The Comstock Park DDA Board meets at 8:00 A.M. on the third Wednesday of every month at the Mill Creek Middle School located at 100 Betty Street N.E., Comstock Park MI 49321. This meeting is open to the public and we welcome your attendance. You can also contact the Comstock Park DDA by mail at P.O. Box 333, Comstock Park, MI 49321.
The Comstock Park Downtown Development Authority Board of Directors
You may contact the Comstock Park DDA by mail at:
Comstock Park Downtown Development Authority
P.O. Box 333
Comstock Park, Michigan 49321
Rich Frey was elected chairman of the Comstock Park DDA in 2016. He was appointed to the Board in 2010 and became vice-chairman in 2014. Frey is the co-owner of Kore/Hi Com, a computer network security and technical support company.
“We typically function as an IT Department for organizations that don’t have their own technical staff,” said Frey. “For those with their own IT personnel, we provide supplemental expertise on special projects or when greater depth or breadth of knowledge is required.
“We specialize in matters of infrastructure design and network security.”
Frey joined the business, then located in the Plainfield Plaza in the mid-1990’s. In 2002 Frey purchased the current building at 3909 Leland Avenue NE and moved Kore/Hi Com to downtown Comstock Park. Shortly after moving in, the DDA hired Frey to make free Wi-Fi available in Dwight Lydell Park across the street from Kore/Hi Com. Frey said Comstock Park is a “nice area” to do business, but noted that in his line of work, location is not of primary importance since much of the work can be done remotely.
Frey said the DDA is important to the downtown area in multiple ways. “It’s a good forum for organizing and focusing on improvements in a corner of Plainfield Township that could otherwise be overlooked,” he said.
He named the White Pine Trail head as the “most visible” project the DDA has accomplished, but added the DDA does “lots of little things that add up.” Frey noted the DDA makes sure the parking lots are plowed in the winter and parking stripes are painted, among other maintenance. “There are nice touches, like planting trees and flowers that improve the aesthetics, and the street lights really brighten things up,” he added.
As far as future projects, Frey would like to see the DDA “take things as they come…just be there as a resource, advocate, and liaison between businesses and local government. “We need to balance our ambitions for improving the business climate and ambience of the downtown area with the realities of the pocketbook,” he said. “We are fortunate to have the support of Plainfield Township and need to be good stewards of the public funds that are made available to us.”
Frey is originally from Sand Lake and now lives in northeast Grand Rapids. He graduated from Tri-County High School, and earned a BBA from the University of Michigan School of Business Administration with an accounting and economics major. He has two children and four grandchildren. He plays softball, and in 2010 his team, called Doug and Don’s Auto Care, was the 50 and Older Class AAA National Champion. He also plays guitar and bass in a local band.
When Nancy Mulder was young, her father called her “the reading machine.” Growing up, she spent a lot of time at the library. Between her love of reading and love of libraries, it was only natural that she would want to become a librarian. Mulder has been manager of the Kent District Library Comstock Park Branch Library since 1997. She was recently appointed to the Comstock Park Downtown Development Authority.
Mulder said she has come to “love the community” and is a tireless promoter of the library and Comstock Park. She wanted to be on the DDA “to help the downtown area flourish as a comfortable, enjoyable, safe place for neighbors to gather.” She said both the library and the DDA are important to the vitality of Comstock Park and the downtown area. “The downtown area is the face of the community,” she said. “A good-looking, thriving downtown attracts people to live here, which in turn helps schools and the economy thrive.”
Projects that the DDA has accomplished, such as expanding parking space, including the library parking lot, bringing the White Pine Trailhead to the downtown area, and extending street lights north on West River Drive this year, have made the downtown more attractive and helped draw people and businesses to the downtown area. The library adds to the vibrancy of the area, said Mulder. The Comstock Park Library, the first library in Plainfield Township, has been at its present location 3943 West River Drive NE since 1961. The Plainfield Branch is located at 2650 Five Mile Rd. NE.
