovese

For a while, it looked like Studio Park might not come to fruition, but on Oct. 3, the long-awaited nine-screen movie theater (just one piece of this $160 million development) screened its first film. And throughout October, other aspects of the project started to open and will continue opening into next year.

Studio Park has been a decade in the making, and J.D. Loeks, president of Studio C, the company behind the development, acknowledged it presented one challenge after another. “There’s a scene at the end of the movie ‘The Martian,’ in which Matt Damon (an astronaut stranded on Mars) tells a group of aspiring astronauts, ‘At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you, and you say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can accept that, or you can get to work. … You do the math. You solve one problem and you solve the next one and then the next. And if you solve enough problems, you get to come home.’

“This project has felt a lot like that … just trying to have the perseverance to solve the problem right in front of us. And then the next and the next. It feels very gratifying at the end of it to be able to ‘come home’ — or in this case, watch ‘Star Wars’ in a heated recliner chair on the region’s largest screen in the heart of our hometown.”

Thanks to Loeks’ determination, along with many other people who were committed to making this project happen, Grand Rapids now has a new entertainment hub. In addition to the movie theater, Studio Park includes an outdoor piazza with a 10th movie screen, a 200-seat listening room for live music, One Twenty Three Tavern, a restaurant offering American fare with a modern twist, Leo’s Coney Island, Funky Buddha Yoga Hot House, Malamiah Juice Bar and Eatery, and The Pump House Frozen Yogurt. There also are 106 apartments, an office building, a Canopy by Hilton Hotel, and a parking garage with at least 930 spaces — yes, there is parking.

Emily Loeks, director of community affairs for Studio C, said the vision for Studio Park was to give Grand Rapids residents a place to go for “everyday entertainment, not event entertainment.” She hopes people will start their night out downtown with a visit to one of the Studio Park offerings and then perhaps stroll down Ionia Avenue for drinks or more food, maybe a night of dancing or whatever else they are looking for.

Celebration Cinema by Studio C

The nine-screen movie theater is the hub of the Studio Park project. It offers moviegoers heated recliners and state-of-the-art theater screens, including the largest movie screen in the region. As with other Celebration Cinema properties, you can get drinks and food delivered to your theater seat. Don’t expect typical theater food either, Studio C executive chef Jeff Finan has been working to create a menu of elevated food options for movie watchers.

While you are in the lobby, pay close attention to the looming “Studio” sign. If it looks familiar, that’s because it is. The sign was salvaged from Studio 28. You’ll also notice a column of dark bricks inset within a lobby pillar — also taken from the demolition.

Studio C itself pays tribute to Studio 28, as well. “The name comes from my grandpa’s (Jack Loeks) legacy theater, which was Studio 28,” said J.D. Loeks, adding, “The C is drawn from Celebration, which was really my dad’s (John Loeks) legacy company that he built and developed the brand for.”

Outdoor piazza

A 10th theater screen is mounted above the theater lobby doors at the head of the outdoor piazza and will be used for several outdoor events throughout the year. “We envision primarily free events taking place here, World Cup Soccer, Olympics, outdoor movies, a lot of free outdoor public events happening here,” Emily Loeks said.

The green space allows for approximately 600 people. The space was developed with an ear toward the acoustic needs of these outdoor events and with built-in speakers, meaning it’s an easy and adaptable space for different events.

Listening Room by Studio C

Listening Room brings the trend of small, intimate venues popular in bigger cities like Nashville and Chicago to Grand Rapids. With seating for up to 200 and the stage merely a step above the ground, Emily Loeks said the venue promotes storytelling and connection.

Quinn Matthews, formerly station director at WYCE, was hired to run the venue, which will host its first performance on Nov. 6 with David Wax Museum.

“Listening Room is a space to showcase the art of music and performance in a ‘listening’ setting,” Matthews said. “Come in, bring a date, grab a drink, enjoy yourself, but when the show starts, quiet down and watch/listen to the show!”

Expect local, regional and national musicians to perform a variety of music from acoustic sets to jazz, bluegrass, rock and more. “We are in a great spot here in West Michigan to bring in national talent coming from Detroit and headed to Chicago. Acts like Ladysmith Black Mambazo.”

Other acts coming in November include Matthew Perryman Jones, David Bazan, Kittel & Co., and more.

One Twenty Three Tavern by Studio C

One Twenty Three Tavern is Studio C’s venture into the Grand Rapids restaurant scene. Attached to the movie theater lobby by an interior door, guests can easily take in dinner
and a movie.

Serving American fare with a modern twist, Emily Loeks noted the restaurant fills a family-friendly gap downtown. One Twenty Three will be a restaurant where you don’t have to question whether you should bring the kids or hire a babysitter.

One Twenty Three has been under the direction of Finan. He developed the overall menu concept before handing the reins to Ben Kaja, who will serve as head chef going forward and is finalizing the menu.

