BETA Bridges Some Uncommon Projects

April 10, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — It's not very often that a firm gets to design a bridge, let alone one that stretches 400 feet across one of the city's busiest roads rather than a tranquil body of water.

But BETA Design Group Inc. got that chance and has made the most of its opportunity, as on May 8 the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Calvin College Pedestrian Overpass will take place high above the heavily traveled East Beltline.

"It is a unique project. It called for tying into some existing structures that Calvin had on the west side of the East Beltline, and we also had to coordinate with some new design and construction for their facilities being built on the east side," said John Edison, COO & vice president for BETA Design.

"So we ended up doing all of that project," Edison added, "the architectural side, the structural, mechanical, electrical and civil engineering. We also had to coordinate the same trades with the new projects."

Calvin is putting up the much-anticipated DeVos Communication Center and Prince Conference Center on the east side of the Beltline.

"The benefit I think that Calvin saw — and certainly what we thought that helped made us qualified — was that we have all of those services in house. The coordination is much easier that way and I think that was seen as one of our strengths," said Edison.

Besides the architectural and engineering services that Edison mentioned, BETA also does interior and landscaping design, master planning and pre-bonds studies.

"We sell ourselves that way to all of our clients. Not only are we an architectural firm, but we have all the necessary engineering disciplines in house, too," said Edison.

The $3.5 million bridge project started in October.

Wolverine Construction Management directed the work. Steel Supply and Engineering fabricated the steel. Gelock Heavy Movers operated the cranes to raise the spans, and Worksafe Supply Co. handled the traffic safety while the spans were being lifted.

The pedestrian bridge is lined with windows, is lit from the interior and has a translucent look that complements the Calvin campus.

"The design was driven by the client's needs and expectations, and by what is being built on the east side and by what exists on the west side of the Beltline," Edison said.

"It's an in-fill type of project and, therefore, the design, materials, systems and equipment had to be compatible with what Calvin is using and anticipates to use in their new facilities," said Edison.

BETA crossed another bridge — namely the Mackinaw Bridge that separates the state's peninsulas — for another unusual job.

The local firm drew up the intricate plans for the new Mackinac Island Medical Center, being built on a Market Street hill.

The work called for the foundation of the former Cloghaun Inn to be engineered into the design, one that also had to accommodate horse-drawn carriages as well as the med center's ambulance.

"That was done in two phases. The building shell has been designed and is under construction. The interior fit-out is still being designed, but will be completed within a month or so. Then they will finish the construction this summer," said Edison.

BETA got that job because it drew the master plan for Mackinaw Straits Hospital in St. Ignace, which operates the island's medical center.

Edison said the clinic was outdated and not meeting the residents' needs. A project to upgrade it had started earlier, but didn't finish because the funds weren't available. So the hospital bought the med center and decided to finish the project.

"The challenge there for us was not to tear out what was already in. So we had to design around an existing foundation," said Edison.

"But it provides some office space for doctors, emergency facilities and some residences for the doctors and medical staff who are there during the summer."

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