WMUs Smart Park Lands A GR Anchor Tenant

June 24, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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KALAMAZOO — A well-known Grand Rapids engineering firm will be the anchor tenant in a new multi-firm facility at Western Michigan University’s Business Technology and Research Park (BTR) at WMU’s Parkview Campus.

Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber Inc. (FTC&H), an engineering, scientific and architectural firm, will be the anchor tenant in a 24,000-square-foot building to be constructed by Pro-Line Opportunity Group LLC.

The firm is expected to occupy about 8,500 square feet of the new building, which ultimately will house several other businesses in the BTR Park’s focus areas of advanced engineering, information technology and the life sciences.

Plans for the new facility, which will be located along U.S. 131, were presented for review by the Kalamazoo Planning Commission at the commission’s meeting in mid-October.

Bob Miller, WMU associate vice president for community outreach, said development plans have been approved and site work is expected to begin this fall. General contractor for the project is A.J. Veneklasen Inc. and the architectural firm is MHB Paradigm.

According to Pro Line principals Bob Cook, Bob Deal and Chris Veneklasen, WMU and city of Kalamazoo officials are working with them to identify an additional two to three tenants for the building. The building is expected to be ready for occupancy by its initial tenant late next spring.

The anchor tenant, FTC&H, with its strong civil and environmental engineering track record, is an ideal fit for the BTR Park, Miller said.

He noted that FTC&H have already played an active role in the development of the park and have completed surveying, bridge design and construction engineering inspection services there. Future collaboration will occur between the firm and university researchers and academic programs.

“This is another wonderful example of the private sector choosing to partner with the university,” Miller said.

“In this case, FTC&H will work closely with the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences as it develops its new civil engineering program. The firm also has a well-respected environmental practice, and its representatives already have met with researchers in the university’s Environmental Institute to discuss the possibility of working together.”

The College of Engineering and Applied Sciences also will be located at the university’s Parkview Campus, with construction of its new facility set for completion in 2003.

The college is planning a civil engineering program and expects the first classes in the discipline to be offered in fall 2003. The park, which in April was designated as a Michigan SmartZone, includes development space for high technology firms.

“We are delighted at the prospect of having a firm of this caliber as a resident partner in the BTR,” said Dr. Daniel Litynksi, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“They offer an outstanding example of the range and variety of projects engineers in this discipline take on. We look forward to having our faculty and students work with them at the Parkview Campus.”

FTC&H currently has Michigan offices in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing and Farmington Hills, and a staff of more than 275 engineers, scientists, architects, surveyors and other professionals.

Its Kalamazoo office has grown in recent years from five staff members to more than 20. The new facility at the BTR Park is expected to accommodate the firm’s future growth and expansion goals, which include branching out into new markets and offering additional services.

“This location will be a win-win situation for everyone,” said Deal. What a SmartZone does, Deal explained, is keep things “smart.”

“All the property taxes the local community captures are used to keep that zone on the cutting edge of technology. What the area has already done is use that money to put in roads.

“Next, the money will go into the infrastructure of the park and bring in the capability of running two different fiber providers in, so you will have a redundant fiber system. Then, when someone invents a way to do it other than fiber and we need that technology to stay smart, then the captured real estate taxes will be used to keep this park and its occupants on the cutting edge. That’s what SmartZone designation is all about and to make it different than just an industrial park in that it will constantly be on the edge of technology, we hope.”

The 265-acre Parkview Campus and BTR development, located at the intersection of Parkview Avenue and Drake Road, will also be home to a paper-printing science research facility, currently under construction.

Tenants already announced include Richard-Allan Scientific Inc., a life-sciences firm, and Fluid Process Equipment Inc., an engineering firm that specializes in fluid handling systems.

Southwest Michigan First has announced it will build a business incubator — the Southwest Michigan Innovation Center — at the park. The life science firms, Ann Arbor-based Esperion Therapeutics Inc. and Chicago-based NephRx Corp., will be tenants in that facility.

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