“The (Comstock Park) Library is in a perfect location, so close to Mill Creek Middle School, Dwight Lydell Park, and the Dairy Delite,” said Mulder. “Our parking is plentiful, and though we are small, it’s easy to find what you need here…we have a wealth of Kent District Library resources at our fingertips.”
In the future, Mulder would like to see the DDA “help make the community safer, and more walkable, and as attractive as possible. “We need to share information, spread the good news about our neighborhood, and get to know each other as friends who support each other,” she said.
Mulder said it has been rewarding to offer storytimes and other programs for children of all ages as well as well as the annual lecture series in the fall and a book club for adults. She hopes to add more services for the growing senior population. “I love providing computers and tons of free resources and information to people who can’t afford them at home,” said Mulder. “The library is the great democratizer.”
Mulder grew up in New Jersey and came to Grand Rapids to attend Calvin College where she met her husband Steve. After they married, they moved to Ann Arbor where she earned her master’s degree in Library Science at the University of Michigan. In 1986 they moved to the Forest Hills area where they raised their three daughters. She worked at the Wyoming Branch Library for eight years before coming to the Comstock Park Library. When her husband retired, the couple moved to a 14-acre piece of land in Cannon Township where her husband raises chickens and is restoring the property to its native landscape. Besides reading, Mulder enjoys knitting and watching movies. She and her husband have a small 13-foot fiberglass “egg” trailer that they take camping around the country. They both believe “climate change is the most important issue our world faces today” and are active in working toward more sustainable, renewable energy practices.
As vice-president of the West Michigan Whitecaps, Jim Jarecki is all about promoting sports. As former president of the DDA, Jarecki is all about promoting a positive business atmosphere in Comstock Park. “(The DDA’s) importance is to continue to establish the business setting in downtown Comstock Park,” said Jarecki, who joined the DDA board in 2008. ”Many people invest their business and lives into this area yet it is still an untapped market.”
Jarecki is originally from Woodridge Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago, and graduated in 1989 from Northern Illinois University with a major in communications. After graduating, Jarecki worked as a ticket seller/telemarketer for the Chicago White Sox. He then went to Oklahoma City to intern with the Oklahoma 89ers baseball team, and then to Wisconsin to be assistant general manager for the Beloit Snappers.
Jarecki, who joined the Whitecaps in 1994 oversees the day-to-day operations of the Whitecaps and the Fifth Third Ballpark, the team’s home. Additionally he does sports marketing and public relations for the organization.
Jarecki named building the White Pine Trail connector as a major accomplishment of the DDA. “It allowed for…thousands of people through Comstock Park other than just driving through town,” said Jarecki. “Also, it showed a true commitment in re-investing in the community.”
Looking to the future, Jarecki wants the DDA to promote business growth and “bring more business to the area. “Create the true image that Comstock Park and West River Drive is simply not a pass through to get to other parts of the area,” he added. “Get people to stop and see what great business there are right here.”
Jarecki was twice named the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40 Business Leaders.” Besides the DDA he is on the Wolverine Worldwide YMCA board as well as sports-related committees.
Jarecki lives in northeast Grand Rapids with his wife and three children ages 18-13. He coaches youth basketball and enjoys playing basketball, bicycling and golf.
Ask Ericksen what he does for a living, and he’ll tell you, “I make wood.”
Ericksen is the owner Ericksen Contracting, a wood flooring manufacturing business in Kalkaska, Michigan with the office at his home in Belmont. The company supplies wood flooring for both businesses and homes. He is the former owner of Patten Monument and Great Lakes Granite in downtown Comstock Park, which he said is a good location for the business. “It’s close to the highway,” he said. “It’s got good exposure.”
In 1985, Ericksen bought the monument company, then located on Plainfield Ave in Grand Rapids, from his father who had owned it for more than 20 years. In 1995 he opened the sister company Great Lakes Granite in Comstock Park, and two years later moved Patten monument next door. He sold the businesses in 2003. Ericksen grew up in Rockford and went to work for his father after graduating from Rockford High School.
