Health Care, Higher Education, and Real Estate

University plans downtown expansion on $18.9M land

November 1, 2013
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GVSU plans downtown expansion on $18.9M land
Faculty members review images from the simulation lab at the GVSU Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences. Courtesy GVSU

A university is taking a major step to expand its health care campus in downtown Grand Rapids.

Grand Valley State University officials said yesterday that the university is planning to spend $18.9 million from its campus development fund to purchase and expand into Medical Mile north, on 11 acres of land just north of its Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences, at 301 Michigan St. NE.

The land is bounded by Hastings Street NE and Trowbridge Street NE and Clancy Avenue NE and College Avenue NE.

"Bursting at the seams"

The move would give GVSU a total of 18 acres for its popular and growing health and nursing programs.

There simply isn’t any more room at GVSU’s current building, for either existing or developing health care programs, said Gayle Davis, GVSU provost and VP of Academic Affairs.

Davis added that GVSU’s health programs are “busting at the seams,” and many quality applicants are being turned away.

The plan is still a work in process, and the school has projects at its Allendale campus ahead in the lineup, but if everything goes smoothly, GVSU would be like to break ground on the downtown property in four to five years.

The university’s board approved the land-purchase plan on Friday.

“We need some space to expand in keeping with our commitment to the community — that while Grand Rapids is making such a push in the health arena, we’re able to help, by creating the educated graduates to be employed in these professions,” Davis said.

“In nursing, for instance, we are only able to accept such a top, cream-of-the-crop slice of our applicants, that we turn away and disappoint some students, which we don’t like to do,” Davis said.

“The same is true for physician assistant studies and physical therapy studies.”

More students and programs

Developing on the 11 acres would allow GVSU to serve 1,000 more students and add at least 20-30 faculty and staff, including lab technicians, Davis said.

GVSU would also look to add to its College of Health Professions and Kirkhof College of Nursing undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

“This is transformational for our university, for our region and for the future of health care in Michigan,” said GVSU President Thomas Haas. “This plan is part of our vision and long-term strategy as a key player in health education. We’re obligated to anticipate and produce the health care providers our state needs for the future.”

Medical Mile north

As it stands, the 11-acre property has many separate owners, including some companies in the rental-property business, said Matt McLogan, VP of University Relations.

He said most of the properties are multi-family or duplex units and almost all are rentals, with only a couple being owner occupied.

GVSU is in the process of informing the tenants that the university wants them to stay for now, keeping the neighborhood stable and occupied, until GVSU is ready to move ahead with development plans.

McLogan noted that the proximity of the health programs to Michigan Street is vital.

“If you look to the Michigan Street hill, that is the pattern and the precedent,” McLogan said. “The presence of the hospital, then the research institute, then Grand Valley, then the medical school: everything has moved in pretty good sync.

“I think what’s happened previously will happen again, as we expand and as other entities that are interested in partnering with the university and other health care providers become part of the picture,” McLogan added.

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