The Comstock Park DDA Board meets at 8:00 A.M. on the third Tuesday of every month at Comstock Park Public Schools, Central Office Conference Room, 101 Betty Street NE, 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
- Richard Frey, Chairman firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tom Coleman, Board Representative email@example.com
- Ed Hood firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jim Jarecki email@example.com
- Nick Purwin firstname.lastname@example.org
- John Stephan email@example.com
- Janis Vander Kooy, Treasurer firstname.lastname@example.org
- David Washburn email@example.com
You may contact the Comstock Park DDA by mail at:
Comstock Park Downtown Development Authority
P.O. Box 333
Rich Frey, Chairman
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 Trailhead 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 streetlights 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.
One of Tom Coleman’s responsibilities as Plainfield Township supervisor is serving as the Township Board representative to the Comstock Park Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Board. While the DDA position is required, Coleman said he is looking forward to seeing and helping with the continued development in downtown Comstock Park.
“Comstock Park is one of the crown jewels of the township,” said Coleman. “The DDA is critical to the long-term success of making Comstock Park a destination for the community.”
Coleman noted that it is a part of the DDA’s responsibility to make Comstock Park attractive to new businesses and promote existing businesses to the community.
“The DDA has made many improvements to the Comstock Park area,” he said. “I would like to see this continue for the future of Comstock Park and the Township as a whole.”Tom has a strong sense of civic duty. He has several years of experience in Plainfield Township government having served on both the Township’s Public Safety Committee and the Planning Commission.
“I ran for Supervisor as I felt this was my next step in my continuing service to the community,” he said. “I joined the public safety committee and planning commission as an entry to public service. My law enforcement background and my residential building experience were both perfect fits for me and the areas I was very interested in with regard to Township involvement.”
Coleman graduated from Northview High School in 1975. He was a cadet in the Kent County Sherriff’s Department and attended what was then Grand Rapids Junior College for two years studying criminal justice. He was then a Kent County Sheriff’s Deputy from 1977 until he left the department in 1986. He was also a residential builder from 1975 to 1988 and held various positions in retail banking and mortgage lending from 1988 to 2013 when he started at Transnation Title Agency where he worked in various roles from 2013 thru 2020. Tom is retired from Transnation.
Coleman has lived in Plainfield Township for 44 years. He and his wife Pam, who also graduated from Northview High school and is a professional photographer and owner of The Lark Studio, live in Belmont. They have three grown children who all graduated from Northview High School, and five grandchildren. When he is not working Coleman enjoys woodworking, golf, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.
Ed Hood, who retired two years ago after serving 25 years on the Comstock Park Downtown Development Authority, is back on the Board. Hood replaces long time member Rick Ericksen who retired earlier this year.
Hood was a founding member of the DDA in 1993. He retired in 2016 for health reasons. Hood was an owner of Midwest Properties and decided to go part-time, selling his share of the company. After a couple winters of spending a few months in the South, Hood said he and his wife “missed the grandkids.” He ran into Bob Homan, Plainfield Township Supervisor and DDA Board member, while vacationing last winter. Homan said there was an opening on the DDA Board because Rick Ericksen was retiring.
“I thought why shouldn’t I volunteer to give back to the community where I’ve lived all my life,” said Hood. “I know the area, I’m glad they want me back.” Hood added that he has kept up with DDA accomplishments, such as the Community Plaza, during his retirement and is “excited to get involved again and see what we can do for the community.”
For now Hood wants to get caught up on DDA business. He said he thought it’s important for the DDA to maintain a fund balance, “We’ve gotta have money to take care of things we’ve accomplished,” he said.
Hood, a lifelong Comstock Park resident, is well known in the community. Five generations of his family have lived in and attended school in Comstock Park. (He was the third generation) Hood was the owner of Comstock Park Foods for 20 years before selling it in 1994 to go into real estate. Besides serving on the DDA, Hood served on the Comstock Park Board of Education. He said he’s proud of building the Midwest Properties business, noting that when he started there were three realtors and now there are around 120.
As vice-president and general manager of the West Michigan Whitecaps, Jim Jarecki is all about promoting sports. When it comes to being on the DDA Board, 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 Lake Michigan Credit Union 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. He lives in northeast Grand Rapids with his wife and three children. He coaches youth basketball and enjoys playing basketball, bicycling, and golf.
Nick Purwin was appointed to the DDA in 2016. He is the 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 nearby properties that 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 streetlights 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. “The street lighting has made the downtown area more appealing and safer at night. 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, advertising of some sort.” He also wants the DDA to keep the Comstock Park area “maintained, groomed, and eye appealing” which he said would “make it a better place for us all to live and work.”
Purwin grew up in Plainfield Township 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 grown children. They enjoy running, biking, “utilizing the White Pine Trail weekly,” and participating in charitable 5K runs. “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.”
John Stephan has been practicing law in Comstock Park for more than a decade and said he likes the “small town” feel. He said being on the DDA Board is a way to help improve Comstock Park.
“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 that will benefit the downtown area and take action on making those improvements.
Stephan said the improved parking and its maintenance is a good example of a DDA project that benefits the downtown area. He 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. And 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.
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.
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.”
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 and nine grandchildren. In her spare time, she likes to read, crochet, play piano, walk outside, and kayak in Versluis Lake behind her office.
David Washburn, the new Comstock Park School Superintendent, was appointed to the Comstock Park Downtown Development Authority in 2019. “I feel it’s important for me to partner with the DDA to help promote economic growth and encourage historic preservation within the central business district,” said Washburn. “Building and maintaining a healthy business environment will have a positive impact for the Comstock Park Public Schools.”
Washburn was hired to replace former Superintendent Ethan Ebenstein, who was with the school district for ten years and a DDA Board member since 2016.
Washburn began his career in education teaching at the elementary level in Rockford Public Schools. He said he was coaching football and track at Forest Hills Northern High School at the same time, and he accepted a teaching position at Forest Hills Northern Hills Middle School so he could teach and coach in the same district. He served as assistant principal at Northern Hills Middle School, athletic director and assistant principal at Forest Hills Eastern High School, principal at Goodwillie Environmental School, and finally as principal at Forest Hills Eastern Middle School for ten years before coming to Comstock Park.
Washburn said it’s important for the Comstock Park Schools to partner with the DDA to “ensure we are working together to do what’s best for the Comstock Park Community.” Washburn has also joined the Rotary “to help promote community involvement between the community and Comstock Park Public Schools,” and is the School’s laison to the Comstock Park Golden Panthers seniors group.
Washburn earned a bachelor’s degree in health, physical education, and recreation at Aquinas College and received a master’s degree in educational leadership from Western Michigan University.
He and his wife Kirsten, live in Grand Rapids. They have three children – a daughter who is a senior at Grand Valley State University, a son who is a junior in high school, and a daughter who is a freshman in high school. He said that when he’s not working, which hasn’t been as often as he’d like with his job, he likes outdoor activities. “I really enjoy taking my kids fishing to the family cottage up north,” he said. “We also enjoy going to the beach and boating. I enjoy attending my daughter’s athletic events, watching college and professional football games and exercising.”