Sheldon Clinic first to open in new complex

May 31, 2009
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The new Sheldon Clinic will open today, June 1, almost two years from the date the old one closed its doors for good.

The clinic will have the same address as when it closed: 121 Franklin St. SE. But instead of being located in the former Sheldon Complex, it will be situated on the west end of the first floor in the new $27 million Kent County Human Services Complex.

The county-operated clinic has 5,000 square feet of space for 10 examination rooms, staff offices, a group education room, a lab area, a waiting room and a breakroom for employees.

Kent County Health Department Administrative Officer Kathy Raevsky said the new clinic will offer clients more privacy, make it easier and less expensive to conduct group education classes on non-private health issues, and allow the staff to practice the client-centered model she brought to the county and is practiced at its five other clinics.

“What we are able to do at Sheldon is install that same client-centered focus. We have enough exam rooms now so we have twice the capacity. Part of the bottleneck (at the old clinic) was we only had five exam rooms,” she said.

“We will be able to see a lot more people a lot more efficiently.”

Prior to its closing, Raevsky said Sheldon was the second busiest of the county’s six clinics, as only the Fuller Avenue clinic serviced more clients. But the clinic isn’t the only tenant making a debut in the new building this month.

The Kent County Department of Human Services will open next Monday and the Area Community Services Employment and Training Council will do the same June 10.

The new Human Services Complex offers 137,000 square feet across its three floors. Of its $27 million price tag, $20.4 million was spent on design and construction. Another $2.56 million went to purchasing the land, and $1.72 million was spent on fixtures, furniture and equipment. Nearly $2.3 million of that $27 million total will be used to cover the costs of the 20-year bonds the county sold for the project.

The annual debt service is around $2.2 million. Most of that yearly payment, $1.7 million, will come from the state. Lansing signed a 20-year lease, with two five-year options, to rent about 80 percent of the building from the county for the DHS space.

County Commission Chairman Roger Morgan said it took the county about nine months to get the state to commit to the lease. “When you’re dealing with other entities, it certainly makes it more difficult than if you’re just proceeding along. It took several communications with the state of Michigan,” he said.

Kent County will pick up $252,400 of the annual bond payment and the city of Grand Rapids will chip in $191,000 each year. The city bought one of the three parcels that make up the complex’s property. DHS is transferring workers from its Cascade Township office to the building, meaning the city will get up to $75,000 in new income-tax revenue each year from the move.

Morgan said it took nearly 20 years to get the Human Services Complex to where it is today. He credited past Chairman David Morren with pushing the state to take action by announcing three years ago that the county intended to close the old building.

Morgan also had high praise for Assistant Administrator Wayman Britt, who he said led the county’s effort to get the building built.

The county will seek LEED certification for the complex from the U.S. Green Building Council. The building contains energy-efficient mechanical and electrical systems, uses an expansive amount of energy-efficient glass, has a white, reflective roof that stretches 43,000 square feet, and features water-reduction systems. The parking lot was covered in permeable asphalt, which lowers stormwater discharge, and the landscaping consists of low-maintenance plants.

Design Plus designed the structure. The Christman Co. managed the construction, which began in November 2007. The county dedicated the building last Thursday.

Morgan said the county plans to sell the old DHS site at 415 Franklin St. SE, which consists of a former school, the Paul I. Phillips Recreation Center, and two parking lots. A committee featuring Britt, Administrator and Controller Daryl Delabbio and Assistant Administrator Mary Swanson was established to do that and is exploring the county’s options to market the property.

“We had a couple of opportunities to sell, but none materialized. So we will continue to market it and try to sell it. We’ll see how that goes as we move along through the process,” said Morgan. “But I think getting the new building on line is a pretty high priority right now. I wanted the county to have a presence in the neighborhood.”

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