A Logical Progression

October 30, 2007
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  • In his presentation to a Grand Rapids Press Club audience last week, Peter Secchia explained the evolution of his involvement in the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine project in downtown Grand Rapids that will be known as the Secchia Center. It’s all about the dynamic growth of the Grand Rapids medical community’s level of achievement as a health care destination, he indicated. The development of a four-year medical school is a logical and essential step in that progression.

The unveiling of the final exterior architectural renderings for the new facility last week gave opportunity for Secchia to revel in the look of the “signature building. You’re going to love it and be proud of it when you see it. It sets the tone for the rest of the Medical Mile.”

In classic Secchia style, he pushed aside questions about the facility’s impact on MSU’s current East Lansing medical school, leaving that to “the administrators to talk about. I’m more concerned with making sure we cover the garage doors because there are things that will be coming into that building that you don’t want people to see. Nobody wants to see their grandmother’s cadaver coming in there.”

  • It appears that Gun Lake Casino Kool-Aid that Secchia has long talked about has made its way into the Muskegon water supply. Grand Rapids’ own Grand River Band of Ottawa Indians were connected with an homage to Duane Faust on Lake Michigan last week as Muskegon development firm Archimedes Group announced it hopes to build a $2.4 billion downtown waterfront convention and hospitality complex with a tribal casino as its anchor.

With the project at least a decade or two away, one wonders if Archimedes was a bit off the reservation with the announcement. The Grand River Band is currently in a struggle to become federally recognized, and the we’re-doing-this-to-open-a-casino argument is generally frowned on by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. 

  • Steelcase subsidiary Details last week launched the Walkstation (see photo), a workstation with an integrated treadmill. As first reported last year in the Business Journal’s Health Quarterly magazine, the Walkstation is the result of Mayo Clinic researcher James Levine’s work with Steelcase on non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or no-impact exercise.

Levine’s research suggests that by simply walking at a pace of 1 mile per hour, the average desk worker increases energy expenditure by 100 calories per hour. Although not intended as a legitimate workout — workers using the Walkstation are not supposed to break a sweat — use of the Walkstation for a few hours a day will promote weight loss nonetheless.

  • Did someone say medical office surplus?

Grubb & Ellis|Paramount Commerce released its quarterly Office Market Trends report today, revealing a somewhat flat general office market but a potentially volatile market for medical space.

General office vacancy rates for the third quarter dropped to 15.9 percent from 16.2 in the first quarter. Absorption year-to-date stands at approximately 150,000 square feet, with the suburban market taking a hit from the recent shuttering of mortgage companies to a tune of nearly 100,000 square feet of new vacancies.

The East Beltline corridor (21 percent) and Centennial Park (23.6 percent) had the highest percentage of vacancies. The strongest submarkets are the East Paris corridor (12.9 percent) and the airport area (5.8 percent), which have both absorbed nearly 40,000 square feet this year.

Although the data doesn’t seem to support this, Grubb & Ellis concludes that the suburban market (15.9 percent total) is softening as tenants look to the Central Business District (16.6 percent total) for locations near large-scale medical and hospitality developments in Crane City.

Medical space is not tracked by Grubb & Ellis, but the report did make some dire predictions concerning the 450,000 square feet expected to come online on Michigan Street and comparable development along the M-6 corridor.

“There is some pretty significant consolidation we’re seeing toward the new hospital campuses that are being constructed out along M-6 and downtown,” said Grubb & Ellis medical space specialist Scott Morgan. “The tenants are typically coming from older space, and what you see is second generation space just emptying out.”

As practices continue to consolidate along the South Beltline, where all three major G.R. hospitals have ventures, and along Michigan Street, that is going to create a dearth of older space in the suburbs, Morgan reasoned, and some significant challenges in the Class B market that could spill into the general office market.

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