Ericksen took over as the person in charge of maintenance for the Comstock Park DDA in 2016. Previously he took care of public relations for the Board. Ericksen stresses the importance of the DDA to the businesses in the downtown district.
“If there is no DDA, there’s nobody taking care of Comstock Park,” he said. “The (Plainfield) Township has the whole township to take care of."
“The DDA is important because we maintain Comstock Park,” he said. “We take it upon ourselves to have the parking lots plowed, pay to have the sidewalks cleared, take care of landscaping, mowing.”
Ericksen said the DDA has several projects on the horizon. “We are going to continue to upgrade the sidewalks, street lighting, from the (Fifth Third) Ball Park area,” he said. “We’re trying to get irrigation between the trail and West River Drive to grow grass so it will look nice.”
In his spare time, Ericksen, who is married with three children ages 30 to 18, makes good use of what West Michigan has to offer. “We have four properties up north we spend a lot of time at,” he said. “We do a lot of boating on Lake Michigan in the summer.”
Ethan Ebenstein, superintendent of Comstock Park Public Schools, joined the DDA in 2016 and was appointed secretary. In his capacity as school superintendent, Ebenstein regularly
attended DDA meetings for several years and said he gained “a deep respect for the Board’s sincere interest in Comstock Park and their work to better the community.”
He said it is important “for community members to volunteer and be active in their community and to give back of their time and resources.” Besides the DDA, Ebenstein is a member of the Kent Intermediate School District County Technology Committee, Comstock Park Educational Foundation, Comstock Park Community Outreach Committee and Senior Task Force, and the Salvation Army Little Pine Island Camp Advisory Board.
Ebenstein was hired as superintendent of Comstock Park Schools in 2008. He started his career in education in 1994 as an elementary school teacher in White Cloud. He became a middle school assistant principal and then an elementary school principal. He was superintendent of White Cloud Public Schools from 2005 to 2008 before coming to Comstock Park.
Ebenstein noted that Comstock Park is a “census designated place” rather than a village or town and is spread between the City of Walker, and Alpine and Plainfield townships. The DDA’s importance is to serve in a leadership capacity for the Comstock Park Community, he said. “They (DDA) have the ability and resources to be a voice for our businesses and residents and have a positive impact on the quality of life for our citizens,” he said.
In the future, Ebenstein would like to see the DDA “continue to effectively market the downtown business community to the region at large.” He said the DDA needs to “capitalize on (Dwight) Lydell Park, the White Pine Trail, and the Grand River as healthy recreational opportunities” that attract people to the area who then visit local businesses while they’re here. Ebenstein would also like to see the DDA “work with our governmental agencies to explore expansion of public transit to the downtown community.”
Ebenstein earned a Bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in history and a concentration in elementary education from Aquinas College; and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Grand Valley State University. Ebenstein and his wife Julie are originally from White Cloud, both graduating from White Cloud High School, and currently live in Comstock Park. They have two sons ages 17 and 14. When he’s not working, Ebenstein enjoys spending time with his family, fitness activities (particularly running), reading, technology, and “traveling our beautiful country - especially visiting warm locales.”
Jan VanderKooy, of VanderKooy Management, joined the DDA in 2016 and was appointed treasurer. Her company, located at 5300 Northland Drive in Plainfield Township, develops and manages commercial property (office, retail, and industrial) in the Grand Rapids area, including several in Comstock Park.
“I wanted to be part of the DDA Board because VanderKooy Management has a financial investment in the area and incentive to keep Comstock Park a vibrant business community,” said VanderKooy, who co-owns the company with her brother Brian. “Being on the Board, I can address the needs of our tenants and possibly increase involvement of our tenants in community activities.”
VanderKooy Management was started in 1995 by the late Sy VanderKooy, father of Jan and Brian. At that time the business was Daanes Markets and later Sy’s Markets, and the company managed the properties the stores occupied. Sy VanderKooy “eased into retirement” in the early 1990’s, and Jan and Brian gradually took over the business. In 1995 they sold the grocery stores to Family Fare and concentrated exclusively on real estate management.
