More Is Coming On Michigan Hill

June 7, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Construction and development have become a common sight at the peak of Michigan Street hill over the past decade.

Construction of the Van Andel Research Institute, Grand Valley State University’s Cook DeVos Center for Health Sciences and the Spectrum Health Heart Center all have provided marquee additions to the city’s skyline.

Now The Christman Co. is investigating development options for the Towers Medical Office Building at 21 Michigan St. NE, across the street from the Spectrum campus.

“It’s still in the proposal stage,” explained Joe Hooker, development services manager for Christman.

“The intent is to redevelop property to provide for more efficient use of the limited resource of land in the area — to build upon the Life Sciences Corridor emerging there and essentially become a west anchor there on the hill.”

Although at this point the seven-story medical office building’s majority tenant is Spectrum Health — at nearly 80 percent — a new structure could be aimed toward an entirely different clientele.

“We’re looking at a medical office complex that can be complementary to the hill,” Hooker said.

“But when MSU made the announcement (of a possible move of its College of Human Medicine to Grand Rapids), everyone started asking if that was going to be our focus.

“Our project was centered on developing a facility before that announcement,” he stressed, “and it was centered on meeting and helping meet needs of those already in the community who lack the ability to be there.

“We have people here who had needs when we started the project,” he said, “and that remains our focus.”

Hooker did not rule out the possibility of hosting the medical school, however.

“If and when MSU chooses to come, they will undoubtedly go through a selection process and we will simply hope to be part of that.”

The Lansing-based Christman is developing the property for American Physicians Capital Inc., also of Lansing.

Christman has worked with American Physicians — primarily an insurance company — on a number of construction and real estate projects outside of Grand Rapids. Although the developer has no equity stake in the property currently, serving only as development consultant, if the project were to proceed, that would change.

“Right now we’re just getting all the interested parties together to find out their level of interest,” said Jim Pratt, American Physicians’ capital director of management reporting.

“It will be a large project, but it’s still pretty early in the process so anything that I say will be premature.”

The city is actively involved in the planning process as well, hoping that the development might help solve some of the problems facing the hill area.

“We’re looking at what opportunities the site might have,” Grand Rapids’ Director of Economic Development Susan Shannon said, “both medical and high tech, and if we’re able, to collaborate on a solution to add some parking to the area, not only for us but other entities as well.”

Studies have shown that the Michigan Hill area suffers from a parking deficit. The Towers building has a 250-space parking deck.    

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