GRCC gets Davenport facilities

April 27, 2009
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A block and a half and one hill.

That’s about all that separates Grand Rapids Community College from its new campus extension at Davenport University on East Fulton Street.

GRCC’s decision last week to purchase the Davenport campus, as the business college consolidates at its new Lettinga Campus in Caledonia Township, saves the taxpayers millions of dollars, provides capacity for 3,000 additional students to meet demand, and quells neighbors’ fear about development on the site.

The purchase also shifts GRCC’s view of future projects and will prompt a review of the master plan, said Bob Partridge, executive vice president for business and finance.

The purchase price of $9.5 million and planned renovations put the price tag for 152,000 square feet, plus a 540-space parking structure, at $14.5 million, Partridge said. That makes it a better buy than the $35 million GRCC was considering for a new health education building of 139,000 square feet, he said. The college will withdraw its request to the state capital fund for half of that cost, or $17.5 million, he said.

GRCC now plans to renovate the top four floors of its five-story Cook Building for an estimated $10 million for health programs, and will submit a request to the state for half of that — assuming the cash-strapped state government puts dollars into capital expenditures this fall, Partridge said.

“We think, economically, it was the best move for us to get the most for our money,” he said.

The current GRCC campus has about 1.2 million square feet, plus another 900,000 square feet in parking decks, he said, making the Davenport acquisition a relatively small addition.

“But … now we get 152,000 square feet for $9.5 million and can potentially renovate Cook Hall on campus for $5 million, our share,” he said.

He said no decisions have been made on what to name the campus.

Jim Payne, a Heritage Hill Neighborhood Association board member whose backyard borders the Davenport site, said neighbors are happy to see the educational use for the property continue, although they expect it will be busier once GRCC is in full swing there.

“We’re student-friendly,” he said, noting that Central High School and Fountain School are nearby.

Some minor work on the Davenport buildings, such as changes to meet Americans with Disabililites Act compliance and some electrical upgrades, will be conducted over the summer as part of the deal, Partridge added.

“There is some work we’d like to do once we have full possession of it, which will probably be a year from this summer,” he said.

“Once we have full access, there’s probably about $2.5 million worth of renovations that have been targeted,” he continued. “A lot of it has to with infrastructure issues, replacement of windows, upgrading of HVAC systems. Our classroom sizes and theirs, while they’re pretty close to what we’d like our standard to be, we may have to make some of those classrooms bigger. They have a number of labs up there. It’s likely that the programs we move up there wouldn’t be using labs. We’d probably convert those either back into classroom space or offices.”

He said GRCC may decide within the next few weeks which academic programs will move to the East Fulton Street location.

“It would more lean toward the liberal arts side of the college, like English or behavioral sciences or criminal justice. Some of those programs certainly would be in consideration.”

He said GRCC also is thinking about ways to move students between the GRCC campus and the Davenport site. While the distance isn’t huge, it could be a lengthy walk between classes from the farthest points of the GRCC campus. “If you have a 10-minute period between classes, how do we accommodate getting students back and forth? That is a consideration.”

He said GRCC expects to launch another review of its master plan, which was updated just a year ago, shortly before the Davenport property became available. Likely up next for renovations are the Main Building and the Ford Fieldhouse.

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