Contemporary Home For UICA

February 11, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — The crowning component of The Gallery on Fulton project is the new headquarters of the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts.

The development, proposed by Two West Fulton LLC for the intersection of Fulton Street and Division Avenue, gives the arts organization 32,000 square feet — enough room across four levels to expand its rapidly growing offerings, especially in youth programs and art therapy services.

At its current location at

41 Sheldon Ave. SE
, UICA has 28,000 square feet.

Moving to the new site is also expected to lower UICA's annual operating costs by $145,000, raise its earned income by up to $280,000 a year, and eliminate a $1 million mortgage it currently has on the Sheldon building.

Design features of the new building include:

  • Two theaters, both equipped for digital film and performance.
  • Five galleries, all meeting national museum standards, including a video gallery and a pedestrian gallery that will be viewed from the street.
  • A dedicated youth studio for ArtWorks and Art Therapy.
  • An expanded and enhanced ceramics studio.
  • A rooftop patio and sculpture park.
  • A stylish lounge with a full bar and concessions.
  • A digital marquee and wall for projected images.
  • A gift shop and visitors service area.
  • Twice as much office and storage space.
  • Wireless and digital technologies throughout the building.

The design also contains elements that UICA feels will increase its rental income. These include a conference room, a large catering kitchen, and gallery and lecture halls that can be adjusted to meet various sizes of meetings and events. The building will be LEED certified.

UICA has committed to buying space in The Gallery; the purchase and construction will cost the organization $6.9 million. To get those dollars, UICA is in the midst of a $6.5 million capital campaign. At least $3 million has been raised so far.

"We've hit all of our targets so far. We are at 44 percent of the goal," said UICA Executive Director Jeffrey Meeuwsen.

UICA is selling naming rights to the building's new rooms and theaters as part of the campaign. Those range in price from $25,000 for an administrative office and a break room to $500,000 for the theaters, the outdoor sculpture plaza and the roof patio.

UICA expects to get $2.5 million from the sale of its Sheldon building, a former home to an auto dealership that is nearly 100 years old. Meeuwsen said it would cost UICA about $5 million to make enough improvements to the building to gain just a portion of the benefits the new structure will offer.

The rest of the development will have 66 rental apartments and 2,500 square feet for retail or a restaurant. Second Story Properties President Sam Cummings, whose firm has partnered with RSC Associates of Chicago to form Two West Fulton, said work on The Gallery would get started this spring or summer and take about 18 months to complete. That means the new UICA would open late next year or in early 2010.

"It's a very impressive organization," said Cummings of UICA, "and important to keeping our city vital."     

The Going Cost Of ArtCenters

Three recently built contemporary art centers cost more per square foot to construct than the projected cost of the proposed new home for the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts.

Art Centers/Location      Cost      Square Feet      Cost per Square Foot
ContemporaryArtsCenter, Cincinnati $34 Million 80,000 $425
Institute for Contemporary Art, Boston $37 Million 65,000 $569
Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver $15.9 Million 27,000 $589
UICA, Grand Rapids $6.9 Million 32,000 $216

Source:Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, January 2008

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