A highly inventive dose of architectural medicine helps

August 9, 2010
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Going up?

Yes, agreed Michigan State University, URS, the local architect of record, and Ellenzweig of Cambridge, Mass., design architects, for the Secchia Center, the new Grand Rapids home for the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.

“Converting this from a medical office tower to a medical school was the trick. And I think it’s worked out really well,” said Richard J. Temple, URS architect and senior project manager. “Education projects typically are designed differently: They’d be more horizontal. This is very vertical. It took quite a bit of planning … to make sure the college would fit into this building.”

Rewind your memory back to 2006. That’s when MSU chose a site that was part of Michigan Street Development’s plans for medical office buildings to replace the old — and less than attractive — brown Towers medical offices on the north side of the street.

The new medical office buildings, the Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion and the seven-story medical school all sit atop a multi-level parking garage.

“We took what was a medical office tower, which was designed with a central court, planned as perimeter offices, and converted that to a medical school,” Temple explained.

“Typically, you build a building from the footings up. In this case, the footings are the parking structure. You have six stories of parking below here, including the loading dock. The foundations were already poured. The structural grid was in place. So there was not of a lot of flexibility to make the building bigger or changing the structural grid.”

Still, the architects were able to incorporate a four-story atrium, two large lecture halls and an array of tech-heavy rooms for group work and cubbyholes for studying. And going vertical has created some stunning views.

Perhaps most remarkable? Not a penny of public money was used for construction.

Bissell’s semi-secret business

Bissell Inc. is apparently poised to launch a rental business, a nationwide enterprise that would compete with the likes of Rug Doctor, the folks whose carpet cleaning machines can be rented at supermarkets, and hardware stores.

When contacted by the Business Journal, Bissell spokesperson Beth Jester said the company wasn’t ready to talk about it yet.

On the other hand, back on May 30, Bissell Homecare Inc. announced that Chris Marshall had been hired “as general manager, Bissell Rental.”

The Business Journal contacted Rug Doctor corporate headquarters in Texas. Had Rug Doctor heard that Bissell was planning to go into the carpet-cleaning machine rental business?

“We have heard the same. However, we have not seen a Bissell rental program and we do not know how their model compares to ours,” replied Tom Strathman, an administrative manager to the Rug Doctor CEO.

Dairymen digging in

The long silence is apparently over at the former Delphi auto parts plant in Coopersville.

“I was by there today, and they are moving some dirt around,” Coopersville City Manager Steve Patrick told the Business Journal last week.

“They” are contractors working for Continental Dairy, which is investing $100 million to turn part of the empty factory into a milk-processing plant that is expected to ultimately employ about 70 people.

The state of Michigan, the city of Coopersville and Ottawa County all have been supportive of the project to get people working again inside the former automotive factory. Last fall, the Michigan Economic Growth Authority approved a state tax credit, valued at $1.5 million over the course of 10 years, to persuade Continental Dairy to build in Coopersville instead of other proposed sites in Indiana and Ohio. Then, in February, Ottawa County officials voted to allow Continental to use $31.1 million worth of designated American Recovery and Reinvestment Act construction bonds to finance the project. ARRA funds are used to reimburse 35 to 45 percent of the bond interest, which theoretically makes the bonds easier to sell.

Michigan also kicked in a transportation economic development grant to rebuild the road leading to the plant, in order to accommodate up to 100 truckloads of raw milk and milk products each day.

When announcing that grant, MDOT said that 6 million pounds of milk per day are expected to be processed into dry powder, cream, condensed milk, non-fat dry milk and liquid concentrate for domestic wholesale markets. Continental Dairy, according to MDOT, is a milk cooperative with 28 member dairy farms in the Midwest. One of Continental Dairy’s principals is Timothy den Dulk, who has a large dairy operation in nearby Ravenna.

According to Construction News Bulletin, the general contractor for construction of the plant is Dahlgren Industrial Inc. of Seattle; the engineer is Mead & Hunt of Madison, Wis.; and the architect is E.A. Bonelli of Oakland, Calif.

Construction News Bulletin said the project will include a 118-foot dryer tower and a 98-foot evaporator tower. Patrick said the plant is expected to go into production in 2012.

Heroes ‘fore’ the game

Golf legends Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Johnny Miller, a legendary foursome who will be at the grand opening of The Golf Club at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor on Tuesday to compete in the sold-out Harbor Shores Champions for Change Golf Challenge, spoke last week about the event via teleconference.

It was the same day a major piece in USA Today looked at the “recession-battered” status of golf nationwide. It’s a review that paints a dismal picture of the game’s popularity and the ability of golf courses to survive without major cutbacks or entering into foreclosure.

So what makes the massive destination-style Harbor Shores project in a downtrodden community on the shores of Lake Michigan different?

“It is different because this project is operating as a nonprofit,” said course designer Nicklaus, who pointed to the extensive community partnerships and the involvement of a global company in Whirlpool Corp. that is heavily invested in the effort.

“This is more than just a golf course,” said Nicklaus. “It’s a community revitalization project that I believe in. I think you will find this project will succeed because of the support of the groups involved. The inquisitiveness of people who will want to come see this and play it will help it.”

He said the fact that there are 30 million people within a day’s or so drive of Harbor Shores gives it a built-in audience.

Watson, the only one of the four players who remains at least semi-active on the regular and senior competitive levels of the pro golf circuits, said the involvement of the local community in offering such youth-attracting programs as First Tee will help revive the popularity of the game with young people.

“As a lover of golf growing up, I learned you can’t get in much trouble when you’re on the golf course, and that still holds true,” Watson said. “In terms of where golf is going, we have to rectify that and increase opportunities for people to play the game at affordable prices. I think they are doing that in Benton Harbor.”

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