“Jeff has been with us for about a year as the executive chef for our company and began developing the preliminary menu concepts for One Twenty Three Tavern. … Ben was hired within the last month, as head chef for One Twenty Three, and he’s brilliant … he’s been dish by dish reinventing each one. We wanted him to have creative license. We’ve been blown away,” Emily Loeks said.

Malamiah Juice Bar and Eatery

After making its home in the Grand Rapids Downtown Market since 2013, Malamiah Juice Bar and Eatery (previously Malamiah Juice Bar) is relocating to Studio Park.

Jermale Eddie said the new name reflects the fact that it will now serve breakfast items, such as toasts, chia puddings and oatmeal, and lunch items including salads and grain bowls. It also will offer drinks on tap, like kombucha. “We also plan to carry a few local items from other entrepreneurs for purchase and introduce a few Malamiah Sodas,” Eddie said.

He added, “We look forward to offering additional items for catering, including sandwiches, by the beginning of the year. We also have our eyes set on being a ‘dry/sober’ bar in the evenings.

The new 1,000- square foot space will include seating for 15-20 people and will offer a blend of “modern and chic” with “colors from our logo and the natural art of
fresh produce.”

Funky Buddha Yoga Hot House

This will be Funky Buddha’s fourth location in West Michigan. Executive Director Anna Baeten said the new location is perfect for downtown residents and those working downtown, and the studio’s class schedule reflects that.

“Funky Buddha downtown’s schedule will actually be a bit different than our other locations. We will start with about six classes per weekday and will offer early morning classes and lunchtime classes in both a 60-minute and a 45-minute format. As the location develops clientele, the schedule will expand.

“It is important to us that we are providing classes that will fit into people’s lives on a regular basis. In order to see the most benefit from fitness/self-care, it is necessary to create a regular practice. Our class offerings are an attempt to make the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle as easy as possible.”

With the busy professional in mind, the Studio Park location includes showers, and there are plans to partner with Rowster Coffee. “Workout. Check. Shower. Check. Coffee. Check. Off to work,” Baeten said.

Funky Buddha will take advantage of the piazza, offering free outdoor classes during the warmer months of the year.

The Pump House Frozen Yogurt

Husband-and-wife team Jeff and Kelli Coulson are bringing The Pump House Frozen Yogurt to Studio Park. The pair also owns the Rockford location, making this their second franchise. Kelli said visitors to the new shop can expect the same great “froyo, swings in the windows and an island of toppings,” along with a fun “artsy” theme that fits in with the downtown vibe.

“When customers come into the store, they will be greeted by a toppings bar full of every topping they could imagine,” she said. “There will be a variety of 10 flavors that will include froyo, gelato, custard, Italian ice and sorbet. There will be artistic pieces throughout the shop that will make you want to stop and stare and take pictures. And there will be the most fun basket egg-shaped swings in the windows, perfect for people watching.”

Kelli said she pictures the new shop becoming “a dessert date night hotspot in downtown.”

Leo’s Coney Island

Leo’s Coney Island grew from a small shop opened by Pete and Leo Stassinopoulos in Detroit in the early 1970s to a franchise with over 60 locations in Michigan. The restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner with a Greek flair.

“This location will have a full bar serving craft and domestic beer, as well as mixed drinks,” owner Bill Krall said. “Studio Park is a great project, and I think our menu has something for everyone. Leo’s is the perfect spot to get great food and drinks before an event downtown.”

The location will offer the traditional Coney Dog, as well as the West Side Coney. “A true Coney Dog is hot dog with the skin, chili, mustard and chopped white onion. However, I noticed that my Grand Rapids customers at my Cascade location love to add chopped pickles and shredded cheddar to the traditional Coney. So, I created the West Side Coney that includes those additional toppings just for them. It’s a big success!”

In the summer months, visitors to Leo’s Coney Island can enjoy patio seating, too.

Studio Park Lofts by Studio C

With all these cool businesses moving into Studio Park, you might just want to move in, too — and you can. The project includes 106 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments that span floors 2-5 of the two towers. And there will be some built-in movie perks for residents, according to Emily Loeks.

She said the apartments were designed with young professionals in mind and with an eye toward affordability. “We tried to scale and design them in a way to offer them at market rate or a more affordable end of the spectrum of market rate,” Loeks said. “Because there are some smaller units, it does provide an affordable entry point to living downtown and so there will potentially be some students who can afford to live downtown.” Rent begins at just under $1,000 for a studio and caps at just under $2,000 for a two-bedroom unit.

Canopy by Hilton

Hilton’s “lifestyle” brand hotel is quickly taking shape downtown. The 155-room hotel is slated to open in spring/summer 2020 and will include local touches, giving it a uniquely Grand Rapids feel. GR

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After five years as a digital and print reporter for the Grand Rapids Business Journal, Charlsie Dewey decided to take on the challenge of helping to launch a brand new publication. She became the digital editor of Grand Rapids Magazine. With the shared goal of "celebrating city living," GR|MAG launched in July 2017. It provides daily coverage of the vast arts, entertainment, lifestyle, and culture offerings in Grand Rapids.