Making Room For MSU

July 22, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — For two years, the possible relocation of Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine to Grand Rapids has been, perhaps, the region's single largest source of speculation.

With the efforts of the MSU Medical School Development Team shrouded in secrecy, whether or not the school will relocate remains speculation. The actual location of the school, if it were to move, is likewise uncertain.

However, a handful of details are all but assured for any potential site.

  • It will be as close to the Van Andel Institute as physically possible. A partnership with VAI has remained a constant throughout the exploratory process.
  • The Merit Network will provide the school's Internet connectivity, and it will retain access to Internet2's Abiline Network. While it can build, lease or buy fiber in the network from anywhere in the city, it will likely locate near a preexisting access point. It cost $90,000 to build a fiber-optic bridge from GVSU's Cook-DeVosCenter for Health Sciences to the VAI.
  • The 500-student medical school will be relatively the same size as the Cook-DeVosCenter for Health Studies.
  • The school should locate in the Grand Rapids SmartZone.

One possibility is within one of the towers of the Michigan Street Development project.

"This was conceived and in the planning process before the MSU potential move became a publicly talked about event," said Joe Hooker, development services manager for Christman Co. "In order to move a project of this size forward, you don't move forward based on a potential, speculative tenant. We're building this to accommodate the needs of Spectrum and VAI and the physician practices there, and to attract these other high tech companies to the complex."

Another possibility is down the hill to the west.

"The Grand Rapids Press building is a very underutilized piece of property now that they've moved the major printing operation out of downtown," said Jack Buchanan, president of Blue Bridge Ventures. "I think if they were to analyze what the cost of occupancy was of that facility given what they have left, they'd probably move."

Although it's somewhat disconnected from the hill, The Press facility at

155 Michigan St. NW
is the next door west from Christman's medical towers. With more than 300,000 square feet between the main building and its four parking lots, The Press site has room to spare and a close relationship with the hill.

Publisher Danny Gaydou sits on the school's development committee and Spectrum Health currently leases 180 parking spots in Press lots.

"The parking lots are an integral part of our business in the downtown area, so no plans are under consideration to do anything else with them," Gaydou said. "Our plan is to continue to use the downtown properties we own in much the same fashion we have been."

More than likely, the school would be built to the east, on one of the under-utilized surface lots currently owned and operated by Spectrum Health. The largest of these is a 120,000-square-foot continuous lot immediately adjacent to Cook-DeVos at 323 and

333 Michigan St

Another possibility is on the Butterworth campus itself, a Z-shaped lot that extends from

Barclay Avenue
to
Lafayette Avenue
between
Michigan Street
and Crescent.

"I think, over time, those parking lots in between the Mid Towne Village area and the GrandValley health building will fill in with new development," said Jay Fowler, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority.    

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