The company bought its first Comstock Park property in 2009 purchasing the old Comstock Park Foods building, which now houses offices, and the nearby building currently occupied by Cap & Cork.
“When we found this property, we were quite excited because it had the urban feel of Grand Rapids with brick sidewalks, walkable restaurants, coffee shops and the advantages of adequate free parking and affordability,” said VanderKooy, noting they did extensive renovations to the buildings. “Our tenants love the atmosphere of the downtown area and also that they can bike to work or use the (White Pine) trail on their lunch break.”
VanderKooy said the DDA Board “has done a great job of improving the Comstock Park business area” with the streetscape and extending street lighting to Fifth Third Ballpark.
“Going forward, we need to maintain the improvements, continue communications with business owners, promote the White Pine Trail, and work with Kent County to improve the Dwight Lydell Park,” she said, adding the DDA could also explore having bus service between Comstock Park and Grand Rapids.
VanderKooy grew up on the north side of Grand Rapids and attended Grand Rapids Christian High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business and accounting from Western Michigan University, and practiced public accounting in Kalamazoo and then Minnesota. VanderKooy moved back to Grand Rapids in the mid-eighties to work in the family business managing the company’s finances. VanderKooy lives in Grand Rapids Township. She has four grown children. In her spare time she likes to read, crochet, play piano, walk outside, and kayak in Versluis Lake behind her office.
Bob Homan is a former Plainfield Township manager who retired in 2013 after serving for seventeen years in the position. Homan came to the Township just three years after the DDA was formed and worked closely with the DDA during their projects including the streetscape, the White Pine Trailhead, converting tennis courts adjacent to the library to a parking lot, and putting in the parking lot behind the downtown businesses. Homan was appointed to the DDA in 2016 and is looking forward to serving on the Board. .
“The Township creating the DDA for Comstock Park was one of the smartest and most productive things the Township has ever done,” said Homan. “As manager, I went to (DDA) meetings, was involved in several complex tasks like purchasing property for the (White Pine) Trail,” Those complex tasks included negotiating a long term lease and maintenance agreement with the state of Michigan for the DDA area portion of the trail, and securing easements for the trail extension from Vitale's to North Park Street.
“Seeing through and being a part of the improvements…makes being involved in local government so rewarding.” he said.
Homan, who is originally from Grand Rapids, has extensive experience in local government. He began his career in government as assistant to the city manager of Grand Rapids in 1973. While he was with the city, Homan also worked in the Parks Department and on special assignment to the Fire Department. In 1976 he moved to the City of Miami FL where he worked as assistant to the city manager for three years. He was city manager of Franklin OH, which he said was a “paper mill town” with a population of 11,000 from 1979 to 1982, manager of Saginaw Township from 1982 to 1989, manager of Delhi Township (near Lansing) where he presided over the building of a new township hall, library, and fire station from 1989 to 1996. That was all before coming to Plainfield Township. “I enjoyed my career in government,” said Homan. “You get to see the results of your work.”
Homan said that one of the most important things in front of the DDA is “communication with the community.”
The DDA has achieved much, he said, most currently extending street lighting north from Lamoreaux Drive to Fifth Third Ballpark. “The DDA has accomplished its mission of making something attractive where people want to come," said Homan, noting the DDA’s term expires in 2023. “In these last seven years (the DDA) needs to transition from doing projects to making sure the Township has the ability to maintain and use those in the future…we need to plan for how that’s going to happen.”
Homan graduated from Grand Rapids Christian High School, and then attended Calvin College graduating with an economics major and minors in history and religion. He served in the Army for two years, and then attended the University of Washington in Seattle, graduating with a Master’s degree in public administration. Homan’s wife Julie is recently deceased. She was a registered nurse at Holland Home. He has two daughters and a ten year old grandson and said he enjoys spending time with them.
