Planning under way for GVSUs Seidman building

November 15, 2010
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With controversy over site acquisition in the history books, Grand Valley State University is moving forward with plans for a new $40 million building for the Seidman College of Business in downtown Grand Rapids.

Business school Dean H. James Williams said demolition of the vacant warehouse at 38 Front St. SW is expected by the end of the year, with construction to commence in the spring.

"We expect to be in the building with classes in the fall of 2013," Williams said.

Some $20 million has been raised of the total fundraising goal of $25 million, the university announced recently. The public now is being asked to contribute to the rest of the goal. The remaining $15 million will come from GVSU.

The Seidman College of Business has grown from a small location on the Allendale campus with several hundred students to more than 3,000 enrolled in undergraduate, graduate and accounting programs at the Pew Campus in Grand Rapids.

The school offers eight undergraduate concentrations, three graduate degrees and a dual business-law degree with Michigan State University. This year, GVSU has been laying the groundwork for a new MBA program tailored for recent graduates.

Williams said he and other GVSU officials have toured new business schools across the country and worked with Steelcase Inc. to develop ideas for the new 108,000-square-foot building.

"One of the things we want to do is make sure we are looking at the latest in all the classroom space to promote good learning," he said. "To that end, we visited campuses all across the country where they have new business buildings."

 Classrooms will be on the second floor, added James Moyer, assistant vice president for facilities planning. They will be specially constructed to accommodate case study and team-based learning, he said, and a trading room will be included.

"We are going to have more of those in the new building than in this building," Williams said, referring to the college's location in DeVos Hall.

Williams added he's hopeful that GVSU will be able to offer online reservations so that students are able to secure a room even if they are off campus. He said plans call for the classrooms to be flexible, allowing them to go quickly from case study rooms to group work and back again. Those are important features, as business education utilizes teamwork.

The first floor will include business school units that outreach to the community and provide jobs, internships and cooperative learning experience for the students, Williams said. That includes the state and regional offices of the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center and the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

Moyer said the university plans to aim for silver level status under Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design standards. The warehouse must be surveyed for lead and asbestos before it can be dismantled, he added.

Eventually, the new building will result in a domino effect of space shifting at GVSU, but Moyer said that, in the end, the College of Health Professions is likely to come out ahead in square footage.

The building is being designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York; Integrated Architecture of Grand Rapids is the local architect of record, Moyer said. Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Hubar of Grand Rapids is providing engineering services.

Moyer said Pioneer Construction Inc. has been selected as construction manager. He said he expects the job to go out for bid in early 2011.

The building was jumpstarted with a substantial gift from Amway co-founder Richard DeVos and his wife, Helen. The gift was announced at a memorial service for L. William Seidman, one of the founders of GVSU, who died in May 2009 at age 88. The business school is named after Seidman's father, Frank Edward Seidman, a Grand Rapids businessman who founded accounting firm BDO/Seidman. Bill Seidman was chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and a television commentator for MSNBC.

"It's just another step in our evolution … to the cutting-edge business facility that we'll have in the next few years," Williams added.

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