Nick Purwin was appointed to the DDA in 2016. He is an owner of the Comstock Park Body Shop along with his brothers Tony and Jim, and their mother Phyllis. The business was founded in 1963 by their father Bert, who passed away in 2008, and a business partner, who is retired.
The family has made two major expansions at the shop, located at 4019 West River Drive in downtown Comstock Park. They own three nearby properties where they lease space to other businesses. They used DDA facade improvement grants to upgrade the body shop and the facades of two of their rental buildings. Purwin said the DDA grant program “has helped out a lot allowing us to put some little extra touches to make the buildings unique.” There are 13 employees including several family members at the body shop.
“I started working at the body shop when I was 11 years old, and my heart is here in Comstock Park,” said Purwin about why he wanted to be on the DDA. “I want to give back to the Comstock Park community and maybe have a say in what is done to make it a better place.”
Purwin said that past projects by the DDA, such as bringing the White Pine Trailhead to downtown Comstock Park and putting street lights along West River Drive, has improved the area for businesses as well as residents and visitors.
“The White Pine Trail has certainly brought more people to the Comstock Park area allowing more businesses to come and thrive in the area,” said Purwin. “For the past two years our rental units have been 100% leased.
“The street lighting has made the downtown area more appealing and safer at night,” he said. “We like the way it helps light up our parking lots.”
In the future, Purwin said he would like to see the DDA ‘promote businesses with signs, billboards, advertising of some sort.” He also wants the DDA to keep the Comstock Park area “maintained, groomed, and eye appealing” which he asid would “make it a better place for us all to live and work.”
Purwin grew up in Northview and graduated from West Catholic High School. He has an associate degree in electronics from Grand Rapids Junior College, is a State certified mechanic in a number of areas, and has a pilot’s license. He is recognized as an I-Car platinum individual in the auto repair industry.
Purwin and his wife Sheryl, a secretary at East Oakview Elementary School in the Northview school district, live in Plainfield Township. They have three children ages 24 to 18. They enjoy running, biking, “utilizing the White Pine Trail weekly,” and participating in charitable 5K runs. Purwin admits to having an “obsession.” “My passion is little British cars,” he said. I have owned several and always enjoy the search for a new one to fix up and love.”
Comstock Park attorney John Stephan has been appointed to the Downtown Development Authority. Stephan replaces Bob Homan who was elected Plainfield Township supervisor and will serve as a liaison between the Township and the DDA. Stephan has been practicing law in Comstock Park for almost a decade and said he likes the “small town” feel.
“It’s impossible to miss the community feeling here,” said Stephan. “(The DDA) is a way I can give back and help out the community.”
Stephan said the DDA is vital to the downtown area and its businesses. “A DDA has the ability to step in where day-to-day government doesn’t act,” he said, adding the DDA can identify improvements and projects to benefit the downtown area and take action on making those improvements. He said the improved parking and its maintenance is a good example of a DDA project that benefits the downtown area. Stephan pointed out that free and convenient parking for his clients is a great big “plus” to not only his business but all the downtown businesses.
Stephan said he wants to see the DDA promote Comstock Park as a destination similar to the way Pure Michigan promotes Michigan. He said he would like to see the DDA identify ways to “advertise beyond just this area and highlight local business.”
Stephan attended Cooley Law School in Grand Rapids graduating in 2007. He interned at the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office while in law school and then, after being licensed, briefly had his own solo practice. In January 2009, he purchased the law firm of Vandenbosch & Avery from Craig Avery in the Comstock Park Professional Building, 3875 West River Drive in downtown Comstock Park. He co-owns that building with the CPAs Barry Wigent and Doug Hossink who also have their office in the building.
Stephan, who lives in Grand Rapids, is originally from Louisville, Kentucky and grew up in the Lansing area. He graduated from high school at Great Lakes Adventist Academy in Cedar Lakes, Michigan, and attended Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, majoring in International Community Development. When he’s not working he enjoys water sports and fishing.